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An online human services degree program prepares students for various public service careers in community organizations, healthcare agencies, schools, counseling centers, and more. Human services degrees are available at multiple levels, including associate, bachelor’s, and master’s.Depending on a student’s education level, they can pursue jobs such as social and community service managers, earning a median salary of $74,000 annually; addictions counselors, with a median annual salary of $48,520; and career counselor or advisor, earning a median salary of $60,510 annually.

Students must earn at least 120 credits for a bachelor’s degree in human services and 30 credits for a master’s. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition for undergraduate degree programs during the 2021-22 academic year was $7,869 at public institutions and $37,095 at private schools. For graduate degrees, tuition averaged $12,394 at public universities and $26,621 at private colleges.

How to Choose an Online Human Services Degree Program

Choose your area of study

Even if you’ve already selected human services as your area of study, take some extra time to reflect on the specific career path you’re interested in pursuing and what skills and experiences you’ll need to get there. This reflection will help you select the most appropriate degree for your future career. For example, if you’re considering becoming a social worker, a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) might be a better fit than a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Human Services, a more general degree that might not meet all requirements for social work certification.

Research schools and programs

Confirming that any schools you’re considering are accredited is an important first step in the research process. Accreditation ensures that programs and schools meet high-quality standards and can impact student eligibility for financial aid, postsecondary education options, and job opportunities. To research human service degree programs, check the Council for Standards in Human Services Education (CSHSE). The Department of Education databases hold an institution’s accreditation status.

Students should also seek out answers to the following questions:

  • Who are the human services faculty, and what are their credentials?
  • How much do students interact with faculty?
  • What are the resources available to students?
  • What are the program’s graduation and job placement rates?
  • Is the program asynchronous or synchronous?
  • What are the graduation requirements?

Schools and programs typically provide this information on their websites. Students can learn more by following schools and programs on social media, attending online open houses and information sessions, or contacting program representatives directly.

Prepare for tests and applications

Confirming a school’s application requirements and deadlines during the research phase is also a good idea. It will help students start to prepare their application, which may include the following:

  • Application and fees
  • Official transcripts from previously attended schools
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay
  • Resume

Depending on the degree level and program, schools may require standardized tests, like the SAT or ACT for undergraduate students or the GRE for graduate students. Individuals applying to master’s programs may also need to demonstrate professional experience or prerequisite coursework in a related field.

Students planning to apply to more than one program will benefit from creating a spreadsheet or checklist to keep track of materials to submit and deadlines.

Select your program

Compare your research on various human services degree programs and rank them based on which ones meet all or most of your needs. There’s no magic number of programs to apply to, but students should remember that most online human services degree programs charge application fees, which can become costly.

Rather than submit all applications simultaneously, students may want to submit to one or two of their top picks, wait for a response, and send more if necessary. If necessary, they can also seek application fee waivers from each university.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Students can pay for their tuition and other education expenses in numerous ways.

Bachelor’s and masters-level students can apply for scholarships, grants, work-study jobs, and federal student loans by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Before borrowing any student loans, students should know the difference between direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized loans and ensure their loans comply with the Higher Education Act of 1965 regarding fixed interest rates.

Those working full-time jobs while attending an online human services degree program can check with their employer regarding tuition assistance opportunities. Students can also research scholarships and grants from local and state organizations, nonprofits, religious organizations, and more.

Best 50 Accredited Online Human Services Degree Programs

Best Online Human Services Programs badge

CSU Global

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Southern New Hampshire University

LeTourneau University

Western Washington University

Columbia College

Lindsey Wilson College

Ottawa University

Shorter University

University of North Dakota

East Tennessee State University

Southern Wesleyan University

Troy University

Upper Iowa University

Liberty University

ODU Global

Ohio University

Anderson University

California Baptist University

Grace Christian University

Indiana Wesleyan University

University of the Cumberlands

University of Northern Iowa

Florida State College at Jacksonville

Southeastern University

Gordon State College

Fisher College

Grace College

University of Alaska Anchorage

Indiana Institute of Technology

Mercer University

Elizabethtown College

East Central University

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How We Rank Schools

As individuals can join the human services field with a bachelor’s or a master’s degree, our list includes Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees, as well as Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS) degrees in human services.

All listed programs have regional accreditation, ensuring a high level of quality. The Council for Standards in Human Services Education (CSHSE) also offers a specialized accreditation for human services programs, which some of our listed programs have.

The coursework for all listed programs can be completed online, but they have in-person field experience components.

Once we narrowed our list of programs, we evaluated their course strength, cost, flexibility, and reputation, and then we calculated their Intelligent Scores on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Human Services Degree?

What to expect varies based on a student’s concentration in human services. For example, students with a social work focus will learn to coordinate services for community members needing help, like counseling, food stamps, housing, and specialty doctors. Students in a counseling concentration will learn techniques to help clients improve their mental health and overcome problems like addiction.

Criminal justice concentrations focus on interacting with and assessing people on probation and parole. At the same time, educators learn to assess students and make recommendations and referrals to help meet their physical, psychological, social, and academic needs. Students in a healthcare concentration learn to educate the public on health matters and improve their overall well-being. Whether they work in a hospital or nonprofit, they advocate for positive community health.

Many programs may also include a practicum or internship, giving students hands-on experience working in a human services capacity.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online human services degree program

  • Introduction to Human Services. Students review the history and importance of the human services field and the many career options available. Students learn the various theories and the basics of boundaries, ethics, legal issues, case management, and communication.
  • Human Development. Students study theories and developmental stages from birth to death. They explore psychological, physical, cognitive, and social human development to help assess and create treatment plans for individuals and groups within the community.
  • Ethics and the Law. Students learn the importance of working within the ethical and legal boundaries of the client-professional relationship. Real-world case studies teach students to apply their skills.
  • Multicultural Issues. Students explore how the many factors of diversity, including culture, socioeconomic status, gender, gender identity, age, disability, and spirituality, affect professional relationships. Discussion topics include multicultural competencies, racism, prejudice, and privilege.
  • Continuum of Care. Students learn to assess individuals to determine the level of care they need, including standard outpatient counseling, inpatient hospitalization, or intensive outpatient.

Online Human Services Degree Program Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online human service degree program?

To ensure they submit the correct supporting materials without missing a deadline, students should contact the school’s admissions department. Generally, online bachelor’s in human services degree programs must have the following:

  • Completed application with fees.
  • Resume showing work experience, honors, and unique talents.
  • Personal interest essay on why you chose human services.
  • Letters of recommendation from reputable sources.
  • Transcripts of any previous education showing overall GPA.
  • Standardized test scores, if necessary, may include the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Testing (ACT) for bachelor programs and the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for master programs.

Colleges generally accept applications and all other required materials electronically. Undergraduate students can complete the Common Application to apply to multiple schools with one application.

How much does an online human services degree program cost?

The cost of an online human services degree program will vary based on a few different factors. Private schools typically charge higher tuition rates than public universities. However, public school tuition may differ based on whether a student is in-state or out-of-state.

Schools also typically charge online students additional fees for technical support and learning technology, student support services, library resources, labs, and more. Other common expenses include textbooks and supplies, application fees, standardized tests, and official transcripts.

Online degree programs can save students money for transportation, on-campus activities, meal plans, and parking fees. The amount of financial aid students receive through scholarships, grants, and fellowships also impacts the overall cost of their degree.

How long does it take to earn an online human services degree program?

A bachelor’s degree requires at least 120 credit hours, usually taking full-time students four years to complete. Master’s programs require a minimum of 30 credit hours, which can be completed in one to two years of full-time study.

However, several factors can affect program duration. Part-time students need more time to complete their degrees, while students enrolled in accelerated or degree-completion programs will need less time.

The delivery format of an online program also matters. Some online programs are asynchronous, meaning students can complete them independently. Others are synchronous, with students taking scheduled classes at a pre-determined pace.

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