Human Services Degree and Career Guide
Advance to a Master’s Degree in Human Services
About the Master’s in Human Services
Degree Type:Master of Arts, Master of Science
Location:Online, classroom, and hybrid
Duration:Around 2 years
Total Credits:Usually 30–40 credits
Aid Eligible:Yes, for accredited programs
There are many paths to success in a human services career. If you’re ready to move forward on your professional journey, a master’s degree in human services can help you pursue leadership roles in this growing field.
In fact, this degree can be applied to many types of human services positions in which you can manage resources and advocate change to improve people’s lives.
Interested in earning your Master of Human Services degree? Learn how to qualify, what you’ll study, how you can use the degree, and much more.
What Is a Master’s Degree in Human Services?
A master’s degree in human services prepares you with skills related to the management and organization of human services agencies and programs. It’s designed to give human services professionals the knowledge to analyze resources holistically and use them for social change.
You can earn either an Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS) in Human Services, depending on your institution’s program. These programs are typically very similar, and most employers don’t have a preference for which degree you hold.
MA in Human Services
Programs vary based on the educational institution, but typically an MA in Human Services emphasizes the humanities as a basis of knowledge. Many MA degrees require a thesis, portfolio, or research project.
MS in Human Services
MS programs also vary, but usually emphasize scientific analysis and knowledge. An MS in Human Services often includes an internship or fieldwork.
How is an MA or MS in Human Services different from a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree?
The field of human services is often considered a broad umbrella that includes social work, so these degrees can seem very similar. However, MA and MS degrees typically prepare students to improve people’s lives from an administrative level, while MSWs prepares you to help people individually, with an emphasis on clinical professions.
Academic Requirements Before Starting an MA or MS in Human Services
Requirements for an MA or MS in Human Services vary based on program and institution. Most programs require an undergraduate degree in human services or a related field from an accredited institution. If you want to pursue human services but have an unrelated undergrad degree, you might have to complete prerequisite courses.
Do you need to take the GRE?
Many human services master’s programs don’t require GREs or other standardized tests. Those that do often allow you to choose from multiple options.
Are there GPA requirements?
Many master’s degree programs have GPA requirements, with many requiring at least a 3.0 or higher. This varies based on institution and may be waived on an individual basis.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s Degree?
The amount of time it takes to earn a master’s degree can vary. That said, once you hold a bachelor’s, most master’s degrees can be completed within 2 years.
The Master’s in Human Services Curriculum
Curriculum for a master’s degree in human services emphasizes research, analysis, management, and advocacy. Graduation requirements typically include the completion of a thesis, fieldwork, and/or a research project.
What core classes are involved?
Common core classes for a master’s degree in human services include the study of:
- Legal and ethical issues
- Organizational assessment and evaluation
- Qualitative and quantitative research
- Social and cultural diversity
Number of course credits
The number of credits for a master’s in human services varies, though programs generally require between 30 and 45, roughly split in half between core curriculum classes and a concentration.
Most master’s in human services programs let you select a specialty concentration. Some popular options are:
- Community services
- Conflict management and mediation
- Grief counseling
- Marriage and families
- Military resilience and families
- Non-profit management
- Organizational and social services
- Program evaluation and data analytics
- Student affairs
- Trauma and crisis counseling
Is a practicum or fieldwork required?
Program requirements vary, but many schools will require a human services practicum or fieldwork experience. If you’re working on a thesis or capstone project, you may have to visit sites for related research.
Can I Get an Online Master’s in Human Services?
You can earn a master’s degree in human services with 100% of coursework completed online, though on-site internships and fieldwork may be required.
Most programs offer at least some of their curriculum online to accommodate working adults. Some online courses can be viewed anytime, anywhere; others might require you to log in at a specified time.
Traditional classroom instruction is offered at a school’s campus or regional satellite location. Most classroom-based degree programs offer evening and/or weekend classes to accommodate those who are working.
Most master’s degree programs for human services are considered hybrid programs. While you can complete most of your studies online, the nature of required fieldwork will demand on-site experience. You can usually arrange these experiences based on what’s convenient.
Some programs offer accelerated options for degree completion. To succeed, you may have to attend full-time or apply transfer credits to reach your goal in less time.
How to Pick a Degree Program
When researching programs, consider whether the requirements, cost, and curriculum align with your resources and goals. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Does this program offer the concentration I’m interested in?
- Does the school offer a part-time option?
- Can I take classes online?
- What financial aid is offered?
- Are job placement services available?
It’s also important to choose a master’s program from an accredited school, which indicates that it meets quality standards. You can check accreditation though the U.S. Department of Education or organizations like the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE).
Human Services Careers with a Master’s Degree
A master’s in human services can position you for many different types of administrative roles in healthcare organizations, social service providers, and government agencies. You also might also be able to earn a better salary if you hold your master’s. Some common careers are discussed in more detail below.
Medical and health services manager
Medical and health services managers plan, administer, and allocate resources in places such as hospitals, nursing homes, and public health agencies.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a medical and health services manager is $104,830.
Depending on the type of facility and location, managers and administrators may be required to obtain an related licenses.
Emergency management director
Emergency management directors oversee activities and resources in crisis situations. They also direct emergency preparedness plans.
The BLS reports the median annual salary for an emergency management director to be $79,180.
Experience in emergency response or disaster planning may be necessary to understand the practical applications of plans and responses.
Social and community service managers
Social and community service managers coordinate and allocate the resources and personnel of community service organizations, including non-profits and government agencies.
A manager in a social or community service organization can expect to earn a median salary of $74,240 per year.
Familiarity with the organization’s mission and services is needed to effectively allocate resources and manage personnel.
Typical Degree & Career Paths in Human Services
A career in human services typically starts with a bachelor’s degree. This can qualify you for entry-level positions in social services, criminal justice, or case management.
Many people who work in human services, however, eventually earned an advanced degree. A master’s can prepare you for roles at the managerial level, while executive-level positions may require a PHD or Doctor of Human Services degree.
Financial Aid for Human Services Students
Several types of financial aid are available for graduate human services students.
Find your eligibility for need-based aid with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You also may qualify for awards based on academic merit or other criteria. Some sources include:
- State incentive programs
- Professional human services organizations
- Private businesses and organizations
- Your educational institution
- Nontraditional student scholarships and grants
- Employer tuition reimbursement
- Military scholarships
- Student loans
Do Human Services Jobs Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness?
You might qualify for student loan forgiveness following graduation if you meet certain requirements. Criteria typically includes employment in a nonprofit agency in an area that has a shortage of human services workers.
You can check your eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the Federal Perkins Loan Cancellation Program, or the National Health Services Corp Loan Repayment Program. You also may qualify for state-sponsored student loan forgiveness programs with similar employment and location criteria.
What Professional Organizations Are There for Human Services Careers?
Professional human services organizations can provide valuable opportunities for continuing education, certification, networking, and job hunting. Some prominent groups include:
- National Organization for Human Services (NOHS): The NOHS works to strengthen the community of human services practitioners, educators, and students. They also offer grants and scholarships, as well as the Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner certification.
- American Public Health Services Association (APHSA): Members of the APHSA include local, state, and social sector leaders committed to improving public policies.
- National Association of Social Workers (NASW): The NASW promotes professional development, sets professional standards, and works in advocacy.
- National Council on Family Relations (NCFR): Members of the NCFR include marriage and family therapists, social workers, public health workers, and many other professionals dedicated to strengthening families.
- Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR): The SSWR supports social workers, researchers, faculty, and students in social work and related fields.
- The Network for Social Work Management (NSWM): The NSWM is open to social workers and human services professionals at all management levels.