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Best Online Accredited Human Services Degree Programs

Explore the different types of online human services degrees, including common coursework, in-person requirements, and concentration areas. Also, learn about accreditation for human services programs and how to afford your degree.

Best Accredited Online Degree Programs in Human Services

To determine the top online programs in the human services field, we looked at several factors, including program and school accreditation, affordability, and flexibility. Below you'll find our list of the best human services degree programs in the country.

1. Concordia University-Saint Paul

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Saint Paul, MN $22,275 99%

Concordia University-Saint Paul offers an online Master of Arts in Human Services degree program that has a special emphasis in forensic behavioral health. This online program has a partnership with the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies (AIAFS) and is for human services professionals who want to study the intersection of the criminal justice systems and behavioral health. Students must earn 36 credits with coursework in the following subjects:

  • Substance abuse disorders
  • PTSD and trauma
  • Behavioral health law
  • Psychopathology

A final capstone course, which consists of a significant integrative paper on a forensic behavioral human services topic, is also required. Students pay $475 per credit. Concordia University-Saint Paul has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1967 and is also a member of the North Central Association.

2. Western Washington University

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Bellingham, WA $8,126 86%

Western Washington University's online Bachelor of Arts in Human Services degree program has been designed to meet the standards of the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE). In this online program, students take classes that center on the following topics:

  • Program planning and evaluation
  • Metal health
  • Social justice and diversity
  • Conflict resolution

Students are also required to complete a real-world internship and seminar where they spend at least 12 hours per week working in a human services-related setting. In 2019-2020, Washington resident students paid $6,543 a semester when attending full-time, while out-of-state students paid $22,890. Western Washington University has received accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

3. East Tennessee State University

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Johnson City, TN $8,935 97%

East Tennessee State University has an online Bachelor of Science in Human Services degree program that has the distinction of being accredited by the CSHSE. Students take a range of courses on developmental psychology, counseling theory, and human services administration. An internship and practicum are also required. This university also offers an online Master of Science in Human Services degree program that requires 36 total credits and a research capstone.

Both the bachelor's and master's programs require a real-world internship. East Tennessee State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

4. Elizabethtown College School of Continuing and Professional Studies

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Elizabethtown, PA $46,940 100%

Elizabethtown College School of Continuing and Professional Studies' online Bachelor of Science in Human Services degree requires a total of 122 credits and offers an optional track in Behavioral and Addictions Counseling. Along with a range of psychology courses, such as developmental and health psychology, students also take courses in areas like:

  • Social welfare programs
  • Crisis intervention
  • Counseling skills and techniques
  • Case management

Students in the addictions counseling take specific classes on the biological and psychological factors of addiction, cognitive behavioral therapy, and pharmacology in substance use disorders. Elizabethtown College School of Continuing and Professional Studies has received accreditation from the Middle States Commission for Higher Education (MSCHE). For the 2019-2020 year, the price per credit for this online program was $555.

5. St. Joseph's College-Long Island

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Patchogue, NY $27,840 98%

St. Joseph's College-Long Island offers a range of online degree programs in the field of human services:

  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Human Services
  • Master of Science (MS) in Human Services Leadership
  • Dual BS in Human Services /MS in Human Services Leadership
  • Advanced Certificate in Human Services Leadership

The 120-credit BS in Human Services degree features coursework in counseling, case management, and human services administration, and students must complete a research capstone course. The MS in Human Services Leadership requires 30 credits with classes on leadership, ethics, and policy in human services. The certificate program requires only 12 credits and is for those who already hold a master's in mental health counseling or social work. St. Joseph's College-Long Island is accredited by the Middle States Commission for Higher Education (MSCHE).

Rank School Name Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI $7,621 82%
7 Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, TX $19,582 98%
8 University of South DakotaVermillion, SD $9,061 95%
9 Bethel College-Indiana Mishawaka, IN $28,590 100%
10Evangel University Springfield, MO $23,421 100%
11 Central Washington University Ellensburg, WA $8,072 90%
12 University of Northwestern-St Paul Saint Paul, MN $31,540 100%
13 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ $11,564 94%
14 Lincoln Christian University Lincoln, IL $13,200 97%
15 Alaska Pacific University Anchorage, AK $20,760 100%
16 Lubbock Christian University Lubbock, TX $22,440 100%
17 Grace College and Theological Seminary Winona Lake, IN 24,768$ 100%
18 University of North Georgia Dahlonega, GA $4,692 86%
19 St. Joseph's College-New York Brooklyn, NY $27,830 96%
20 University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa, FL $6,410 91%
21 Purdue University Global-Mason City Mason City, IA $14,343 n/a
22 New England College Henniker, NH $37,914 95%
23 Judson University Elgin, IL $29,860 100%
24 University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, TX $23,000 100%
25 Wayland Baptist University Plainview, TX $20,070 96%
26 California Baptist University Riverside, CA $33,478 95%
27 Ottawa University-Jeffersonville Jeffersonville, IN n/a n/a
28 Franklin Pierce University Rindge, NH $36,900 100%
29 Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Saint Mary of the Woods, IN $29,960 100%
30 Concordia University-Nebraska Seward, NE $32,220 100%
31 Albertus Magnus College New Haven, CT $32,060 99%
32 Bluefield College Bluefield, VA $26,060 100%
33 Ottawa University-Online Ottawa, KS n/a n/a
34 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH $31,136 75%
35 Purdue University Global-Davenport Davenport, IA $14,343 25%
36 Anderson University Anderson, IN $30,450 96%
37 Concordia University-Chicago River Forest, IL $32,078 100%
38 University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, IL $11,813 97%
39 Cardinal Stritch University Milwaukee, WI $29,998 100%
40 Dominican University River Forest, IL $33,434 100%
41 Quincy University Quincy, IL $28,562 100%
42 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL $23,020 100%
43 Lenoir-Rhyne University Hickory, NC $36,400 100%
44 Bismarck State College Bismarck, ND $3,992 83%
45 Southeastern University Lakeland, FL $25,870 98%
46 Purdue University Global-Cedar Rapids Cedar Rapids, IA $14,343 n/a
47 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA $22,584 97%
48 Purdue University Global-Lewiston Lewiston, ME $14,343 n/a
49 Southern Wesleyan University Central, SC $25,476 99%
50 Shorter University Rome, GA $22,370 100%

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

What is Human Services?

Human services is an interdisciplinary field that studies how to help people and communities improve their wellbeing by providing for their needs through different social welfare services. Human services combines the study of human services agencies, programs, and leadership with psychology, counseling, and social justice topics.

Human services is similar to the field of social work; however, there are some key differences. First, human services is focused more on larger populations and meeting the needs of certain groups of people, such as children or an ethnic group. Social work, on the other hand, focuses more on helping individuals or families.

Human services is also a more administrative-based career where professionals work within organizations. Usually, social workers guide their individual clients towards human services programs instead of working within them.

Overview of Online Degree Programs in Human Services

There are several levels of human services degree programs, including certificate, associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs.

Certificates in Human Services

Certificate programs in human resources can require anywhere from 12 credits for graduate-level programs to 30 credits for undergraduate programs. These programs either prepare students for entry-level positions in human services or help those already in the social work or behavioral health fields move into a leadership or senior role. Certificate programs generally don't have any internship requirements.

Associate's in Human Services

Associate-level programs in human services require about 60 credits. Along with some general education coursework, students take human services coursework and usually must complete a final capstone course. Most associate programs are designed so that students can transfer into a full bachelor's program and generally there are no real-world requirements.

Bachelor's in Human Services

Online bachelor's degrees in human services typically require about 120 total credits. Students must complete a range of general education coursework in composition, literature, the social and behavioral sciences, history, math, and the natural sciences. Students then take classes within the human services major.

Although many online bachelor's degree programs have a general focus on human services, some offer students the opportunity to specialize in one area of human services. Below are examples of concentration areas in bachelor-level human services programs:

  • Addictions Counseling
  • Child and Adolescent Development
  • Leadership and Administration
  • Health Care Informatics Systems
  • Long-Term Care

Many, but not all, online human services bachelor's programs require a real-world internship where students work within the human services field.

Master's in Human Services

Online master's programs in human services can require anywhere from 30 to 36 total credits. Many of these programs have a special focus on one area of human services or offer specific concentration areas, such as the ones listed below:

  • Mental Health Administration
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Leadership
  • Organizational Management
  • Social and Community Services

A limited number of master's programs may have an internship or real-world requirement. Some programs expect students to have professional experience in the human services field in order to apply. Along with coursework in the human services field, most programs also require that students complete a final capstone course that consists of a research paper or project.

PhD in Human Services

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services degree programs require about 61 to 63 credits. Students must usually take a comprehensive examination and must complete and defend a dissertation, which is a research-driven project. Some online PhD programs offer concentrations areas, such as the ones below:

  • Mental Health Administration
  • Nonprofit Management
  • Community and Social Services
  • Gerontology
  • Global Social Services

Additionally, most online PhD programs require that students complete a set number of extended 4-day or weekend residencies on-campus where they meet with faculty and receive guidance on their dissertation.

Accreditation for Online Human Services Degree Programs

When it comes to online human services degree programs, you should look for your prospective university and program to have received accreditation. This is important as it assures you that your degree and university have met high, independent standards in terms of student outcomes, faculty credentials, and facilities and resources offered to students.

Regional Accreditation

Regional accreditation goes through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which is an organization that approves agencies to accredit universities and colleges in a defined regional area.

Below are the agencies that offer regional accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Your chosen university should clearly state what agency it's accredited by. Regional accreditation is important because only students who attend accredited schools can apply for financial aid.

Program Accreditation

Human services degree programs can also receive accreditation from the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE), which accredits associate, bachelor's, and master's programs.

Associate and bachelor's programs must meet certain curriculum standards that include having classes on the following topics:

  • Program evaluation and planning
  • Administrative skills (only bachelor's)
  • Client intervention strategies
  • Human systems
  • Communication skills
  • Field experiences

Master's program must include a curriculum that covers some of the following:

  • Legal and ethical practices
  • Administrative leadership
  • Information literacy
  • Culminating experience

To become accredited, all programs must meet standards related to program evaluation and support, faculty credentials, admission and transfer credit policies, community assessment, and other standards. Program accreditation can be important when it comes to getting professional certifications.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Human Services Degree?

Typically, online certificate programs in human services can be completed in about 1 year or less. Online associate degrees in human services take about 2 years of study to earn.

Bachelor's degree programs in human services generally take around 4 years to complete. However, if students already have an associate's degree or have previous college credit, then they could earn their degree in less than 4 years. Every university has a unique transfer credit policy, yet most allow students to transfer no more than 90 credits from a 4-year institution and 64 credits from a 2-year institution.

Online master's degree programs in human services can take about 2 years to complete. However, these programs can take longer if students are attending only part-time. Some master's degree programs also accept 6 to 9 transfer credits, which can shorten the time to earn this degree.

Online PhD programs can take about 4-5 years to complete.

What Will I Learn in a Human Services Degree Program?

The exact courses you will take in a human services program depends on the degree level, program requirements, and whether or not you have chosen a concentration. However, there are some common topics found across all degree program types, some of which you can explore below.

  • Human Services Administration - Centers on a range of topics about leading, managing, and a running human services organization. Students also learn leadership theories and styles.
  • Program Development and Evaluation in Human Services - Students learn how to assess and evaluate human services programs through research-based methods.
  • Counseling Theory and Practice - This course focuses on giving students the counseling skills they will need in their human services career. Specific topics include cognitive, behavioral, and psychodynamic counseling approaches, individual and group counseling strategies, and expressive therapies.
  • Financial Management and Budgets in Human Services - Students learn how to financially manage a human services organization, including how to budget, allocate resources, and find funding sources. They may also study how to read and analyze financial statements, how to manage compensation and benefits programs, and how to fundraise.
  • Interpersonal Skills for Human Services - This course covers the interpersonal communication, critical thinking, and information literacy skills that students need to successfully work in the human services field. Students learn conflict management strategies and listening skills.

How Can I Afford a Human Services Degree Program?

To help pay for your human services degree, you can apply for federal financial aid and scholarships.

Federal Aid

To find out what kinds of aid you qualify for, you should fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from the US Department of Education. Below are the types of aid that are offered to students:

  • Pell Grants (for students with financial need)
  • Direct Subsidized Loans (for undergraduate students)
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans (for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students)
  • Direct PLUS Loans (for graduate students and parents of dependent undergraduate students)

You may also qualify for work-study programs that allow you to work on- or off-campus in exchange for tuition. Not all programs have work-study opportunities in human services but those that do are especially beneficial -- they give students a chance to gain valuable hands-on experience and make connections in the field.

Scholarships

There are also several kinds of scholarships from different organizations that are available to students who are pursuing degrees in the human services field.

  • Caswell-Morgan Human Services Memorial Scholarship of the North Country Council of Social Agencies - From the Northern New York Community Foundation for undergraduate students residing in New York's Jefferson or Lewis counties who are pursuing a career in the human or social services fields.
  • David C. Maloney Scholarship - From the National Organization for Human Services for a student currently enrolled in a human services program.
  • Luthra Family Scholarship - From the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin for a graduating senior from the DC Everest or Wausau School Districts who intends to major in a human sciences field at a University of Wisconsin college or university.
  • MSSA Undergraduate Scholarship - From the Minnesota Social Service Association (MSSA) for an MSSA member who is pursuing a degree in a health and human service-related field.

You can also check with your university's financial aid department to discover what scholarships are available to you.

What Can I Do With a Human Services Degree?

With a degree in human services, you can pursue a range of social and human services careers. Here is a couple of the most relevant.

Social and Human Service Assistant

Social and human service assistants help clients access different social programs and services, such as legal assistance, food stamp programs, counseling, or veteran services. Generally, social and human service assistants work with social workers or other professionals. They can also help clients with their everyday physical or mental needs.

Many employers prefer social and human service assistants who hold a certificate or associate's degree in a human services field.

Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers are responsible for designing and implementing different kinds of social programs. This is a more administrative-focused career where one must manage staff and determine the effectiveness of a program through data analysis.

Social and community service managers generally need a bachelor's degree; however, a master's is sometimes preferred.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Social and Human Service Assistant $33,750 13%
Social and Community Service Manager $65,320 13%

Salary information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Professional Associations for Human Services

Several organizations promote and advocate for the human services field. The National Organization for Human Services and the American Public Health Association are two of the most prominent.

National Organization for Human Services (NOHS)

Along with holding regional conferences and producing publications, NOHS also administers the Tau Upsilon Alpha National Organization for Human Services Honor Society and offers awards and scholarships. As a paid member, you get access to discounts on conferences, member-only grants, and an online forum.

American Public Health Association (APHA)

APHA advocates for the public health profession by producing the American Journal of Public Health, holding conferences and the National Public Health Week, and lobbying for public health causes. A paid APHA membership allows you to access public health research, webinars, and journals as well as discounts to continuing education resources and insurance.