The field of human services is fairly broad and, to many, may be a completely new concept. It can be a hugely worthwhile and rewarding discipline to study and suit anyone who aspires to help other people meet their basic needs with dignity, work with individuals to provide positive life experiences, and work with children and family services, amongst other areas.
There is a wide range of careers to consider upon graduation that will allow you to make a difference to those who need your help, support, and knowledge.
Additionally, support for those suffering from mental illnesses is increasing.  However, with the deinstitutionalization of mentally ill patients, chronically ill patients are in need of greater support in their everyday lives. Community-based alternatives are bridging the gap when public offerings decline patients are age 21. 
There is a great deal of opportunity to advance within your career after graduating with a human services degree. This sector is growing rapidly and, as well as the standard roles, many new positions are being established. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the employment of community and social service occupations to grow by 10% between 2014 and 2024. This is significantly faster than the average for all occupations and will mean the development of approximately 257,700 jobs. 
Additionally, the BLS has found that many of the areas of specialization within private sector jobs are also showing an increasing job growth rate. On top of this, they expect more than 250,000 new jobs to be created by 2024 across core business occupations. Given the broad nature of human services, it is also possible to transfer this degree over to other growing sectors should you desire a career change. 
When it comes to human resources, there are a number of careers you can consider. You can expect to work in a range of sectors including both public and private. You may find yourself working with charities, organizations, hospitals, care homes, correctional facilities, court systems, businesses, NGOs, and government.
For those that require a master’s degree as the entry level of education, these roles include:
The national accrediting body for human services programs — the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE) — has a specific guideline for a master’s degree in human services curriculum.
These standards include: 
Course topics may include:
While an online master’s in human services degree program provides more freedom, it is important to review the program’s specific requirements. For example, do you need to take part in practice-oriented, work-based experience and a capstone service-learning project? It is important to establish if this can be accomplished in the area in which you live or if you will need to have a campus residency. If you’re not sure, a program administrator will be able to talk you through the program.
The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.
Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.
You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.
While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.
In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.
For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.
If you’re not sure whether human services is the right area for you, you may consider other options. Taking on a master’s degree is a big decision in terms of cost, time commitment, and effort. It is important that you make the right choice to meet your career goals and that what you learn will be of benefit to you throughout your professional life.
Some MHS alternative degree programs include:
When researching a master’s degree in human services, it is helpful to explore industry associations to gain a bigger picture of this sector. These associations help bring together like-minded individuals and academics by providing support through networking, career events, and educational advancement.
It is also important to determine whether your chosen university has any industry connections, as this can assist with gaining better work placements, meeting pertinent individuals, and attending industry events.
Some relevant organizations include:
Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.
Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.
You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.
Soon after, many colleges and institutions began introducing two-year degrees in human services (occasionally called mental health degrees). Today many universities offer advanced degrees in mental health and human services, on campus and online.
Human services is a very broad field, but its main goal is to help populations and individuals function in their communities and environments as effectively as possible through guidance. Professionals working in this field are needed to help others, especially in times of crisis. They address the quality of different programs or services, while also improving the accessibility and outcomes of said programs.
A master’s in human services is a degree program that allows students to understand how to effectively make a difference in their community by studying different methods used in the human services field. These methods directly correlate to social welfare, human development, and communication. Students pursuing a master’s degree in human services have the opportunity to strengthen their communication, collaborative, and analytical skills.
The perfect candidate to pursue an MHS degree is ultimately someone who wants to help others. While a human services professional’s responsibilities are as wide as the needs of their client base, a Master of Human Services is made for individuals who want to make a positive impact on their community.
Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.
The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.
There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded.
The National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) defines human service professionals as people who can hold positions in a variety of settings which can include correctional facilities, rehabilitation centers, halfway houses, mental health centers, and organizations that help individuals with disabilities, addiction, aging populations, and other unforeseen life circumstances. 
While many MHS programs do not require a specific undergraduate degree to be accepted into their program, an undergraduate degree in a related field, like social work, psychology, or another social science degree may have advantages. The ability to understand how people think or why they may act a certain way may help you understand and help your clients in a more positive way.
Professional experience requirements will vary from program to program. Some universities may require anywhere from 1-5 years of relevant human services experience, while others will not. There’s no doubt that professional experience will allow you to take what you’re learning in the classroom and identify past experiences where you may have used different theories or practices, but there are a plethora of programs that will not deny your acceptance because you do not have extensive work experience.
The theories and methods of practice that you learn through an MHS program can allow you to connect better with future clients as you help them navigate life’s difficult situations. Many MHS programs offer different specializations or concentrations with curriculum designed for those specific audiences. For example, if you have a desire to work with children in need, there are many programs that offer specializations like Family Studies and Intervention or Child Welfare, with curriculum focused on how to deal and interact with that population.
Earning a Master of Human Services can help broaden your professional opportunities as it equips you to move into higher leadership roles in different environments, or you could work alongside policy makers to change social policies. It is becoming more common for individuals to pursue a master’s degree to increase their competitive edge for lower-level jobs that will allow them to move up the ranks more quickly. By getting their foot in the door, even at the bottom, they are able to prove their worth and show the skills they’ve learned and strengthened through their master’s degree.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for human service professionals is expected to grow by 11% from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the national average.  Since there is such a broad spectrum of careers available for those in the human services field, these positions continue to grow. As the baby boomer population ages, the need for professionals to work with older populations grows.  And positions in the criminal justice field are also expected to grow as more drug offenders are introduced to treatment programs, rather than serving jail time. 
The National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) provides six generic competencies that human service professionals should know as they train and enter a work setting. Human services workers should understand the following: 
The nature of human systems at the individual, group, organization, communal, and societal level and how these different human systems interact. By understanding this interaction, professionals in human services are aware of the dynamics and structures in different settings.
The conditions which promote or limit the healthy functions of individuals and groups. By understanding the conditions and causes of specific situations and health models, human service professionals are better equipped to create treatment plans and find the resources that best fit their clients.
Interventions that promote personal growth and the ability for the client to reach their goals. By using their analytical skills, human service workers can identify the resources or services that will help their clients attain their desired goals.
How to evaluate and change chosen interventions and services as the needs of the client change.
The importance of consistency when choosing services and programs for clients. It’s important to maintain an understanding of one’s own ethical views, the client’s views and feelings, as well as the ethical practices of the organization you’re serving.
The importance of communication and interpersonal skills. The worker must show interest in working with their client and have the best interest of the client in mind at all times, especially when planning or evaluating chosen services to help clients with their situations.
A Master of Human Services program typically takes about two years to complete. The completion time will be affected by how many courses you take at a time (part-time or full-time) and if you choose to a specialized program versus a general one.
Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.
A personal statement can make or break an application to any program. A personal statement isn’t a requirement for every Master of Human Services degree program, but it can give you a platform to explain your interests and motivations behind pursuing this degree. You can speak to how your personality and skills are a perfect fit for this degree and highlight any relevant experience you may have working in the field.
The most successful MHS students, graduates, and professionals are those who are compassionate and motivated to provide the best assistance to the individuals they’re working to help. MHS students should also be resourceful, analytical, patient, flexible, driven, and self-sufficient. The day-to-day responsibilities of a human services professional can change at a moment’s notice, as clients progress and digress, you must be firm but flexible in the way you handle certain situations.
The requirements for educational and professional experience will vary from program to program. All MHS programs require undergraduate transcripts. Some programs may require a personal statement, professional references, and a copy of your updated resume.
Accreditation helps determine if an institution meets or exceeds the minimum standards of quality set out by recognized regional or national accreditation agencies. A list of regional and national institutional accrediting agencies can be found at the U.S. Department of Education.
Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also required for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.
SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.
Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students.
Core courses for MHS programs usually cover topics such as ethics, policy, administration, and social services. Courses may be focused on working with individuals as well as working with communities and different organizations.
The number of credit hours required to complete an online MHS program will vary from university to university.
There typically aren’t any prerequisite courses required for an MHS program.
The online and on-campus program variations may be different depending on the university and specific program you choose. Many online programs feature the same faculty as their on-campus programs, but the coursework and offered electives may vary. Be sure to check with the specific MHS program you’re interested in.
It’s important to look for a curriculum that will fit your specific needs and professional goals. Choose a program that offers a specialization for the audience you’re wishing to work with. It’s also important to take into account the outcomes of the program, look into what the graduates are accomplishing and what they have to say about the program. You may be interested in exploring what other services the university offers to students as well.
Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students who may be working around a busy work schedule or home life. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees.
The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and the course. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.
Yes. Many institutions offer MHS degrees online.
Online and on-campus degrees typically look identical. Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.
Yes, typically schools follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus-based programs.
As the human services field is so large, there is an MHS program out there for everyone. The population you are interested in working with could help you decide what MHS program is the perfect fit for you. Programs often have tailored coursework for students with an interest in gerontology, community service, leadership, global services and policy, criminal justice, public health, family studies, human services, and nonprofit administration.
Specialized coursework can help set you apart from other applicants for human service positions. Employers may be more apt to choose you over other applicants when they see you have educational experience that is tailored toward an audience or population you may be dealing with in that specific role. The curriculum you’re exposed to as a student will give you insight into specific programs, policies, or practices that you will be able to refer to in your professional experiences.
For example, a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that human service workers who help homeless individuals may need to refer their clients to temporary housing facilities, job centers, and organizations that provide meals to the homeless. MHS programs with concentrations in community and social services may expose you to resources that may help homeless populations. You can also learn about the different factors that can influence how individuals end up in these situations. 
Licensure may not be required depending on what avenue within human services you choose to pursue after graduation. Requirements may also depend on what state you live in.
While professional credentials are voluntary, they may help set you apart from other applicants while pursuing a new position. The Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner (HS-BCP) credentials were created by the Center for Credentialing & Education (CCE) and the National Organization for Human Services (NOHS). This credentialing process was created for those in the human services field who are interested in furthering their careers and verifying their practical knowledge, educational accomplishments and background. 
Certification shows your dedication and commitment to helping others. Most of the time, certifications, unlike licensure, are not required, but they can show your employer your dedication, knowledge, and skill set in your field. Certificates show that you’re staying up to date on practices and set you apart from other professionals. The HS-BCP shows employers and others in the field that you have adhered to high standards while working in the industry. 
Your professional and educational experience is examined by the credentialing board, and you also need a pass a national exam composed of questions compiled by leaders in the human services field. 
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the human services sector can be separated into two types: working directly with clients and working on the administrative side of organizations that provide services to individuals. 
For those who work directly with clients, some examples or careers that may be attainable would be:
Case workers or case managers assess their clients’ needs and develop a treatment plan or course of action that includes locating appropriate resources to help them.
Counselors work with both individuals and groups to assist with different life circumstances that their clients may be faced with, such as marital issues or choosing a new career. Counselors may also diagnose and treat those with mental or emotional disorders.
Psychologists work with individuals with mental or emotional disorders and work to design treatment plans that will best fit the needs of each client.
Social workers work with their clients to provide applicable strategies to help them cope with their behaviors or environments.
Professionals on the administrative side of organizations may hold titles like the following:
Developmental directors work with organizations to strategize and supervise fundraising efforts and connect with potential donors to explain how their donations will be used to serve the community. These individuals may also act in supervisory roles over positions like grant writers.
Executive directors typically act in operational positions that may include human resource management as well as budgeting. They may also meet with policymakers and community leaders to ensure the goals of the organization are fully met.
Grant writers are involved in research efforts and finding sources of additional funding for the organization. They may also oversee the application process, how much funding is received as a result of their research efforts, and how that funding is spent.
Program directors are in charge of creating specific programs designed around the needs of their community. These professionals also are in charge of collecting and interpreting data to see how effective the programs they’ve set in place are working.
The BLS also reports the following job titles: community coordinator, outreach specialist, social services assistant, home-based assistant, clinical services director, social services director, and vocational rehabilitation administrator. [8,9]
BLS reports show that the top 5 states with the highest employment numbers for social and human services workers are California, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. 
As the elderly population in the United States continues to grow, the need for professionals in the health care and human services field increases. The elderly population will need access to services like meal delivery and adult care, which human services professionals can help to identify and match these individuals with. 
People and communities will always need help and assistance in finding programs and services to help them through life’s ups and downs. Human services professionals not only help the elderly, but they also help women and children affected by domestic abuse, the homeless, immigrants, individuals with addictions, those in the criminal justice system, and people with disabilities and mental illnesses. 
Individuals with a Master of Human Services can work in a variety of different fields. According to the BLS, 27% of social and community service managers held positions in individual and family services, while 18% held positions in state and local government. Individuals also reported holding positions in religious or civic organizations as well as nursing and residential care facilities. 
Human service professionals may work in a wide range of work environments. Some professionals may work out of an office, while others may work in the field and with clients, while others have a split between the two. Depending on where you find employment, your schedule may vary. There are some positions, like those in administration, where professionals work the typical Monday through Friday 40-hour work week. If you land a position in a residential environment, your schedule may be in shifts which may require weekend or overnight hours. 
Besides a degree in human services, employers may look at a variety of other attributes. They may look for potential employees to have strong communication and listening skills, cultural competency, compassion, close attention to detail, a strong understanding of human systems and different personalities, as well as the ability to maintain personal boundaries.
Specialized coursework from earning your degree may prove helpful when applying for new positions. Statistics, program management, and policy analysis courses may be helpful in understanding the necessities and responsibilities of administrative jobs.
While there are many opportunities for those with a human services degree, human services can usually be divided into three sectors: government, private, and nonprofit. Different organizations, hospitals, private practices, agencies, schools, and other associations may fall into these three different categories.
In May 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that human service professionals working in the social and community service sector earned a median salary of $64,680. The lower 10% earned less than $39,770 while the top 10% earned more than $110,970. 
No — attaining management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.