There is a sea change in human services; new governmental standards and societal shifts in thinking are creating new challenges for human services professionals. Increased acceptance of developmental disability in our midst means that many young adults are aging out of the protective safety net of group homes and residential facilities. Our government is also taking action in areas previously left to internal policing, such as welfare administration, equal employment opportunity and the workplace environment. These factors, among others, are changing the face of the industry. Master’s degree programs in human services strive to produce leaders who can effectively manage these adjustments and continue to assist those who need help.

Why a Master’s Degree in Human Services?

A master’s degree in human services is designed to hone the applied skills necessary to be an effective human services professional. It is not advanced study in counseling, nor does it lead to licensure in counseling. Leadership and management skills are stressed in this online degree program. Master’s degree candidates build on previous learning from a bachelor’s degree in human services, devoting two to three years to examining all facets of the delivery and coordination of agency services.

Candidates for a master’s degree in human services online may desire to enhance professional qualifications. Clergy members, for example, often find themselves in the position of coordinating social services; a congregation in need may benefit from its leader’s additional study. Mental health counselors and social workers stand to gain from additional understanding of the networks that can help clients. Practitioners who work in geriatrics, substance abuse, and healthcare may also choose this path to additional expertise in systems and resources.

Getting Into a Human Services Master’s Program

Master’s in human services online degree programs are relatively consistent in admissions requirements, though individual schools do vary. Common entrance qualifications for this degree program are:

  • Bachelor’s degree in human services or related field from an accredited institution; prerequisite courses may apply to graduates of non-human services degree programs
  • GPA of 2.5 or higher
  • Two letters of recommendation from professional and academic sources
  • Two years of relevant work experience
  • Professional resume or curriculum vitae
  • 500-1,000 word statement of purpose explaining educational goals

Inside a Human Services Master’s Degree Program

The objective of a master’s degree human services program is to ultimately prepare candidates to institute policy and improve the framework of the social services system. Students explore existing public and private policy as well as current trends that impact this policy, such as new legislation on welfare, immigration, and reproductive rights. Graduates of this program have fine-tuned the ability to effectively navigate social service systems and collaborate with relevant stakeholders. Ultimately, master’s degree candidates are qualified to develop concepts that improve the industry’s ability to help the people it serves.

Candidates follow a core curriculum that includes classwork on leadership theory, applied research, cultural diversity, funding, human development, and not-for-profit administration. Outside of core classes, master’s degree candidates may choose a concentration within the program. Concentrations may take the form of global studies, organizational theory, leadership, human resources, healthcare, criminal justice, ministry, military counseling or others. Master’s degree candidates are also required to complete an approved internship, which provides further instruction in a chosen concentration.

What’s Next for Human Services Master’s Degree Holders?

Career prospects for graduates of a master’s degree in human services online [keyword] are extremely good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports not only a 22% increase in jobs in human services, but a projected 28% increase in management positions through 2020. Highly trained professionals who can manage and lead the expanding industry are needed. Job titles that graduates of this program might expect are upper-level management positions like program director, community service manager or family services director.

Particular areas of growth include the increase in the elderly population. Social and community services that administer to this population will be in demand; management positions servicing disabled adults, home health care, Medicare and other family services will be abundant. The U.S. court system’s shift from assigning drug abusers to rehabilitation instead of jail, plus relaxed societal stigma about seeking addiction treatment, will create a need for more administrators to direct treatment programs.

Human services professionals who may want to maintain a clinical practice and continue study may enroll in a human services or health services doctoral program. A Ph.D. in Human Services not only allows original research, but also increases marketability. Competition in the booming industry will be fierce, and holding the highest available academic credentials provides a definitive edge to job candidates.