What is a Master’s Degree in Human Services, and is it Right For Me?
By Ashford University Staff
A master’s degree in human services is a vast degree field that will offer you many opportunities to serve others in your community directly or indirectly. As defined by the National Organization for Human Services: “The Human Services profession is one which promotes improved service delivery systems by addressing not only the quality of direct services, but also by seeking to improve accessibility, accountability, and coordination among professionals and agencies in service delivery.”
If you are seeking a breadth of professional career options after graduation and are eager to serve others, the interdisciplinary nature of the human services field is an inviting option. When you earn a master’s degree in human services, you will be taught to navigate the structure and operations of service organizations and develop management skills that emphasize topics including grant writing, planning, managing budgets, implementing information systems, and leading people. With this degree, you will be able to develop a historical context of human services, evaluate and explain various human systems as they relate to the human services field, develop research and written communication skills applied to the human services field, construct a program plan, program review, and community-needs assessment, explain knowledge, theory, and skills pertaining to interventions and direct services, and more.
Who seeks a Master’s Degree in Human Services?
Students who gravitate to this degree program often say they do so because they want to help people, they want to give back to the community, or they want to serve others. Some students have a vested interest in a single population or topic that relates in some way to a difficult personal experience that they overcame. Other students claim they want a taste of behavioral and social sciences with more of a generalist mentality to keep their options open, but they aren’t necessarily interested in licensure* or the significant time commitment of the many years required to complete a master’s degree on a licensure track. Whatever their reasoning, a Master of Arts in Human Services can serve as preparation for many careers in the social services and human services fields, and graduates can pursue a career in a variety of fields such as social and community service manager, social and human service assistant, and community and social service specialist among others.
What to Expect from the Core Courses
The Master of Arts in Human Services program consists of 33 credits or 11 total courses, of which eight are core courses that focus on the values of the human services profession – its history, ethics, and professional standards. The eight core courses include: Cultural Diversity & Individual Differences, Life Span Development, Professional Ethics, Standards of Practice & Law, Overview of Human Services, Group Theories & Human Services Human Services Delivery Skills & Processes, Applied Research Methods, and the Integrative Project, which is a “Capstone” class intended as a final “core” course that circumscribes all learning with a culminating project.
What Specializations Are Available?
The Master of Arts in Human Services program offers three specialization options, comprised of three courses each, to add further focus to your studies.
The Mental Health Administration (MHA) specialization curriculum is one of Ashford’s more unique specializations and is very difficult to find at other institutions. MHA students are required to take the following courses:
- Human Services Administration
- Contemporary Issues in Mental Health Care Compliance
- Fiscal Administration in Mental Health Care Systems
The three courses that are required for the Nonprofit Management (NPM) specialization include:
- Coaching Volunteers
- Non-Profit Principles & Practice
- Leadership & Management
The Standard Human Services specialization allows students to choose three courses from any of the available human services specialization courses which, along with those listed above, include the following:
- Interdisciplinary Theories of Gerontology
- Grant Writing
- Criminal Justice Organizations & their Functions
- Intervention Strategies in Wellness Programs
- Victimology: Theory, Research & Policy
- Family Systems & Dynamics
- Sociology of Health and Medicine
- Structure and Function of Nonprofit and Government Organizations
Which Specialization is Right for Me?
Some students come into the program knowing precisely what they want to be doing upon graduation. Some are already on that upward path in their current occupation, and others really do not have any idea what they want to do with their human services degree. For example, some students wish to work for a particular organization but they really don’t know what population they would like to serve. The optimal plan for these students would be to take the generalist route with the following three courses: Human Services Administration, Leadership & Management, and Grant Writing or Structure and Function of Nonprofit and Government Organizations.
Other students select specialization courses that align with career options. For example, if a student has an interest in the criminal justice field but does not want a degree in criminal justice because it is not broad enough like human services, and that student would like to work in some capacity with abused children, adult victims or perpetrators of domestic violence, then a recommended plan could involve the following courses: Victimology: Theory, Research & Policy, Family Systems & Dynamics, and Criminal Justice Organizations & Functions or Human Services Administration.
A final example of how students can select specialization courses is to align with career options that relate to currently popular trends in the field of human services, such as gerontology. If a student has an interest in working with the aging population in a human services setting, then a recommended plan could involve the following courses: Sociology of Health & Medicine, Interdisciplinary Theories of Gerontology, and Intervention Strategies in Wellness Programs or Human Services Administration.
Why Pursue a Master’s Degree in Human Services at Ashford?
At Ashford, the courses are exciting and highly engaging, and there are no comprehensive exam or graduate thesis requirements. Instead, students complete a Capstone project course. Plus, each classis only six weeks long, and you can take one course at a time, allowing you flexibility to fit your lifestyle.
If you are interested in becoming a leader at a service organization or you want to develop an understanding of the different values, goals, and lifestyles of service consumers and employees, you can learn how to guide the work of others to deliver services effectively and make a real impact on the lives of others with a Master of Arts in Human Services.
Each online course is six weeks, and the degree program can be completed one class at a time, whenever and wherever you are, giving you more flexibility to earn your MA in Human Services. Contact an Ashford Advisor to learn more.
Written by Dr. Kristin Ballard, program chair of the BA in Health and Human Services, BA in Human Services Leadership, and MA in Human Services programs in the College of Health, Human Services, and Science at Ashford University.
*Note: This program is intentionally a non-licensure and non-clinical track program.