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Best Online Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services

An online bachelor’s degree in human services can equip you with the skills, knowledge, and experience to succeed. Explore top programs, common courses, and more.


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A diverse group of adults sitting in a circle during a Human Services support group meeting, with one person comforting another with a reassuring hand on the shoulder.

A bachelor’s degree in human services makes it possible to build a successful and fulfilling career doing work that assists individuals, groups, and communities. Now is an ideal time to pursue a career in a helping profession. In fact, a 2023 study by the National Council of Nonprofits found that 74.6% of responding agencies are actively hiring — many of whom are also offering enticing benefits. Salaries were raised at nearly two-thirds of surveyed nonprofits, and a remote work policy was implemented at more than half.

A human services degree can prepare you for a wide variety of professions, from social work and counseling to public service administration and beyond — and not just at nonprofits.

If you aren’t able to attend school in person or adhere to a traditional student schedule, earning an online bachelor’s degree in human services can provide the necessary flexibility to pursue these admirable occupations. In this article, we’ll shine a spotlight on a few standout online human services programs, provide an overview of the kind of coursework involved, discuss what it takes to earn a degree, and otherwise help you prepare for your new future career.

When it comes to picking a school and a program, you may be feeling a bit intimidated — and possibly stressed— due to the sheer number of choices. With that in mind, we’ve curated a list of quality online programs below. Take a look at these schools offering an online bachelor’s degree in human services and get a feel for what you can expect, as well as what to look for, when searching for your future bachelor’s program.

ODU Global

Logo of ODU Global, featuring a stylized blue lion's head next to the text "ODU Global" above "Online Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services at Old Dominion University" in blue font.

ODU Global — the distance learning arm of Old Dominion University — is a leading online learning institution. With more than 120 online programs, ODU Global serves students from around the world who study from the convenience of their own homes (or wherever they happen to be).

ODU Global’s online bachelor’s degree in human services is designed to help students learn material related to human growth and development, program evaluation and management, grant writing and fundraising, agency operation, and the roles human service professionals play in their communities, among other topics. Those who complete the program will find themselves prepared for roles where they aid a variety of community members — from the elderly to those with substance abuse concerns to vocational rehabilitation and more.

The program requires 120 credit hours, but only 30 of those credit hours need to be completed at ODU; this means transferring students can bring the bulk of their credits from elsewhere. And with class tuition as low as $393 per credit hour, this bachelor’s program is less expensive than most.

Purdue Global

Logo of Purdue Global, featuring an abstract globe graphic in white and beige on a dark circle, next to the words "Purdue Global" in green and black script. Prominently representing their Top Human Services Program.

Purdue Global is a widely recognized online university with accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). It offers an online bachelor’s degree in human services that can be completed in about four years, with an average of roughly 15 to 18 hours per week of course effort. The coursework in this program fulfills the requirements to sit for the exam to become a Human Services—Board Certified Practitioner.

Tuition costs $371 per credit hour regardless of where students live, making this program both affordable and flexible to accommodate students who have other personal and financial obligations they must work around.

If you’re looking to specialize, Purdue offers four concentrations: Human Services Administration, Gerontology, Child and Family Welfare, and Community Organization/Advocacy. And if you’re intending to go beyond a bachelor’s to pursue a graduate degree in this discipline, Purdue has accelerated master’s options in related fields such as criminal justice, psychology, and public administration.


Logo of Southern New Hampshire University, featuring a stylized blue and gold shield with the university's name in green text, representing the Bachelor's Degree in Human Services.

If you’re planning on becoming a caseworker, probation officer, residential counselor, group homeworker, or similar professional, the online bachelor’s in human services program offered by Southern New Hampshire University might be a good fit. This program emphasizes understanding of social, political, and historical trends; cultural awareness and communication strategies; legal and ethical standards; and human services policies and the importance of advocacy for the traditionally underserved.

SNHU uses accelerated eight-week terms, with fully online and asynchronous class formats, making it easy to speed up your education process. And with classes priced at $330 per credit hour (or $9,900 for 30 credits across a full year), it’s the least expensive of the three programs in this list; students can transfer as many as 90 credits to count toward graduation requirements. Perhaps most notably, SNHU doesn’t require an application fee or college entrance scores.

SNHU students pursuing this online bachelor’s degree in human services can specialize in Child/Family Services, Gerontology, or Substance Abuse.

Degree Spotlight: Human Services Bachelor’s Degrees Online

Online human services bachelor’s programs can vary in many significant ways, from curricula to delivery format. Here are some things to consider before enrolling in a human services bachelor’s degree online.

How Much Does an Online Bachelor’s in Human Services Cost

A few different factors can affect the overall cost of earning a human services bachelor’s degree online. In general, tuition varies from school to school, but there can be a more pronounced difference between private and public schools. The type of school you attend can also affect what financial aid options are available, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of different online human services programs.

How long it takes to earn your bachelor’s degree and whether your school has different rates for in- and out-of-state students can also affect cost. To find tuition information for a specific online human services bachelor’s program, use the rankings tool above.

Logo of Lesley University featuring the name "Lesley" in bold green letters next to a stylized green diamond-shaped design, representing its online bachelor's degree programs.
Lesley University

Total Credits: 120


Southern New Hampshire University

Total Credits: 120


Walden University

Total Credits: 181


What are the Admissions Requirements for a Human Services Bachelor’s Program?

Admissions details differ from school to school, but you can typically expect some common requirements, including a high school diploma or equivalent and submission of an application. Some programs also require students to complete general education courses before applying to a human services program. Applicants often need to meet minimum GPA requirements and submit transcripts from high school or any postsecondary schools they’ve attended in the past. Applicants may also have to submit ACT or SAT scores, entrance essays, or letters of recommendation.

What Skills Do You Learn from Courses in an Online Bachelor’s in Human Services?

One of the perks of enrolling in an online bachelor’s program in human services is getting to choose from a vast list of courses that cover different subjects and help you develop a range of useful skills. Each program offers something a little different, but you can expect to take at least a few of the following fundamental human services courses while earning your degree.

Case Management

Case management courses introduce students to entry-level case management fundamentals, including management theory and practice, relationship development, and the role of the case manager. This course is particularly important for those exploring social work careers, but the skills gained in case management courses are widely applicable to many human services careers.

Example course titles: Case Management in Social Work; Counseling and Case Management

Skills: Goal-based care planning, assessing client needs, and professional best practices

Ethics in Human Services

Human services can be a conflicting field in many regards. Students may learn about common conflicts and ethical issues human services professionals regularly face. They may also learn about human services law and how it can work with and against services ethics.

Example course titles: Law and Ethics in Human Service; Practical Ethics in Human Services

Skills: Informed ethical decision-making

Developmental Psychology

In their programs, students may explore the psychological developments that occur throughout a person’s life as well as major theories and research methodologies in developmental psychology. These courses can help students understand their clients and the issues they face in different stages of life.

Example course titles: Developmental Psychology Through the Life Span

Skills: Recognize and assess developmental markers for different life stages


Students will likely take courses that address human services policy in some way. These courses may address legislative and organizational policy development processes as well as existing human services policies. Students may learn about major services policies in the United States, too, like welfare and criminal justice policy. Courses may also address the role of advocacy in policy development.

Example course titles: Public Policy and Advocacy; Social Policy

Skills: Critical analysis of human services policy, advocacy methods and tools, and policy development

Research Methods

Students may gain an overview of common research methods in human services and other social sciences. Courses may address methods of collecting data, interpreting research, identifying design flaws, and developing critical analysis.

Example course titles: Social Science Research Methods; Research Methods in Human Services; Research Methods in the Social Sciences

Skills: Data collection, research design, and statistical analysis

What Concentrations Are Available in an Online Bachelor’s Program in Human Services?

Concentrations allow you to focus your studies on a particular aspect of human services. Because human services is a broad field, this is a great way for you to gain expertise relevant to your specific career goals. Programs may offer an array of human services concentrations; here are some examples:

Addictions Counseling

A concentration in addictions or substance abuse counseling can help you understand the underlying causes of addiction and how to best help clients dealing with addiction. You may learn useful intervention and prevention methods as well as recovery solutions you can implement in counseling settings.

Many of the individuals that human services graduates will help in their careers are impacted by substance abuse in different ways. Those struggling with addiction may be facing job loss, poverty, homelessness, jail time, and more; those close to them may be dealing with hardship and heartache; and those who depend on them may be suffering in numerous ways. Classes in this subject cover the personal and societal causes of abuse, the potential ramifications, and the tools available to help everyone who may be affected by this very real problem.

Leadership and Administration

Students pursuing leadership roles in human services organizations may consider focusing their studies on leadership and administration. This concentration tends to focus on leadership principles and theory as well as challenges faced by those in human services leadership positions. Policy, communication, and ethics may also be addressed.

Sometimes called public personnel management or public sector human resource management, these courses tackle the HR and administrative challenges faced specifically by government agencies. While there is definitely overlap with the material in similar classes focused on the private sector, public personnel classes address issues like statutory restrictions, public agencies objectives, civil service reform, staff performance and engagement, and cost/compensation structures.

Child and Family Services

In this concentration, you can learn how to manage cases and effectively advocate for children and families. You may learn about psychological and social development from childhood through adulthood, social issues that affect families and children, and valuable resources that can help your future clients.

Human service professionals often have meaningful and positive impact on clientele who are in the juvenile justice system. Courses like this one prepare graduates to provide aid, support, counseling, and other forms of help to some of the most disadvantaged and at-risk youths in the country. For those who choose to put this training to use, they may find themselves tipping the scales in the lives of those they serve, helping them build promising and productive futures.

Answering Your Questions About Online Human Services Degrees

Although we’ve explored a few possible programs and courses in depth, you may still have questions about your future status as a graduate of an online human services degree program. Below, you’ll find some of the most frequently asked questions about this degree option, as well as answers and further resources.

Are there any free online human services bachelor’s degree programs?

A degree from an accredited institution of higher education will never be offered free of charge; however, there are a number of things you can do to reduce how much of the price tag you’ll be responsible for — including scholarships specifically for students in human services programs. A full-ride scholarship would probably be the closest thing to “free,” but those tend to be highly competitive. Partial scholarships can go a long way toward making school more affordable, as can loans and grants, reimbursement programs, employer-paid tuition, etc.

Can I earn a human services associate degree online?

Yes, you’ll find a number of community colleges and universities offer degree programs in human services at a variety of degree levels, often with online or hybrid options. Prospective human services students looking to earn an associate degree online are in luck, as there are plenty of programs they can choose from — including this program from Rasmussen University.

Can I transfer credits from my bachelor’s toward a master’s in human services?

Broadly speaking, accredited learning institutions have become much more accepting of transfer credits, even from smaller or lesser-known schools. However, which credits can be transferred from one school to another, or from one degree track to another — if any — will depend on your school, your specific degree program, the class credits you’re transferring, and plenty more. So if you’re hoping to save some time and tuition by bringing your education history with you while pursuing a master’s in human services, be sure to coordinate with your counselor.

How quickly can I complete an accelerated human services degree online?

Like most online bachelor’s programs, how fast you earn your degree in human services will hinge on a few key factors: the format of the classes (synchronous or asynchronous), how many classes you register for at a time, how many credits you bring with you, and whether you’re pursuing licensing or not (such as if you’re hoping to become a counselor) among them. Most programs project an average graduation time of about four years, though that can be shortened drastically by transferring a decent number of completed credits, or by hustling hard and taking more credits to shorten your overall duration.

Is an online degree in human services equivalent to an in-person degree?

Yes. When earned from an accredited institution, an online degree is equivalent to an in-person degree. Those hiring in some fields, which may include human services, may want to see some evidence of in-person experience (employment or internships, for example) to complement an applicant’s education. But online degrees are often more affordable, offer more flexible schedules, and can often be completed faster than traditional degrees, making them preferable for anyone who isn’t living within a stone’s throw of campus.

What kind of career support is available to online students?

This answer depends on a few factors, such as the school you’ve chosen, your field of study, your location, and the level of education you’re pursuing, among others. In general though, accredited universities are looking to help you succeed. Online programs are often a significant proportion of their offerings, and the success rate of their graduates serves as a strong quality indicator. That’s why, in addition to student resources and support, most schools also offer a variety of resources to help future and recent graduates pursue employment more effectively.