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Top Online Human Services Certificate Programs for 2024

Online human services certificate programs can help you launch your career. Keep reading to learn if they’re right for you and where to pursue them.

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Author: Jenna Tidd

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Do you dream of a career that allows you to help people in difficult situations? Are you an empathetic, compassionate person who feels drawn to social work? If so, an online human services certificate can open the door to a rewarding profession making a tangible difference in people’s lives.

The human services field encompasses a broad range of positions, including residential living counselor, group home manager, assistant case manager, social services assistant, behavioral health aide, and family support coordinator, among others, all of which are expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 9% by 2032, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

An online human services certificate program will give you a solid foundation in psychology, communication skills, behavioral social science, and learning and behavior, culminating in hands-on fieldwork.

So, whether you’re curious about beginning a career in human services or want to build on previous experience, this guide will help you determine if a certificate program is right for you. We’ll highlight three top schools to give you an idea of what to look for then break down key categories in which online human services certificates differ from bachelor’s degree programs. Finally, we’ll answer prospective students’ most frequently asked questions to help you feel confident in your next step. Keep reading to get started.

Spotlighting Standout Online Human Services Certificate Programs

Below, we’ll take a closer look at three high-quality online human services certificate programs that can serve as a starting point in your search for the right school for you. We’ll highlight important details such as program length, cost, and features that make it stand out from other options.

Clarkson College

Students at Clarkson College can enroll in a year-round online human services certificate program that can be completed on a full-time or part-time schedule. Those with no college experience can earn the required 21 credits in three semesters. Incoming students with an associate degree may finish it in as few as two semesters.

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), this program’s content covers key subjects like vulnerable populations, social policy, the criminal justice system, crisis intervention, family dynamics, and social change. Graduates are well-versed in the purpose of human services agencies, what influences them, and the types of clients they serve.

Tuition costs $651 per credit hour, $7,962 per semester for full-time students, and $3,981 per semester for part-time students. Clarkson College offers three scholarships to incoming students, as well as scholarships for returning students. Financial aid options include loans, grants, and alternative options such as on-campus employment and positions as resident advisors or student ambassadors.

Purdue Global

Purdue Global offers a 100% online human services certificate program consisting of eight courses that equip students to work in child and family services after graduation. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the program costs $371 per credit and takes 11 months to complete with 15 to 18 hours of study per week. Credits earned with this certificate program can be applied toward an associate or bachelor’s degree at Purdue Global.

While earning their human services certificate, students become familiar with the developmental milestones of children and adolescents. They also gain crucial skills to assess a variety of situations and determine what resources and interventions are most appropriate. To enroll, students must be at least 18 years old, hold a high school diploma or GED, and have basic computer skills. Applicants under 18 years of age may enroll upon meeting all requirements and receiving the Dean’s approval.

Widener University

Widener University presents busy students a convenient option with their online human services certificate program that can be completed in just one year with a part-time study schedule. It consists of nine credits of research-backed coursework that equips students to work in healthcare organizations, government positions, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies.

To apply, incoming students must complete an online application (which is accepted on a rolling basis) and submit proof of a high school diploma.

When it comes to affordability, Widener University offers several financial aid options, such as scholarships, loans, grants, employer-discounted tuition, and military financial aid. Alumni of Widener University may qualify for a 20% discount on tuition.

For those who already hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree, Widener also offers a graduate-level online human services certificate program that equips graduates for leadership roles like training and development managers that earn an average annual salary of $120,000.

Is a Human Services Certificate Right for You?

To help you answer this question, we explain what a health certificate entails in four major areas: career prospects, cost, length, and scope, as well as when a bachelor’s degree may be a better choice. By seeing how each educational path aligns with your priorities, you can determine if an online human services certificate program is right for you.

Career Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that there will be 415,100 human service assistant jobs available per year. After graduating from an online human services certificate program, you will be qualified for entry-level positions, such as a case work aide, family service assistant, social work assistant, addictions counselor assistant, gerontology aide, and clinical social work aide.

For leadership roles such as program manager, child welfare worker, and adult services worker, you’ll need a bachelor’s or master’s degree. That said, if you have your eyes set on positions of authority, gaining field experience with a certificate will lay the necessary groundwork.

Cost

Tuition is an important consideration when exploring a new career. When looking at the cost of an online degree in human services, you’ll notice an online certificate program is significantly less expensive than a traditional degree. If budget is a determining factor, a certificate may be the best fit for you, especially compared to an associate or bachelor’s degree, both of which can cost thousands more. Depending on the certificate program you choose, you may be able to apply credits to a future degree, allowing you to get more bang for your buck.

Length

The length of an online human services certificate program is ideal if you want to begin working in your chosen field quickly. Instead of spending four years earning a bachelor’s degree, you can earn a certificate in a year or less — sometimes with a part-time study schedule. This allows you to start getting valuable, hands-on experience as a human services professional in as little time as possible, paving the way for future education opportunities and leadership positions. It also means you will most likely be able to earn a higher salary in a shorter period.

Scope

Although details may vary, the general scope of an online human services certificate program remains the same. Courses include human services program and profession, prevention and crisis intervention, sociology, applied skills for human services, case management in human services, child welfare and family, and child and adolescent development. These are designed to equip you with counseling, assessment, and documentation skills, and teach you to develop and implement plans to resolve clients’ problems. An online human services degree program goes into more detail and allows you to choose a concentration, such as drug and alcohol abuse, counseling, and health and community services.

Common Courses in Online Human Services Certificate Programs

An online human services certificate program prepares you for a broad range of roles, and the courses you’ll take reflect that variety, ranging from criminal justice to family dynamics to crisis intervention. They address the many factors that can influence individuals’ behavior and circumstances, so that you can accurately assess situations and devise effective solutions.

Applied Skills for Human Services

In this course, students learn basic interviewing and documentation skills, both of which are critical for human services professionals. Effective communication with both clients and management ensures the timely resolution of each case. Coursework introduces various practices for dealing with diverse clientele, as well as legal and ethical requirements.

Crisis Intervention

A crisis intervention course teaches students short-term management techniques to help people navigate and overcome overwhelming situations like physical violence, the death of a loved one, and divorce. Students learn the necessary skills to accurately assess a situation, identify the problem, build rapport with the person in crisis, and develop an action plan.

Family Dynamics

As the name suggests, a course in family dynamics focuses on the relationships and essential responsibilities in a functional family. Students gain an understanding of the nature and importance of interactions between family members. This is a significant aspect of human services, as those interactions impact development, social behavior, and overall health.

Legal and Ethical Issues in Human Services

During this course, students study the various legal and ethical situations they may face in the future. They learn to follow a code of ethics and explore topics like privacy, duty to disclose, and boundary dilemmas. Legal case studies on the local, state, and federal levels are often used to illustrate their responsibilities.

Understanding the Criminal Justice System

In a criminal justice system course, students learn about how the legal system works so they can help clients navigate the courts — which can be confusing and overwhelming. The coursework gives students a foundational understanding of law enforcement and corrections with an emphasis on youth issues, crime prevention, and addiction.

Vulnerable Populations

Many of the clients seen by human services professionals are members of vulnerable populations, including minorities, children, the elderly, the poor, and those with disabilities. Students learn how factors like income, race, age, education level, health, and gender identity contribute to making a population vulnerable, and how to utilize the appropriate resources to help them.

Answering Your FAQs About Human Services Certificates

It’s natural to have questions about things like accreditation, networking, and financial aid when considering an online human services certificate program. We’ve collected and answered the most common questions on these topics and more from other students to help you determine whether this is the path for you.

Are online human services certificate programs accredited and by whom?

Yes, top online human services certificate programs are accredited by the Council for Standards in Human Services Education (CSHSE). Accredited programs meet government standards and qualify you for federal financial aid. Programs like the ones we spotlighted also hold regional accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Accrediting organizations vary according to region.

Can I transfer credits from my human services certificate program?

If you decide to transfer schools, you may be able to put the credits you earn in an online human services certificate program toward a more advanced degree. Colleges like Southern New Hampshire University offer this feature, allowing students to further their education more easily. Certificate programs typically consist of between 12 and 20 credits.

Do I qualify for financial aid?

Education is expensive, and many students turn to financial aid to help finance it. Although funding opportunities vary across individual schools and programs, there are several options available to those enrolled in online human services certificate programs. Schools like Widener University offer students extensive financial aid assistance. Attending an accredited program also makes you eligible for federal aid.

Do online certificate programs offer career services?

Many institutions offer career support to students enrolled in online health services certificate programs, although the extent of this aid may vary between schools. Places like the U.S. Career Institute provide support for graduates who are starting new careers and need help finding their place in the workforce.

How can online certificate students network and develop ties to the community?

Utilizing social media platforms like LinkedIn can make you more visible to recruiters and help you connect with fellow students or school alumni who can open up opportunities you won’t find on job boards. It’s also wise to check out virtual networking events where you can meet other people in your field.

What are the prerequisites for online human services certificate programs?

In general, no prerequisite courses are required for online human services certificate programs, making them much more accessible than traditional degree programs. Admission requirements typically include a high school diploma or GED and completion of the school’s orientation.