Online Associate in Human Services Degree Programs

In today's dynamic job market, obtaining a degree in human services can pave the way for various career opportunities in fields dedicated to helping individuals and communities. An associate degree in human services provides a foundational education that prepares graduates for entry-level roles in social services, counseling, and other support professions. With the increasing availability of online programs, students now have the flexibility to earn their degree while balancing work, family, and other commitments.

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Understanding Human Services

Human services is a broad field focused on meeting human needs through an interdisciplinary knowledge base, preventing and remedying problems, and improving the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities. Professionals in human services work to ensure that basic human needs are met, particularly for those who are vulnerable or disadvantaged.

Key Areas of Human Services:

  • Social Work: Assisting individuals and families to improve their social functioning and overall well-being.
  • Counseling: Providing guidance and support to individuals facing emotional, psychological, or behavioral challenges.
  • Case Management: Coordinating services and resources for clients to meet their health and human service needs.
  • Community Outreach: Engaging with communities to develop and implement programs that address local issues.

Similarities and Differences with Related Fields

While human services share similarities with fields like counseling, social work, and psychology, there are distinct differences in focus and practice.


  • Goal-Oriented: Both human services and related fields aim to improve individual and community well-being.
  • Interdisciplinary Approach: Professionals often use knowledge from various disciplines, including psychology, sociology, and public health.
  • Client-Centered: Services are tailored to meet the unique needs of each client.


  • Scope of Practice: Human services professionals often work in broader roles that may encompass social work, counseling, advocacy, and administration.
  • Educational Pathways: Degrees in human services can lead to a variety of roles without requiring the licensure often needed in fields like social work or counseling.
  • Focus Areas: Human services tend to have a broader focus on overall community and social systems, while fields like counseling and social work may focus more intensely on individual therapy and case-specific interventions.

By understanding what human services entail and how they relate to other fields, prospective students can make more informed decisions about their education and career in counseling options.

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Overview of Human Services Associate Degree Programs

Types of Programs

When pursuing an associate degree in human services, there are several types of programs to consider. Each type offers a unique focus and set of requirements, catering to different career goals and educational needs.

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Human Services:

  • Focus: This degree is designed to provide practical skills and knowledge for immediate entry into the workforce. It often emphasizes hands-on training and applied learning experiences.
  • Career Path: Graduates are prepared for various entry-level positions in human services, such as case management, community outreach, and social services support.

Associate of Science (AS) in Human Services:

  • Focus: The AS degree typically includes more general education courses in addition to core human services classes. It often serves as a stepping stone for students planning to transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
  • Career Path: Similar to the AAS, but with a stronger foundation in general education, making it easier to transition to a bachelor’s program.

Associate of Arts (AA) in Human Services:

  • Focus: The AA degree usually includes a broad range of liberal arts courses, providing a well-rounded education. It is designed for students who intend to transfer to a four-year college or university.
  • Career Path: This degree prepares students for further education and eventual careers in social work, counseling, or other human services fields.

Typical Curriculum

The curriculum for an associate degree in human services includes a mix of general education courses, core human services classes, and electives that allow students to tailor their education to their interests. Here is an overview of typical courses:

Core Courses:

  • Introduction to Human Services: An overview of the field, including history, ethics, and the roles of human services professionals.
  • Case Management: Techniques and strategies for managing client cases, including assessment, planning, and intervention.
  • Counseling Skills: Basic counseling techniques and communication skills essential for working with clients.
  • Community Resources: Understanding and utilizing community resources to assist clients effectively.

General Education Courses:

  • Psychology: Basic principles of psychology, including human behavior and mental processes.
  • Sociology: Study of social behavior, institutions, and organizations.
  • English Composition: Development of writing skills necessary for professional communication.
  • Mathematics: Basic math skills, often including statistics relevant to social sciences.


  • Substance Abuse Counseling: Focus on strategies and interventions for substance abuse treatment.
  • Child and Family Services: Courses focusing on the needs and services for children and families.
  • Gerontology: Study of aging and services for the elderly population.

By understanding the different types of human services associate degree programs and counseling programs, prospective students can choose the path that best aligns with their career goals and educational needs.

Examples of Online Associate in Human Services Degree Programs

When searching for the right online Associate in Human Services degree program, it’s essential to consider various factors such as accreditation, curriculum, flexibility, and support services. The following program list and tips can help you start your search. 

Alexandria Technical & Community College
Location: Alexandria, MN
Type: Public
Program Details

Bismarck State College
Location: Bismarck, ND
Type: Public
Program Details

Columbia College
Location: Columbia, MO
Type: Private not-for-profit
Program Details

Elizabethtown College
Location: Elizabethtown, PA
Type: Private not-for-profit
Program Details

Franklin Pierce University
Location: Rindge, NH
Type: Private not-for-profit
Program Details

Great Basin College
Location: Elko, NV
Type: Public
Program Details

Madisonville Community College
Location: Madisonville, KY
Type: Public
Program Details

Northeast Community College
Location: Norfolk, NE
Type: Public
Program Details

Purdue University Global
Location: West Lafayette, IN
Type: Public
Program Details

Ultimate Medical Academy
Location: Clearwater, FL
Type: Private not-for-profit
Program Details


Tips for Assessing Needs and Finding a Program

Completing an associate degree in human services is just the beginning of your educational and career journey. There are several strategies you can employ to maximize your success and advance in the field of human services.

  1. Research Accredited Programs
    • Accreditation: Ensure the program is accredited by a recognized accrediting body. Accreditation guarantees that the program meets high academic standards and that your degree will be respected by employers and other educational institutions.
    • Program Features: Look for programs that offer a robust curriculum, experienced faculty, and strong support services. Consider whether the program provides specializations or elective courses that align with your career goals.
  2. Evaluate Program Length and Format
    • Program Duration: Determine whether you prefer a full-time or part-time program. Full-time programs typically take 18 to 24 months to complete, while part-time programs can take up to three years or more.
    • Learning Format: Decide between online, in-person, or hybrid formats. Online programs offer flexibility, which is ideal for working professionals, while in-person programs provide direct interaction with peers and faculty. Hybrid programs combine the best of both worlds.
  3. Understand Clinical and Practicum Requirements
    • Practical Experience: Some programs may include a practicum or capstone project, which provides hands-on experience in healthcare settings. Ensure you understand the requirements and how they will be fulfilled within the program.
  4. Seek Financial Aid and Scholarships
    • Funding Options: Explore federal student aid, scholarships, grants, and employer tuition reimbursement programs. Many universities and professional organizations offer financial assistance specifically for healthcare management students.
  5. Leverage Support Services
    • Academic Support: Utilize the support services provided by the program, such as academic advising, tutoring, career counseling, and mentorship. These resources can help you stay on track and succeed academically.
    • Professional Networks: Join professional organizations and attend conferences and seminars to build your network. Networking can provide mentorship opportunities, job leads, and professional development resources.
  6. Consider Geographic Factors
    • Proximity to Campus: Even if the program is primarily online, some may require occasional on-campus visits for orientations, residencies, or practical experiences. Consider the travel requirements and whether they fit within your schedule and budget.
    • Local Practicum Opportunities: Ensure there are adequate facilities near your location where you can complete any required practicums or internships. Proximity to healthcare facilities or human services organizations can enhance your learning experience and provide networking opportunities.
  7. Stay Current with Continuing Education
    • Continuing Education: Continuing education is essential for maintaining certification and staying updated with the latest healthcare management practices and technologies. Many professional organizations offer courses, workshops, and conferences to help you stay current.

Choosing the right online Associate in Human Services degree program is a critical decision that can significantly impact your career trajectory. By thoroughly researching programs, understanding their requirements, and leveraging available resources, you can find a program that aligns with your career goals and sets you on the path to professional excellence. An associate degree not only expands your knowledge and skills but also positions you for various roles in the human services field, enabling you to make a significant impact on individuals and communities.


Options for Furthering Education

Earning an associate degree in human services is just the beginning of your educational and career journey. There are several pathways you can take to further your education and enhance your career prospects in the field of human services. Here are some options to consider:

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Many students who earn an associate degree in human services choose to continue their education by pursuing a bachelor’s degree. This path provides a deeper understanding of human services and opens up more advanced career opportunities.

Transitioning to a Bachelor’s Degree:

  • Articulation Agreements: Many community colleges have articulation agreements with four-year institutions, making it easier to transfer credits and continue your education without losing progress.
  • Bachelor’s Degree Options: You can pursue a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Human Services, Social Work, Psychology, or a related field. These programs typically take an additional two years of full-time study to complete.


  • Advanced Knowledge: Gain a more comprehensive understanding of human services theories and practices.
  • Career Advancement: Qualify for higher-level positions and greater responsibility within the field.
  • Licensure: Some positions, such as social workers, require a bachelor’s degree for licensure.

Certification and Licensure

Certifications and licensure can enhance your qualifications and open up new career opportunities in human services. These credentials demonstrate your expertise and commitment to professional development.

Relevant Certifications:

  • Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM): Offered by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), this certification is for social workers who specialize in case management.
  • Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC): This certification is for those who work in substance abuse counseling and requires additional training and experience.


  • State Requirements: Licensure requirements vary by state and profession. For example, becoming a licensed social worker typically requires a bachelor’s degree, supervised experience, and passing a licensing exam.
  • Continuing Education: Many licensure boards require ongoing education to maintain licensure, ensuring professionals stay current with industry standards and practices.

Graduate Degree Opportunities

For those looking to specialize further or pursue leadership roles, obtaining a graduate degree can be a valuable investment. Master’s degrees and doctoral programs provide advanced training and research opportunities in various areas of human services.

Master’s Degrees:

  • Master of Social Work (MSW): This degree prepares graduates for advanced practice and leadership roles in social work.
  • Master of Science in Counseling: Specializations may include school counseling, mental health counseling, and marriage and family therapy.
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA): Ideal for those interested in administrative and leadership roles within public and nonprofit organizations.

Doctoral Degrees:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Human Services: Focuses on research and academic careers, as well as advanced practice roles.
  • Doctor of Social Work (DSW): Designed for advanced clinical practice and leadership roles in social work.


  • Specialization: Gain expertise in a specific area of human services.
  • Leadership Roles: Prepare for administrative and leadership positions.
  • Research Opportunities: Contribute to the field through research and scholarship.

By exploring these options for furthering education, graduates of associate degree programs in human services can find the right path to meet their career goals and continue their professional development.

Job Outlook and Salary for Human Services Degree Holders

Employment Opportunities

Earning an associate degree in human services opens doors to a variety of entry-level positions within the field. Graduates often find roles as social and human service assistants, case management aides, community outreach workers, and more. These professionals play a crucial role in providing support services to individuals and communities, often working under the supervision of social workers, psychologists, or other community service professionals.

Key Employment Sectors:

  • Individual and Family Services: Approximately 29% of social and human service assistants are employed in this sector, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  • Local Government: Around 13% work in local government roles, excluding education and hospitals.
  • Nursing and Residential Care Facilities: About 11% are employed in these settings, providing essential support to residents.
  • Community and Vocational Rehabilitation Services: Comprising 10% of the workforce in this field.
  • State Government: 8% of social and human service assistants are employed in state government roles.

Salary Expectations

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for social and human service assistants was $41,410 as of May 2023. The lowest 10% earned less than $30,720, while the highest 10% earned more than $61,820. 

Median Annual Wages by Sector:

  • Local Government: $48,880
  • State Government: $46,720
  • Individual and Family Services: $40,340
  • Community and Vocational Rehabilitation Services: $38,210
  • Nursing and Residential Care Facilities: $37,500

Job Outlook

The employment of social and human service assistants is projected to grow 9% from 2022 to 2032, which is much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the BLS. This growth is driven by an increasing demand for social services and the ongoing need to support aging populations, individuals with disabilities, and those facing substance abuse issues.

On average, about 47,400 job openings for social and human service assistants are projected each year over the decade. These openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can I Do with an Associate in Human Services?

An associate degree in human services prepares graduates for a variety of entry-level positions in the field. These roles often involve providing direct support to individuals and communities, helping them navigate social services and access necessary resources. Common job titles include:

  • Social and Human Service Assistant: Assist clients in identifying and obtaining benefits and services.
  • Case Management Aide: Help case managers with client management and service coordination.
  • Community Outreach Worker: Engage with community members to educate and connect them to services.
  • Residential Counselor: Provide support and supervision in residential treatment facilities.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Associate in Human Services Program?

Typically, an online associate degree in human services takes about two years to complete. However, the duration can vary based on several factors:

  • Full-Time vs. Part-Time Enrollment: Full-time students usually complete the program in two years, while part-time students may take longer.
  • Accelerated Programs: Some institutions offer accelerated tracks that allow students to complete the degree more quickly, often in 18 months.
  • Transfer Credits: Students with prior college credits may be able to complete the program in a shorter time frame.

Are Online Human Services Degrees Respected by Employers?

Yes, online human services degrees from accredited institutions are generally respected by employers. Accreditation ensures that the program meets high academic and professional standards, which is crucial for employer recognition. To enhance the respect and value of your degree:

  • Choose an Accredited Program: Ensure the program is accredited by a recognized accrediting body.
  • Gain Practical Experience: Participate in internships or practicum opportunities offered by the program.
  • Build a Professional Network: Engage with peers, faculty, and industry professionals through online forums and professional organizations.

What Skills Will I Gain from a Human Services Degree Program?

An associate degree in human services equips students with a range of skills essential for success in the field. Key skills include:

  • Communication Skills: Effective verbal and written communication with clients, colleagues, and community members.
  • Critical Thinking: Ability to assess situations, identify problems, and develop solutions.
  • Empathy and Compassion: Understanding and addressing the needs and concerns of diverse populations.
  • Organizational Skills: Managing multiple tasks, maintaining records, and coordinating services efficiently.
  • Cultural Competence: Working effectively with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds.

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