If you aren’t able or ready to get a bachelor’s degree in social work, you might consider getting a two-year degree first. Associate’s degrees in human and social services are a great introduction to the field. Usually, they are open to any student that has at least a high school diploma. If you have a GED, you are most likely able to enroll as well.
An associate’s degree in human and social services will prepare you for beginner careers. There are many different career paths you can take. This includes working with individuals or groups. You can even work with entire communities. Some workers focus on helping children. Others work with the elderly.
Earnings for entry-level positions in human and social services aren’t as high as other careers. However, the pay is good for jobs that only require a two-year degree.
Another benefit of getting a two-year degree is that the credits often apply toward completing a bachelor’s degree. Even if you decide to work for a few years before finishing your four-year degree, the credits you earn now should apply.
One of the hardest parts of starting a degree program is deciding which one is a good fit for you. This applies to on-campus and online learning as well.
We want to help you plan for your future. To do that, we’ve created this list of the ten best online associate in human and social services degrees.
Each program listed in our rankings is regionally accredited. This is important because credits from accredited programs are more likely to transfer. Additionally, each program offers 100 percent online learning. To rank each program, we devised a three-part methodology. This methodology looks at:
In the next section, we’ll discuss this methodology in more detail.
Methodology to Determine the Best Online Associate in Human and Social Services Degrees
Our rankings are intended to help you identify which programs best fit your specific needs. We’ve used three factors to do so.
On the one hand, you can examine each program based on its total score and overall rank. Doing so allows you to make a quick comparison of multiple schools.
On the other hand, having three different measures allows you to compare schools on each metric. So, you might narrow down your list by looking at overall scores first. Then you can narrow the list down even more by comparing your selections on the most important metrics. For many students, the most important metric is affordability. However, the flexibility and accessibility of online programs are also important.
Let’s go over each metric so you understand how they were used in our rankings.
It’s no secret that attending college can be expensive. This is true even if you get financial aid in the form of scholarships or grants.
This being the case, maximizing your “bang for your buck” is a top priority for many learners. When evaluating a degree program for affordability, it’s important to look at the total expense, not the per-credit expense.
The reason for this is because some programs require more credits than others. So while a program might be less expensive per-credit, it might end up being more expensive if more credits are required than other programs.
With that in mind, we have ranked each program’s affordability according to this scale:
- Under $15,000: 5 points
- $15,001-$25,000: 4 points
- $25,001-$35,000: 3 points
- $35,001-$45,000: 2 points
- $45,001 and up: 1 point
The next factor we considered is flexibility.
Though all online degree programs are flexible by nature, some are more flexible than others. This flexibility is crucial. It can mean that you are able to learn when it suits you best. It could also mean that you have to take part in class when you’re told to do so.
Some programs give you more freedom to finish coursework. For example, some programs have courses that are self-paced. Some programs also allow you to take classes in the order you wish. This gives you better flexibility for completing your studies.
Additionally, some degrees have courses that require you to meet at specific times with professors. Though this is a benefit for some students, from a flexibility standpoint it isn’t as ideal.
This factor is scored as follows:
- High flexibility: 2 points
- Moderate flexibility: 1 point
As shown above, the more flexible a course is, the more points it earns. Courses that have low flexibility were not considered for our rankings.
The whole point of online learning is to have easier access. Yet not all online degree programs offer the same level of accessibility.
Each program in our rankings was evaluated using these questions:
- What is the learning format?
- Is offline learning offered?
- Are mobile learning options offered?
These factors influence the level of accessibility of a program. Using the answers to these questions allowed us to score each program as follows:
- High accessibility: 2 points
- Moderate accessibility: 1 point
Now that you have a clearer picture of the methods we used to rank each course, let’s get to the rankings!
Ranking the Best Online Associate in Human and Social Services Degrees
10. Human Services – Elizabethtown College
This program will help you develop a personal philosophy of human services. You will study many aspects of helping others. This includes developing strong communication skills. Courses will challenge you to develop critical thinking skills as well. Core courses give you a chance to learn counseling skills too.
Some of the learning outcomes of this program include:
- Develop an interdisciplinary approach to human services
- Make ethical decisions
- Demonstrate professional attitude
These outcomes will be met in various core courses. These courses include:
- Introduction to Human Services
- Social Welfare Programs and Policy
- Counseling Techniques and Skills
This program is slightly longer than others. It requires you to complete 64 credits. If you attend full-time, you can still complete this degree in two years.
Flexibility: Moderate flexibility. Some courses require you to meet at a specific time. Traditional deadlines are in place for some assignments, tests, and so forth.
Accessibility: High accessibility. This program is offered totally online. You can access learning materials and coursework 24/7.
#9: Human Services – Cornerstone University
The human services program at Cornerstone University is designed specifically for online learners. The focus of the program is on learning knowledge and skills that help you work with diverse groups of people.
The program is divided into two parts. The first part is basic courses. These courses include general classes and core classes for the human services major. The second part is more advanced general and core courses. Some of these courses include:
- Intercultural Relations
- Interviewing and Counseling
- Field Experience
Since this program is focused on developing counseling skills, there is a required field experience. The field experience is 20 hours. It has to be completed at an approved agency in your area.
Flexibility: High flexibility. Cornerstone offers different learning formats. You can learn 100 percent online. This gives you flexibility to complete your studies on your own schedule. You can also choose a livestream option. This allows you to attend classes remotely at their scheduled on-campus times.
Accessibility: High accessibility. This program makes it easy to access learning materials any time of day or night. You can access course materials via computer, tablet, or smartphone.
#8: Human Services – Brescia University
This is an Associate of Arts degree. It is a 63-credit program that can be completed in two years. You can take more time to finish if needed.
This program focuses on specific human services topics. This includes crisis counseling and intervention. It also includes case management and theory courses. Students also take courses related to:
- Social work
The purpose of this degree is to prepare students to work with diverse groups. You will gain skills that help you provide services to individuals and groups. You will learn how to work with people of diverse backgrounds as well.
This program is regionally accredited. If you choose to transfer to a different school, this means your credits are more likely to transfer.
Flexibility: High flexibility. There are multiple start dates each year. This gives you greater flexibility for starting your studies. The credits earned in this degree can apply towards a bachelor’s degree from Brescia. You can also transfer up to 42 credits to apply to this degree.
Accessibility: High accessibility. This program was designed for online delivery. Courses are easily accessed online 24/7.
#7: Human Services – Franklin Pierce University
The online program at Franklin Pierce University includes courses in many human services fields. This includes:
- Social Work
An interesting part of this program is its business focus. Business courses help you prepare to become self-employed in this field. Business courses are also valuable for students that won’t be self-employed. Knowing how to conduct yourself in a professional and businesslike manner is important.
This program gives you the flexibility of choosing some of your courses. This is done so you can focus your studies on areas of the greatest interest to you.
Credits earned in this program can be used towards a bachelor’s degree in human services. Since this school is accredited, the credits are likely to transfer to another school too.
Flexibility: Moderate flexibility. This program allows you to take courses in any order. However, some courses are in a traditional format with set deadlines.
Accessibility: High accessibility. You can access your courses quickly and easily in Canvas. Interaction with professors and classmates is simple in online class environments.
#6: Human Services: Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities – Minot State University
This is a specialist program. It involves 68 credits of coursework. The focus of the degree is on working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
This program is divided into two parts. First, you complete general courses. This includes things like math, science, and social studies. Second, you take core courses and electives. These classes are specific to human services.
You can expect to take a wide range of classes including:
- Human Development
- Positive Behavior Supports
There is also a field service component with this program. This enables you to get on-the-job experience. You’re also supervised, which allows you to learn from someone that has job experience and training in this field.
Flexibility: High flexibility. Some courses give you the flexibility of working at your own pace over the course of the week. Most courses can also be taken in any order.
Accessibility: Moderate accessibility. The program’s online platform is easy to learn and to use. Courses are accessible any time of day or night. However, this program is only available every two years. This can complicate access for some students.
#5: Human Development and Family Studies – Penn State University
This online degree program is offered by Penn State’s World Campus. The World Campus is a leader in online education. It has been in operation since 1998.
The human development and family studies program is fully accredited. There are multiple specialization options. This includes a youth and family-oriented option. There is an adult and aging option as well. Both options require students to complete an internship. The internship can be completed at a human service organization in their community.
Courses that you’ll take in this program include:
- Human Development and Family Studies
- Values and Ethics in Health and Human Development Professions
This is a 60-credit program. It can be completed in two years if you attend school full-time.
Flexibility: High flexibility. This program offers two study tracks. Additionally, the credits earned for this degree can apply to a bachelor’s degree from Penn State. There is also flexibility in terms of the courses you can use to fulfill graduation requirements.
Accessibility: High accessibility. This program is from Penn State’s World Campus, which is completely online. Courses are offered in multiple semesters to assist you in planning. Courses are designed specifically for online delivery to improve access.
#4: Human Services – Thomas Edison State University
What makes this program unique is that it is designed for people that are already working in human services. To be admitted, you must have job experience. When you apply you have to submit a resume that speaks to that work experience.
This program is intended to be the first step in completing a bachelor’s degree in human services. With this in mind, students take courses on:
- Working with various populations
This program also has a capstone requirement. The capstone serves as an opportunity to conduct detailed research into a human services topic.
Affordability: $14,316 (for in-state students) or $18,556 for out-of-state students
Flexibility: High flexibility. Students are given various choices for fulfilling course requirements. This includes choosing what courses to take for the four primary areas of study.
Accessibility: Moderate accessibility. This program is designed for students already working in human services. It requires that you have 6 months experience (totaling at least 800 hours).
#3: Human Services – Columbia College
This is a 60-credit associate of science degree. The program is completely online. Of the 60 required credits, 24 are in the human services major.
This program was designed with an empirical basis in mind. There is a strong focus on putting knowledge into practice. To achieve this end, the following courses are required:
- Introduction to Human Services
- Foundations of Counseling
- Working With Groups
- Working With Families
Students must also take a theory-based research course. Classes in social policy and cultural relations are also required.
Columbia College offers 29 associate’s degrees online. The credits you complete in this program can be used towards fulfilling the graduation requirements for Columbia College’s online bachelor’s in human services degree.
Flexibility: High flexibility. There is no set course sequence. This allows you to take classes in the order you want. There are many course options as well. You can select which electives you prefer to take. Some courses are self-paced (to an extent). This enables you to complete your studies on your own schedule.
Accessibility: High accessibility. Each course in this program is available online. Online learners at Columbia College pay no fees. Books are also free. This makes online learning even more accessible.
#2: Human Services – New England College
New England College is recognized as having an excellent online learning system. Their Associate of Science in Human Services is one such example.
This is a small private college. Class sizes tend to be smaller as a result. This typically means more one-on-one time with your teachers. Having more access to your teachers can be a key part of your success.
There are 60 credits required to complete this degree. This includes core courses like:
- Client Assessment and Planning
- Delivery of Human Services
- Substance Abuse
Other topics of study include prejudice and discrimination. You’ll also learn how to conduct research in the social sciences. This program is somewhat customizable. You can select from different electives to meet graduation requirements.
Applicants to the program must have a high school diploma or a GED. You do not need to have ACT or SAT scores. To improve the flexibility of the program, there are multiple start dates for the program each year.
Flexibility: High flexibility. This program was designed with flexibility in mind. Choose from seven different start dates each year. You also have flexibility in terms of what courses you take to fulfill graduation requirements.
Accessibility: High accessibility. Course materials are easily available. This includes podcasts, videos, and chat rooms. You can work with classmates and your teachers in real-time via online chat or email.
#1: Human Services – Western New Mexico University
This program from Western New Mexico University was designed with flexibility in mind. The sequence of courses can be taken in any order. This allows you to schedule your classes based on what you feel is best.
You can expect to learn about a variety of topics in this program. This includes:
- Case Management
Courses are taught by experienced faculty. Each course is designed to assist you in helping others overcome obstacles in their lives.
If you want to continue your education, this program is ideal. You can go on to get a bachelor’s degree in any number of areas, including:
- Chemical Dependency
- Criminal Justice
- Social Work
This program is also good preparation for a degree in Rehabilitation Services or Education. You can also get entry-level jobs in human services with this degree.
Affordability: $16,592.24 (for in-state students) or $32,262.48 for out-of-state students
Flexibility: High flexibility. This program does not follow a set schedule. Take courses in the order you wish. Courses are completed online in Canvas. This program is easy to use.
Accessibility: High accessibility. All courses are completely online. The University offers training for getting familiar with the Canvas format as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
What classes will I take in an online associate in human and social services degree program?
Most associate’s degrees in human and social services require 60-90 credit hours. This number of credits can be completed in about two years. That’s if you attend school full-time. You can get an Associate of Arts (AA). You can also get an Associate of Science (AS).
The type of degree will influence the classes that you take. An AA degree focuses more on social science and humanities. This means you will take more courses related to psychology, sociology, and social work. An AS requires more courses in the sciences. This means taking more courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology.
Either way, roughly half of the credits required to get an AA or AS degree will be in general education courses. These courses fall into the following categories:
- Language arts
Additionally, most majors require students to take art and physical education courses.
In terms of the courses you’ll take in human and social services, it may vary from one program to the next. However, there are some common courses you can expect to take:
- Introduction to human services
- Introduction to sociology
- Introduction to psychology
- Developmental psychology
- Introduction to social work
- Human behavior
- Diversity and social issues
Some AA and AS programs include a practicum component. But this is unusual. Most of the jobs you can get with an associate’s degree in this field offer on-the-job training. Therefore, practicum experience is not required.
Additionally, coursework for an associate’s degree is both general in scope. This means that you don’t specialize. For example, if you want to become an addiction counselor, you might be able to take addictions-related courses. However, it is unlikely that you can get your degree with a specialization. That usually comes with a higher degree, like a master’s. You can also specialize with on-the-job experience.
Do I need to take the ACT or SAT to be admitted to an online associate in human and social services degree program?
Most colleges have open enrollment for associate’s degrees. This means anyone with a high school diploma or GED can take courses. This also means you don’t have to have ACT or SAT scores to report.
However, some colleges have a stricter enrollment process. Sometimes this means providing ACT or SAT scores. Other times, you might have to take a placement exam. The purpose of a placement exam is to determine your current level of knowledge and skills.
For example, if your school has open enrollment, you might have to take a math placement exam. If your score is low, you might have to take a basic math course to brush up on your skills.
What can I do with an associate in human and social services degree?
An associate’s degree is an “introductory” degree. This means that it prepares students for work in entry-level positions in human and social services.
To open up more career options, it’s worth considering a bachelor’s degree in human and social services. Better still, even more jobs are available for master’s-level workers. With more education comes more job responsibilities. There is also higher pay.
However, there are many jobs in this field for applicants with an associate’s degree. Some of these jobs have excellent pay. Some have a great deal of responsibility as well.
Below is a short list of some of the most popular jobs for people with an associate’s degree in human and social services.
Human services assistant – Human services assistants help case managers. They also help social workers to provide social services to clients. Job duties might include coordinating care for clients and following up with clients. These workers often conduct intake interviews with clients. They are often responsible for researching benefits and services that are available to specific clients as well. On average, human services assistants make around $35,000 per year.
Substance abuse counselor – These workers assist clients in overcoming substance abuse. This might involve doing one-on-one counseling. It could also involve group counseling. Substance abuse counselors also develop treatment plans and develop aftercare plans. They coordinate services with other service providers and report to courts on the progress of clients as well. On average, substance abuse counselors earn $46,240 per year.
Community outreach worker – A community outreach worker is responsible for educating people about healthcare and social service programs. They often meet with members of the community. This is so people are informed about the services available to them. In some cases, community outreach workers will also coordinate care and programs for specific groups. The average yearly wage for community outreach workers is $38,370.
Social and community services manager – These workers oversee social services programs. Programs can target many different issues. This includes mental health and substance abuse. It might also include hunger and unemployment. Since this is a management position, social and community services managers oversee employees. They are also responsible for program development and budgets. There is not much direct client interaction. The average annual salary for this position is $67,150 per year.
What is the difference between human and social services and social work?
Human and social services is very similar to social work. In college, both programs have many of the same courses. This includes courses like psychology, sociology, and human development. To get an associate’s degree requires the same amount of time as well. The time frame is usually two years. A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years for both degrees.
However, human and social services programs usually focus more on work-related skills. For example, a student in a human and social services degree program might take courses in gerontology. These courses prepare them to provide help to elderly people. This might include providing assistance with activities of daily living in a rehabilitation center setting.
A social work program tends to focus more on education. This is especially true at the associate’s degree level. Programs focus on social work theory. They also seek to build specific skills needed for social work. For example, social work students might take a course on rehabilitative social work. This course would help prepare them for work as a case manager at a rehabilitation center.
Another difference is that human and social services workers usually do not have to be licensed. This depends on the particular job though. It also depends on the state in which they work.
On the other hand, social workers usually must be licensed. Licensure is not offered for associate’s level workers. But when working at the bachelor’s degree or master’s degree level, licensure is required.
Careers in these fields take a bit of a different path. Usually, human and social services workers focus more on the “big picture.” This means they do a lot of coordinating and managing of services for individuals and families. In some cases, human and social services workers don’t have much contact with clients. Instead, they organize services on a macro level.
Social workers, on the other hand, usually focus on the “small picture.” They work directly with clients. They provide therapy, get resources, and generally help clients solve specific problems or issues in their lives. This is true whether a social worker is a case manager, addictions specialist, or a licensed clinical social worker.
Ultimately, however, these jobs are highly similar. Both revolve around assisting people in need. Both careers focus on offering services to help improve the lives of others.
What is the human and social services associate degree salary range?
The salary range for human and social services workers with an associate’s degree is quite broad. There are many career paths in this field. Each career has a slightly different income potential.
For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage for social and human services assistants is $35,060. However, pay can range from $23,750 per year to $54,230 per year.
The average yearly wage varies depending on the workplace too. Social and human services workers in nursing homes can expect to make around $31,000 per year. The same is true of workers in and residential facilities. Those employed in the individual and family services sector earn an average of $34,450 per year. Workers employed in government settings earn an average of $41,030.
The income you can earn will increase as you get more experience. Even if you don’t take more human and social services courses, having more job experience usually means earning more money.
However, if you want to earn a larger salary, getting a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree will really have a positive impact on your earnings.
What is the job market like for human and social services workers with an associate’s degree?
Many careers in the helping professions are expected to see increased demand in the coming years. Human and social services careers are no exception.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for social and human services assistants is expected to grow 17 percent through 2029. This is a much faster growth rate than the average.
There are a variety of reasons for this level of growth. First, many social and human services assistants work with vulnerable populations. This includes the elderly and the homeless. As the population of elderly people increases, there is an increased demand for qualified workers to deliver social services. The same is true of the homeless population. With homelessness on the rise, social and human services assistants will be in greater need.
Another reason for the high growth of jobs in this field is the expectation that more people will seek treatment for addictions. From juveniles that have a drug problem to adult alcoholics to drug offenders that are released from jail, there are many different kinds of people that need treatment. Social and human services assistants are a critical part of delivering those services.
Another career area that is expected to see large growth is social and community service managers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that this career will see demand grow by 17 percent through 2029.
Part of the reason that growth is expected is due to the aging population. An increase in the number of elderly persons that need services like adult day care will cause demand to increase.
Likewise, social and community services managers often oversee programs for people recovering from addiction. The expansion of addiction-related services requires that more social and community services managers be hired.
Another reason for this job growth is the expected retirement of many workers in this field. As workers retire, they need to be replaced with new workers.
This position sometimes requires a bachelor’s degree. However, an applicant with an associate’s degree in human and social services can get their foot in the door. This is especially true if the applicant has relevant on-the-job experience.
These are just two examples of jobs in this field that are expected to see excellent growth. There are many more, which shows the need for and the importance of human and social services workers.
Will credits for an associate’s degree apply toward a bachelor’s degree in human and social services?
Generally speaking, credits earned in an associate’s degree program will apply towards a bachelor’s degree program. There are exceptions to the rule, though.
If your degree is from an accredited school, your credits are more likely to count towards a four-year degree. Your general education classes are almost sure to count. Your degree-related credits will likely count as well. This is good news! This means you can start your bachelor’s degree program with most, if not all, the credits you’ve already earned.
However, some associate’s degrees in this field come from schools that are not accredited. This doesn’t always mean your credits won’t apply towards a bachelor’s degree. However, it is less likely.
Another situation in which your associate’s degree credits might not apply is if you earned your degree a long time ago. In some cases, credits earned more than 7-10 years ago may not apply. If this is the case, you would need to retake some courses.
Credits earned internationally might not apply either. Again, this is not always the case. However, it is best to assume that credits from an international school will not apply.
The best thing to do is to contact the admissions office at the school you would like to attend. Ask about transferring credits. Provide documentation of your associate’s degree. They will be able to give you a clear answer about what credits will and will not apply towards your four-year degree.