Human Services or Social Work

If you are planning for a career in the social services, you have a few options for which degree to pursue. A graduate program in social work and a master’s in human services have some similarities but many differences as well. It’s important to choose the program that will help you achieve your professional goals.

Master of Social Work

To practice in the field of social work, you must earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from an accredited graduate school and seek licensure in your state. MSW programs combine classwork with a clinical field placement, and students are usually able to study in a specific area of social work. Popular fields of study in graduate social work programs include community organizing, advocacy, families and, children and mental health. While the social work field does offer a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) and a Ph.D. in Social Work, the MSW is considered a terminal degree.

Master’s in Human Services

Human services professionals manage agencies that provide individuals and communities with access to systems such as social welfare systems, mental health services and healthcare services. In a human services degree program, students study interdisciplinary strategies for improving services and systems that benefit communities. Curricula often focus on solving problems affecting populations from a socioecological perspective. Master’s in Human Services degree programs prepare students to take on administrative or managerial roles within human services agencies.


Both social workers and human services professionals work with communities to improve services and systems. Social workers focus on an individual’s needs and often work in a counseling capacity. They also create and administer social service programs to address community needs. Social workers have the unique opportunity to help individuals access services that improve a person’s quality of life and create programs that address larger community problems. Human services professionals help individuals access basic human needs such as food and shelter. They often work as administrators or managers in organizations that offer support and advocacy to individuals in underserved communities.


The University of Southern California School of Social Work offers an online graduate degree in social work. With the same curriculum as the on-campus program, the MSW@USC blends online classes with practical field experience in your community. As an MSW@USC student, you can choose an area of study in Families and Children; Community Organization, Planning and Administration (COPA); Health; Mental Health; or Military Social Work. This social work graduate program is the first program to offer a military social work sub-concentration.