Human Development & Family Studies

What Is It?:

Students majoring in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) learn about contemporary social issues that affect children, adults, and families. 

  • Do you want to be a health professional that knows both medicine and the emotional, social, and cognitive development of children and adolescents? 
  • Do you want to help teens and families from diverse backgrounds? 
  • Do you want to influence law and policy with cutting-edge research on what children, youth, and families need? 

HDFS is a major that sets the foundation for becoming a compassionate physician, lawyer, counselor, family policy specialist, child advocate, human resource specialist, childcare provider, marriage and family therapist, physical therapist, and more. 

For more information, please visit the Department of Human and Community Development.


  • Child & Adolescent Development: combines coursework with practical experience to provide students with a broad base of knowledge regarding the physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development of children and adolescents. The diverse types of positions taken by graduates of this concentration include pediatrician, pediatric nurse, early childhood educator, parent educator, child life specialist, adoption caseworker, youth after-school program director, director of a day care center, and more. 
  • Family Studies: focuses on how families function, develop, and change in response to the challenges of modern life. Course work covers the latest research and theories about romantic relationships, parenthood, divorce, life in single-parent and step-families, gender, and how families can learn to manage conflicts. Positions taken by graduates of this concentration include family counselor, human resource specialist, caseworker, and family service coordinator; others have gone on to earn degrees in family law and marriage & family therapy using their family studies concentration as a strong foundation. 

Additionally, students in this concentration can take coursework to qualify for provisional certification as a Family Life Educator. 

Courses That Introduce the Major:

  • HDFS 105—Introduction to Human Development
  • HDFS 120—Introduction to Family Studies 

Students should consult with an academic advisor regarding course selection prior to the advanced registration period.

Possible Career Opportunities:

(Some careers may require education beyond an undergraduate degree)
  • Pediatrician
  • Physical therapy
  • Nursing
  • Family lawyer
  • Adoption specialist
  • Child life specialist
  • Human resources specialist
  • Counselor for troubled youth and their families
  • Director of child-care center
  • Social worker
  • Youth programs director 

Enhancing Your Academic Experience:

  • Participating in undergraduate research
  • Applying for a study abroad experience
  • Utilizing resources of The Career Center
  • Joining a Registered Student Organization (RSO) related to this major, such as:
    • Association for the Professional Development of Community-oriented Students (APDoCS): seeks to promote and advance the professional development and advancement of students with interests in community research and action. This organization emphasizes a multileveled approach to contemporary social problems with an orientation toward issues of diversity and representation.
    • Human Interest Professionals Club: provides students with opportunities to volunteer in the community, enhance their leadership skills, and develop as professionals.

Related Skills:

  • Understand important and influential relationships people have within their families
  • Improve the quality of life for diverse people
  • Design research studies to better understand health and well-being across the lifespan
  • Intervene in developmentally appropriate ways
  • Critique the repercussions of family policies
  • Impact the world in a scientific and thoughtful way

For a listing of types of careers that HDFS major pursue and courses to take to get there please go here

Further Information:

For more information on what you can do with a major in Human Development and Family Studies, visit The Career Center’s webpage: What Can I Do With This Major.

There are several professional organizations dedicated to Human Development and Family Studies.  Their websites might be able to provide a glimpse in the world of Human Development and Family Studies.  These organizations include National Council on Family Relations, Society for Research in Child Development, and American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences.

For more information on the classes needed for a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, visit the academic catalog or contact the HDFS academic advisor Barbara Anderson,