Human Development & Family Studies

Major Description

Students majoring in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) learn about contemporary social issues that affect children, adults, and families. HDFS combines coursework with practical, in-the-field experiences to gain an in-depth understanding of how children and youth develop, how families function effectively and manage stress, and how to improve the lives of children and families – keeping in mind the importance of cultural and economic context and diversity, broadly defined. Many of our students enrich their learning through multiple study abroad experiences, practicum and internships, and assisting in faculty research projects.

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. 



Choose one of two concentrations. 


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.

    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:

    HDFS graduates go on to start careers in child care services, family life education, human services, pediatric services in hospitals, or business activities related to children or families. Many continue their education in graduate or professional school, earning credentials needed to become counselors, occupational therapists, marriage and family therapists, social workers, physicians, attorneys, and more.

    • 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
    • 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

    Some careers may require education beyond an undergraduate degree.

    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.
    Further Information:

    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 RelationsSociety for Research in Child Development, and American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences.