Professionals with a human development and family studies degree educate young children, care for the elderly, and provide family services for people of all ages. They can pursue human development and family studies jobs in a variety of settings, including preschools, Head Start programs, human service organizations, and senior centers.
Many of these fields offer opportunities for growth. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that positions for social service managers will grow 18% by 2026, and a bachelor's in human development meets the entry-level requirement for the field.
While earning a degree in human and family development, students build valuable skills in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and research. These abilities benefit graduates who pursue a variety of career paths after graduation. This article walks through the process of researching and applying to a human and family development program, building career-ready skills while in school, and transitioning into the workforce.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Human and Family Development?
Human and family development students learn about individuals, families, and communities, studying development across the lifespan. The degree attracts students interested in early childhood development, intervention science, and human services. Degree seekers build skills in analyzing social groups, helping individuals transition between life stages, and supporting families undergoing stress or dealing with trauma. Students also build research and analytical skills while pursuing their degree.
During a human development and family studies degree, students benefit from opportunities to network with professionals and experts in the field. Most programs incorporate a practicum or field placement to ensure that learners gain hands-on experience, during which students expand their professional network. As students near graduation, programs may provide human development and family studies job placement assistance, and recent graduates benefit from increased competitiveness in the workforce.
When prospective students decide to pursue a bachelor's in human development and family studies, they must also consider the benefits of an online versus on-campus program. An online bachelor's degree may appeal to working professionals or individuals considering a career change. Online programs offer flexibility and accessibility, allowing students to attend one of the top programs in the country without relocating.
Students with a strong local human development school or those moving directly from high school into college may prefer an on-campus program. A growing number of programs also offer a hybrid option, where students attend some classes in person while completing other coursework online.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Human and Family Development?
Human development and family studies jobs include positions caring for children or the elderly or providing social or community services. Graduates with a degree in human development and family studies meet the entry-level qualifications for positions in preschools, daycares, and childcare centers, and with work experience, they can move into director positions. Professionals can also work in human services as an assistant or manager, providing vital services to the public. Depending on a student's concentration, a bachelor's in family studies can also lead to opportunities in social work fields.
- Childcare Worker
Childcare workers provide care for infants, toddlers, and young children, often in daycares, childcare centers, private homes, or preschools. They help children with basic needs like dressing, feeding, and playing, and childcare workers at the preschool or K-8 level help children build intellectual skills or complete their homework.
Median Annual Salary: $22,290*
- Human Service Assistant
Human service assistants help clients access services through government agencies or private organizations. They may work in rehabilitation services, social services, or health services, coordinating with physicians, social workers, and other professionals. Many positions with advanced responsibilities, such as managing a program, require a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $33,120*
- Childcare Center Director
Preschool and childcare center directors supervise a childcare facility, managing the finances, designing plans, and overseeing the staff. They play a role in hiring childcare workers, organizing events, and supervising every aspect of the facility. Most positions require at least a bachelor's degree and experience as a childcare worker.
Median Annual Salary: $46,890*
- Preschool Teacher
Preschool teachers educate children, typically between the ages of 3 and 5, who have not yet entered kindergarten. They emphasize core skills, such as language development, motor skills, and social interactions. Preschool teachers work in both public and private schools, or in childcare centers. They may work year round or on a 10-month calendar.
Median Annual Salary: $28,990*
- Social Service Manager
Social service managers work in government agencies, community organizations, and nonprofits, overseeing a social service program or organization. They coordinate and supervise a program or organization, managing workers who provide social services. Most positions require at least a bachelor's degree and some work experience.
Median Annual Salary: $64,100*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Bachelor's Program in Human and Family Development
Before earning a degree in human development and family studies, prospective students must choose the best program for their career goals and interests. With so many options, including online and on-campus programs offering a variety of concentrations, students may feel overwhelmed. However, by considering key factors, such as cost, location, and degree completion time, prospective students can identify the programs that will lead to the particular human development and family studies jobs they seek.
When comparing programs, students should estimate the total cost of the degree, factoring in potential scholarships, discounts, and transfer credits. While in-state, public schools typically charge the lowest tuition rates, factors such as financial aid or a generous transfer policy may make other programs less expensive. Students can also benefit from tuition discounts for fully online students, or save money by completing general education requirements through a community college.
A program's location also plays an important role. Some students, particularly those with work or family obligations, cannot relocate to earn a degree. These students may be limited to local or online options. Programs also vary in their requirements, which affect a student's degree completion time. For example, a bachelor's in family studies that requires 150 hours of internship experience may take longer than a degree without a internship.
After considering these factors, students may wish to pursue an online degree in human development and family studies. The flexibility and convenience of an online program allow students to arrange school around their other responsibilities. Students can learn more about the top online human development and family studies programs.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Human and Family Development
Accreditation acts as a marker of academic excellence. Colleges and universities voluntarily submit to the accreditation process, during which they undergo review from an independent, nonprofit agency. Accrediting agencies evaluate institutions based on their student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and graduation requirements. Institutions with regional accreditation meet the highest standards for education, and accreditation brings several benefits for students. Credits earned at an accredited institution are more likely to transfer, and accredited degrees meet the requirements for more certifications and licenses.
While regional and national accreditation evaluate an entire institution, programmatic accreditation reviews a single program, such as a business school, an educator preparation program, or a social work program. Human and family development programs do not typically undergo programmatic accreditation. Instead, regional and national accrediting agencies review human development and family studies degrees during their institutional review. For this reason, students should always choose a regionally or nationally accredited institution.
Bachelor's in Human and Family Development Program Admissions
Once prospective human and family development students narrow down their potential programs, they can research the admissions process. Each school sets its own admissions standards, required materials, and prerequisites. Some requirements, such as a minimum GPA, may rule out certain programs, though students can always ask about provisional admission for candidates who do not meet the minimum requirement. Applicants should plan to apply to multiple programs to increase their chances of gaining admission and receiving scholarship or financial aid opportunities.
During the admissions process, students must request transcripts, choose people to write letters of recommendation, and submit any required test scores to each school. Because admissions requires several steps, students should plan to spend several weeks gathering their materials and putting together each application. Some institutions, particularly online programs, let students work with an admissions adviser throughout the process.
- Minimum GPA: Typically, programs and schools specify a minimum GPA to satisfy admissions requirements. Many schools hold a 3.0 GPA or above as the standard, however more competitive schools may ask for a 3.4 or above. Schools may allow provisional admission for students who demonstrate proficiency in other areas.
- Application: Depending on the school or program in question, applications may become increasingly involved and time-consuming. However, over 800 schools have joined together to simplify this process by using the Common App, a resource for undergraduate applicants that allows them to complete one application to apply to multiple universities at once.
- Transcripts: Official transcripts represent a student's full academic record. Applicants can request them through their high school or previous college office, often for a small fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: Letters of recommendation speak to the applicant's history and qualifications. Schools and programs specify the number of letters of recommendation required, and applicants should give their letter writers at least three weeks' notice.
- Test Scores: Standardized test scores also factor into applications. Programs and schools differ in their minimum recommendations, depending on the competitiveness of the institution. However, as with GPAs, proficiency or excellence in other areas may balance out lower standardized scores and should not discourage applicants.
- Application Fee: Many schools require application fees, which may vary widely depending on the school or program. Programs often waive fees in situations where students demonstrate financial need.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's Program in Human and Family Development?
Human studies and family development degrees often allow students to concentrate in in-demand fields, such as child development or human services. By choosing a concentration that matches their career interests, students can design their degree around their professional goals. Learning about certifications, resources, and professional organizations can also help students succeed.
|Child Development||The child development concentration focuses on a child's physical, social, and emotional development from birth to young adulthood. Students take classes in infant and toddler development, preschool development, and adolescent development. The concentration prepares graduates to work in daycare or childcare settings.||Preschool Teacher; Childcare Worker; Childcare Director|
|Intervention Sciences||Students who concentrate in intervention sciences learn the theoretical framework behind implementing interventions for an individual, including early childhood interventions and elder care interventions. They may also build counseling and interviewing skills, study research on intervention outcomes, and gain hands-on experience through an internship.||Human Service Assistant; Child Protective Services Worker; Crisis Counselor|
|Human Services||The human services concentration prepares graduates for careers providing social and human services. Students study treatment plans, the procedures for a crisis intervention, and the best practices in observing and interviewing patients. The program may incorporate a practicum or internship so that students can gain hands-on experience.||Human Service Assistant; Human Service Director; Social Service Assistant|
|Gerontology||Students who concentrate in gerontology focus on the aging process and human development during the end of life. Their classes cover the physical, psychological, and social aspects of adult development, with an emphasis on aging. They may also study elder care services and family dynamics with aging family members.||Nursing Home Aide; Human Services Worker|
|Leadership||The leadership concentration prepares graduates to take on director roles in childcare or human services organizations. In addition to coursework on human development and family studies, students in this track complete leadership theory, management, and organizational behavior classes.||Childcare Director; Human Services Director|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Human and Family Development Program
Human and family development programs set their own curricula based on their specific concentrations and degree tracks. However, many offer foundational courses in human development, child development, human services, and early childhood intervention. The sample curriculum listed below covers some of the most common classes in a human development and family studies degree.
- Human Development
Students in human development classes study the human lifespan, from conception through adulthood. The course introduces students to the study of human and family development, emphasizing the influence of the family on development. The class material may balance the role of individuality with the broader patterns of development.
- Family Cultural Diversity
Classes on family cultural diversity study the historical and contemporary issues that influence the structure of American families that include members from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The class may look at internal dynamics in different families, address research on family dynamics, and provide case studies for family cultural diversity.
- Early Childhood Intervention
Students in early childhood intervention classes apply their knowledge of childhood development to understand the intervention process. The class applies child development theory to case studies on the practice of young child interventions, including the practice around early intervention.
- Aging Populations
Classes on aging populations examine the later phase of the human lifespan, including physical changes to the body and mind, as well as social and cultural changes. Students study how aging functions as a process of adaptation, including historical approaches to aging and research on the aging process.
- Infant and Toddler Development
Courses covering infant and toddler development examine the physical, social, and emotional development of newborns and young children. The class may address the socialization process within the family, interactions between adults and infants and toddlers, and typical developmental milestones for children under the age of three.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Human and Family Development?
A bachelor's degree typically requires 120 credits, which takes the average full-time student four years to complete. However, the length of a bachelor's in human development degree may vary depending on the program requirements and the student's transfer credits. Some programs may only offer required courses in certain semesters or might include an internship or capstone project, which may add time to the degree. Students with significant transfer credits may be able to complete their degree in as little as a year. When evaluating programs, students may wish to research the transfer credit policy or submit transcripts for a transfer credit review.
Students balancing work or family obligations with school may prefer the flexibility of a part-time program, which requires additional time but allows students to take fewer classes at once. Prospective students must weigh these considerations when researching the best human and family development programs to meet their needs.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Human and Family Development?
The cost of a human development and family studies degree varies depending on the program and the institution. Generally, in-state, public colleges and universities charge lower tuition rates than out-of-state public schools or private schools. According to College Board, in-state public institutions charged an average tuition rate of $9,970 in the 2017-2018 school year, with out-of-state public tuition exceeding $25,000 per year and private school tuition costing approximately $35,000 per year on average.
However, tuition only makes up one part of the cost of a bachelor's degree. Prospective students also need to consider fees, living expenses, and technology costs, which may even exceed tuition. Students may be able to decrease the cost of their degree by applying for scholarships, pursuing financial aid, and transferring in credits toward their degree. By fulfilling general education requirements for a bachelor's degree at a community college, for example, students can potentially save thousands of dollars.
Tuition rates can also vary between an on-campus and online human development and family studies programs. Online programs may help students save on commuting, parking, and child care expenses, and some programs even offer tuition discounts for fully online students.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Human and Family Development Prepares For
- Certified Childcare Professional
This credential recognizes individuals with significant experience teaching young children. Candidates must demonstrate the completion of 180 hours of training and 720 hours of direct experience in childcare within the past five years. In addition, applicants must provide a statement, writing samples, and letters of reference.
- Advanced Child Care Certification
Offered by the American Red Cross, the advanced child care certification covers leadership skills, child behavior and discipline, and safety. Candidates can complete the certification course online to earn the designation.
- Certified Child Care Worker
The National Career Certification Board offers a program for entry-level child care workers who meet the educational training guidelines but may not have significant work experience. Candidates must pay a fee and pass an 80-question exam within a two hour time limit.
- Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner
Professionals who work in human services can apply for this certification, and a human development and family studies degree meets the educational requirements. Candidates must also show 350 hours of postgraduate work experience.
- Early Childhood Education (ECE) Teaching License
Early childhood educators may qualify for an ECE teaching license through the state teacher licensure board. The requirements and process varies depending on the state, and candidates with a bachelor's in family studies may need to complete additional educator training to qualify for a teaching license.
Resources for Human and Family Development Students
The career resources page run by the National Council on Family Relations offers advice on locating funding sources, publishing scholarly research, and advancing a career in family development.
This organization brings together professionals working in all areas of human development, with an ask a professor series, webinars, and an emerging scholars program.
Published by the National Organization for Human Services, this journal features research and scholarship in human service treatment. The journal also features career path information for graduates.
Graduates who pursue careers in childcare benefit from the resources offered by NAEYC, including professional development tools, publications, and position statements.
HHS offers an internship program for students to gain experience working in federal agencies. HHS also offers job opportunities for recent graduates.
Professional Organizations in Human and Family Development
Professional organizations in human and family development offer benefits to students and graduates entering the field. Typically, professional organizations provide members with networking opportunities, continuing education programs, career services, job boards, research and publications, and annual conferences with presentations by leaders in the field. Professional organizations can help bridge the gap between academic and professional learning, linking members with potential mentors and colleagues.
With members in all 50 states and over 35 countries, NCFR boasts status as the oldest multidisciplinary, nonprofit, nonpartisan professional organization centered on family research, education, and practice. NCFR provides valuable resources for students and professionals, including a certification program, online discussion groups, and access to a job board.
AAFCS provides leadership and support for professionals within fields related to family and consumer sciences, while promoting a holistic and integrative approach to working with communities, families, and individuals.
Serving as the national association for sociologists, ASA works at national and international levels, facilitating policy creation and implementation for programs with as broad of an impact as possible for current and future sociological practice.
A grassroots volunteer organization, FCE provides leadership training and education to promote effective public policy action regarding family issues. FCE works to deal with family issues, hoping to anticipate and address them before they grow in to larger public concerns.
Recognizing extension professionals who work with individuals, families, and communities to improve quality of life, NEAFCS educates members and the public about financial management, nutrition, home and work safety, healthy living, and relationship skills.