Human Development and Family Studies

Human development and family studies is a field that addresses how external factors influence the cognitive and emotional development of humans during various life stages. A degree program in human development and family studies can prepare you for a family counseling and assistance career.

Inside Human Development and Family Studies

The study of human development and family studies delves into why humans behave and develop according to certain patterns. Dysfunctional behaviors are examined, as well as normal thought patterns that may arise from cultural influences. Educational instruction in human development and family studies focuses primarily on mental health, family dynamics, interpersonal relationships and social issues. Studies in human development examine the course of physical and emotional changes throughout a typical lifespan. Major life stages are examined, such as middle age, infancy, adolescence, young adulthood and late adulthood. This knowledge is often applicable in professional roles related to social welfare and therapy.

Education Information

Degrees in human development and family studies are found at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, culminating in career options in social work, counseling and human services. Coursework that leads to a bachelor's degree develops a student's skills in recognizing patterns of familial relationships. Depending upon the university's human development and family studies program, a student may be able to choose from among several specializations. Child, adult and family studies, family finances and early childhood development are some of the concentrations schools offer.

Graduate programs in human development and family studies are more research focused. Coursework and projects may examine elementary and secondary education, adolescent or adult development, relationships between generations and child care. Graduate programs typically involve a thesis project, along with foundational courses in family theory and modern research in human development. Review the following links for more information about relevant degree programs:

Distance Learning Options

Online courses in human development and family studies explore the same topics that their traditional classroom counterparts do. Undergraduate and graduate level classes examine how families form, develop and behave. Coursework in the family's function as a societal institution is also offered. Here are some links to articles offering more information about distance learning programs.

Required Skills

Those who pursue careers in human development and family studies often have a strong, innate desire to help others. Aspiring social workers should be primarily motivated by intrinsic rewards and be able to emotionally handle difficult situations. Compassion for the human condition and the ability to establish trust with those who may come from a different set of circumstances is helpful.

Career Options

Social Worker

Social workers deal with issues such as sexual and physical abuse, domestic violence, neglect, homelessness, poverty, disease and substance abuse. Entry-level social workers typically manage a caseload of individuals or families that need assistance with overcoming life obstacles. They may need to obtain a state license in order to practice their profession. Aspiring social workers and counselors should be prepared to eventually pursue a graduate degree. A master's degree is typically required for intermediate to advanced positions in the field.


Counselors usually must obtain a master's degree and professional licensure. They may work in private practices, government service agencies, schools or rehabilitation centers. The main function of a counselor is to listen and provide guidance to individuals and families. They may also advocate for clients in situations that pertain to substance abuse recovery or correctional behavior programs.

Other Careers

Individuals who study human development and family studies become human services assistants or early childhood educators. Some may become executive directors of non-profit agencies and community outreach programs. Other potential careers include homeless shelter administration and consumer credit counseling.

Gather more details about career options by viewing the articles listed below.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, child, family and school social workers earned a median annual salary of $42,120 in 2013. Marriage and family counselors earned a median annual salary of $48,160 as of the same year (

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