Family and consumer science is a broad field, covering diverse topics including nutrition, child development and family finance. Bachelor's degree programs usually touch on all these areas, with students selecting an area of concentration through their choice of elective courses. Students may also participate in an internship opportunity at an affiliated community organization, government agency, or social services institution. Online courses and programs are available.
Master's degree programs are more specialized, and some offer teacher education content as well, preparing graduates to apply for teaching certification. Some schools offer a limited number of teaching assistantships to master's degree students that offer financial assistance for graduate school, or provide experience for those interested in pursuing a career in academia.
Most schools require only a high school diploma or GED to enroll in the bachelor's degree program. For a master's degree, most colleges and universities require applicants to have a bachelor's degree, though majors other than consumer science might require some additional prerequisite coursework in the field.
Bachelor's Degree in Family and Consumer Science
A bachelor's degree program in family and consumer science provides students with a broad understanding of human development, consumerism, and community functions. Curricula stresses the value of family in society, and teaches students how to improve consumer and community services. A family and consumer science program incorporates many disciplines into the curriculum. Core studies include foundational courses in nutritional sciences, psychology, communications, and marketing. Programs offer concentrated studies within the major or a dual-degree option in a related field of study, such as nutrition, merchandising, hospitality management or childhood education.
Concentrated electives and supportive coursework include:
- Consumer education and behavior
- Economics and entrepreneurship
- Business accounting
- Retail management
- Early childhood education
- Community issues
Master's Degree in Family and Consumer Science
A master's degree program broadens a student's knowledge of family structures and behaviors, as well as health of the family and community. Coursework in a master's degree program builds upon concepts learned in a bachelor's degree program in family and consumer science.
Specialized instruction and topics include:
- Research methods and technology
- Food science
- Nutrition and dietetics
- Adolescent learning
- History of family and consumer sciences
- Childhood psychology
Depending on the selected concentration or elective classes, graduates often qualify for a number of positions in several industries. With a bachelor's degree in family and consumer science, an individual might enter into one of the following careers:
- Child caseworker
- Community service director
- Housing counselor
- Real estate agent
- Juvenile probation officer
- Financial planner
- Adoption caseworker
Employment Outlook and Career Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a family and consumer science teacher is considered a vocational educator. The BLS projects employment of vocational teachers to show 4% growth between 2014 and 2024. Mean annual salaries in 2015 for vocational educators at the middle school level were $58,480, and those at the high school level who taught vocational classes or provided career counseling earned $58,170, per BLS data.
Master's degree graduates may also qualify for careers as dietitians and nutritionists. The BLS anticipated an above-average growth rate of 16% for this field from 2014-2024 and reported a mean income for professional nutritionists of $58,410 per year in 2015.
Graduates of a bachelor's degree program in family and consumer science should be competent in interpersonal communication, critical thinking, consumer trends and human nutrition, as well as family and societal issues. After earning a bachelor's degree, students can continue their studies to earn a master's degree in family and consumer sciences or a related field. The major qualifies students to pursue graduate degrees in law, social work, healthcare and economics.
Family and consumer science graduates who choose to teach require state licensure or certification. Most states also mandate continuing education for teachers to maintain a license. Additionally, most states regulate licensure or certification for dietitians and nutritionists at varying levels. These occupations also offer voluntary professional credentials through organizations, such as the American Dietetic Association's Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietetic Technician.
Bachelor's and master's programs in family and consumer sciences involve a combination of coursework and on-the-job experience to prepare graduates for future employment as vocational educators, dietitians, and nutritionists.