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Human Studies Programs: Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Oct 24, 2019

Human studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines family dynamics and personal growth. Students explore topics in philosophy, psychology, life sciences, education, economics and communication at both the graduate and undergraduate level.

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Essential Information

Degree programs in human studies teach students to examine how humans adapt, learn and develop over a lifespan. Bachelor's degree programs offer a foundational knowledge in this field, allowing students to look at how various factors influence development. Some bachelor's degree students earn certificates in specialized areas such as finance or human services leadership.

At the master's degree level, students prepare for leadership positions in social services agencies. Doctoral degree programs are aimed at individuals who wish to develop their research skills.


Bachelor's Degree in Human Studies

Human studies degree programs are designed to examine human social and physical growth and development over a lifetime. Students learn to observe cultural influences, physical and emotional health as they relate to a person's relationship to finance, substance abuse and communication. Students learn about everything from human development to financial planning, in order to better anticipate the needs of a person over time. Topics of study include:

  • Death and dying
  • Gender politics
  • Group dynamics
  • Finances
  • Philosophy

Master's Degree in Human Development and Family Studies

Students in graduate-level human development and family studies (HDFS) programs apply advanced research techniques to studies of human development over a lifespan. Programs prepare graduates for supervisory work in social services. Master's degree programs in HDFS can be completed in two years of full-time work. There are no extra prerequisites expected of applicants to these graduate programs. Courses look at social issues and decision making procedures. Programs also include coursework in social policy, and how it relates to families, aging and finances. Major courses of study include:

  • Child development
  • Data analysis
  • Effects of poverty
  • Family theory
  • Human sexuality

Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies

Doctoral students in HDFS focus on applying advanced research methods to research questions, such as how humans age and develop and maintain relationships. Students are generally required to complete a written dissertation. Applicants with either a bachelor's or a master's degree in a field related to HDFS are eligible for application to a program. Related fields include education, nursing, psychology and social work. Students with a master's degree can complete the program in two years while those with only a bachelor's degree must complete additional coursework. Students in Ph.D. programs in HDFS research personal development and changing roles in interpersonal relationships over time, by taking a multidisciplinary approach. At this level, courses integrate student training in advanced research techniques into class work. Study topics include:

  • Developmental science
  • Gerontology
  • Health psychology
  • Longitudinal research methods
  • Parent-child relationships

Popular Careers

Some graduates with a bachelor's degree in human studies go on to study at the graduate level. Others join the workforce in social services, education and activism. Examples of careers for which graduates are qualified include:

  • Ethics compliance officer
  • Human resources assistant
  • Social worker
  • Teacher

With a doctorate in HDFS, employment may be found in school administration, private consultation practices and community resource programs. Common positions include:

  • Community resources director
  • Professor of HDFS
  • Researcher
  • School administrator

Continuing Education Information

Students who complete an undergraduate degree in human studies and want to specialize in one area without entering into a graduate degree program may choose a certificate program. Some colleges and universities offer specialized human studies certificates in family finance, human services leadership and family support. In some instances, credits earned in a graduate certificate program may be applied to a master's degree program.

Employment Outlook

The field of social assistance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), includes services for individuals and families, the vocational and rehabilitation sector, and child day care services as well as community food, housing and emergency related services. In September 2019, this sector employed more than 4.08 million people. The BLS projected job growth of 13%, much faster than the average of all occupations, for social and community service managers from 2018-2028. For social and human service assistants, the BLS projection for the same decade was 13%.

The BLS reported a median annual salary of $65,320 for social and community service managers as of May 2018. It further reported a median of $33,750 for social and human service assistants as of that time.

A human studies degree provides students with an education into the behavior and sociological study of people and how they have developed over time. As the level of study becomes higher, the focus of the degree becomes more methodical and research-based in nature.

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