Master's Degree in Human Development: Program Overview

Essential Information

Courses in human development master's programs vary, depending upon the program's focus, but may cover topics such as language development, legislation related to human development, health education and aging. Most programs emphasize research and require a thesis and/or a capstone project.

Students who wish to pursue a master's degree in human development have many options. Fields of study can include early childhood education or social services. Most master's programs require that applicants hold a bachelor's degree, although a few schools will accept work experience in place of a degree. These programs can be completed in about two years of study.

Master's Degree in Human Development

Human development master's candidates might have an opportunity to specialize in early childhood education, educational leadership or social services. They'll learn about biological, emotional, sociological and psychological aspects of human development. A student enrolled full-time might complete the program in as little as two years.

Prospective students should have a bachelor's degree, preferably in developmental or educational psychology. However, some programs will waive the bachelor's degree requirement for students with significant work experience.

Students might pursue a Master of Education (M.Ed.), Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in Human Development. Those who wish to focus on child and adolescent development as it relates to education might consider an M.Ed. program. Generally, an M.A. program emphasizes social sciences. More specifically, students seeking an M.A. in Human Development can expect to gain theoretical competencies. Although a majority of master's degree programs in human development focus on research, scientific methodologies are the core of an M.S. program.

An M.S. program touches on health behavior studies, while an M.A. program might focus on biological, social and cognitive development. An M.Ed. program might include the study of psychological foundations of development and education. Popular course topics across the board include:

  • Development of social cognition and moral judgment
  • Language and literacy development
  • Prevention science and practice
  • Gender and relationships
  • Development across cultures
  • Legislation and policy in human development

Popular Career Options

Graduates might offer counseling services to children, adolescents and adults in the areas of human service, advocacy or evaluation. Jobs are available with research institutions, universities, government agencies or health organizations. Career titles include:

  • Center director
  • Program coordinator
  • Director of services
  • Case manager
  • Project manager

Continuing Education Information

Ph.D. programs are available in areas such as educational psychology and developmental sciences. Related areas of study at the doctoral level include public health, medicine and public policy.

Human development is a complex field that draws from multiple disciplines and areas of study. Students who are looking into master's programs in human development will have the opportunity to focus on different areas of specialization depending on the program.

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