Family Studies Degree Program Overviews

Apr 24, 2020

Essential Information

When a family studies degree is offered at a college or university, the program is usually entitled human development and family studies. In this type of program, which is available at the associate's through doctoral level, students learn about the intricacies of human behavior, the relationships between family members and ways to enhance their life. Students learn how to help families cope with stress, marital problems, sexuality issues, loss or addictive behaviors. They might also be able to pursue specialties in areas such as early childhood, prevention and intervention sciences, family policy, program planning and family resource management.

Distance learning options are available for every degree level except doctoral.

Associate of Arts in Human Development and Family Studies

An associate's degree program in human development and family studies is typically offered at community colleges and presents students with an introduction to this social services career path before they transfer to a 4-year program. A human development and family studies major is trained to understand the human life process and discover ways to make the lives of people more enjoyable through community activities, counseling and social interaction. Through classroom training, students learn about social environments, family dynamics, child development and interpersonal relationships.

These programs accept applicants who have high school diplomas or GEDs. Some schools also request a background check.

Courses in the program include:

  • Child development
  • Developmental problems in adults
  • Professional ethics

Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies

As with the associate's degree program, students in the bachelor's in human development and family studies program usually have the option to choose a specialty area or concentration. Human development and family studies majors learn how to interact with people of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds to understand how they function in a community. They also learn how society affects development and how, in turn, human development changes its relationship with families, children and other adults.

Admittance into a human development and family studies degree program requires high school graduation, a 2.0+ GPA and submission of scores from standardized tests. If an applicant has an associate's degree, transfer credits are usually accepted. Most states require that applicants pass background checks before working with children and families.

While some students select a specialty area of interest, most of the curriculum focuses on the relationships between family members, society and personal relationships. Here are a few courses:

  • Adult development
  • Working with children
  • Lifespan development
  • Adolescent development

Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies

A master's degree program is ideal for individuals who have worked in social services and are seeking a position in administration. Similar to the undergraduate degree program, graduate students may choose an area of interest, which has its own set of course requirements, in addition to general education courses. The graduate curriculum focuses on theories behind the changes in human developmental and future behavior.

The inclusion of research is dominant in a human development and family studies Master of Science program. Students with plans to enroll in a Ph.D. program should focus on a research thesis that explores current topics in family studies, such as diversity, grief, divorce and the effects of aging on a family. Students seeking admittance into a Master of Science program must have a bachelor's degree in a related field. Most schools also require GRE scores and minimum GPAs of 3.0.

Graduate courses typically discuss more research and theory, with additional course in a student's area of concentration. Courses include:

  • Family theory
  • Research methods
  • Ethics
  • Advanced human development

Doctor of Philosophy in Human Development and Family Studies

Earning a Ph.D. degree in Human Development and Family Studies provides a graduate with the skills, knowledge and experience to conduct research, counsel and teach. The Ph.D. program is the highest attainable academic level in the family studies profession and involves analyzing case studies, using research methodologies to investigate reasons for behavior and being able to assess a family, child and adult dynamic.

Ph.D. degree hopefuls study the family unit in-depth by examining cultures, finances, mental health, poverty and other issues. Other areas of potential stress that are discussed and researched are aging, addiction, violence and the effect of being in the military.

A master's degree in a related field is required to apply for entry into a Ph.D. program. Most universities also require completion of a research thesis, which is typically finished at the end of the master's degree program. In addition, GRE scores, at least a 3.0 GPA, letters of recommendation and a statement of interest are commonly required.

Courses in the Ph.D. program explore advanced levels of materials learned in previous degree programs, with more emphasis on research and statistical information. These include:

  • Teaching techniques
  • Family resource management
  • Theories of human development
  • Parenting

Career Options

Graduates who hold an associate's degree in human development and family studies are eligible for several entry-level social services positions. These include: community outreach worker, daycare center worker, and nursing home assistant.

Obtaining a bachelor's degree is usually the minimum education requirement for entry-level human services positions. Here are some examples of positions available for those with a bachelor's degree in human development and family studies: case manager, social worker, rehabilitation worker, and youth program specialist.

Graduates with a master's degree in human development and family studies have a lot more employment opportunities. Some positions that someone with a graduate degree may hold are: counselor, program administrator, and after-school program director.

Ph.D. degree candidates may find employment in a variety of positions and employers, including non-profit organizations, schools, governmental agencies, consulting firms and businesses. Example job titles are: family policy analyst, associate professor, and research associate.

Salary Statistics & Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that employment of social and human service assistants was projected to rise 13% in the 2018-2028 decade, which is much faster than the national average. Professionals in this field earned median salaries of $35,060 as of 2019, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education Information

Earning a bachelor's degree in the same field is generally the next step for graduates with an associate's degree. This education provides advanced skills required for professional positions.

Depending upon the specialty track, some graduates from bachelor's degree programs opt for a certificate in an area, such as gerontology or women's studies. While the certificate does not allow for teaching appointments, it shows the seriousness of the future social service professional. Certificate programs may be found at community colleges and some universities.

For students with a graduate degree who want to expand their education and maximize their knowledge in a specialty, The National Council on Family Relations, offers a Family Life Educator certification. While optional, the certification program is open to professionals who work in the field and have completed their bachelor's degrees.

Family studies degree programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels. These programs prepare graduates for careers including community outreach worker, social worker, counselor and family policy analyst. Professional certification could also be possible.

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