Home economics, commonly known as family and consumer sciences, focuses on understanding daily issues and improving aspects of life that impact individuals, families and communities, such as relationships, shelter, clothing and nutrition. Family and consumer sciences programs are commonly offered at the bachelor's and master's degree levels and can lead to careers in teaching and human services.
The curriculum of bachelor's degree programs highlights topics like textiles, merchandising and family services, while a graduate student may learn about wellness, psychology and food science. Both program options normally offer specializations for students to focus their studies on as well as practical experience opportunities.
Admission requirements are standard for degrees of these levels in that a GED or high school diploma is needed for bachelor's degree programs and a bachelor's degree is needed for master's degree programs. Prerequisites for undergraduate programs may include minimum GPA requirements, transcripts, SAT scores and/or written exams. Graduate programs also require GRE scores.
Bachelor's Degree in Family and Consumer Sciences
Many programs in family and consumer sciences offer coursework that addresses fundamental concepts, theories and applications of home economics. Some programs offer students the option to pursue an emphasis area of home economics, such as merchandising, family services, nutrition or hospitality management. Other programs are combined with teacher training to prepare students for careers in secondary education. Students typically gain skills in communication, research, management, problem solving, decision-making and critical thinking. Programs may offer students hands-on experiences through internships and study abroad opportunities, allowing students to gain experience in helping individuals make informed life decisions.
Students in a family and consumer sciences program often take courses related to foods and healthy lifestyles, interior and fashion design, family and children developmental stages, money management and relationship needs. While individual programs may offer a wide range of courses, common course topics may include:
A course in family finances typically addresses theoretical issues of organization and management processes related to family spending, economic decision-making, saving and borrowing. Students may learn information about household production and human capital development while learning about economic crises, public policies, human capital and resource management.
Courses in nutrition commonly address the role of nutrition and food intake in an individual's life as well as nutrient sources and requirements for an individual's well being. Within a nutrition course, students may study topics that include digestion, absorption and metabolism. Students may also learn about dietary recommendations, nutrient deficiencies and toxicities.
In a textile-related course, students may study the types of textiles and their properties. They can learn to identify a variety of fibers. Generally, students also learn about the selection, use and maintenance of various textiles related to both apparel and interior design. Many textile courses offer students hands-on experience, and students come to understand various processes and finishes for fibers that can help them establish the value of textiles as consumers, designers and merchandisers.
Master's Degree in Family and Consumer Sciences
Most master's degree programs in family and consumer sciences build on previously learned knowledge and applications of home economics, such as design, nutrition and housing.
Many programs allow students to develop individualized programs of study based on their interests and goals, and they offer concentration areas in the field, such as food science or family studies, to help students pinpoint their research and curriculum. Students may also participate in clinical internships or assistantships to gain experience in the field.
Since many graduate programs are individualized, the courses students take often depend on their personal choices. However, many classes in a graduate program involve research and program planning. Depending on the concentration area, a student may take courses that address:
Courses with a focus in merchandising typically discuss the business principles related to retail, apparel and services. Within these courses, students may learn about approaches to inventory styling, pricing and timing, problems in the retail industry and marketing theories. These courses may also give students an idea of planning and budgeting a business.
Courses that discuss family studies address and analyze issues, theories and research of human development, family development and relationships. Students may review external factors and individual decisions that impact the family structure.
Students can learn about different educational philosophies and research methods. They might study the use of instructional technology, the needs of students with disabilities and the curricula followed at different stages of learning. Additionally, they can delve into studies of educational psychology.
Popular Career Options
Graduates from a bachelor's degree program in family and consumer sciences typically find careers in social work, financial planning or education, though individuals may also find work in the apparel industry or food services. Individuals can find positions as:
- Family life educators
- Restaurant managers
- Financial managers
- Weight loss consultants
- Visual merchandisers
Students who graduate with a master's degree in family and consumer sciences are prepared for careers in human resources. Some graduates might also be qualified to teach at the college level. Individuals may find positions as:
- Human resource specialists
- Consumer advocates
- Extension specialists
- Event planners
Family and consumer sciences programs that offer certification in education may also require students to complete additional program requirements, such as coursework in teaching methods and curriculum development. Students within these programs may also be required to pass state qualifying examinations to obtain teacher licensure.
Some individuals may choose to pursue a doctorate degree in the field. Ph.D. programs in family and consumer sciences are commonly individualized programs and can lead to careers in academia, research or human development.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the field of social work, just one of the options available to graduates with family and consumer science degrees, were expected to grow by 12% between 2014 and 2024. In 2015, the median annual salary for social work was $45,900 per year.
Degrees in family and consumer sciences, also known as home economics, are available as both bachelor's and master's degrees. Students can focus their studies on a wide array of specialties and have the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning to prepare for their future career.