The Best Online Bachelor’s in Human and Family Development Programs

by TBS Staff

Updated August 15, 2022 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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If you want to make a difference in the lives of others, an online human development and family studies degree could help you find a rewarding career helping children, families, or individuals. Numerous factors, including people living longer and the opioid epidemic, have increased the need for community and social service workers. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth of 16% by 2026 in the social services industry, making it a great time to pursue a degree in human and family development.

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Online Bachelor’s in Human & Family Development Degree Program Ranking Guidelines

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We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

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While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

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The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

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The Best Online Bachelor’s in Human & Family Development Degree Programs

  1. The University of Alabama

    Tuscaloosa, AL



    The first public university in the state, the University of Alabama provides 40,000 students with an educational foundation for a lifetime of achievement. The university’s Bama by Distance program offers remote access to numerous online degrees, including an online human development and family studies degree with two concentration options: child life specialists and child development practitioners. Both tracks require the completion of 120 credits to graduate.

    The child development practitioner concentration focuses on the stages of growth in childhood. This track familiarizes students with techniques that promote healthy and safe learning environments that foster collaboration among families and communities. Many students entering the child development practitioner program possess an associate degree and may apply up to 60 credits toward their BS degree.

    The child life specialist concentration incorporates numerous experiential learning opportunities into its curriculum, and graduates are eligible for the Child Life Professional Certification Examination. With an emphasis on healthy and hospitalized child development, this track includes topics in creative experiences for young children, bereavement, and medical terminology. Relocation to meet internship requirements may be necessary.

  2. Pennsylvania State University

    University Park, PA



    With approximately 100,000 students in attendance across its 24 campuses, Pennsylvania State University provides unprecedented access to higher education. The school’s World Campus features over 150 degree and certificate programs including an online bachelor’s in family studies. This 120–credit program prepares graduates for careers at preschools, youth organizations, and elder care centers. The curriculum covers developmental milestones encountered across a lifetime, and students complete 27 required courses in family development, human services program administration, and helping relationship theories and research.

    The program offers a myriad of elective courses, including infant development, advanced child development, and the transition to adulthood. The program also encourages the formation of a human development professional identity, and students learn about the history of the profession, major trends in the field, and professional ethics and advocacy. In addition to completing online courses, students meet several fieldwork requirements, including an advanced internship experience and the completion of an internship project or research paper that totals 14 credits. Students satisfy required field hours at a human services agency in their hometown. Potential internship sites range from day care centers and schools to mental health agencies and nonprofit organizations.

  3. Oregon State University

    Corvallis, OR



    Located in Corvallis, Oregon, Oregon State University’s Ecampus offers asynchronous courses that allow students to earn a degree without interfering with family life and work obligations. Delivered by experienced faculty in conjunction with instructional designers, Oregon State University’s online programs, such as the online bachelor’s in human development, rely on innovative technology to create engaging virtual classrooms.

    Comprised of 180 quarter credits, the online human development and family sciences BS emphasizes skills in writing, critical thinking, and problem solving that meet the needs of individuals and families at all stages of life. Topics in the curriculum include family violence and neglect, human nutrition, and parenting research. Students acquire skills for career entry positions in the human services industry, and many continue their education at the graduate level in areas like counseling and social work. The flexible Ecampus format allows students enrolled in this program to minor in public health or sociology. Transfer students must complete at least 45 of their final credits through Oregon State University.

  4. Washington State University

    Pullman, WA



    With more than 600 study abroad programs and 23 degrees available online, Washington State University connects students around the world to career–focused, academic programs. The university’s Global Campus offers an undergraduate degree in human development and family studies online. The program includes two certification options in gerontology or early childhood education that students earn concurrently with their degree. Online learners with interests in gerontology may acquire certification for careers working with the elderly. Washington residents are eligible for an early childhood certification that leads to careers in childcare, protective services, and crisis center settings.

    In addition to completing Washington State University’s core requirements, students enrolled in the online human development program complete 11 credits of introductory courses. Topics include lifespan development, family systems, and human development theories. Students complete 12 credits of upper division courses that offer in–depth studies of various stages of growth and family issues, including coping with stress and parenting styles. The program features a selection of integrative courses that examine contemporary family issues like poverty, work balance, and social policies. The program’s culminating experience requires students to complete 4–8 credits of fieldwork. Major coursework for this program consists of 42 credits, 21 of which students may transfer from a previous program.

  5. Colorado State University-Fort Collins

    Fort Collins, CO



    Colorado State University provides an accessible education to individuals pursuing professional opportunities that promote upward mobility and economic growth. While the university attracts more Colorado high school graduates than any other college in the state, participation in its inclusive academic programs is not limited by geography. The university’s online program delivery allows domestic and international students to earn their online human development and family studies degree from the comfort of their home.

    Colorado State University–Fort Collins’ human development and family studies offers a flexible curriculum that suits the lifestyles of busy working professionals. This 120–credit degree requires students to complete 42 upper division courses in areas like risk and resilience, couples studies, and intervention strategies across a lifespan. Students engage in training for professional advocacy and the facilitation of community empowerment with diverse groups of people. Students select one of five concentrations: early childhood professions, leadership and entrepreneurial professions, pre–health professions, prevention and intervention sciences, and human development and family studies. Graduates of this program pursue careers in social service environments, corrections, and long–term care facilities.

  6. University of Wisconsin-Stout

    Menomonie, WI



    In 1911, the University of Wisconsin–Stout assimilated into the University of Wisconsin System. Today, the polytechnic school provides students with an integrated academic experience that includes elements of liberal arts education and vocational training in an experiential learning environment. Featuring one of the top online human and family development programs offered in this type of setting, students in the human development and family studies degree learn about careers in afterschool programs, disability service agencies, and research facilities.

    The online degree–completion program consists of 120 credits, including 43 general education requirements that transfer from an associate degree. Major coursework in areas including individual and family interventions, family research, and sexuality across the lifespan comprise roughly half of the degree, which students complete in two years of full–time study; students can also take the program part–time. Students develop their own concentration by completing 15 credits in a specific area or by combining complementary disciplines; they also complete an internship near the end of the program. Graduates of this degree qualify for certification as a family life educator through the National Council on Family Relations.

  7. University of Arizona

    Tucson, AZ



    The University of Arizona’s more than 40,000 students take advantage of its many academic programs. The school’s online bachelor’s in family studies features a per–credit tuition rate that enables students to earn their degree while avoiding out–of–state tuition costs. Using asynchronous course formats, instructors create engaging online classroom content that students access at their own convenience.

    Ideal for individuals seeking careers working closely with children and families, this degree equips students with the tools needed for positions in social policy development, law enforcement, community health, and counseling. The curriculum prepares students for a graduate program in the social sciences. Completed in four years, students begin as pre–majors engaging in a foundational curriculum with corresponding general studies coursework. A student’s first semester in the program may include English and math courses along with introductory human development coursework. Once students satisfy pre–major requirements, they apply for the family studies and human development major and begin upper–division coursework. Major courses include topics in family studies leadership and ethics, advanced family relations, and cultural influences on development. Students with a preference for an internship select an organization in the Tucson area.

  8. North Dakota State University

    Fargo, ND



    Located in Fargo, North Dakota State University employs and enrolls diverse populations with unique cultural and regional backgrounds. Strengthened by these attributes, the school’s distance and continuing education program offers a variety of accessible degrees, including a human development and family studies program online with three concentration options.

    Concentrations in child and adolescent development, family science, or adult development and aging provide students with training for careers working with distinct populations. The child and adolescent development track prepares students for positions providing direct and support services. Students complete nine credits focused on infant, child, and adolescent development with a focus on cognitive, emotional, and physical areas of growth. The family science track examines relationship issues, family finance, and methods for reducing family stress with an emphasis on family life education. The third track, adult development and aging, explores the factors that influence adult aging such as gender and family dynamics.

    Students enrolled in the BS in human development and family science program complete 20 core credits that familiarize them with family science, theories and stages of lifespan development, and public policies affecting families. Students acquire skills in cultural competency by completing a five–credit field experience at their home location. The program requires 122 credits to complete a minor in an area of the learner’s choosing.

  9. Brigham Young University-Idaho

    Rexburg, ID



    Brigham Young University’s academic programs embody the vision of its early founders by producing capable leaders affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints. The university serves more than 33,000 online learners and features 12 online undergraduate degrees and 300 online courses. The university’s online human development and family studies degree offers a holistically–focused curriculum that unites theories of family relations with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    The program’s fully online coursework prepares students for managerial positions in victim support services, family resource centers, and nursing homes. The 120–credit degree consists of 40 foundation credits, 54 major credits, and 26 elective credits. In addition to familiarizing students with a variety of academic disciplines, Brigham Young University’s foundation courses include 14 credits of eternal truths, which focus on the doctrine of the Book of Mormon, scripture studies, and the principles of eternal marriage. The marriage and family studies major emphasizes the acquisition of skills that promote healthy marriages and family relationships. Students acquire knowledge of parenting practices, money management, and theories of family dynamics. The program requires the completion of a family practicum and internship, and distance learners who choose to complete an online internship at an approved site in their area.

  10. Hope International University

    Fullerton, CA



    Located in Fullerton, California, Hope International University offers a Christ–centered education grounded in the Restoration Movement. The university supports student faith through the examination of contemporary methods of stewardship. The school’s online bachelor’s in human development provides students with the training necessary to nurture their faith and community simultaneously. Constituting 120 credits, students complete 46 major credits, 49 leadership and ethics core credits, and 25 electives. The leadership and ethics core serves as the university’s general studies requirement, and students complete liberal arts coursework in addition to a course that explores modern Christian perspectives.

    The BS in human development features two concentrations: the community mental health and counseling concentration or the family studies concentration. The mental health track emphasizes training in therapeutic interventions and case management. Example courses include abnormal psychology, counseling skills, and counseling theories. The family studies track familiarizes students with theories of child and adolescent development, and students complete coursework in areas like the sociology of families, parent–child relations, and toddler mental health. Students of both concentrations complete a capstone course in which they develop a case project that includes thoughtfully selected components of theories, techniques, and biblical values to create a comprehensive treatment plan.

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Choosing a Program

When you earn a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies online, you can expect to gain a unique set of skills, such as observation techniques and how to work with diverse groups of people. In addition to requiring general education courses, like English and math, programs consist of multidisciplinary core classes that examine the biology, psychology, and sociology of human development from infancy through adulthood. Covered topics include adolescence, marriage, family relationships, and human sexuality. Most online bachelor’s in human development programs will also train you in research methods and require an internship or field practice to give you a chance to gain practical experience.

Programs for earning a degree in human and family studies online will generally offer either a Bachelor’s of Arts or a Bachelor’s of Science degree. BA degrees have a broader liberal arts focus and often require more writing courses, preparing you for careers where strong communication skills are important. BS degrees put more emphasis on analytical and mathematical skills, ideal for those interested in research or business–oriented positions.

Many programs allow you to tailor the degrees to your interests with specialized concentrations, such as early childhood development, leadership and entrepreneurialism, or prevention and intervention sciences.

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Online Bachelor’s in Human & Family Development Careers

Featured Online Schools

Whether you earn a BA or BS degree, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies online will open a variety of career choices that allow you to interact with people on very personal levels.

Health Educator
Health educators act as a liaison between communities and healthcare providers. They create and implement outreach programs meant to improve the health and welfare of communities through knowledge and prevention strategies. They collect data, prepare reports, and facilitate access to healthcare for community members who often come from underserved neighborhoods.
  • Median Annual Salary: $44,390
  • Projected Growth Rate: 16%
Human Resource Specialist
Human resource specialists interview and evaluate candidates for employment, recruiting new hires, navigating sensitive work situations, and addressing employee concerns and needs. HR specialists must be knowledgeable of federal, state, and local regulations and have the potential to advance to Human Resource Director with additional graduate-level education.
  • Median Annual Salary: $59,180
  • Projected Growth Rate: 7%
Social and Community Service Manager
Social and community service managers work with a wide-range of people from homeless veterans to drug addicts to children and the elderly. They collect and analyze data to determine the effectiveness of outreach programs. Strong writing and public speaking skills help with preparing grant proposals and communicating with the public. Many begin their careers as social workers or drug counselors and move into a management role after acquiring a master's degree in public health or a related field.
  • Median Annual Salary: $64,680
  • Projected Growth Rate: 16%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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