The Best Online Master's in Human and Family Development

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Demand for individual and community support has risen, with community programs focused on healthcare, drug abuse, and counseling becoming priorities.

If you have ever wanted to help people at all life stages deal with important transitions, manage everyday challenges, or recover from grief, consider a degree in human and family development. Human and family development is a versatile area of study that encompasses many careers in the human services industry with promising job growth and salary prospects.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for health educators and community health workers will grow 13% from 2019-2029. These fast-growing careers demand highly skilled professionals who hold master's degrees. Working professionals and those with familial commitments can earn a master's in human and family development by attention class online.

Read on for our ranking of the best online master's in human and family development programs.

Top 10 Online Master's in Human & Family Development Programs 2020

#1 North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC
#2 University of Nebraska – Lincoln Lincoln, NE
#3 University of Missouri Columbia, MO
#4 Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX
#5 North Dakota State University Fargo, ND
#6 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS
#7 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS
#8 Concordia University – Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
#9 Texas Woman's University Denton, TX
#10 Missouri State University Springfield, MO

The Best Online Master's in Human & Family Development Programs

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4

Texas Tech University 

Lubbock, TX

About this school

Texas Tech's College of Human Sciences offers aspiring human services professionals five postbaccalaureate study options, including an online master's in human development and family studies. This 36-credit curriculum focuses on human development across the lifespan and the interpersonal relationships that develop over time. Students who hold this degree are well-equipped for leadership positions in the human services industry. Texas Tech's ideal degree candidates are currently employed in child and family services.

Distance learners focus their studies by choosing a concentration in either gerontology or youth development. The gerontology concentration consists of eight core courses and four electives. This program prepares graduates to either work directly with the aging population or as advocates for the aging. Courses explore complex issues including cognitive health, creativity, spirituality, and sexuality in aging. The youth development concentration requires nine courses and a thesis, original research project, or practicum. This track focuses on supporting youths as they become cognitively, socially, and emotionally competent adults.

Distance learners select remaining courses from electives in special interest areas. Students may pursue these electives within the College of Human Sciences or adjacent departments. Online study at Texas Tech is asynchronous and follows a semester calendar.

Graduation Rate
62%
Online Enrollment
36%
5

North Dakota State University 

Fargo, ND

About this school

North Dakota State University's master's in human development and family science allows students to choose from a concentration in youth development, gerontology, or family financial planning. Graduates of NDSU's program are equipped for organizational management and administration roles in community recreation programs, justice facilities, military youth programs, middle schools or high schools, and nonprofit special interest groups like 4-H Clubs or Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

This 36-hour curriculum is highly customizable to degree candidates' career interests. The program's core consists of 28 hours of required courses that examine youth and family development fundamentals. Students gain an understanding not only of contemporary human issues, but also of the professional skills required to administer programs that address those problems. Students complete remaining degree requirements with electives designed to match specific career paths. For example, a student aspiring to nonprofit work might enroll in a grant writing course, while a peer with an eye on doctoral study might opt for a class on current research.

The program culminates with either an 8-credit internship at an approved local facility, a professional master's paper and a shorter 3-credit internship, or a master's thesis. A full-time student can complete this degree in two years, though most students finish in three. Applicants must demonstrate a GPA of at least 3.0. No GRE scores are required. Distance learning at NDSU is completely asynchronous.

Graduation Rate
53%
Online Enrollment
38%
6

Kansas State University 

Manhattan, KS

About this school

Kansas State's online human development and family studies degree focuses on preparing its graduates for roles strengthening the families that they will serve. The 36-credit master's in family and community services curriculum begins with 20 hours of core instruction on the fundamentals of family science. These core courses delve deeply into theory and principle, allowing students to explore family dynamics and interpersonal relationships throughout the lifespan. Students gain familiarity with the family support methodology they'll use in the workplace, including parenting education, family resource management, and crisis management. As the program core concludes, degree candidates examine the application of these concepts to family services program administration and management.

Students round out degree requirements with six credits comprised of either a practicum, field study, or elective coursework. Approved field study consists of supervised experience in consumer services, community action, financial counseling, or financial planning. If students elect to conduct a practicum, they will be placed in an approved facility that matches their career goals. Degree candidates who opt for elective courses may choose classes that match their particular interests.

Distance learning at Kansas State is entirely asynchronous. This degree can be completed without ever attending campus. Online learners enjoy extensive student services at KState, including tutoring, academic advising, and a writing center. The university also provides professional development and networking opportunities to its online graduate students. The university is a military-friendly school and welcomes service members and their families.

Graduation Rate
58%
Online Enrollment
16%
7

University of Southern Mississippi 

Hattiesburg, MS

About this school

The University of Southern Mississippi's Department of Child and Family Studies offers a multidisciplinary approach to preparation for careers in human services. The university has created a part-time online human development and family studies graduate degree for working human services professionals who seek to advance their careers. This master's in child and family studies blends human development theory with current educational research and practical skills training in program administration.

The 37-hour fixed curriculum takes two years to complete. Students examine topics including parenting throughout the lifespan, familial life cycles, marriage education, and program assessment. After students have finished the required eleven online courses, they must complete either a thesis or a practicum. Students whose career plans include doctoral study usually opt for independent research and a thesis. Students who choose to complete a practicum must arrange for a supervised professional experience at an approved facility. Degree candidates may complete the practicum in their workplace as long as the professional experience is new.

This competitive online master's program begins in the fall. The university strongly encourages applicants to submit materials by the April 15 priority deadline. Applicants must demonstrate competitive GRE scores and a GPA of at least 3.25 in recent coursework. The university's Child and Family Studies department offers its students twelve privately endowed scholarships, several of which are earmarked specifically for graduate students. Distance learning at the university may by synchronous or asynchronous, depending on instructor preference.

Graduation Rate
50%
Online Enrollment
32%
8

Concordia University – Saint Paul 

Saint Paul, MN

About this school

Concordia University-Saint Paul's online master's in family science boasts approval from the National Council on Family Relations. As in many of the best online human development and family studies graduate programs, degree candidates may opt to earn the Certified Family Life Educator designation during the course of their studies. Concordia approaches family science by considering all of the larger systems and societal pressures that influence today's families. Students develop the skills to support the families they'll work with in a human services capacity.

The program's 36-hour fixed curriculum takes a close look at the dynamics within a family, considering factors like parent education, intimate relationships, and decision making. Courses in human development, public policy, current research, and data analysis round out students' training. Interested students can take an optional international travel course for credit. The program culminates in a capstone that must be orally presented and discussed.

This private, Lutheran university has much to offer distance learners. Support services for distance learners include academic advising, online tutoring, a writing center, a digital library, and an online bookstore. Concordia is a designated military-friendly school, offering discounted undergraduate tuition and a $2,000 military scholarship to eligible veterans. Online courses are completely asynchronous. Distance learners take sequential classes in seven-week blocks.

Graduation Rate
47%
Online Enrollment
35%
9

Texas Woman's University 

Denton, TX

About this school

Aspiring human services professionals can choose from twelve graduate-level degree programs at Texas Woman's University. The school's master's in family studies is a National Council on Family Relations approved program that leads to Certified Family Life Educator designation. This online human development and family studies degree is remarkably flexible, allowing candidates to tailor their studies to their career interests while still meeting strict requirements for professional certification.

The curriculum begins with 19 hours of instruction in human development, family theory, research, and other family science fundamentals. All degree candidates must choose to complete a thesis, professional paper, or portfolio. Thesis candidates choose 9 hours of courses from a lengthy list of specialization classes. These classes explore topics as varied as gender role development, families as consumers, and aging in society. A practicum course may be completed for credit, but is not required. When thesis candidates have completed content specialization courses, an original research project must be conducted and presented in a paper.

Non-thesis candidates may opt to write a professional paper or develop a professional portfolio. Students in the professional paper track choose 12 hours of content specialization courses. To meet the professional paper requirement, students must develop and implement a project designed to solve a real-world problem. Afterwards, students must present and defend the project. Alternatively, students in the portfolio track choose 15 hours of specialization courses, followed by independent study and portfolio development. Thesis and non-thesis students in either track may also concentrate their studies with a family resource management emphasis.

Graduation Rate
47%
Online Enrollment
53%
10

Missouri State University 

Springfield, MO

About this school

Human services professionals can benefit from an extensive array of degree programs at Missouri State. The school's non-thesis master's in early childhood and family development program is ideal for working students who seek to further their careers in human services. The program's 32-credit curriculum can be completed on a part-time or full-time schedule. A part-time student can finish the program in two years with no summer classes, whereas taking summer classes can save the student a semester.

This online human development and family studies graduate program focuses on child development, family development, and early childhood education. Students gain an understanding of the societal and familial influences that shape a child's growth. They explore best practices in supporting these relationships in a human services capacity. Missouri State's program also places particular emphasis on diversity and the impact of biased practices on human development. Students also complete 12 hours of elective courses. The program culminates in a comprehensive written examination.

Distance learning at Missouri State is completely asynchronous and follows a semester calendar. Online students enjoy support services, including tutoring, a writing center, career counseling, and a digital library. The university welcomes military students and transfer students. Transfer students may apply up to 9 prior credit towards the degree. Missouri's College of Education also awards privately endowed scholarships to eligible students in child and family development degree programs.

Graduation Rate
55%
Online Enrollment
25%
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End of list, bravo!

Ranking Methodology
Best Online Programs

Online Master's in Human & Family Development Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

What Is an Online Master's in Human and Family Development Degree?

A master's in human and family development provides a framework for careers in the human services field. Enrollees study the various developmental processes that occur over the human lifetime, including language acquisition, cognitive development, and social skill development. These programs equip students with the knowledge to understand and analyze human behavior at different points in life.

Degree-holders typically seek employment as social workers, human services administrators, and early childhood educators upon graduation, often planning to eventually become licensed counselors and psychologists. The degree builds skills in analyzing social behavior, helping people transition between different life stages, and communicating effectively with people at all stages of development and functioning.

Choosing an Online Program

When considering an online master's in human development program, carefully weigh the factors that will influence your educational experience. Ask yourself: Do the program's available concentrations align with your career plans? Does the program emphasize asynchronous or synchronous online coursework? You can learn more about how to select an online degree at the links below.

How to Choose Your Major What to Look for in an Online College

What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Human and Family Development Program?

The curricula for different human and family development programs can vary widely, but most touch on a core course roster exploring the different stages of healthy human development. Many programs also offer gerontology, youth development, and substance abuse treatment concentrations.

Human and Family Development Curriculum

  • Marriage and Family Relationships: This introductory course explores modern marriage and family situations and challenges. Students investigate the different social factors that influence interactions within families and couples. Topics include mate selection, gender roles, and parenthood. The course may require prerequisite introductory coursework in psychology or sociology.
  • Language Development: Students in this class consider theories about language acquisition and cognition in early childhood. Topics may include domain-general versus domain-specific abilities, nature versus nurture, and stability of intelligence. The course also shows enrollees how to compare atypical pathways in language development with normative development patterns.
  • Adult Development and Aging: This course covers the lifespan, including the transition from adolescence into adulthood and continuing into old age and death. Coursework explores the various biological, physiological, and cognitive processes that occur throughout the aging process, along with how they affect lived experiences in each stage of adult development.

Certificates and Licenses

Many students in human and family development programs eventually pursue work as licensed professional counselors. The requirements for earning a counseling license vary by state, though most states share some common criteria.

To earn your counseling license, you need a master's in counseling or a related field, along with 2,000-3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience accumulated over 2-3 years. Once you finish your degree and clinical hours, you can take the National Counselor Examination (NCE) — administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) — or one of several alternatives, also administered by NBCC. Passing the exam allows you to practice as a licensed counselor and receive the national certified counselor (NCC) credential.

The voluntary NCC credential offers the additional benefit of demonstrating your level of professional experience to your community. It can also lead to higher and more specialized credentials in the field.

Because nearly all states require the NCE and a similar amount of clinical hours, aspiring professionals can expect a certain amount of licensure reciprocity between states if they relocate and need licensure by endorsement. However, not all states offer reciprocity, and some states require a period of remedial education to become licensed.

Human and Family Development Careers

Master's in human and family development degrees provide a foundation for many jobs, primarily in the human services industry. Many graduates become employed as social workers or case managers immediately upon graduation, while others pursue Ph.D. programs and become licensed clinical counselors or psychologists.

The following list does not represent all possible career paths — just some commonly pursued options.

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers work as administrators in human services and community outreach organizations. These managers serve their communities by coordinating and supervising human services-related programs and activities. They work with many different clients, including local governments, community leaders, and underserved populations, such as veterans and minorities.

There is no licensure requirement for social and community service managers. Most social and community service managers hold at least a bachelor's degree in a human services field, such as human and family development or social work.

Median Annual Salary

$67,150

Job Outlook (2019-2029)

17%

Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists help families and couples overcome relationship problems and rebuild bonds. These professionals use strategies such as cognitive behavioral therapy to help manage their clients' personal struggles and navigate difficult situations like separations, layoffs, and substance abuse issues. They work in human services agencies, outpatient care centers, or private practice.

To become a marriage and family therapist, you need at least a master's degree in psychology or family and marriage therapy, which usually requires a practicum. After earning a master's, you need to earn licensure, which requires you to complete 2,000-4,000 supervised clinical hours.

Median Annual Salary

$49,610

Job Outlook (2019-2029)

22%

School and Career Counselors

School and career counselors help clients succeed academically and personally. School counselors help students navigate personal, disciplinary, and social issues while preparing them for their future. Career counselors help people choose a job that fits their needs. They may find employment in schools, healthcare settings, and human services organizations.

Most states require school counselors to secure licensure or some form of certification. Career counselors sometimes need licensure, though not always. Both types of counselors typically need at least a master's degree in school or career counseling or a related field, such as human and family development.

Median Annual Salary

$57,040

Job Outlook (2019-2029)

8%

Human and Family Development Professional Organizations

Joining a professional organization can provide vital support for students and professionals through continuing education, networking, and job placement services. The following organizations offer membership benefits that can help individuals pursuing master's degrees in human and family development.

  • American Counseling Association Founded in 1952, ACA advocates for the growth and enhancement of the counseling profession. The organization's 55,000 members enjoy free continuing education webinars, an annual conference, and access to its electronic journal database. ACA members who are still in college can also access free liability insurance.
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy AAMFT represents the interests of over 50,000 marriage and family therapists throughout the world. The organization offers members access to ethical advisory, legal consultation, and job assistance services. Students can take advantage of its various scholarships and awards, such as the graduate student research award.
  • International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors IAMFC is a division of ACA, chartered in 1989. It advances the marriage and family counseling profession. Membership benefits include free or discounted continuing education credits, mentoring opportunities, and a subscription to The Family Journal. The organization also offers student awards for graduate research.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Master's in Human and Family Development Program?

It typically takes 2-3 years of full-time enrollment to complete a master's in human and family development. If you take courses at a part-time pace, the process will take longer.

What Can I Do with a Master's in Human and Family Development?

A master's in human development can get you a job in human services organizations, senior centers, and early childhood education. It can potentially lead to counseling work, as well, though you will likely need to earn licensure first.

How Much Do You Make as a Counselor?

BLS data indicates that substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earned a median income of $46,240 in 2019.

Why Is Human and Family Studies Important?

Human and family studies inform the way that professionals deliver human services to patients in need. For instance, understanding the developmental changes that occur during old age enables human services professionals to effectively serve the elderly.

Can You Teach with a Human and Family Development Degree?

Many people with master's in human development degrees teach in early childhood settings. Some states set additional training requirements for early childhood educators.

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