The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs in social service occupations will grow by 14% in the next decade, faster than the national average for all industries. The demand for individual and community support rises as programs focused on healthcare, drug abuse, and counselling remain a priority. In a field that adapts to new research and the needs of society, graduate degree holders pave the way for human development and family studies.
Choosing a Program
During the completion of your degree, students take courses in general surveys on child development, adult development, and aging. Through theory, research methods, and statistics, students learn about lifespan development and interpersonal relationships that equip them for a future in community leadership. Graduation requirements vary depending on the program. Many institutions require credits in a thesis course, while others require students to participate in research through completion of an experience capstone course.
Online human development and family studies graduate programs prepare students for a diverse career field. To better serve the varied interests of students and meet community needs, institutions offer program concentrations tailored to the requirements of specific human issues or age groups, including gerontology and aging, addiction treatment services, childhood education, and youth and adolescent development.
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Online Master’s in Human & Family Development Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
The Best Online Master’s in Human & Family Development Programs
1North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina
NC State’s master’s program in youth, family, and community sciences is ideal for students with career plans that include research or doctoral study. Optional study concentrations are offered in either life education and coaching; leadership and volunteer management; or youth development and leadership. Distance learners may choose a thesis or non-thesis track. Students who opt to write a thesis must conduct a research project, present it, and pass an oral exam. Campus attendance is encouraged for thesis presentations, but not required. Students in the non-thesis track must complete a capstone project while conducting an internship in the local community.
Designed with nontraditional students in mind, NC State delivers its entire program in the evenings. Distance learners can log in for synchronous live feeds of classroom presentations. Online learners then complete other coursework and assignments asynchronously. Distance learners are further supported by instructional design staff on hand during class times. NC State also offers a student mentoring service that matches more experienced learners with newer students.
NC State students can pursue its online human development and family studies degree either part-time or full-time, as long as the degree is completed within six years. The admissions office accepts applications to this program throughout the year, and students may begin the course sequence immediately following admission. Applicants must submit GRE scores with other application materials.
North Carolina State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
2University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Aspiring human and family development professionals can choose from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s extensive selection of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in child, youth, and family studies. Post Baccalaureate students may opt for campus-based or online programs leading to graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctorates in the discipline. The university’s online master’s in human and family services administration emphasizes the business side of human service organizations, and is an ideal program for students whose career goals include organizational management.
Students pursuing the human development and family studies degree online learn the business skills required to effectively manage human services organizations. The 36-hour curriculum is broken into four focus areas, each of which blends coursework in human development and public administration. Students gain mastery of family theory, especially within diverse populations, and its applications in program design and evaluation. Distance learners explore the role of management in human resources, policy development and implementation, ethics, and compliance. When coursework is complete, students conduct an internship at an approved service organization in their community.
The program culminates in a capstone project. Students may opt for a public administration capstone, conducting original research in pursuit of a solution to a real-world problem. Alternatively, participants who prefer a scholarly review of literature may write a thesis. Distance learning at this university is asynchronous, though some assignments and projects may require synchronous collaboration with classmates.
The University of Nebraska is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
3University of Missouri
Mizzou’s master’s degree in human development and family studies online equips its graduates with the knowledge and skills required to support families in the human services system. Students develop professional expertise in family resource management, family dynamics, parent-child relationships, family crises, interpersonal relationships, and interventions. Additional elective courses allow degree candidates to focus their studies in a particular area of interest such as military families or families struggling with poverty.
Students complete the program with either a supervised internship in a human resources organization in their community, or a capstone project that includes a research paper and an oral examination. Master’s degree students can complete this degree entirely online. Distance learning at Mizzou is primarily asynchronous, but instructors do have the right to schedule occasional synchronous assignments or classes. Online students also enjoy access to Mizzou’s learning center, where they can receive free live online tutoring, group study sessions, and study plan consulting. Distance learners also gain access to the writing lab, online bookstore, and digital library.
Applicants must hold a GPA of at least 3.0. GRE scores are not required. Mizzou accepts applications throughout the year, but recommends that potential candidates submit all materials at least six weeks prior to their anticipated start date. Mizzou does not charge out-of-state tuition rates to its distance learners. The university is also a military-friendly school, and welcomes service members and their families.
The University of Missouri is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
4Texas Tech University
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.
Texas Tech University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
5North Dakota State University
Fargo, North Dakota
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.
North Dakota State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
6 Kansas State University
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.
Kansas State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
7University of Southern Mississippi
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.
The University of Southern Mississippi is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
8 Concordia University–Saint Paul
St Paul, Minnesota
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.
Concordia University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
9Texas Woman’s University
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.
Texas Woman’s University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
10 Missouri State University
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.
Missouri State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Online Master’s in Human & Family Development Careers
A master’s degree in human development and family studies online opens doors to employment in service opportunities, such as youth programs, mental health centers, social service programs, and nursing homes. The responsibilities in these fields include meetings with community members to analyze complex developmental issues and advocating for clients in legislative cases.
- Community Service Manager: Community service managers coordinate and oversee social service programs for private companies, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. Specific duties vary depending on the size and objective of the company. Duties involve working directly with community members, suggesting and implementing service improvements, and writing funding proposals.
- Median Annual Salary: $70,870
- Projected Growth Rate: 16%
- Case Manager: Case managers are experienced social workers who provide services and assistance to individuals and families, including healthcare, children, the elderly, and those with disabilities. Case managers often work in hospitals to coordinate a patient’s insurance coverage, rehabilitation, and recovery.
- Median Annual Salary: $46,890
- Projected Growth Rate: 15%
- Developmental Specialist: Developmental specialists find employment in daycares, private and public schools, and pediatric hospitals. Work responsibilities include extensive observation of children to improve developmental issues. Specialists also work with parents and caretakers to devise a strategic care plan that meets a child’s specific needs.
- Median Annual Salary: $63,350
- Projected Growth Rate: 8%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics