The 10 Best Online Master's in Human & Family Development Programs

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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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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 Degree Programs

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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
Online Enrollment

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
Online Enrollment

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
Online Enrollment

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
Online Enrollment

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
Online Enrollment

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
Online Enrollment

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
Online Enrollment

End of list, bravo!

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.

  1. 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%
  2. 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%
  3. 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

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