The Best Online Master’s in Human and Family Development 2021

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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.

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

  1. North Carolina State University at Raleigh

    Raleigh, NC



    Founded in 1887, NC State offers an online master of youth, family, and community sciences. Students interested in research can also choose a master of science degree option with a final thesis. Learners can complete the program on either a part-time or full-time schedule.

    Course topics in the 30-credit program include applied concepts in parenting and family life education, program development and evaluation in youth and family settings, and professional ethics and family policy. Learners must also complete 12 credits of electives and a supervised professional experience to finish the degree.

    Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 minimum GPA to qualify for admission. Students must also complete 3-6 credits of prerequisite courses.

  2. University of Nebraska-Lincoln

    Lincoln, NE



    Chartered in 1869, Nebraska offers an online master of science in child, youth, and family studies with a specialization in human and family services administration.

    The program combines family studies with business administration skills to prepare students for leadership and administrative positions. The curriculum includes courses in fundraising, grant writing, data collection and analysis, and program development. Students must also complete a capstone course in public administration or child, youth, and family studies.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a competitive GRE score to qualify for admission.

  3. Texas Tech University

    Lubbock, TX



    Founded in 1923, Texas Tech offers an online master of science in human development and family sciences. Students can choose from concentrations in gerontology and youth development. Learners can complete the program in about two years.

    The program consists of 36 credits total. The youth development concentration requires 28 credits of online coursework, as well as an eight-hour practicum, research project, or thesis. The gerontology concentration includes 24 credits of coursework and 12 credits of electives. The core curriculum for both concentrations includes courses in theories of human development, family theories, research methods, and statistics.

    Applicants must send unofficial transcripts and GRE test scores to apply.

  4. University of Missouri-Columbia

    Columbia, MO



    Founded in 1839, Mizzou offers an online master of arts in family and community services. The program prepares students for careers in social and community service, health education, and community health. Students can graduate in about 2-3 years.

    Course topics in the 36-credit program include resilience in families, family dynamics and intervention, parenting education, family resource management, and administration and program management. Prior to graduating, students must complete a capstone exam or a supervised internship.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the final 60 credits of undergraduate education to qualify for admission. The school does not require GRE scores, but students can submit them to strengthen an application.

  5. Kansas State University

    Manhattan, KS



    Founded in 1863, K-State, in conjunction with several other land-grant universities, offers an online master's degree in family studies and human services with a specialization in family and community services.

    The 36-credit program includes 10 required courses and six electives, along with a capstone course and an optional practicum. Required course topics include family dynamics, family resource management, resilience in families, and crises across the lifespan.

    Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. The school does not require students to submit GRE scores.

Best Online Programs

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

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

Our Methodology

Here at, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

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

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

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%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

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Featured Online Master's in Human and Family Development Programs

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.

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.

$67,150 Social and Community Service Managers
Median BLS Salary (2020) $67,150
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 17%

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.

$49,610 Marriage and Family Therapists
Median BLS Salary (2020) $49,610
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 22%

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.

$57,040 School and Career Counselor
Median BLS Salary (2020) $57,040
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 8%

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.

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.

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. 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. 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

true 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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