Academic Programs

Degree considerations for students in human development and family science

The Falk College’s Department of Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) at Syracuse University prepares students to work in specific settings, providing a solid foundation of children and families across the life span through a bachelor of science degree. Students will learn about the social, emotional, and physical development of children while studying relationships within families and in other social contexts, such as schools, workplaces and faith communities.

When considering a career path in human development and family science-related fields, the following information is helpful:

  • A bachelor’s degree is sufficient for entry-level positions.
  • Advanced degrees are essential for clinical and therapeutic counseling positions, education/special education.
  • A master’s degree or Ph.D. is often needed for administrative and supervisory positions.
  • A Ph.D. is required for college teaching and advanced research positions, as well as education-focused careers (i.e., teacher, speech pathologist).
  • Additional or specialized training may qualify you for higher paying, more responsible positions.


Human Development and Family Science, BS

The 124 credit B.S. degree program in human development and family science provides students with a broad foundation covering a range of issues focusing on the healthy development of children and families. In addition to liberal arts courses, students are expected to complete 15 credits of Program Requirements and 18-24 credits in a specialty track (decided on in the second semester of the sophomore year). Each track prepares students to work in specific settings.

Tracks of Specialization
Transferring Into HDFS


Inclusive Early Childhood Special Education, BS

This B.S. degree program is a dual program between the School of Education and the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics – with the School of Education as the home school. This program provides you with the professional background and a solid core of liberal arts distribution and concentration coursework. A cornerstone of the program is the extensive and varied series of field experiences it offers, coordinating coursework with fieldwork in the schools as early as the first year of study. Many schools and childcare centers in the Syracuse area are at the forefront of inclusive education. Through our close partnerships with local schools and early childhood centers that welcome all students, and with our wide network of urban, suburban, and rural school affiliations, we provide a broad range of opportunities for getting the most out of field experiences.


Human Development and Family Science, MA

The master’s degree (M.A.) in human development and family science is designed to meet the goals of individuals who seek to work in applied settings (such as service agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)) in which a broad background in human development and family science, administrative skills, and an appreciation for increasingly diverse client communities are important. The hallmark of our M.A. is that it offers broad training in the theory and methodology of lifespan human development and family science, training in skills critical for working in administrative or other roles in service delivery agencies, a specialized focus on topics offered through elective coursework, and the opportunity to work in an applied setting with special populations that represent growing sectors of our communities both in national and international settings.

The program requires the completion of 30 credits of coursework including a 3-credit hour project experience. Students may choose to focus their studies either on a specific focus in the issues faced by immigrant and refugee children and families or on community and youth development. All students must complete the core course requirements. Depending on their interests, students can use elective coursework to focus their studies on specific areas of human development (e.g., early childhood education, youth development, gerontology, children and families in medical settings), on the development of expertise in particular skills, or in specific areas or populations of the global community. Finally, in this students are required to complete a project either in a local context or an international (see the Graduate Manual for details).

The M.A. program prepares students to work directly with children, youth, and families in various educational, familial, or community settings in both regional and international settings. Courses and training emphasize multicultural perspectives in development and family relationships as well as diverse research methodologies and scholarship.

Internal Admissions Process


Human Development and Family Science, MS

The Master of Science degree (M.S.) in human development and family science is a 30-credit degree program that aims to promote an understanding of human development across the lifespan. With an emphasis on the importance of social-cultural context, students gain broad knowledge of the study of childhood and family systems across various cultural and societal contexts.

All M.S. students must complete the core course and elective course requirements. Courses and training emphasize multicultural perspectives in child and family relationships and diverse research methodologies and scholarship. Elective coursework may be selected from additional CFS courses and other University departments such as anthropology, psychology, education, sociology, gerontology, social science, nutrition, special education, or women’s studies.

In addition to course work, the M.S. degree requires the completion of a master’s thesis (see graduate manual for details). M.S. programs prepare students to pursue careers in research, health services, and community agencies. Students may further their educational goals by applying to enroll in the doctoral program in the department. All students must file a tentative program of study in their second semester. Students transferring courses from another institution must file a program of study prior to completing 12 credits at Syracuse University.

Internal Admissions Process


Human Development and Family Science, PhD

The Ph.D. program consists of 72 credits, including completion of a dissertation. The doctoral (PhD) program provides in-depth studies of familial, societal, and cultural factors that shape child development and family relationships. A primary focus is on scientific inquiry and research methodology employed in disciplines such as education, psychology, social sciences, and women’s studies. It trains professionals for careers in academia, research, and human development and family service agencies.

Courses and training emphasize multicultural perspectives in child and family relationships and diverse research methodologies and scholarship. In addition, doctoral students have the opportunity to obtain university teaching instruction and experience through participation in Syracuse University’s Future Professorate Program.

Internal Admissions Process


Child and Family Policy Studies Minor

The Child and Family Policy Studies Minor is an interdisciplinary minor that gives students and opportunity to study public policy and child and family issues. This minor provides useful skills and experiences for students who go on to pursue careers in public policies and government programming and who want to apply their understanding of child and family development in a variety of policy related sectors. This minor is open to all HDFS Majors and Non-Majors.


Human Development and Family Science Minor

The human development and family science minor provides students with a broad foundation covering a range of issues focusing on the healthy development of children and families. This minor provides knowledge and skills that can be applied to real world settings across different settings such as families, schools, work places, hospitals within the United States and internationally. This minor is open to Non-HDFS Majors.


Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies Minor

The purpose of this minor is to provide students with a fundamental understanding of mindfulness and contemplative study and practice, and opportunities to cultivate these skills in their courses and apply them in their communities. This minor would be of interest to students in the Child Life Specialist track in HDFS, as well as to those in other social sciences, health sciences and education. This minor is open to all HDFS Majors and Non-Majors.