Human Development and Family Science examines how people learn and grow from early childhood to end of life, and how different factors can promote or hinder healthy human development.

Human Development and Family Science is the scientific study of individuals and families that focuses on the development of humans through the entire lifespan, and across cross-cultural contexts. It involves social, physical, emotional, and behavioral development, as well as family dynamics and relationships in other social contexts, such as schools, workplaces and faith communities. Falk’s HDFS programs draw from psychology, sociology and education. 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. For a comprehensive degree description, please visit the course catalog.

Why this degree makes a difference in society today…tomorrow…

Throughout history, family has acted as a fundamental social unit. How humans grow and develop—within the family and in other social contexts such as school and faith groups—influences our culture, economics, public health, and more. Whether it’s helping young children of diverse backgrounds have equal access to education, supporting parents whose child who is facing hospitalization, or advocating for public policies which benefit senior citizens, professionals in the field of Human Development and Family Science work with individuals and families in their different social environments to ensure their healthy development, from the very early stages of life to the end.

Sample Courses

Core coursework covers family development, interpersonal competence, human sexuality, and development of children in the family. Sample courses include:

  • Applied Research Methods in Child and Family Studies
  • Intro to Gerontology
  • Child and Family in Cross-Cultural Perspectives
  • Development in Immigrant & Refugee Families
  • Play, Childhood Development and Early Education
  • Children and Families in Health Care Settings
  • The Developing Infant
  • Death, Dying & Loss: Child and Family Perspectives
View all course requirements and electives

What Our Students Are Saying

Our Facilities

The Early Education & Child Care Center (EECCC) and the Bernice M. Wright School (BMW) are on-campus, early childhood education centers that serves as a practicum setting for students in Human Development and Family Science and for those enrolled in other disciplines. At the school, students and faculty conduct observation and research in child development and family interactions. In addition, students are trained to teach and work with young children from diverse backgrounds in inclusive classroom settings.


All HDFS majors must complete a 180-hour practicum, scheduled over two semesters. Part of this practicum experience is devoted to exploring the professional roles and behaviors that characterize work in the human service field during a once weekly seminar conducted by the Internship Coordinators. Area agencies and organizations where HDFS students have worked as volunteers and interns include:

Study Abroad

Syracuse University students have access to one of the nation’s best-ranked study abroad programs in the nation. Human Development and Family Science students have opportunities to study in one of SU’s many centers and partners around the world, including in Chili, England, Italy, Denmark, South Korea and India. To learn more about all of the opportunities for students in Human Development and Family Studies view a listing of study abroad programs. For more information about study abroad at SU, visit

What’s Next

Although students are prepared to enter the workforce upon successful completion of the Human Development and Family Science B.S., some students may choose to pursue post-graduate work in numerous fields, such as counseling, social work, law, public policy, advocacy, allied health, or early childhood education. Students can pursue credentials and certifications to become a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS), a Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE Certificate), or a Child Development Associate (CDA Credential). Explore Credential/Certification Pathways Those interested in education should explore the Early Childhood Special Education Master’s Degree 4+1, a 4+1 program with the SU School of Education. After completing the human development and family science degree, qualified students may apply for graduate study in the School of Education at Syracuse University. Students who enroll in this degree program currently receive a substantial reduction in their graduate tuition. Interested undergraduate HDFS students should work closely with their academic advisors to meet the requirements needed to apply for this masters program. Learn about the Early Childhood Special Education Master’s Degree 4+1


The Falk College’s Department of Human Development & Family Science 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 or master 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 & 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.

Those who complete the Human Development and Family Science B.S. are prepared to enter careers in communications, pre-school/early childhood education, community services, social services, healthcare services, government, education and business. A selection of potential job titles include:

  • Program Director/Manager/Supervisor (Youth, Families, Children)
  • Social Services Caseworker/Case Manager
  • Human Resources Specialist
  • Early Childhood/Preschool/UPK (Universal Prekindergarten program)Professional(Teacher)
  • Mental Health Worker
  • Child Life Specialist
  • Early Intervention Specialist

What can you do now to prepare?

Students interested in Human Development & Family Science find it helpful to supplement their courses with hands-on experiences. Opportunities can span many topical areas, including alcoholism, drug abuse or family violence or varied populations including the aging, children at risk, or children and adults with special needs. Some suggestions to consider might include:

  • Obtaining part-time, summer, internship, or volunteer experience in childcare, schools, hospitals, camps, or overseas programs.
  • Obtaining certification in CPR, safety and first aid for adults, children, and infants.
  • Obtaining certification information for specialized areas, such as child life specialist or child advocacy.

Learn more about careers in Human Development & Family Science

Child Life Specialist Certification

Our B.S. degree is endorsed by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP). Graduates of our program can establish eligibility for certification as a Child Life Specialist through the ACLP. The ACLP requirements for certification include four components: (1) Earning your bachelor’s degree from an accredited academic institution; (2) Enrolling in and completing the 10 required Child Life Specialist courses; (3) Completing a 600-hour clinical internship; and (4) Passing the professional certification exam. As an endorsed program, students who successfully complete the 10 required courses and graduate with our B.S. degree are eligible to pursue the 600-hour clinical internship. After the completion of the 600-hour clinical internship, eligibility is established for the professional certification exam.

Getting Admitted

If you are interested in a career in Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) and would like to join our program at Syracuse University, we are excited to speak with you.

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