The M.A. degree in Applied Human Development & Family Science prepares graduates for careers where academic learning needs to be translated to practical applications.

Human Development and Family Science is the scientific study of human growth and development across the lifespan in diverse social and cultural settings. The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Applied Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) is a 30-credit program designed to meet the goals of individuals who seek to work in applied settings such as service agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Increasingly a broad background in the discipline of Human Development and Family Science, program evaluation, administrative skills, and an appreciation for working with diverse client communities has become essential for those working in organizations. Our program provides the knowledge and tools to help our graduates be successful. The hallmark of the M.A. program is that it provides students with an understanding of the theory and literature of lifespan Human Development and Family Science. The program trains students for careers as administrators, program coordinators, managers in service agencies, organizations, non-profits and other settings. Students enrolled in the program are usually interested in hands-on work with families and children in national or international settings.

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

Professionals in the field of Applied Human Development and Family Science employ their knowledge and training to promote healthy development at every stage of the lifespan. For example, graduates help young children from diverse backgrounds gain equal access to education, support parents and children facing illness and hospitalization and advocate for public policies that benefit senior citizens. Successful graduates of the program translate research and theory in Human Development and Family Science into practical applications that support individuals and their families from a broad variety of domestic and international contexts.

Sample Courses

Courses and training emphasize multicultural perspectives in child and family relationships. All M.A. students must complete the core course and elective course requirements. Elective coursework may be selected from the HDFS course catalog. Courses may also be selected from other University departments such as anthropology, psychology, education, sociology, gerontology, social science, nutrition, special education, or women’s studies. M.A. students take courses in:

  • Child and Family in Cross-Cultural Perspectives
  • Child and Family Development across the Life Cycle
  • Development in Immigrant & Refugee Families
  • Program Evaluation
View all course requirements and electives

Our Facilities

The Department of Human Development and Family Science is located on the first floor of the Falk Complex. The Complex includes both MacNaughton and White Halls, is located on the western portion of the Syracuse University campus. The renovated complex includes a centralized Falk Admissions center that offers prospective students the chance to see Falk College in action on a daily basis, and an expanded Student Services space conducive to providing programming that helps students be successful. In addition to administrative and academic program offices and classrooms, the Falk Complex also offers students dedicated study/collaborative space, computer labs and comforts like a café and student lounge. The Bernice M. Wright (BMW) Child Development Laboratory School is located on Syracuse University’s South Campus. The Bernice M. Wright School and its programs embrace inclusion, celebrating cultural and developmental diversity and recognizing the similarities and differences that make the world an exciting place. A collaboration led by Syracuse University’s Office of Human Resources and community-based service providers, the school enrolls children with varying developmental abilities, adding greatly to the overall classroom experience. The site serves as a teacher and student training facility and supports research in early childhood education and development.

Immersion Travel

Syracuse University students have access to one of the highest-quality international study programs in the country. The “South Asian Cultures: Family, Food, and Health Care Systems” course takes place on campus in the fall, followed by a cultural immersion trip to India. Students and faculty visit New Delhi (Qutub Minar) and Agra (Taj Mahal) in North India, Anand/Ahmedabad (AMUL, Gandhi’s house, step wells, Ayurvedic College) in Western India and Coimbatore (elephant corridor and tea estates) in Southern India. During the visit to India, students stay in a family home, visit schools, community program sites, nongovernment organizations, educational institutions (Indian Institute of Management, M.S. University of Baroda), traditional and modern healthcare facilities, go on food walks, and learn about the South Asian culture by interacting with families and communities in both rural and urban areas. Abroad programs are subject to scheduling changes. For a precise schedule of when these programs offered, please contact the department directly. For more information, visit


The program trains students for careers as administrators, program coordinators, managers in service agencies, organizations, non-profits and other settings. Students enrolled in the program are usually interested in hands-on work with families and children in national or international settings. Students receive training to work directly with children, youth, and families in various educational, familial, or community settings. Human development is a broad discipline that prepares students for a variety of lucrative and exciting career options. Career options vary and can include:

  • Program Director
  • Agency Manager/Supervisor
  • Human Resources Specialist
  • Human Services Professional
  • Mental Health Professional
  • Early Intervention Specialist

Financial Support

The department offers M.A. students merit-based awards on a limited basis. Additional information regarding graduate financial aid can be found at Syracuse University’s Graduate Student Aid page.

Getting Admitted

Students seeking admission to the Department of Human Development and Family Science must meet the general admissions requirements of the Graduate School. Although no single factor determines entry to the program, competitive applicants typically have a minimum of GPA of 3.00 or higher (undergraduate and/or graduate work). For international students whose primary language is not English, TOEFL scores of 577 (paper test) or 100 for the internet based (IBT) test are desirable. GRE scores are not necessary for applying to the M.A. program.

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Part-time Study

The M.A. degree may be completed through full- or part-time study. Students must enroll in a minimum of nine credit hours for full-time status. Students enrolled in six credit hours or fewer are considered part-time. Students who are interested in an accelerated degree, may complete the required coursework and project during a single academic year (including summers).

Transfer credits

Subject to departmental approval, a maximum of up to 6 credits of master’s level coursework (in Human Development and Family Science or related disciplines at Syracuse University or other universities) may be applied to the M.A. program. Courses in substantive areas of study within Human Development and Family Science or related disciplines are eligible to be considered. The final decision about the number of credits that can be transferred into the M.A. program is made by the graduate faculty. Student must have earned a B or better grade on courses that they would like to transfer. If you a current Syracuse University graduate student interested in an HDFS degree, contact our department.

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For additional admissions information, contact the Office of Admissions at, or fill out our online form:

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