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, Falk College celebrated the grand reopening of the Bernice M. Wright Child Development Lab School on November 30, 2012, showcasing its recently renovated and expanded facilities. Bernice M. Wright embraces inclusion, celebrating cultural and developmental diversity and recognizing the similarities and differences that make the world an exciting place. Through collaboration with 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 training facility and supports research in child development and early childhood education.

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 around the world, including Santiago, Chile, and Strasbourg, France. For more information about study abroad at SU, 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

Requirements & Outcomes

Course Requirements

Substantive, Research Methodology, and Theory Requirements (15 credits)

HFS 621 – Statistical Concepts I (3 credits)
HFS 653 – Child and Family Development Across the Life Cycle (3 credits)
HFS 667 – Child & Family in Cross Cultural Perspective (3 credits) or
HFS 682 – Development in Immigrant and Refugee Families (3 credits)
HFS 686 – Family Life Education (3 credits)
SWK 775 – Program Evaluation (3 credits)

Elective Course Requirements (12 credits)

At least 12 credits of elective coursework must be selected from HDFS graduate courses or courses from related programs. Students must consult with their faculty advisor prior to selecting elective courses.

Master’s Project (3 credits)

M.A. students are required to complete a project in either a local, national, or international context. The M.A. project prepares students to work directly with children, youth, and families in various educational, familial, or community settings in both regional and international settings. Applied work can include assisting an agency plan and/or implement a program for families and children at a human service agency or related program on the local, national, or international level. M.A. students in the earlier years have completed projects in agencies such as the Children’s Defense Fund, Head Start, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and the Ronald MacDonald House among others.

Prior to beginning work on their M.A. projects, students are expected to present their projects proposals to a M.A. project committee. Only after approval of their project proposals can students begin work on their proposed projects. Upon completion of the projects, an oral defense is scheduled (see the graduate manual for details). The project must meet the requirements specified by the department and the Graduate School.

Distribution of Credits

Core Requirements 15
Electives 12
Project 3
Total 30

Satisfactory Progress

To maintain good standing, all HDFS graduate students are required to:

  • Earn a B or better in all required courses.
  • Maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, including courses taken outside the department (e.g., anthropology, education, psychology, sociology, etc.).

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Analyze and evaluate theory and empirical research on children and families
  2. Explain human development and changes in individuals and families across the lifespan
  3. Explain and apply the roles of development and change in different cultural communities and contexts
  4. Apply knowledge about issues of child and family development in practice

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.

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.

Are you a current Syracuse University graduate student interested in an HDFS degree?

For additional admissions information, visit the course catalog or contact the Office of Admissions at or 315.443.5555.

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