Careers in Human Development and Family Science

Whether you are taking classes already or just starting to think about majoring in human development and family science (HDFS), understanding the job opportunities for HDFS majors will help your planning. Listed below are HDFS market segments and potential employers. A degree in human development and family science can prepare you for careers in communications, pre-school/early childhood education, community services, social services, healthcare, government, education and business.

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.
  • The master of social work (MSW) degree is necessary for clinical and advanced social work positions.
  • 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.

Students can also supplement their coursework 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.
  • Preparing for certification in specialized areas, such as child life specialist or child advocacy.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers in human development and family science are expanding faster than the 5 percent average growth rate for all occupations.

BLS estimates that from 2018 to 2028, employment of preschool and childcare center directors, as well as employment of recreational therapists, will increase by 7 percent. In the same time frame, employment of rehabilitation counselors and of social and community service managers is estimated to increase by 10 and 13 percent, respectively.

To learn more, visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Explore Market Segments


Areas: Journalism, advertising, public relations, writing/editing, research, media relations

Prospective employers: Newspapers and magazines, particularly those geared to children/family, book publishers, trade associations, radio and TV stations, nonprofit organizations, advertising agencies, manufacturers of related goods.

Strategies for students:

  • Minor or double major in journalism, PR, advertising or other communications-based major.
  • Develop excellent communication skills, both written and verbal.
  • Submit articles/books for publication.
  • Work for campus publications.

Pre-School/Early Childhood Education

Areas: Teaching, administration

Prospective employers: Religious organizations, private/public/franchise/corporate childcare centers, private homes, family childcare, extended school programs, nursery schools.

Strategies for students:

  • Acquire certification/licensing for public school teaching and childcare.
  • Obtain experience working with children through volunteer positions or part-time jobs.

Community Services

Areas: Administration, development, programming

Possible employers: Community centers, YMCA, YWCA, consumer protection agencies, summer camp programs, adult and childcare providers, programs servicing children and adults with special needs, hospitals, rehabilitation organizations, retirement homes, religious organizations, adoption agencies, environmental design firms.

Strategies for students:

  • Seek related work experience (particularly summer camps or special needs areas).
  • Learn to work well with diverse populations through volunteer or paid positions.

Social Services

Areas: Case management, counseling, administration, development, therapeutic programming, creative arts, graduate school

Prospective employers: Profit/non-profit organizations geared to services for children, youth, families, or senior citizens, adult and childcare providers, group homes, half-way houses, youth services agencies, senior citizens’ programs, federal, state and local government, foundations and funding organizations.

Strategies for students:

  • Take counseling/social work courses as a minor or a double major.
  • Obtain a master degree for most administrative positions.
  • Learn federal, state, and local government job application processes.
  • Take play therapy, music therapy, and/or art therapy courses as part of a graduate degree program.

Healthcare Services

Areas: Pediatrics, family practice, physician assistant, child life specialist, medical social worker, speech/occupational/ physical rehabilitation therapy, recreational therapy

Prospective employers: Healthcare centers, including local and regional hospitals, community care clinics, home health services, population specific rehabilitation service centers, hospices.

Strategies for students:

  • Seek volunteer experiences in healthcare settings that serve children and families.
  • Join student healthcare professions interest groups.
  • Be familiar with the degree and certification requirements for the career that you are interested in.
  • May need a master of counseling, social work, or specialized area.
  • Volunteer in a healthcare setting.
  • Utilize Syracuse University’s Health Professions Advising (HPA) through the College of Arts and Sciences.


Areas: Human/social services, rehabilitation, legislation, advocacy

Prospective employers: Federal, state, and local government agencies, Cooperative Extension, vocational rehabilitation, mental health agencies, adoption agencies, military childcare programs, overseas childcare and education programs, criminal justice system, health and wellness agencies, women’s protective agencies.

Strategies for students:

  • Learn federal, state, and local job application procedures.
  • Take additional courses in your area of interest.
  • Connect with the Rebecca Lee Pre-Health Society at Syracuse University.


Areas: Teaching, research, counseling, administration, vocational rehabilitation, curriculum development, early childhood special education, speech pathology

Possible employers: Public and private schools, K-12, public and private preschool programs, adult education programs, colleges and universities, programs servicing children and adults with special needs, government.

Strategies for students:

  • Acquire certification/licensing for public school teaching K-12.
  • Obtain Ph.D. for college and university teaching and research.
  • Obtain graduate degree for counseling and administrative positions.
  • Learn federal and state government job application process.
  • Double major in special education.
  • Minor in coaching.


Areas: Management, sales, marketing research, consulting, credit departments, staff benefits

Prospective employers: Corporate care and services for children and adults, childcare facilities, department and retail stores, manufacturing companies of children’s clothes, toys, furniture, and food, banks and financial institutions, insurance companies.

Strategies for students:

  • Develop business skills in finance, accounting, marketing/sales, taxes, and bookkeeping.
  • Secure leadership positions on campus.
  • Get related experience through internships or part-time jobs.
  • Build computer skills in word processing, database and spreadsheet programs.

Certified Child Life Specialist

Careers: Child Life Specialist in Children’s Hospitals, Medical Centers, Pediatric Clinics, Children’s Hospitals, Advocacy Centers, Dental Clinics, Hospice and Palliative Care Programs, Diagnosis-Specific Subspecialty Services, Private Practice, Therapeutic and Specialized Camps, Rehabilitation Service Agencies, Bereavement Programs, Early Intervention, Mental Health Agencies, School Settings, Early Childhood Settings, Nonprofit Community Agencies, Funeral Homes, Legal Systems, Parent Education Programs, Research and Academia, Policy and Legislation Development.

Credential/Certification: Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS), credential issued by the Association of Child Life Professionals.


  1. Minimum of a bachelor degree
  2. Required coursework designated by the Child Life Council
  3. Completion of a Child Life Clinical Internship after graduation that meets the Association of Child Life Professionals’ Clinical Internship Standards
  4. Completion and passing of the Association of Child Life Professionals’ Professional Certification Exam

Sample Alumni Job Titles

  • Assistant Teacher, Bernice M. Wright Child Development Laboratory School
  • Caseworker, Otsego County Department of Social Services
  • Child Advocate, McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center
  • Child Life Specialist, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Rochester General Hospital, Children’s Hospital of New Jersey, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Children’s Hospital
  • Crisis Interventionist, Vera House
  • Family Services Specialist, Clark County Department of Family Services
  • Head Start Teacher, PEACE, Inc.
  • Intake Worker, Head Start/Early Head Start Program, PEACE, Inc.
  • Pediatric Nurse, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Hospital
  • Pediatrician, The Commonwealth Medical College
  • Planned Parenthood Specialist, Planned Parenthood National Headquarters
  • Playworks Team Leader, AmeriCorps
  • Practicing Attorney and Partner, Primo and Hills Law Firm
  • Pre-K Teaching Assistant, Syracuse Early Education Child Care Center
  • Registered Nurse, Columbian Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • Research Assistant, Yale Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine
  • Senior Program Assistant, Dunbar Association
  • Skill Builder, Hillside Children’s Center
  • Social Services, Catholic Charities
  • Therapeutic Foster Care Program, Hillside Children’s Center
  • Youth Development Professional, Elmcrest Children’s Center
  • Youth Specialist, YWCA

Sample Alumni Grad Schools

  • Applied Behavior Analysis: George Washington University, Columbia University
  • Child Psychology: Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology
  • Child Studies: Vanderbilt University
  • Divinity: Southern Lutheran Seminary
  • Early Child Development: Korea University Graduate School
  • Early Childhood Special Education: Syracuse University Early Childhood/Elementary
  • Education: Rutgers University
  • Elementary and Special Education: New York University
  • Law School: Suffolk University, Syracuse University
  • Marriage and Family Therapy: Syracuse University
  • Master of Business Administration: Saint Joseph’s University
  • Mental Health Counseling: Rutgers University
  • Nursing: Johns Hopkins University
  • Occupational Therapy: Columbia University
  • Physician Assistant: Wake Forest University
  • Prevention Science and Practice: Harvard Graduate School
  • Social Work: Columbia University, Ohio State University, New York University, Simmons College, University of California, Los Angeles,Tulane University, University of Maryland, Boston University
  • Speech Language Pathology: Columbia University, New York University