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.

Prepare yourself for a career in human development and family science

Below are strategies to help you market your skills as well as possible certification pathways for students interested in entering careers requiring credentials.

Students interested in human development and 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.

Graduate students can pursue careers in higher education, health and human service administration, or areas in which they will work directly with children and families. They work in private and public organizations such as Head Start, National Center for Educational Statistics, and Boys and Girls Clubs.

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.

Explore Credential/Certification Pathways

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

Certified Family Life Educator

Careers: Family Life Educator in Community-based social services, Youth development programs, Teen pregnancy services, Adult day care, Welfare assistance, Faith-based organizations, Corporate settings, Family financial counseling and planning agencies, Government and public and family policy analysis, Child welfare and advocacy program, Cooperative extension specialist, Military family support services, Family life education, Sexuality education, Parenting education, Marriage and family enrichment programs, Curriculum development, Community education, Family intervention, Individual and family therapy support services, Crisis and hotline services, Abuse protection services, Residential treatment programs

Credential/Certification: Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE Certificate), certification issued by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR).


  1. Required coursework designated by the National Council on Family Relations
  2. Completion of internship/practicum to be eligible to apply for Provisional Certification upon graduation
  3. Completion of portfolio for submission to NCFR to obtain Provisional Certification upon graduation
  4. Complete required work experience related to family Life education within 5 years of graduation to get Full certification

Child Development Associate (CDA)

Careers: Head teacher or assistant director in Early Childhood settings including preschool, full day child care centers, family child care, and afterschool programs.

Credential/Certification: Child Development Associate (CDA Credential), Credential issued by the Council for Professional Recognition. This CDA credential, in addition to their HDFS degree, would make students a more desirable candidate for hire in a preschool or Early Childhood Center or setting with higher salaries and career advancement opportunities.


  1. Required coursework in HDFS in child growth and development designated by the Council for Professional Recognition in their competency standards
  2. Application of CDA credential upon graduation or while in college with our current course offerings
  3. Preparation of CDA Professional Portfolio including completion of internship/practicum/
    work experience
  4. Verification visit with a Professional Development specialist and Passing CDA exam

4+1 Program

Careers: Early childhood educator, teachers in public school settings, private school settings in early childhood and elementary schools

Credential/Certification: Teaching Certificate, certified as Early Childhood Educator by New York State Department of Education.


  1. Completing an undergraduate degree in HDFS in 4 years with child development focus
  2. Complete required coursework beyond those listed for the major.
  3. Maintain grades averaging no less than a B- with no grade below a C for certain courses.
  4. Complete a master of early childhood special education in 1 year with tuition reduction and Passing Teaching Certificate exam