Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies


The mission of the Master of Science graduate program in HDFS is to produce knowledgeable, well-qualified graduates who are prepared to enter the professional workforce as informed, well-rounded specialists in at least one area of the lifespan and in the study of families, and who are prepared to undertake further graduate level education if desired. The graduate program aims to generate graduates who are well versed in relevant theories, research methods, and the conduct and dissemination of quality research so that they are able to understand the current body of literature in HDFS and are prepared to expand this knowledge base through research of their own.

Program Manual

Our goal is to provide graduates who are prepared for roles in professions requiring:

  • Knowledge of biological, cognitive, and socio-emotional characteristics of humans across the lifespan;
  • Knowledge of family systems and family interactions;
  • Knowledge of effective communication for working with individuals and families;
  • Assessment and improvement of resources needed by individuals, families, and their communities;
  • The ability to provide education about individual development and family life;
  • The ability to combine elements of education, prevention, and early intervention; and
  • The ability to work in an intergenerational context and with diverse families.

Program Requirements

Before beginning the Masters program in HDFS, students are expected to have completed some credits in HDFS or related disciplines, including an introductory level course on lifespan development (similar to HDFS 201), an introductory course on families (similar to HDFS 202), and an undergraduate course in research methods or statistics (e.g., HDFS 391).

Students who are accepted into the program without these prerequisites will be required to complete coursework in the deficit area(s) prior to beginning official
graduate coursework. A plan for making up the deficit areas will be developed with the Director of Graduate Studies and the student’s initial advisor upon student admission to the program. Prerequisite course credits do not count toward completion of the M.S. degree.

Program Hours

During the first year of study (or no later than the completion of 9-12 credits), students are required to file a Program of Study plan with the Graduate School. The form is available on the Graduate School website. Students complete this form in consultation with their faculty advisor. The form lists the courses taken or to be taken to complete the degree, as well as the composition of the student’s Advisory-Examining Committee.

For a Program of Study plan to be approved, the following Program and University criteria must be met:

  • A minimum of 33 graduate level credits (courses at the 600-700 level) must be taken. A 400/600-level course that was taken at the 400-level as an undergraduate may not be repeated at the 600-level.
  • At least 18 of the 33 credits must be in HDFS.
  • At least 12 of the 33 credits must be at the 700-level. [Note: HDFS 752
  • and 755 are typically reserved for doctoral students in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Social Psychology.]
  • 6 credits of thesis (HDFS 797) or 3 credits of professional paper (HDFS 796) must be taken. These (6) credits do not count toward the (12) 700-level credit requirement discussed above. Students may enroll for more than 6 credits of thesis, but only 6 credits may count toward the graduate degree.
  • See the current catalog for information on maximum number of credits of HDFS 600 and 601 for which a student can enroll.
  • A maximum of 3 credits of S/U, including transfer credits, may be applied toward the master's degree.
  • All graduate courses must be completed with a grade of “C” or better in order to satisfy graduate program requirements. Grades of a “C-“ or below are considered failing grades in graduate school and will not count in a student’s program of study.

More Info

The HDFS graduate program is founded on several core philosophical values. First, we encourage students to develop skills in identifying families’ strengths and to develop an appreciation of diversity in age, race and ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, learning styles, and abilities.

Second, we emphasize the importance of education and prevention in addition to intervention, with the recognition that stress, loss and change are normal aspects of life experiences. Thus, we provide students with accurate information on developmental characteristics and interpersonal interactions so that they can most effectively work with individuals and families to lessen problems that arise because of misinformation about what is considered “normal”. The program recognizes that the distinction between prevention and intervention is not always clear, and encourages students to develop skills that can bridge these areas.

Third, to better appreciate the complexity of individuals, the HDFS graduate program strives to foster in students an understanding of cognitive, biological, and socioemotional development and the interactions of these components across each stage of the lifespan. To better appreciate the complexity of families, the program strives to foster in students an awareness of the development of family systems, roles, and reciprocal interactions. We encourage students to look at families as more than just interpersonal interactions, and to address family resources that can contribute to stress or resilience during times of crisis or change.

Fourth, consistent with an ecological perspective, the HDFS graduate program emphasizes the contexts within which individuals and families develop and function. As such, we believe that an understanding of these multiple contexts, including cultural and societal influences, is essential in any attempt to understand individuals and families.

Related Degrees and Programs

Contact College of Education

Phone (775) 784-4298 (Undergraduate Advisement)
(775) 784-4345 (Main)
Fax (775) 784-6298
Location William J. Raggio