Penn State’s Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) program is designed to help you learn about the intricacies of individual and family development across the lifespan. Our HDFS program enables students to prepare for professional, managerial and scientific roles in health and human services professions.
It is the only program at Penn State that emphasizes development in the context of a diverse, growing, and changing family system that is approached from a multi-disciplinary lens, drawing from the fields of biology, psychology, and sociology.
Students who complete this program are prepared to assume leadership roles in a wide range of human service and health professions, including developing new models to prevent and treat social and mental health problems and advocate for new social policies and programs.
What to expect
Life Span Human Services option
Through HDFS’s interdisciplinary approach, you will explore the biological, psychological, and the sociological facets of life in order to help others live healthy, successful lives.
- Child and adolescent development
- Adult development and aging
- Family studies
- Approaches to interventions
- How individuals progress and change from birth to old age
- How families and communities influence these processes
- How to apply this knowledge in order to develop, implement, and evaluate interventions designed to improve people’s lives
- Basic theoretical and methodological issues
- Developing applied skills in intervention and evaluation, prevention, and in the formulation of social policy
Field experience and internships
An approved field experience in a setting that serves children, youth, adults, or the aged is required for this option.
Typical settings include:
- Social work, counseling, and psychology
- Teaching and education
- Advocacy and non-profit work
- Health careers
- Children, youth, and family services
- Human resources
- Drug and alcohol services
- Higher education
- Behavioral health
Learn more about internship opportunities, career paths, and graduate school options.
Undergraduate research opportunities
Undergraduate research opportunities are available for motivated students who want to become critical consumers of scientific research and/or are interested in a career that requires conducting social and behavioral science research.
Certified Family Life Educator credential
Certified Family Life Educators typically provide information to families through an educational approach, often in a classroom-type setting or through educational materials.
Attainment of the CFLE certification can be embedded within the four-year HDFS degree and does not require additional classes or semesters. However, it does require careful and specific scheduling of classes with an academic adviser.
Learn more on the Certified Family Life Educator page.
You might like this program if...
- You have always been curious about human behavior and family relationships, and how people relate to one another
- You are passionate about pursuing a career in which you develop, implement or evaluate interventions designed to improve the lives of individuals and families
- You plan to pursue one of the many careers in which an understanding of individual and family development across the lifespan would be useful (e.g., counseling, education, health professions, business, policy/advocacy)
- You plan to pursue a graduate or professional degree and wish to establish foundational knowledge of the complexity of individual and family development across the life span