Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies

This major is a multidisciplinary program that examines the development of individuals and families across the life span. It enables students to prepare for professional, managerial, or scientific roles in health and human services professions, in public and nonprofit agencies, and in business and industry, as well as for advanced professional or graduate study. Students obtain a broad background in individual and family development across the life span. Courses emphasize biological, psychological, social/cultural, and economic aspects of development. Through course work and undergraduate internships or research projects, students develop skills relevant to career objectives, such as counseling, human assessment, program planning and evaluation, and research.

Penn State Harrisburg offers the Life Span Human Service Option of Human Development and Family Studies. This option focuses on the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge about development and family functioning across the life span for the purposes of enhancing personal and family development. Courses emphasize: (1) understanding the biological, psychological, and social development across the life span, and the structuring and functioning of families; (2) understanding basic theoretical and methodological issues; and (3) the development of applied skills in intervention and evaluation, prevention, and in the formulation of social policy. An approved field experience in a setting that serves children, youth, adults, or the aged is required for this option.

For a B.S. degree in Human Development and Family Studies, a minimum of 120 credits is required.

Career Opportunities

Typical employment settings include preschools, daycare centers, hospital programs for children, youth, and families, institutional and community mental health programs for individuals and families, programs for abused or neglected children and adolescents, women's resource centers, human resources programs, employee assistance programs, nursing homes, area agencies on aging and other community settings for older adults, and public welfare and family service agencies. A comprehensive list of occupational opportunities is available online.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008-2009 handbook, job growth for human service workers will be above average through 2016. Job prospects are especially excellent for those with post secondary education.

Graduate Study

The HDFS major is excellent preparation for graduate school in social work, human development and family studies, psychology, community psychology and other fields. Students with these goals are encouraged to speak with their faculty adviser as soon as possible to receive support toward preparing a course of study.


Human Development and Family Studies students are required to gain experience through an internship with an agency matching their interests and goals. The internship experience involves a three course sequence of which 6-8 credits must be earned in an agency. Additional information on internship planning and opportunities is available from the program office.

Student Organizations

Students are encouraged to join organizations related to their education and profession. HDFS majors may consider Pi Gamma Mu, an organization that recognizes scholastic achievement. Membership is given by invitation to students who have achieved at least a B average. The International Affairs Association promotes international and cross-cultural interaction through the sponsorship of activities such as the global pursuit tournament, fall international dinner and folk dance, and the Penn State Harrisburg Model United Nations Conference.

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