Discover More Programs

A master’s in human and family development prepares students to support individuals and family units across several sectors, including education and social services. This degree is for empathetic individuals seeking the theoretical frameworks and practical skills to assist children and families struggling with substance abuse, community needs, mental health, and poverty. However, while these online programs can help you advance in the field and secure leadership positions, they are not designed for licensure in the counseling field.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics outlines several professions related to community and social services. Projection data suggests that employment opportunities in this field will grow faster than the national average (as much as 10%) over the next decade. Individuals working in social services and community support occupations make an annual salary of $48,000.

The average tuition for an online master’s in human and family development is around $15,000, which is lower than many graduate degree options. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition for graduate programs in the U.S. is nearly $20,000. Moreover, human and family development coursework integrates well with remote learning formats, and individuals can typically continue working professionally while completing their degree. You can complete your online master’s in human and family development in one to two years.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Human And Family Development Program

Choose your area of study

Before applying to a program, identify a focus area and outline your goals. Most applicants have some professional experience in the field to help gauge the direction in which they’d like to hone their graduate work.

Your first choice will be a Master of Science, a Master of Arts, or a Master of Education. The type of degree largely depends on the school and focus. Master of Arts programs lean on the humanities, whereas Master of Science programs tend to be more research- and data-driven. Master of Education programs teach coursework through the specific perspective of that field and would be appropriate for those already serving in an educational capacity. Overall, the academic requirements are similar.

From there, each degree houses specific concentrations besides the core coursework. Typical concentrations include mental health and trauma, gerontology, family science, marriage and family therapy, and youth development. Institutions offer different concentrations, so narrow down the programs with the faculty and coursework that match your professional goals. Some programs, such as a Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE), can lead to a professional certification credential.

Research schools and programs

After determining the programs that best meet your needs, it’s time to research and compare their support services and opportunities.

  • Is the school accredited? There is no official accrediting agency for human and family development degrees, but an accrediting agency should recognize the school. If your program falls under a social work umbrella, you should look for programs with accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
  • What is the online format? Some online programs for this field are asynchronous, and some are more interactive. Many programs are cohort-based and feature occasional in-person fieldwork. Choose the best course delivery for your schedule and learning aptitudes.
  • Does the school provide support for online students? Look for programs that offer supplemental tutoring, career coaching, mental health resources, tech support, and other services for online attendees.
  • What professional development or networking opportunities does the program feature? Most online master’s in human and family development mandate an internship or capstone experience/thesis. These practical components help you apply your theoretical knowledge to a real-world context.

To find the answers to these questions, browse the program website and attend an information session. If you have any specific concerns or accommodation needs, connect with an admissions counselor or advisor for the program.

Prepare for tests and applications

Few online master’s in human and family development require standardized test scores as part of their admissions process. However, preparing your application materials will still take some time; official transcripts and letters of recommendation can take several weeks to procure. International students or non-native English speakers should review each program for any additional requirements or testing.

Select your program

Double-check the application deadline once you’ve selected the program or programs that best meet your professional, personal, and financial needs. Many programs, especially those with more asynchronous coursework, facilitate a rolling admissions structure. However, more cohort-based coursework will likely have a firm deadline by which you must submit application materials.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

The first step in determining how to pay for your master’s degree is to complete the FAFSA. This form will help you ascertain the federal aid you qualify for, even if you don’t need it. If you currently work in a field related to human and family development, you should discuss your academic goals with your employer; they may be able to provide some tuition assistance.

Master’s programs are a big financial commitment, but most schools have staff ready to help you develop a payment strategy. Speak with your chosen program’s financial aid counselor or admissions counselor. These individuals can help identify any scholarships, grants, or assistantships that could also cover a portion of the cost (though these are less common and highly competitive at the graduate level).

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Human And Family Development Programs

Best Online Master's in Human and Family Development Degree Programs

NC State University

Vanderbilt Peabody College

Texas Tech University

Oklahoma State University

University of Missouri

University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Kansas State University

Iowa State University

Concordia University Wisconsin

Arizona State University

Murray State University

Texas Woman’s University

Bryan College

Pacific Oaks College

University of Colorado Denver

North Dakota State University

Missouri State University

University of Rochester Warner School of Education

Discover More Options

How We Rank Schools

For this list, we looked at programs that cover human lifespan development and family studies. The most common degrees students can earn in these subjects are a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Arts (MA).

One of our main criteria was that programs deliver their coursework completely or primarily online, allowing students to enroll in the program regardless of their schedule or geographic location. Some programs can be completed through a combination of online and on-campus coursework.

All of the schools on our list are regionally accredited, meaning they meet high standards of quality for postsecondary education. Degrees and credits from regionally accredited schools are the most widely recognized and transferable.

We evaluated each program on the basis of cost, outcomes, faculty, flexibility, and reputation. Then we calculated an Intelligent Score for each on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect From Online Master’s in Human And Family Development Degree

An online master’s in human and family development is a multidisciplinary degree that touches the humanities, social work, counseling, and education. It’s a beneficial degree for current professionals working in schools, child care, nursing homes, adoption agencies, community planning, or a coaching role.

Most programs take less than two years to complete. The content translates well to an online format, so working adults can take advantage of the flexibility that remote learning offers. However, some programs are more structured and include occasional in-person, cohort-based activities. Nearly all programs feature a capstone project or internship component.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in human and family development program

  • Child Development Theory and Research. Students will analyze current theories related to child social, physical, and cognitive development.
  • Global Perspective of Child and Family. Participants compare child development and parenting between different cultures worldwide.
  • Family Diversity. Coursework focuses on the meaning of family, with attention to interpretations among marginalized populations.
  • Aging in Families and Society. Graduate students explore the issues and impact of aging, specifically focusing on research and policy.

Online Master’s in Human And Family Development Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master's in human and family development degree program?

Online master’s in human and family development programs have slightly different requirements, so take some time to research each graduate school’s admissions instructions. This information is available through the program website. In general, you will need to submit:

  • A completed application form (with a fee)
  • Official copies of your undergraduate transcripts
  • A personal statement
  • A resume
  • Professional or academic letters of recommendation

Many programs list a minimum GPA for your undergraduate work. If you fall below the threshold, contact an admissions counselor to determine your eligibility.

How much does an online master's in human and family development degree cost?

According to U.S. News & World Report, the average tuition for an online master’s in human and family development degree costs between $10,000 and $20,000. In-state tuition for online students is typically more affordable, especially at public universities. However, some online programs charge flat tuition, no matter your residency. You should ask your advisor about transfer credit opportunities, especially if you have prior professional experience. Additionally, your current employer may have a tuition stipend.

Other costs besides tuition include books, personal technology needs, and travel (should your program feature in-person components).

How long does it take to earn an online master's in human and family development degree?

If you attend full-time, you can finish an online master’s in human and family development in one or two years. Most programs require 30 to 37 credit hours to graduate, so roughly 10 to 12 classes. Part-time students can likely graduate within two to three years. However, part-time students should connect with a financial aid counselor to discuss whether their status affects their eligibility for financial aid.