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Most schools have rolling admissions and financial help so you can start your degree in a few weeks!

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 your career 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. Overall, employment opportunities in this field are projected to grow faster than the national average over the next decade. Individuals working in social services and community support occupations make an average annual salary of $49,380. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition for graduate degree programs in the U.S. is $20,513.

Human and family development coursework integrates well with remote learning formats, and individuals can typically continue working professionally while earning their degree. You can complete your online master’s in human and family development in one to two years if you attend school full-time.

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 career goals.

Research schools and programs

You should only consider institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Also, research the following questions:

  • 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 programs mandate an internship or capstone experience/thesis. These practical components help you apply your theoretical knowledge to a real-world context.

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Application requirements vary by school and program, though few online master’s in human and family development programs require standardized test scores as part of their admissions process. 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. You may need to submit an essay or personal statement as well.

Before submitting an application, always contact an admissions counselor to ensure you have the most accurate information regarding requirements and deadlines.

Select your program

Before deciding where you will apply to, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Are you only interested in 100% online programs, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a few in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer?

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

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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 or a Master of Arts.

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 an Online Master’s in Human and Family Development Program?

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 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.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Human and Family Development?

Career outlook

There are a wide variety of career paths available in the field of human and family development.

If you would like to work directly for your local community, you can find employment opportunities in settings such as schools, hospitals, and substance abuse treatment centers. With a graduate degree, you may be able to find work in research settings as well.

To give you an even better sense of what a master’s in human and family development can do for you, here are some of the most common occupations and job responsibilities for workers who have earned this degree:

  • Marriage or family therapist — Help clients work through issues in their family or relationship dynamics.
    • Median annual salary: $56,570
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 15%
    • New job openings projected: 5,900 annually
  • School or career counselor — School counselors help students develop academic and social skills, while career counselors assist students with choosing an occupation and taking the steps needed to reach their career goals.
    • Median annual salary: $60,140
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 5%
    • New job openings projected: 26,600 annually
  • Social worker — Help individuals and families deal with problems in their everyday lives, such as health, behavioral, and financial issues.
    • Median annual salary: $55,350
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 7%
    • New job openings projected: 63,800 annually

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?

The average tuition for graduate degree programs in the U.S. is $20,513. Public schools tend to be much more affordable than private schools. And at public schools, the tuition is typically lower for in-state students than out-of-state students. 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.

Is an online master’s in human and family development worth it?

A master’s in human and family development opens the door to opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise be able to pursue. Indeed, from family therapy to career advising to rehabilitation counseling, there are many occupations within the field of community and social service that typically require a master’s degree for even entry-level jobs.

Also, earning your degree online may be a better option than attending an in-person program. Online degrees are considered just as valuable as traditional degrees by most employers, and the flexibility of online programs makes them an ideal choice for students who have busy schedules due to work or family commitments.

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