Why This Matters


    A master’s in human and family development is a versatile degree that can prepare you for entry or advancement in many fields including education, child welfare, community and social services, management, and more.


    As individuals and families grapple with issues like drug abuse, PTSD, and poverty, more people trained in human and family development are needed to assist these populations, creating about 306,200 new jobs.


    To rise to a management position in social and community services, you typically need a master’s. These positions pay an annual median wage of $65,320, compared to $44,630 for bachelor’s level social services positions.

Our Research

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.

  • 32 hours to write this article
  • 119 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 327 education programs we compared

The Top 32 Online Master’s in Human and Family Development Degree Programs

Best Online Master's in Human and Family Development Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

Human and family development is a broad term that encompasses different areas of study, including early childhood, youth, and adolescent development, gerontology, lifespan development, family studies, counseling, psychology, and more. Regardless of the specific focus area, all of these types of programs are concerned with how humans develop and interact on cognitive, emotional, physical, and other levels.

These programs are ideal for students who want to work with people in support, advocacy, or management capacities. However, they generally do not lead to the types of credentials that are needed for some human and social services professions. For example, individuals who are interested in becoming licensed therapists or counselors should seek a master’s in counseling or a master’s in marriage and family therapy program that prepares graduates for professional licensure. Consider your personal interests and career goals, and research what type of educational background is necessary to achieve them.

Many online programs have an experiential learning component that involves working with individuals and groups, even if coursework is delivered online. As you research programs, find out what the specific experiential requirements are, and consider how they will fit into your schedule. If you are already working in a human services setting, you may be able to use regular work hours to fulfill these requirements.

What’s Next?

When researching online master’s in human and family development programs, you can ask the following questions:

  • Can I pursue the specialization I want? Because human and family development is such a broad field, many master’s in human and family development programs give students the opportunity to concentrate on a particular area. Concentration areas can include gerontology, family science, and early childhood mental health. If you are interested in pursuing a specialization, be sure to select a program that will give you that option.
  • How are online courses delivered? Online programs are usually delivered in one of two ways. In synchronous courses, students attend class remotely at set times. Asynchronous classes are more flexible, as students can access lessons and assignments at any time. Decide which type of delivery method works best for you based on your schedule before selecting a program.

Other steps you can take at this time include gathering application materials as well as confirming application deadlines and procedures. You should also think about how you will finance your graduate education. Research student loans, institutional and outside scholarships, and tuition assistance benefits if you are currently employed.