Earning an Online Human Development
and Family Studies Bachelor’s Degree

A changing social and political landscape always affects individual health and well-being, family dynamics, and community stability. A dynamic society presents a wealth of opportunities for professionals to provide support and solutions to people young and old. If you possess a strong sense of empathy and want to help improve the lives of others, then a career in human development and family studies may be an ideal fit. Earning a bachelor's degree helps candidates stand out in a competitive job market. This page presents information on choosing an online bachelor's degree in human development and family studies, career and salary opportunities in the field, and steps to prepare for application to a program.

Overview of Human Development and Family Studies Degrees

Human development and family studies centers on individuals and families, including the physiological and social influences that impact their physical and behavioral development. Experts in the field pay attention to stressors that may affect individuals' and families' development and propose solutions to promote well-being.

An online human development and family studies degree provides the preparation needed to work with people in a variety of environments, like schools and healthcare facilities. Students graduate with the skills to design and implement interventions that improve lives.

Most online degrees in human development and family studies require an in-person field or internship experience, usually during the last year or semester of study. Students already working in the field may complete these requirements through their current employer. An academic adviser can also help students identify other experiential opportunities.

An online bachelor's degree provides a pathway for first-time students and students with previous college experience. This degree prepares students to take on roles as social workers and human resources managers. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that positions in this field, such as social work, will grow faster than average over the next decade.

Application Process

Admission requirements for online human development and family studies degrees are similar between schools. First-time students should prepare to submit their high school transcripts, while transfer students should provide all other official college or university transcripts. In addition, programs typically require students to submit ACT or SAT test score results. Test score waivers may apply to returning students or students who graduated high school five or more years ago.

Most bachelor's programs require an online application. Application fees vary by school, but generally range from $25 to $50. In addition, schools may require a personal statement or letter of recommendation as part of the application process. These recommendations may come from a current or former teacher, supervisor, or another mentor outside of a student's family or friends.

What Will I Learn?

Students in a human development and family studies program can expect to learn about the science behind human development; the dynamics of groups and familial relationships; and the design, implementation, and management of interventions. Depending on the program, students may study specific service settings, such as serving in schools or assisting military families. Curricula may also include statistics and research methods courses.

An online bachelor's in human development and family studies typically requires a minimum of 120 credits to graduate, though some programs may require as few as 42 credits. Additionally, most programs expect students to complete at least half of the required credits through that specific school.

Adolescent and Early Adult Development

This course covers the physiological, cognitive, and social-emotional development of adolescents, with a focus on the effects of peer and family relationships. Student learn how to investigate and address issues that can arise around gender and identity, culture, and race and ethnicity. Coursework prepares students to effectively communicate about development with young people and their families.

Family and Relationship Studies

Students in this course examine the factors and environments that impact couples and families over time. As they evaluate theories and empirical evidence, students also learn how to compare and make sense of multiple perspectives around relationship dynamics and issues. Students leave the course knowing how to help families and couples, solve problems, and set goals.


In preparation for working with parents and families in a variety of social contexts, this course includes a broad study of how individuals and couples parent. Course content also delves into the risks and benefits of different family structures. Students learn about theoretical and practical approaches to supporting and helping improve family dynamics.

Applied Research Methods

This course looks at the various scientific approaches to helping improve and solve problems in the human development and family services field. Students learn how to conduct different research methods. Coursework also covers how to use data analytics software to help make sense of research findings and how to communicate and present findings to other professionals.

Administration of Human Services Programs

Students focus on developing and operating effective human services programs in a variety of community settings. Coursework explores the fundamentals of planning, development of program content, and administration of a program. Students will gain the knowledge and skills needed to advance in the field and serve in management-level roles.

Intervention and Prevention Science

Coursework discusses intervention and prevention approaches for addressing the mental and emotional health of individuals and families. Students learn how to analyze a situation based on a variety of environmental, cultural, and personal factors before applying an effective prevention or intervention strategy.

What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies?

If you want a career working directly with individuals, families, and communities, then an online bachelor's degree in human development and family studies may be an ideal option. The following sections provide additional insight into the variety of career pathways and salaries that exist in the human development field. In addition to professional guidance, you will also find information on what type of accreditation to look for when choosing an online bachelor's degree in human development and family studies.

Core Skills

A human development and family studies degree online provides students with the content, skills, and hands-on training needed to work with individuals across the developmental spectrum. Students develop a theoretical and pragmatic understanding of the dynamics of social and family relationships, and learn how to apply that expertise in practice. In addition, internships help students build and refine the communication and collaboration skills critical to working with a diverse population.

Academic and real-world experiences also give students insight into current processes and policies in the field. This knowledge, combined with strong communication and leadership skills, allows graduates to effectively advocate for stronger policies for individuals and families in healthcare and business settings. As practitioners, students also explore how to evaluate research findings and apply those findings in their chosen line of work, a particularly useful skill for counseling and education professionals.

Potential Careers and Salaries

A bachelor's in human development and family studies can prepare students for careers across various industries. Graduates may find entry-level positions in counseling , social work, and healthcare. Experience in a particular field can help individuals determine whether they'd like to complete further certification or graduate-level study to advance their career.

Students and recent graduates may also pursue research or teaching assistant opportunities at the university level, which typically requires a Ph.D. For graduates interested in teaching and education, entry-level options to work with young people or adults exist in many settings. Students can also find nonprofit and business career opportunities in areas like human resources or program management.

Career Profiles

Human Resources (HR) Manager

Annual Median Salary: $110,120

Human resources managers oversee the hiring and training of staff and coordinate administrative functions, such as employee benefits. They also intervene, as needed, to mediate employee disputes and consult employers on issues like equal employment and sexual harassment. Some positions may require a master's degree.

Child, Family, or School Social Worker

Annual Median Salary: $48,382

Social workers visit and observe individuals and families in their everyday settings. They assess social, psychological, and other influences to determine if any external factors may hinder overall well-being. School social workers specifically visit classrooms to help identify at-risk children.

Registered Behavior Technician

Annual Median Salary: $30,903

Registered behavior technicians assist licensed healthcare professionals with assessing a client's behavioral development and designing or delivering treatments. Technicians may help individuals who experience challenges from different causes, such as brain injury or alzheimer's disease.

Adoption Counselor

Annual Median Salary: $38,500

An adoption counselor assists families or individuals throughout the adoption process. They conduct interviews, perform in-home studies, and provide adoption referrals. Adoption counselors may also work directly with birth parents, connecting them with community, counseling, and other social services.

Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Human Development and Family Studies?

A bachelor's degree in human development and family studies can open the door to many entry and mid-level careers. While this degree serves as a foundation for advanced study, students who hold a bachelor's degree do not always need further education to become a leader in their field. Dedicated time spent working in a particular business, healthcare, or nonprofit organization can prepare professionals for a variety of management-level careers.

Many states grant professional social work licensure to bachelor's degree holders who complete requirements. However, some mid-level and leadership careers, like counseling, require a graduate-level degree. Students should research the level of education required for their prospective careers before deciding on an online program.

Accreditation for Human Development and Family Studies Bachelor’s Programs

Businesses and organizations typically hire employees with accredited bachelor's degrees. Accreditation serves as a quality indicator for a school's curriculum and instructional quality. School accreditation remains essential for a human development and family studies degree. Many accredited schools hold regional accreditation from an agency like the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Career-focused or distance-learning institutions may also hold national accreditation from an agency like the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

Programmatic accreditation for a human development and family studies program is not as essential as school accreditation. However, students who plan to work directly with individuals and families may need to look for accreditation from an agency like the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences or the National Council on Family Relations.

Human Development and Family Studies Professional Organizations

Joining a professional human development and family studies organization as a student offers several benefits. Conferences, local events, and online forums provide networking and career development opportunities. Developing professional relationships can open doors for mentorships, internships, and references after graduation. Members also receive access to leading research publications, with updates on the latest studies and policies in the field. Some organizations offer discounted memberships to students.

American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences:
AAFCS brings together professionals who assist individuals, families, and communities. The organization's core values include recognizing family as a core unit of society and valuing diversity. Members receive a subscription to a professional journal, free webinar registration, and discounted registration for the AAFCS annual conference.

National Council on Family Relations:
Founded in 1938, NCFR promotes family life education through research and public policy. Members include educators, counselors, and many other professionals and activists worldwide. Membership benefits boast access to NCFR academic journals, a dedicated jobs board, and opportunities to present research at NCFR's annual conference.

Society for Research in Child Development:
Rooted in research on child development, SRCD works to disseminate and synthesize research findings for further study and application in the field. Any individual interested in this research can apply for membership, which includes subscriptions to multiple publications and discounted registration for organization events.