Graduate Program Overview

The Program

The HDFS graduate program helps students develop into exceptional researchers and scholars. Through coursework and assistantships, students develop critical thinking, writing, research, and teaching skills. Graduates become leaders in academia, government, or in applied and policy-related research institutes.

The HDFS Report: Claire Kamp Dush's Ranking of HDFS Programs in North America

Lifespan Approach

The graduate program takes a lifespan approach in its research areas. Students focus on two or more core research areas:

Cross Cutting Themes of Research

Across these core areas, students’ research specialization in one or more cross cutting themes occurs:

Adolescence and Young Adulthood
Child Maltreatment
Cognitive Health
Computational Methods for Developmental Systems Models
Determinants and Promotion of Well-Being
Development and Family Processes in International Contexts
Developmental Neuroscience
Family Systems and Processes
Gender and Development
Health and Family Processes
Healthy Aging
Influences of Stress on Development and Aging
Longitudinal Methodologies/Designs for Studying Change and Variability
Parenting, Parent-Child Relations, and Child Outcomes
Socio-Cultural and Economic Diversity
Substance Use
Work and Family

Supportive Environment

Both academically and interpersonally, the department maintains a supportive environment among its students, faculty, and staff.

Methods Training

Graduate students are required to take a sequence of 4 required methodology and statistics courses and 2 methods electives. The graduate program offers a range of advanced statistics classes. Recent offerings include: general linear mixed models, longitudinal structural equation modeling, person-specific analysis, dynamical systems analysis, latent class analysis, Bayesian data analysis, and data mining.


The HDFS program guarantees full tuition and a stipend to graduate students who are in good standing for their first four years of graduate training. Students who need more than four years to graduate and remaining in good standing with the program continue to receive funding beyond the fourth year. This funding generally comes in the form of a research and/or teaching assistantship. Graduate students have also been successful obtaining internal and external funding opportunities: Many students receive fellowships from the University or the College of Health and Human Development, and recently, 3 graduate students received F31’s, 2 graduate students received NSF’s. For more information, visit our funding page.

How to Apply

Applications for admission to the graduate school should be completed online. For more information on applying and to access the online application, please visit the Application Process page.

Graduate Student Productivity

Our graduate students are very successful at publishing papers during their time in the program: in the 2014-2015 academic year, HDFS graduate students authored 66 published papers. Recently, graduate students have published first-authored papers in a range of top-rated journals.

HDFS grad students are also successful at presenting their research at academic conferences and receive departmental funding for travel and conference registration. In the 2014-2015 academic year, 39 graduate students presented at academic conferences, including the Gerontological Society of America and Society for Research in Child Development.

Read about graduate student productivity.

Learn About Graduate Student Life

Learn about life in the Human Development and Family Studies graduate program. Meet some of our students and alumni. Read about professional and social experiences for HDFS students, and learn about life in State College in our Newsletter Library.


Find out what life is like after graduation. Read about the types of careers our alumni pursue, and their recent accomplishments.