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Bachelor of Science Degrees

New students and students transferring into the HDFS major should contact Devon Thomas ( for more information.

HDFS Program Description

This major is a multidisciplinary program that examines the development of individuals and families across the life span. It enables students to prepare for professional, managerial, or scientific roles in health and human services professions, in public and nonprofit agencies, and in business and industry, as well as for advanced professional or graduate study. Students obtain a broad background in individual and family development across the life span. Courses emphasize biological psychological, social/cultural, and economic aspects of development. Through coursework and undergraduate internships or research projects, students develop skills relevant to career objectives, such as counseling, human assessment, program planning and evaluation, and research.

For recommended academic plans and degree audits, go to the College of HHD Handbook. The Undergraduate Degree Programs Bulletin (bluebook) contains the details regarding HDFS major and option requirements. For information on General Education requirements, please refer to General Education page. For information on major requirements which also fulfill general education requirements, please consult the General Education Requirements chart for the College of Health and Human Development.

Two options are available within the major:

Life Span Human Services Option

This option focuses on the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge about development and family functioning across the life span for the purposes of enhancing personal and family development. Courses emphasize:

  1. Understanding the biological, psychological, and social development across the life span, and the structuring and functioning of families;
  2. Understanding basic theoretical and methodological issues;and
  3. The development of applied skills in intervention and evaluation, prevention, and in the formulation of social policy.

An approved field experience in a setting that serves children, youth, adults, or the aged is required for this option. Typical employment settings include preschools, daycare centers, hospital programs for children, youth, and families, institutional and community mental health programs for individuals and families, programs for abused or neglected children and adolescents, women's resource centers, human resources programs, employee assistance programs, nursing homes, area agencies on aging and other community settings for older adults, and public welfare and family service agencies. Typical postgraduate pursuits of students completing this option include graduate study in human development, family studies, psychology, or sociology, or advanced professional training in psychology, law, behavioral health, counseling or social work.

PROGRAM GOALS -- HDFS graduates within the Lifespan Human Services (LSHS) option will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the complexity of individual and family development across the life span in diverse contexts and changing environments.
  2. Demonstrate an ability to evaluate and apply research and theory to practice and policy.
  3. Analyze processes, policies and contextual factors that affect the delivery of human services to individuals and families.
  4. Demonstrate professional, ethical, and culturally sensitive standards of conduct.
  5. Demonstrate knowledge and competence in helping, leadership, and administrative skills for human services.

Life Span Developmental Science Option

Life Span Developmental Science Option Guide

This option focuses on the understanding of contemporary methodological approaches to the acquisition of scientific knowledge about individual and family development over the life span and about family development. This option provides preparation for advanced training in careers in developmental or family research, teaching at a college or university, or for professional careers that require graduate training. Courses within this option emphasize a thorough understanding of the theory and methods of developmental and family theory and research. An approved, multi-semester research practicum (HDFS 494) that includes a research paper is an integral component of this option. Typical postgraduate pursuits of students completing this option include graduate study in human development, family studies, psychology, or sociology, or advanced professional training in psychology, law, behavioral health, social work, or in other programs related to services for individuals and families.

Concurrent Majors in HDFS and Childhood & Early Adolescent Education

Recommended Academic Plan: /media/studentservices/handbook/files/HDFS_CEAED_Academic_Plan.pdf

The HDFS/CEAED(PK-4) was created by the department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) and the College of Education to provide students with an opportunity to explore the wide range of career options available to HDFS graduates while also considering whether to become a certified teacher of elementary education. If you have been thinking of a career working with children between the ages of 0 – 10, and think you might like a career in the Human Services field (Counselor, Social Worker, etc.) OR a career as a teacher of young children in daycare, community preschool, or preschool through grade 4 in the public schools, then this opportunity may be for you. This program is ideally suited for students entering their first year at Penn State. Students may enter this program either through the HDFS program or the CEAED major (PK-4) option.

Optional Program Emphasis

Some of the most common career pathways pursued by HDFS students have been organized into optional areas of emphasis described below. Emphases are used by faculty and advisors to highlight how you can tailor your coursework, student activities, volunteer work, internships, and research opportunities to help you reach your career goals. The selection of an emphasis is optional. Students should work with faculty, advisors, and career services staff to maximize the opportunities presented in HDFS and beyond.

  • Addressing Individual and Family Problems: providing direct services to individuals and families facing a variety of problems, typically within community-based organizations or social service agencies
  • Health, Wellness, and Prevention: promoting positive cognitive, social-emotional and physical health and development in individuals and families
  • Advocacy and Policy: providing leadership in non-profit or government settings focused on promoting better policies or services for specific individual, family or community issues
  • Business, Technology, and Service Innovation: Working in business or non-profit settings to manage human resources or volunteers or to leverage technology to provide innovative services to individuals and families
  • HDFS Emphasis in Human Resources Guide

Please see your HDFS advisor to learn more about which optional emphases are available at your campus and to learn how to use an emphasis to tailor your HDFS studies to help you reach your goals.

Associate Degrees

This major integrates practical and academic experiences to provide the student with entry-level professional competence in the human service field. The objective of the major is to offer a general education background, a knowledge base in life span and family development, and a core of professional skills that may be applied in program planning and service delivery activities. The major is offered full-time and part-time, in the evening, and through independent learning. Associate Degrees in HDFS are offered at the Colleges and campuses listed below.

For the Associate in Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies, a minimum of 60 credits is required. he Associates Degree in Human Development and Family Studies (2EHFS_AS) is not available at University Park. Students may look at the information provided by Penn State World Campus to inquire if this is a good fit for them.

At Commonwealth Campuses

At University Park

Recommended Academic Plan


Penn State World Campus


The HDFS minor can be completed at any campus location that offers courses specified to the minor.

A minor in HDFS can be useful for many different kinds of students, including those studying education, liberal arts, and business. From learning how human beings develop over their life spans to resolving family conflict, students can complement their primary interests with knowledge and skills about the ways people think, behave, and interact over their lives. Students in other social science majors have found that HDFS complements their interests. For instance, many psychology students appreciate the focus on ecological contexts of development, whereas many sociology students appreciate the focus on interpersonal processes.

Students are required to take 18 credits of HDFS courses to complete an HDFS minor. A grade of C or better is required for all courses in the minor. Students must take HD FS 129, the introductory course to the minor. Students then complete 9 credits of HDFS courses from any level and 6 credits of HDFS courses from the 400-level. More information about courses can be found on the courses page. Students are encouraged to tailor the focus of their minor to complement their major programs.