Skip to main content
teacher with students

Master of Human Development and Family Studies (MHDFS)

The Master of Human Development and Family Studies (MHDFS) students are enrolled in a Plan C Master’s program, meaning they do not complete a Master’s thesis. In place of a thesis, they participate in a graduate practicum and they complete a capstone paper or projects.

The MHDFS program is designed to prepare students for professional roles providing education and services to individuals and families in applied settings. The MHDFS is a practice-oriented degree especially suitable for individuals already working in the family or social services sectors, education, or corrections, and for those who seek employment in applied settings. The MHDFS is not a therapy training degree; a person completing this degree is not eligible to become a licensed therapist or counselor. The MHDFS program will, however, provide excellent preparation for those wanting to gain a greater understanding of children, youth, and families in order to optimize their ability to provide services and education. MHDFS students work closely with one faculty mentor to develop their own independent capstone project. Because an MHDFS student specializes in a project under the mentorship of a faculty member, understanding the research interests (specializations) of our faculty may be of interest for prospective MHDFS applicants.

HDFS specializations are studied in the context of current issues affecting individuals and families. Master’s level graduates qualify for careers in teaching, extension, administration, prevention and intervention programs, financial counseling, and agencies serving consumers, individuals, families, and children.

How To Apply

HDFS Research


Areas of Specialization

Coursework and faculty expertise provide a strong foundation in the following areas: 

  • Family Relations 
  • Human Development through the Lifespan 
    • Infancy and Childhood 
    • Adolescence and Youth
    • Adult Development and Aging  

Family Relations

Couples, Marriage, and Family Relationships 

Areas of study include: couples, marital formation, marriage and family interaction, parenthood, the interface of marriage and family relationships with other social structures, family crises, and various forms of marriage and family. Examples of current research opportunities include marital adjustment in the early years of marriage, marital quality in diverse populations, and remarriage and stepfamily research.   

Financial and Consumer Issues 

Areas of study include: family finance, financial coaching, housing, and economic issues related to aging. 


Master’s degree graduates in this specialization are competitive for careers including:

  • Research for state and federal agencies
  • Program development
  • Family life education
  • Extension positions (family finance, financial counseling)
  • Teaching at colleges and universities
  • Administration for local, state, and federal government (agencies that advocate for individuals, families, children, and/or consumers.  

Human Development through the Lifespan

Infancy and Childhood 

Areas of study include biological, psychological, and social development from birth through the school-age years.  Examples of current research opportunities include infant attachment, social development and competence, language development, early parent-child interaction, and developmentally appropriate practice.    

Youth and Adolescence 

Areas of study include biological, psychological, and social development of youth and teens as they interact with their families, peers, the educational system, and social institutions pertaining to achieving maturity in a modern world.  Examples of current research opportunities include parenting of early adolescents, substance abuse, social media, cognitive autonomy, social media, adolescent environments, and identity development.    

Adult Development and Aging 

Areas of study include biological, psychological, and social development of young, middle-aged, and older adults as they develop within the context of families, the work environment, social institutions, health, and the larger social structure.  Examples of current research opportunities include health and well-being of family members caring for older adults, the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, quality of life for persons with dementia, how stress and other psychosocial factors influence psychological, physical, and cognitive health in older adults, intergenerational relations, and economic issues relevant to aging individuals.    


Master’s degree graduates in this specialization are competitive for careers including:

  • Teaching/lecturer positions at colleges and universities
  • Administration and program development positions in preschools
  • Residential treatment centers
  • Rape prevention educators
  • After school programs
  • Program evaluation
  • Organize and manage volunteer programs (after school programs, mentors, big brothers/sisters)
  • Extension (4-H)
  • Senior centers
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Non-profit organizations benefitting older adults; division of aging services; and extension programs; and as health promotion educators. 
CORE REQUIREMENTS (24 Credits) Credits
HDFS 6060 Human Development Theories 3
HDFS 6070 Family Theories 3
HDFS 6031 Research Methods 3
XXXX XXX Statistics 3
HDFS 6500** Capstone Project 3
HDFS 6980 Graduate Practicum (see Major Advisor) 3
HDFS 6010 Survey of Family Relations Research 3
HDFS 6020 Survey of Human Development Research 3
SPECIALIZATION (3 Credits Minimum) Credits
HDFS 6200* Topical Seminar HDFS 3
HDFS 6210 Cultural Diversity 3
HDFS 6220 Interpersonal Relationships 3
HDFS 6230 Social Policy 3
HDFS 6050 Family Economics across the Lifespan 3
HDFS 6045 Financial Health 3
HDFS 6510 Infancy 3
HDFS 6520 Early Childhood 3
HDFS 6530 Adolescence 3
HDFS 6540 Adult Development/Aging 3
HDFS 6910 Parenting 3
ELECTIVES (6 Credits Minimum)a

Table Footnotes

* Course is repeatable for credit
**Formerly HDFS 6900

a Electives may include any of the specialization courses, or courses from other departments as approved by your MHDFS Major Advisor.

For more information on when courses are offered, please see the Graduate Course Offerings page.

Financial Assistance

Admission to the program does not guarantee financial support, however, many of our MS students receive financial support while in the program, if they desire. 

Individuals admitted into the graduate program (including presently enrolled graduate students) interested in being considered for teaching and/or research assistantships must complete and return the form emailed by the Graduate Program Coordinator in the prior semester.


Teaching Assistantships (TA) and Research Assistantships (RA) are available for Master’s students who wish to perform teaching or research services to the department, in return for salary.

Our department commits to supporting interested MS students .25 time (10 hours a week) during the first year of study. In Year 2 the student may receive a TA or RA as well, but this is dependent on available funds.

Fellowships and Scholarships

Fellowships and scholarships from both the department and college are also available for well-qualified graduate students. Fellowships are financial awards and recognition that require no service from the recipient. Students are encouraged to establish residency (after the completion of 18 graduate credits) within the first 12 consecutive months in Utah, as they may be eligible for additional scholarships if they are in-state residents.

Awards are given on an annual basis typically these scholarships range in awards of several hundred to several thousand dollars.