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Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies

MS students are enrolled in a Plan A Master’s program, meaning they complete a Master’s thesis. MS students work closely with a faculty mentor (committee chair) and at least two other committee members on the research for their thesis. Depending on student and faculty interest, availability of existing data, and a number of other factors, a student may develop his or her own independent research project under the oversight of faculty, and/or the student may work with faculty on existing studies. Therefore, understanding the research interests (specializations) of our faculty may be of interest for prospective MS 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. Recipients of HDFS MS degree may also qualify for careers involving research. MS and MMFT graduates with the Marriage and Family Therapy specialty qualify for careers in therapy.

How To Apply

HDFS Research


Areas of Specialization

Coursework and faculty expertise provide a strong foundation for five program specializations 

  • Marriage and Family Relationships
  • Human Development Specializations
    • Infancy and Childhood
    • Adolescence and Youth
    • Adult Development and Aging
  • Family Finance
  • Marriage and Family Therapy (option for students admitted into the MFT program. See

Marriage and Family Relationships

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.


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
  • Teaching at colleges and universities
  • Administration for local, state, and federal government (agencies that advocate for individuals and families)

Human Development Specializations

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. 

Family Financial Issues

Areas of study include: family finance, financial coaching, financial health, family economic issues across the lifespan, and economic issues related to aging.


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

  • Extension positions (family finance, financial counseling)
  • Teaching at colleges and universities
  • Administration for local, state, and federal government (agencies that advocate for consumers) 

Marriage and Family Therapy

A Master’s of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy means that a student participates in a Master’s thesis (Plan A). The MS and MMFT specializations complete the requirements to be a Marriage and Family Therapist. This specialization provides professional and research development for students who are primarily interested in marriage and family therapy as a career.

Students are provided with opportunities to achieve the basic academic and initial clinical practice requirements for Utah state licensure as marriage and family therapists and for clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.  This degree program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. Graduates in the MFT specialization are competitive for positions as therapists in state and private therapy agencies and in residential treatment facilities for adults and adolescents

This specialization requires additional application materials beyond what is required for other MS specializations.

Clinical/research areas of focus are: medical family therapy/collaborative health care, play therapy, attachment-based therapy, and addictions and violence.   

CORE REQUIREMENTS (18 Credits Minimum) Credits
HDFS 6060 Human Development Theories 3
HDFS 6070 Family Theories 3
HDFS 6031 Research Methods 3
XXXX XXX Statistics 3
HDFS 6970 Thesis 6
HDFS 6960 Graduate Student Orientation 1a
HDFS 6961 Introduction to Teaching in HDFS 1a
PICK ONE (3 Credits Minimum) Credits
HDFS 6010 Survey of Family Relations Research 3
HDFS 6020 Survey of Human Development Research 3
HDFS 6040 Survey of Family Economics Research 3
SPECIALIZATION (6 Credits Minimum) Credits
HDFS 5460 Financial Counseling Certification  3
HDFS 6200* Topical Seminar HDFS 3
HDFS 6210 Cultural Diversity 3
HDFS 6220 Interpersonal Relationships 3
HDFS 6230 Social Policy 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 (3 Credits Minimum)b

Table Footnotes

For MS students with MFT specializations see the MFT page for coursework

* Course is repeatable for credit

a Required for teaching and/or research assistantship: Course credit does not count toward degree requirements

b Electives may include any of the specialization courses, or courses from other departments as approved by your Supervisory Committee

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 doctoral-level 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.