BA in Human Development and Family Science (CHSS)

The HDFS curriculum prepares students to effectively engage with families across the lifespan and in a variety of service settings and professions, from early childhood education and care to family law and policy advocacy.

Students of human development and family science look at how people grow and how they form relationships throughout their lives. They explore the dynamics and relationships between people, families, communities, and society.

Students of human development and family science look at how people grow and how they form relationships throughout their lives. They explore the dynamics and relationships between people, families, communities, and society.

The Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) curriculum prepares students to effectively engage with families in a variety of service settings, including: childhood development, education and services; adolescent development and services; adult development and aging; and family health and well being.

Our family research, policy, and advocacy program also prepares students to critically analyze complex family issues, advocate for families in schools, communities, and in the policy arena, and address social factors contributing to and influencing family functioning, health, and well-being (e.g., poverty, immigration, family homelessness, family violence). Students are required to complete a 6-credit internship and integrate research training with service fieldwork. Such an experience is a critical component of HDFS student development and will further prepare our students for diverse careers in the human development and family science field.

The HDFS program is a joint academic degree program sponsored by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) and College of Education and Human Development (CEHD).

Internships

Internships are vital. Not only does participation in an internship make a student more career ready, but it can also be an avenue to a job.

Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) students complete a 6-credit internship and integrate research training with service fieldwork. Such an experience is a critical component of each of the HDFS concentrations and further prepares our students for graduate education and diverse careers in the human development and family science field.

Students have participated in internships at the following locations.

  • Northern Virginia Family Services
  • Bright Horizons Family Solutions (early child care and education program)
    American Institutes for Research
  • Virginia Tech Marriage and Family Therapy program (research assistance)
  • George Mason University - CEHD/HDFS community-based participatory research program with immigrant families
  • Alexandria City Public Schools--Family and Community Engagement Center
HDFS graduate Kia Jackson, accepts a position with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) after completing an internship

HDFS graduate Kia Jackson, accepts a position with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) after completing an internship

Careers

Students select Human Development and Family Science careers that focus on a particular stage of family life, such as working with young children, at-risk adolescents, new parents, or families with aging members.

While career guidance tends to be organized around what people do in their jobs (e.g. teach, manage), many students pursue an HDFS major because they want to work with families during particular stages of family life, such as working with young children, at-risk adolescents, new parents, or families with aging members. But students may not know what kinds of jobs exist that would allow for such work with families across the lifespan.

Please visit the National Council on Family Relations website for a comprehensive list of career options.

Child Life Specialist

Child life specialists are trained professionals who promote child well-being by:

  • Supporting effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities.
  • Providing emotional support for families, and encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization.
  • Providing information, support and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members.
  • Educating caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the needs of children under stress.

To become certified as a Child Life Specialist, you must take HDFS 301 - The Hospitalized Child and Family. This fully online course is offered by the Human Development and Family Science program and is taught by Jamie Gentille, a Certified Child Life Specialist. This course is required for those students seeking Certification as a Child Life Specialist by the Association of Child Life Professionals and is now pre-approved by the association.

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HDFS 301 - The Hospitalized Child and Family

  • Examines the philosophy, purposes, and concepts of Child Life Specialists.
  • Explores developmental and psychological needs of hospitalized children, their families, and those who provide services to children.
  • Examines the impact of illness and illness-related stress on the dynamics of the family and strategies for coping.

Prerequisite(s): HDFS 200 or permission from instructor

Opportunities

All students have opportunities to

  • conduct independent research
  • engage in globally-related activities through coursework and language study at Mason and abroad
  • participate in many forms of public service
  • prepare for their future careers through internships, career-focused minors and other college-to-career activities

Tags:

Childhood Youth Family Aging Adulthood