BA in Human Development and Family Science

The Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) program focuses to educate students through quality instruction and experiential learning in lifespan human development and family science by fostering critical thinking and the research, communication, and career-ready skills that prepare them to become professionals in service to individuals and families.

Human Development & Family Science (HDFS) prepares graduates to use family-centered and strengths-based approaches to support the health and well-being of individuals and families in diverse communities. HDFS students learn to 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.

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.

For some students it is possible to complete your BA in Human Development and Family Science degree completely online.  Learn more >>


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.

Requirements for a HDFS Internship

  • Recommended Prerequisite: HDFS 300 (may be taken concurrently).
  • All internships must be approved by an HDFS faculty academic program coordinator.
  • You must attend 10 hours of classroom work under the instruction of the course instructor.
  • You must be able to work a minimum of 3 hours of credit / 125 on-site hours under the joint supervision of the university and site supervisor in the work setting.
  • You must complete for HDFS 498 (3 credits) and HDFS 499 (3 credits) to fulfill the internship requirement.
  • You must get your supervisor’s signature on the experiential learning agreement, which will be sent to you via email while your application is being processed.
  • You must know and abide by the NCFR Standards for Ethics and Conduct as well as the code of ethics deemed by your placement (e.g., if you are in a child health wellness setting, you will uphold the code of ethics determined by NCFR, as well as the Association of Child Life Professionals while fulfilling field placement duties).

Application Deadlines

Note: To allow time for processing and verification, students must complete all forms prior to the deadline by 2:00 pm.


Application Period

(see forms needed below)

Internship must begin on or after

Internship must end by

Fall 2024

April 16 - August 14, 2024

August 26, 2024

December 9, 2024

 Spring 2025

October 14, 2024 -January 4, 2025


*Applications will be accepted during winter break; however, the university is CLOSED Dec. 23, 2024-Jan. 3, 2025

January 21, 2025

May 5, 2025

Summer 2025

March 25 - May 9, 2025

May 19, 2025

August 6, 2025

Required Forms

  1. Internship Application– will become available during application period. Paper forms can be obtained by emailing
  2. Experiential Learning Agreement - will be sent to you via email after your application is reviewed
  3. Internship Checklist

Frequently Asked Questions

Students have participated in internships at the following locations.


Credit for an internship will not be awarded retroactively

Current place of regular employment is not eligible for an internship site and relatives are prohibited from assuming supervisory roles

Other sites can be suggested, please contact for information. 


Quotes from Site Supervisors:

HDFS interns have helped me grow both professionally and personally. They are passionate about helping people and that passion is seen in their work. I am proud to host such kind and dedicated students at NAMI.

It starts out as an internship and soon becomes a “way of life” as interns learn to see the world from different point of views. We have benefited from the energy, talents and life experience each of the HDFS interns have brought to our programs over the years. –Inclusion Consultants and SPARC Solutions

HDFS interns have helped us elevate our messaging and launch products specifically designed for foster, adoptive and kinship families raising children and youth with special needs. - Formed Families Forward



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.

Podcast: HDFS Careers - Unsolicited Advice about Preparing for and Finding Jobs as a Family Science Major

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.

Register Today!

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


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


Childhood Youth Family Aging Adulthood