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Studies & Degrees in Family and Human Development

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The study of Family and Human Development explores the development of individuals and families and how they relate to their social worlds. The discipline focuses on the development of children, adults and families, examining contemporary issues of infants throughout the end of the life span as well as the formation and dissolution of families.

Family and Human Development specialists usually work in social services with many different types of people – often developing new models for preventing and treating social and mental health problems. As an example, a social worker might work for departments that protect children, and therefore be required to observe children in their home setting, make recommendations for removal of children from dangerous or abusive homes, find foster care, or work toward reunifying families. Another example is when a child is born with severe and disabling illness: a social worker can then find temporary housing, so parents are able to stay with the child; the professional would also work with them to make sure they understand the nature of care required when the child comes home.

Personal Qualities

The personal qualities required for this profession relate to being patient, compassionate, and communicate well with people. Here are some more qualities to explore:

  • Aptitude towards subjects like psychology and sociology
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • Able to work under pressure
  • Patience and a high level of emotional intelligence
  • Very good problem-solving skills
  • Ready to work extra hours and be psychologically stable

Study Options

If you wish to become a professional in the area of Family and Human development, you can start in high school by taking courses in human development, sociology, and psychology. Although many universities offer the discipline as a bachelor’s or master’s degree, it is not too late for you if you have embarked on a similar course like psychology, for example. You can easily specialize after that.

A major in Family and Human development is also excellent preparation for graduate school in the social, behavioral, and health sciences, or for advanced professional training in clinical and counseling psychology, marriage and family therapy, social work, law, business, medicine and other health professions. It is also important that the course you choose provides you with plenty of opportunities to integrate classroom learning with hands-on experience, such as service learning and other classroom assignments. The best option would of course be to complete a full-year internship, which is going to give you a good idea of the type of job you wish to pursue later on. Finally, it is crucial that the course provides you with the most up-to-date information for understanding development, as well as the diversity among individuals and families from different communities and cultures.

Career Options

The global trend is that the need for people who work in the human services is growing. Professionals in this field work in day-care centers, drug and alcohol treatment centers, hospitals, child and domestic abuse centers, runaway shelters, nursing homes, assisted living, adult day services and other types programs for older people. You may also provide direct services such as counseling and case management. Furthermore, the transferrable skills you have developed make you highly desired by business and industry - the understanding of people, your knowledge of group dynamics, and your skills in training and in program development and evaluation would be very valuable in such a setting. You can also become involved in settings dealing with prevention of child sexual abuse, prevention of childhood obesity, counseling of dying patients and their families at a hospice, and in human resources departments of large companies.