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School of Human Ecology

Human Development and Family Studies

Human Development and Family Studies Major Requirements

4198 Nancy Nicholas Hall, 1300 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-263-2381; hdfs@mail.sohe.wisc.edu; sohe.wisc.edu/hdfs/

Professors Barber, Bogenschneider, Poehlmann, Roberts, Small, Uttal; Associate Professors Dilworth-Bart, Papp; Assistant Professors Froyen, Halpern-Meekin, Hartley, Kirkorian; Faculty Associate Burkholder

The major in human development and family studies (HDFS) covers human development across the lifespan, as it unfolds in its real-world contexts, particularly in the context of family life. The major prepares students for entry-level positions in child and family service organizations, and for professional or graduate school.

As suggested by the name of this major, "development" is one main strand and "family" is another. Students will learn about each, and about the ways these two systems (individual and social context) interact with each other (for example, how family and cultural differences affect individual development, how individual development affects families and communities).

The major offers students flexibility to pursue individually tailored programs through coursework and an internship. The curriculum is designed to meet six learning outcomes and five domains of professional skills. In brief, the six learning outcomes are:

  1. Lifespan development: knowledge of lifespan human development (intellectual and social/emotional development) including both normative development and individual differences, as it occurs in its real-world contexts.
  2. Family and cultural variation: knowledge of family and community diversity.
  3. Internal family processes: knowledge of internal family processes, including parenting and parent-child relations, couples and family relationships across generations, and family health and well-being.
  4. External family processes: ability to evaluate how children, adults, and families affect and are affected by policies, media, or other social institutions.
  5. Applied practice: knowledge about the effective and ethical practice of assessment, prevention, intervention or outreach for individuals and families.
  6. Research: ability to understand, evaluate, and ethically conduct social science research.

Prospective first-year students and transfer students who indicate an interest in HDFS on their UW-Madison application will be admitted to the major upon admittance to the university. In addition, students may indicate an interest in HDFS when registering for SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration) upon admittance to the university. First-year students are also eligible to declare the HDFS major during their entire first-year at UW-Madison and transfer students are eligible to declare the HDFS major during their first semester on campus.

Admission for all other on-campus applicants is competitive and occurs in the fall and spring semesters. No single criterion guarantees admission or prevents it. The following are key factors in favor of admission:

  • Competitive cumulative GPA
  • Completion of some HDFS or HDFS-related coursework with good grades
  • A good fit of the applicant’s goals with the major
  • The applicant brings something useful to the department and courses (for example, work or life experiences).
  • The application demonstrates excellent thinking and writing ability.

Application deadlines and procedures for SoHE programs are available at this link. Curriculum checksheets are available at this link. On-campus students interested in learning about program admissions are encouraged to contact the Student Academic Affairs & Career Development Office (advising@sohe.wisc.edu; 608-262-2608) to register for a "Becoming a SoHE Student" session.

NCFR Family Life Educator Certificate: Completion of selected courses in the HDFS major may qualify some graduating students for the Family Life Educator Certificate awarded by the National Council on Family Relations. Additional information is available at the NCFR website.

The HDFS degree requires a minimum of 120 credits for graduation. Students may choose to complement the degree through the following: completion of an additional major through the College of Letters & Science, completion of campus certificate programs, or completion of non-transcripted concentrations as outlined on the curriculum checksheet.