Skip to main content
Faculty/Staff Resources
Human Development and Family Studies
Search search
Mobile Search:
How is HDFS different from psychology? From sociology? icon-olus-circle

Human Development and Family Studies majors focus on understanding individual and family experiences across the life course and preparing for impactful careers that directly impact individuals, families, and communities. Psychological studies tend to focus on an individuals’ thoughts, experiences, and behaviors, whereas sociological studies tend to focus on broader social influences, such as social class, norms, religions, and government policies. HDFS majors understand all of these influences on development and how they combine to impact the lives of individuals. They not only learn about how individuals develop, but they also learn about how family relationships, income, religion, and governmental policies affect individual development. Additionally, students in other majors may study individuals or societal institutions at one particular point in time, whereas HDFS majors study how people change over time.

HDFS is unique in its interdisciplinary focus on individuals and families over the lifespan. HDFS also contains a focus on preventing and intervening in problem behaviors. HDFS majors learn how to implement and evaluate programs which are designed to improve the quality of people's lives.

The HDFS undergraduate program at Penn State differs from other programs in another important way: HDFS majors complete a semester-long internship in their final semester before graduation, which provides HDFS undergraduates with the opportunity to explore a career path, gain real-world experience, and put classroom knowledge into practice.

Finally, HDFS differs from other “social sciences” in that HDFS is very oriented toward developing graduates with professional skills, both interpersonal and analytic to prepare them for careers in both public and private sectors.

Visit the HDFS undergraduate home page and or contact the academic advisor for more information on the unique perspectives and experiences of HDFS majors.

What do HDFS majors typically do for careers or post-grad? icon-olus-circle

HDFS majors pursue a variety of careers or post-graduation education upon degree completion. Common career paths that HDFS majors pursue include, but are not limited to human services, social work, non-profit/advocacy, policy/government agency, education (early childhood, elementary, middle/high school, special education, and higher ed), counseling/therapy, fundraising/philanthropy, human resources or business related fields, research, law, and health promotion or health related.

Some areas require graduate degrees and/or post-grad certifications, such as nursing as a second degree, occupational therapy, physical therapy, medical school, counseling, social work, education, law school, and psychology, among others. Students should research program requirements and meet with their adviser to plan necessary requirements accordingly.

How do I find out information about the required HDFS internship (HDFS 495 A&B)? icon-olus-circle
What minors are best for HDFS majors? icon-olus-circle

A minor is optional for HDFS majors. Many students pursue optional minors to help them specialize their degrees. For instance, a student interested in human resources might pursue the Labor and Human Resources or the Business and the Liberal Arts minor. A student interested in social policy might minor in sociology or economics.

There may be ways to double count courses toward your major and your minor, but this requires careful planning and discussion with both the student’s major adviser and the minor adviser. If you do not plan carefully, adding a minor can end up adding an extra semester of course work.

Examples of minors HDFS students have pursued are, but not limited to, Business and the Liberal Arts, Labor and Human Resources, Gerontology, Psychology, Sociology, Rehabilitation and Human Services, Addictions and Recovery, Child Maltreatment and Advocacy Studies, Health Policy and Administration, Global Health, languages, Deafness and Hearing Studies, Women’s Studies, and Sexuality and Gender Studies.

Does HDFS have study abroad opportunities? icon-olus-circle

HDFS has a summer study abroad program to Florence, Italy where students can earn nine credits of HDFS 499. Students planning to apply and go on this program should consult with their academic adviser about how this fits within degree requirements.

HDFS students planning to spend the semester or summer studying abroad should first meet with the Global Programs advisers to determine which program(s) they will apply to and then work closely with their HDFS adviser to discuss what gen. ed. or elective requirements they will look for while abroad. Once courses are selected for the semester/summer abroad, students must have courses pre-approved through the college (via the HDFS adviser) to confirm that courses will meet the planned requirements.

How can I find out about HDFS research opportunities? icon-olus-circle

Interested students are encouraged to speak directly with HDFS faculty about opportunities to work in HDFS research labs. Additionally, students can refer to this list of additional opportunities and contact information.

If seeking credit (HDFS 496) for their experiences, students can find the necessary form in 119 HHD. Once signed by the faculty supervisor, the student should bring the form back to 119 HHD to have the credits added to their schedule.

HDFS students should consult with the HDFS adviser about how the credits will fit within degree requirements.

How can I find out about HDFS scholarships and awards? icon-olus-circle
What do I do if I am blocked from enrolling in a course I need to take for the HDFS major or would like to take for the HDFS minor? icon-olus-circle

Beginning with course registration in fall 2019, the College of Health and Human Development and HDFS implemented automatic enforcement of prerequisite courses. 

Requests for exceptions to prerequisite requirements are to be submitted in writing using the Prerequisite Override Form. Student requests should also include all supporting documentation, including if you are an HDFS major or HDFS minor, which pre-req(s) you are missing, which pre-req(s) you’ve completed, and any notes about why you need this specific course.

Any questions or problems regarding prerequisite requirements or exceptions can be discussed with the HDFS academic adviser. Decisions on prerequisites for HDFS courses can be found within the University Bulletin.

What are supporting courses and how can I find the list of supporting courses? icon-olus-circle

The supporting courses are required credits that are intended to provide students with broader knowledge and allow them to pursue areas of interest and/or career goals that relate to but are outside of HDFS.  View the approved supporting courses.

How can I find the requirements for the HDFS minor and when can I apply for the minor? icon-olus-circle

Students are eligible to apply for the HDFS minor once they have been accepted into a major. Students can apply for the minor using the 'Update Academics' feature on LionPath. The deadline to apply is the last day of the late drop period in the semester of graduation.

What ENGL 202 should I take? icon-olus-circle

ENG 202A is recommended for HDFS majors, but ENG 202B or ENG 202D will also work.  Be sure to check section controls when scheduling to make sure you meet the criteria and avoid scheduling issues.

Where can I get help if I am having academic difficulties? icon-olus-circle

In addition to talking to your professor(s), and the HDFS adviser, the department encourages students to seek help through Penn State Learning, located in 220 Boucke Building. Penn State Learning is a multi-disciplinary academic assistance program that is staffed by peer tutors who are themselves undergraduates, by scholars in residence who are content experts in their respective fields, and by professional and administrative staff members. Tutoring is available for a variety of subjects. Students are also encouraged to meet with instructors or class teaching assistants (TAs) during their office hours.