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What is Health and Human Development?

Diverse fields of study that share one
common goal: enriching the lives of others.

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As a part of the undergraduate program in HDFS, you will have the opportunity to take part in a full-time internship program. The internship, which is a semester-long experience, focuses on helping you gain experience and skills in a real-world setting. Your internship can be taken during the fall, spring, or summer semester. Generally, you will work as a full-time professional (a minimum of 35 hours a week) for the semester.

Before your internship experience, you will take our pre-internship course designed to help you transition into the work world. In the class, you will work on applicable skills for your future, such as interviewing and resume creation. In addition, you will start to identify sites that you may want to apply to and develop proposals to submit to potential employers.

Exploring Internship Options

We are well connected to a number of organizations locally and beyond. Although most students will complete their internships in agencies within Pennsylvania and surrounding states, you may request approval for completing your internship anywhere within the United States. Under special circumstances, you may also pursue an internship site abroad.

As you consider what kind of internship you would like, consider questions such as:

  • What kinds of people or families do I want to help?
  • What kinds of problems am I interested in resolving?
  • What type of agency or organization do I want to work for during my internship?

The internship is one of the most valuable experiences you will have as part of your education at Penn State.

Study Abroad

Our international program in Human Development and Family Studies offers you a unique opportunity in HDFS to explore the sights, sounds, history, and culture of contemporary Florence, Italy. While taking courses on family and childhood in Italy and taking part in activities, you will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience Italian life.

You will take courses led by Penn State faculty members in conjunction with the Institute at the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence. Classroom work will be enhanced by trips to places of historical and artistic importance, such as Rome, where you will see the magnificent Coliseum, the Forum, the Vatican, and the Pantheon. Other field trips will include Naples, Pompeii, and hilltop Italian towns in other parts of Italy that will allow you to see first-hand the communities that families and children have lived in for centuries.


The world-class faculty and researchers in HDFS consistently make contributions to the field through cutting-edge research and leading centers. As a student, you will have the opportunity to learn from these experts as well as take part in undergraduate research in centers such as the College’s Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center. Research areas include work on aging population, early childhood, family development, twin studies, and methodology.

Many undergraduates use research experience to explore interests and possible career paths. The research experience you have can also be invaluable if you are applying to graduate school.

You may also work with faculty on their current research projects if they have the need for student help and receive credit for this work. This is an excellent opportunity for you to work with and get to know a faculty member and gain valuable research experience.