Be purposeful

Human Development and Family Studies student writing at a desk
Kayaking on Lake Champlain
Human Development and Family Studies student smiling
Campus with fall foliage
Twilight view of the Davis Student Center
HDFS student at Commencement
HDFS student smiling
Lafayette statue in the moonlight

"I couldn't have chosen a greater program and a better institution that fits me so perfectly. This is a program that's going to help you learn so much about yourself and who you can become, and just give you an amazing perspective of the world and the work that you can do."  Sophie Robledo '18

Students in the Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) program explore the ways people grow and develop, form relationships and families, and cope with the common events of life.

Are you interested in a career in the helping professions? Do you want to develop a deep interdisciplinary understanding of human development and how this informs professional practice? Are you interested in studying what it means to be a skilled and ethical professional practitioner? If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, consider taking a course or two in HDFS, and choosing to pursue an HDFS major or minor.

Mission Statement

Our mission is to prepare knowledgeable, skilled, critically conscious, and ethical human services professionals and citizens. The HDFS program emphasizes information literacy, critical reflection, and community-engaged learning experiences rooted in social justice and strengths-based frameworks of human development and family science. Graduates are ready to pursue an advanced degree or professional work that promotes positive development and healthy relationships; to empower individuals, families, and communities to thrive; and to interrupt systems of privilege and oppression.

Major in HDFS

Our interdisciplinary perspective makes HDFS a distinctive major. You will take courses in the behavioral and social sciences, the humanities, physical and biological sciences, and multi-cultural education. These liberal studies provide you with the vital knowledge and perspectives you need to fully appreciate the complex interaction of individual psychology and biology, social relationships, families, communities, societies and cultures. For more information, please see Major Requirements.

Minor in HDFS

A minimum of 18 credit hours is required to complete the HDFS minor. For more information, please see the required courses.

Commitment to Support BIPOC Students and Working Toward Racial Justice

Read our HDFS Program Statement (PDF)

Information for Current HDFS Students

See helpful information and guidance for current HDFS students.

HDFS Program Faculty

Student Support

A defining element of the HDFS program is the great importance we place on supporting our students throughout their college years at UVM. As a student, you have many personal and professional decisions to make during your college years. Our faculty work very hard to help you in both areas of your life.

The Amy Wise Scholarship Fund

HDFS students may apply for the Amy Wise Scholarship Fund consisting of three different grants. Note that the link to the application form is included in the fund description but this link will remain inactive until the annual call for applications is opened on or around April 15. Students will have until May 15th to submit their application.

Human Development Coursework

In some courses, we focus our attention on the study of individual development. In other courses, we examine the contexts in which individuals develop, such as personal relationships, families and communities, gender and sexual identities, and societal institutions. 

Field Work in Vermont and Beyond

By your senior year, you are well prepared to engage in the required capstone two-semester internship course in one of a variety of public and private agencies. With a two semester-long commitment of about 6-8 hours a week during senior year, you will serve and learn through interning in agencies such as family centers, intimate partner violence organizations, centers for abused and neglected children, youth programs, legislative offices, programs for elders, community mental health programs, and public and private schools.

Global Study Abroad Opportunities

Interested in travel abroad while pursuing your degree? Visit our global study abroad page to explore opportunities in England, Finland, France, Hawai'i, Portugal (the Azores) and more. In addition, UVM's Office of International Education provides other opportunities and a full range of support services to assist you.

After Your Degree: HDFS Related Career Information

Our graduates continue their personal and professional development along a variety of paths. But whatever their professional life brings them, our graduates report back to us that their HDFS major prepared them well for the work of supporting human development among diverse individuals and across a variety of developmental and social contexts. Common career paths and examples of places HDFS alumni have worked are listed as part of the 4-Year Path to Career Success on this page (click on “CAREERS” and “WHERE ALUMNI WORK”). View additional information about HDFS-related careers right out of undergraduate studies and careers requiring further education below:

Major Requirements

Overview & Requirements

Sample 4-Year Plan (open accordion to view)

First Year

HDFS 001: Human Development and Family Studies for Majors4HDFS 060: Family Context of Development3
HDFS 005: Human Development3HDFS 065: Human Relationships and Sexuality3
ENGS 001: Written Expression3SOC 001: SU: Intro to Sociology3
PSYS 001: Intro to Psychological Science3QR: Quantitative Reasoning Course3
Elective (Minor)3SPCH 011: Effective Speaking3
Learning Community Course (LC)1 - 3  
Semester Total:17 - 19Semester Total:15

Second Year

HDFS 141: D1: Interrogating White Identity3HDFS 189: Theories of Human Development3
HDFS 161: Social Context of Development3HDFS 101: The Helping Relationship3
ANTH 021: D2: Intro to Cultural Anthropology3Humanities Course3
PSYS 053: Psychological Research Methods3NFS 043: Fundamentals of Nutrition3
Elective (Minor)3Elective (Minor)3
Semester Total:15Semester Total:15

Third Year

HDFS: Upper-Level Course3HDFS: Upper-Level Course3
BIOL 003: Human Biology3Humanities Course3
D1: Race and Racism Course3Electives (Minor)9
Elective (Minor)6  
Semester Total:15Semester Total:15

Fourth Year

HDFS: Upper-Level Course3HDFS 290: Field Experience6
Science Elective3Elective (Minor)9
Elective (Minor)9  
Semester Total:15Semester Total:15



Is UVM's Human Development and Family Studies Program for you?

Hallmarks of our unique program include:

  • Interdisciplinary coursework
  • Interactive and experiential learning in diverse settings
  • Personalized advising and support from faculty
  • International study options
  • Numerous career paths and graduate study possibilities

Apply Now 

Questions? / 802-656-3468

Graduate employment rate


of CESS graduates were employed or continuing their education within six months of graduating (2017-2019).


  • Human Services Professional
  • Residential Counselor for Treatment Programs
  • Family and Child Advocate
  • Higher Education and Student Affairs
  • Public Health
  • Graduate Study leading to careers in Counseling, Social Work, Education, Family Therapy, Family Law, Human Development, and Health Care

Where alumni work

  • Assistant Director of Student Life for Leadership and Civic Engagement Programs, University of Vermont
  • In-Home Therapy Clinician, Community Mental Health Center, Boston, MA
  • Graduate Student in Health Education, Maine
  • Chair of Board of Directors for the National IMPACT Conference on service and civic engagement
  • Program Manager, Vermont Department of Health
  • Peace Corps, Vanuatu

Related Information