Human Development and Family Science

Program Summary

Our major prepares you for a wide range of careers enriching families through education, service and advocacy. In addition to the primary program, we offer concentrations in child development education, child life and gerontology. We also offer accelerated degree programs: a fast track master's in social work degree and a 3+3 law degree.

A degree in human development and family science at Samford meets the standards and criteria required for the professional Certified Family Life Educator designation from the National Council on Family Relations.

Students are able to have hands-on training in a working atmosphere which allows them to put into practice what they learned in the classroom once they are in their desired profession.Nicole Smith, ’15

Objectives & Goals

Students will master an understanding of the following topics and skills:

  • Experiential education
  • Research experience
  • Developmental knowledge across the life span
  • Practical experience

View Curriculum Recommended Curriculum Sequence 

Is This Program for Me?

Have you been described as a helper or an advocate or a great listener? Are you passionate, tolerant, caring and empathetic? All of these servant-minded traits combined with the ability to problem solve, be persistent yet respectful, flexible yet focused and constantly inquisitive means you would be a great fit in the department of human development and family life education. Join this program and you will be pushed to your greatest potential.

I use my amazing Samford education to help serve families with special needs at my church. I couldn’t be happier with where I am or what I’m doing! God has been so good.Richardson Hutchins, ’07

What Makes Us Different?

Experiential Education

We go beyond just educating. We purposefully engage learners in direct experience and focused reflection to increase knowledge, develop skills and clarify values. We develop and increase your capacity to contribute to communities in order for you to go out and encourage others to do the same.

Research Focused

Over the last four years our students have been the number one recipient of the Outstanding Undergraduate Paper Award from the National Council on Family Relations.

Eligible for Family Life Educator Certification Upon Graduation

You have the possibility to leave with more than just a degree, but also with a certification that will differentiate you in the field of job applications.

Family-Focused Program

The human development and family science major recognizes the crucial role of families in society and the curriculum focuses on personal relationships and their connection to and impact on human living and development. Samford’s mission and values lend perfectly to learning how to best educate the family. Our program leans on the Christian mission of the university to equip you to become a better educator and advocate.

Multiple Concentrations Within the Department

Child Development Education Concentration

Prepares students for work in early childhood settings as teachers and/or administrators. This concentration is a collaboration between the Department of Human Development and Family Life Education and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

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Child Life Concentration

Prepares students to work in a medical setting to provide emotional support and coping strategies for children and their families facing short- and long-term hospital stays. Upon completion, students submit their coursework for review to the Child Life Council and must pass an exam to become certified child life specialists.

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Gerontology Concentration

Prepares students to provide services and research for those in the later stages of life. Special emphasis is placed upon how aging affects the individual as well as the family.

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Accelerated Degree Programs

Fast Track Master’s in Social Work

Family science majors are eligible to participate in a fast-track option that allows students to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in family science and a master’s degree in social work after five years of study. Participation in this program requires careful advisement and scheduling, as well as permission of both the undergraduate department chair and the M.S.W. program director. Please consult your academic adviser for details.

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3+3 Law Degree

Family science majors are eligible to participate in a 3+3 program that allows students to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in family science and a law degree after six years of study. This program is ideal for students interested in adoption, divorce, foster care, intimate partner violence and other areas that affect the well-being of children and families. Participation in this program requires careful advisement and scheduling, as well as acceptance into Cumberland School of Law following the normal application process. Please consult your academic adviser for details.
Because of the smaller class size, I found myself being that person who got a lot of help whether I needed it or not - the professors stepped down from the doctoral standpoint and became a peer in a sense by saying how can I help you, and let me understand who you are and where you are coming from, and why this situation might be causing a stumbling block, and how can we get over it? Them pushing me through my academia while I was here has made me the individual that I am now. Devyn Keith, ’12

Career Preparation

Market Ready

Students leave with the ability to analyze and interpret family science research data. Through practicums and internships, observations and senior research, students gain professionally marketable skills for a variety of career paths in human development and family life education.
Human Development and Family Life Education classes have put me ahead of other people in my classes during graduate school. Research, Family Law, theories from Marriage & Family, and the importance of advocacy have been a saving grace to me as I have continued my education. Lauren Oden

Career Opportunities

  • Adoption Case Worker
  • Community-Based Social Services
  • Counseling
  • Early Childhood Development/Education
  • Elder Care Services
  • Family Law Practitioner
  • Government and Public Policy
  • Youth/Teen Services


  • Alabama Baptist Children’s Home
  • Crisis Center
  • United Way of Central Alabama
  • Children’s Aid Society
  • Children’s Harbor
  • Domestic Violence section of YWCA
  • The Bell Center
  • CHIPS-Children’s Hospital Intervention and Protection Services
  • The 1917 Clinic at University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Down Syndrome Clinic
  • Lakeshore Foundation
  • Wellspring Christian Clinic
  • Impact Family Counseling
  • Covenant Counseling and Education Center
  • Advent Outreach
  • Jessie’s Place
  • Alabama Public Television Ready to Learn
  • Jefferson County Family Court
  • Crestline Elementary
  • Homewood High School
  • Greenwood Place
  • Shades Valley Active Day Rehabilitation Center

Accolades & Alumni

Awards and Recognition

Human Development and Family Life Education majors have received the undergraduate research paper award from the National Council on Family Relations for the past four consecutive years.

Lindy Williamson Cleveland was awarded Samford University Outstanding Community Service Award in 2014 and the Jessica M. Smith Outstanding Community Service Award in 2013.

Alumni Careers

  • Human Resource Management
  • RUF Ministry at Georgia Southern University
  • Masters of Social Work Program
  • Cumberland School of Law
  • Preschool Teacher
  • UCP Hand in Hand
  • School Educator
  • School Counseling
  • Department of Human Resources
  • Political Advocate

Notable Alumni

  • Lindy Williamson Cleveland (2014): founder of Unless U

Notable Faculty

  • Dr. Clara Gerhardt: National Counsel on Family Relations Outstanding Certified Family Life Educator of the Year 2013, Author of Parent-Child Relations: An Introduction to Parenting (9th Edition)
  • Dr. Jonathan Davis: National Counsel on Family Relations Meritorious Service Award 2012