The undergraduate major in human development and family studies (HDFS) offers specialized courses in human development from infancy through old age, couples and family relationships, research methods, policymaking, parent-child relations, family health and well-being, parent education and support, and ethnic and cultural diversity in families. In addition to coursework, all students engage in a 150-hour, semester-long internship or high-impact learning experience in a professional setting related to their major and career goals. These settings include community mental health programs, early childhood education, legislative offices, health care agencies, research labs, criminal justice systems, child and family life education, and community-based social justice programs.

The major prepares students for careers in human and family service organizations and for graduate or professional school in a variety of fields including health care, education, family law, counseling, occupational therapy, program evaluation, physical therapy, case management, and the child life profession.

Prospective UW–Madison Students

All prospective UW–Madison students must apply through the central Office of Admissions and Recruitment.

Students who indicate interest in the human development and family studies (HDFS) major on their UW–Madison application will be admitted to the HDFS major upon admittance to the university. In addition, students may indicate interest in HDFS when registering for Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR).

Current UW–Madison Students

First-year students in good academic standing and first-semester transfer students may declare the HDFS major upon request. All other students must apply through a competitive application process.

The best way for interested students to receive advising or additional information is by attending a Becoming a SoHE Student Workshop.

Visit On-campus Student Application for application information and the October and February deadlines.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

Human Development and Family Studies Requirements 

A complete list of requirements is below. Students should follow the curriculum requirements in place at the time they entered the major. Curriculum checksheets from previous academic years are available online. This requirement list should be used in combination with a DARS report.

School of Human Ecology Requirements
Arts and Humanities
Social Science
PSYCH 202 Introduction to Psychology3-4
Select 6 credits designated Social Science breadth6
Physical, Biological and Natural Science9
Human Ecology Breadth3
Select a Human Ecology course from CNSR SCI, CSCS, DS, or INTER-HE
Human Development and Family Studies Major Requirements
Learning Outcome 1: Lifespan Human Development
Earlier Lifespan
Select one of the following:3
Development of the Young Child
Human Development in Infancy and Childhood
Child Development
Later Lifespan
HDFS 363 Development from Adolescence to Old Age3
Learning Outcome 2: Family and Community Diversity
Select one of the following:3
Families & Poverty
Racial Ethnic Families in the U.S.
African American Families
Learning Outcome 3: Internal Family Processes
Select one of the following:3
Parent - Child Relations
Stress and Resilience in Families Across the Lifespan
Couple Relationships
Learning Outcome 4: Social Institution Influences
Select one of the following:3
Family and Community Influences on the Young Child
A Family Perspective in Policymaking
Mass Media and Youth
Learning Outcome 5: Assessment, Prevention, Intervention, and Outreach
Select one of the following:3
Parent Education and Support Programs
Developmental and Family Assessment
Learning Outcome 6: Understanding Social Science Research
Select one of the following:3-4
Statistics for Sociologists I
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
Basic Statistics for Psychology
Research Methods
Select one of the following:
HDFS 425 Research Methods in Human Development and Family Studies3
Research Methods
Methods of Sociological Inquiry
Professional Development
INTER-HE 202 SoHE Career & Leadership Development1
HDFS 501 Special Topics (Select Special Topic: HDFS Leadership Symposium)1
HDFS 601 Internship3
Additional high-impact practice course to be approved by the student's SoHE academic advisor 13
Select courses to bring degree credit total to 120
Total Credits62-64

Examples include service learning course, second internship or research experience, study abroad experience, select upper-level HDFS courses, or undergraduate teaching assistantship experience.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. Knowledge of lifespan human development (including cognitive, social, and emotional development and individual differences) in social and ecological contexts.
  2. Knowledge of family and community diversity.
  3. Knowledge of internal family processes, including parenting and parent-child relations, couples, and family relationships across generations and family health and wellbeing.
  4. Ability to consider and evaluate how children, adults, and individual families affect and are affected by policies, media, or other social institutions.
  5. Knowledge about the effective and ethical practice of assessment, prevention, intervention, or outreach for individuals and families.
  6. Ability to understand, evaluate, and ethically conduct social science research.
  7. Ability to demonstrate relevant professional skills.

Student Academic Affairs & Career Development

The Student Academic Affairs & Career Development Office (SAA) fosters undergraduate students' personal, academic, and professional development. Through advising, academic planning, and career education we support students as they navigate the college experience—from exploring our majors as prospective students to becoming SoHE alumni. 

Academic Advising

Each SoHE student is assigned to an academic advisor in the Student Academic Affairs & Career Development Office. SoHE academic advisors support academic and personal success by partnering with current and prospective SoHE students as they identify and clarify their educational goals, develop meaningful academic plans, and pursue their own Wisconsin Experience. 

To explore academic advising resources or schedule an appointment with a SoHE academic advisor, visit Advising in SoHE

Career Development

Active engagement in the career development process is a vital component of a student’s personal growth in college and future success as a life-long learner, professional, and global citizen. SoHE career advisors help prepare students for life post-graduation through individual and group advising and integration of career readiness throughout our curriculum.

To explore career development resources or schedule an appointment with a SoHE career advisor, visit Internship and Career Preparation.

Professors Poehlmann-Tynan, Raison, Roberts, Small; Associate Professors Dilworth-Bart, Duncan, Halpern-Meekin, Hartley, Kirkorian, Nix, Papp; Assistant Professor Litzelman; Faculty Associates Burkholder, Levchenko

For more information, visit the School of Human Ecology faculty and staff directory