Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) - George Mason University

Human Development and Family Science Careers

Students select Human Development and Family Science careers that focus on a particular stage of family life, such as working with young children, at-risk adolescents, new parents, or families with aging members.

While career guidance tends to be organized around what people do in their jobs (e.g. teach, manage), many students pursue an HDFS major because they want to work with families during particular stages of family life, such as working with young children, at-risk adolescents, new parents, or families with aging members. But students may not know what kinds of jobs exist that would allow for such work with families across the lifespan.

Please visit the National Council on Family Relations website for a comprehensive list of career options.

Child Life Specialist

Child life specialists are trained professionals who promote child well-being by:

  • Supporting effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities.
  • Providing emotional support for families, and encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization.
  • Providing information, support and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members.
  • Educating caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the needs of children under stress.

To become certified as a Child Life Specialist, you must take HDFS 301 - The Hospitalized Child and Family. This fully online course is offered by the Human Development and Family Science program and is taught by Jamie Gentille, a Certified Child Life Specialist. This course is required for those students seeking Certification as a Child Life Specialist by the Association of Child Life Professionals and is now pre-approved by the association.

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HDFS 301 - The Hospitalized Child and Family

  • Examines the philosophy, purposes, and concepts of Child Life Specialists.
  • Explores developmental and psychological needs of hospitalized children, their families, and those who provide services to children.
  • Examines the impact of illness and illness-related stress on the dynamics of the family and strategies for coping.

Prerequisite(s): HDFS 200 or permission from instructor