Online Graduate Programs at HDFS

Why Mizzou HDFS Online?

  • Flexible timeline to completion
  • Ability to work full-time while earning a graduate degree
  • Reduced tuition for military members and their families
  • Streamlined applied focus to prepare you for the career you want
  • Ability to interact with students and professors from across the nation
  • Ability to take charge of your learning and career growth

After earning this degree, Penny earned a promotion and now serves as a County Engagement Specialist in 4-H Youth Development in Northern Missouri.

Online MA Degree Options:

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An estimated 17,000 organizations (e.g., 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, Boys Scouts and Girls Scouts) currently serve more than 30 million young people, and national trends are moving away from focusing on problems and behavior correction, instead favoring a positive approach that focuses on developing the strengths of youth. The 36-credit master of arts degree program consists of 9 required core courses (25 credits), a required capstone experience (0-2 credits), and 9-12 credits of elective courses.

group of kids

Courses are selected from (36 hours minimum):


HDFS 7231: Foundations of Youth Development (1)
HDFS 8234: Adolescents and their Families (3)
HDFS 8235: Administration and Program Management (3)
HDFS 8236: Federal and State Policies that Impact Youth Development (3)
HDFS 8237: Youth Culture (3)
HDFS 8239: Community Youth Development (3)
HDFS 8240: Youth Development (3)
HDFS 8232: Youth Professionals as Consumers of Research (3)
HDFS 8238: Program Design, Evaluation, and Implementation (3)

Suggested Electives*:

HDFS 8087: Seminar: Improving Health of Adolescents (3)
HDFS 8087: Seminar: Normative Behavior in Immigrant & Minority Youth (3)
HDFS 7001: Topics: Brain Development (3)
HDFS 8087: Seminar: Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy, & Parenthood (3)

*Or Any Adviser-Approved Course

NOTE: Up to 6 credits can be transferred from other graduate programs if the courses are deemed relevant by your adviser.

Required Capstone Experience:

HDFS 8972: Internship (variable)
HDFS 8999: Exam*

*No course credit is assigned to the exam option.

Upon successful completion of the youth development program:

The student will be able to:

  • Understand, integrate, and be able to apply conceptual approaches to youth development (e.g., asset building, positive youth development, community youth development, risk and resiliency).
  • Understand normative pathways to development
  • Understand youth and family cultural issues/contexts and their micro- and macro-influences on positive youth outcomes.
  • Understand and apply basic research and evaluation skills to youth development
    programming through an applied project that serves as a capstone experience under the direction of the candidate's home institution.
  • Develop skills in problem-solving with "stakeholders" including funding sources,
    boards, other agencies, families and other professionals.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the development and impact of local, regional, state, federal, and global policies on youth and be able to advocate through policy development for optimal youth outcomes.
  • Develop and apply resources (e.g., agency budgeting, grant writing and processing, fund raising) for successful implementation and management of youth-serving organizations.
  • Understand the history of the youth development area and advocate for the
    continued professionalization of the field.

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The master's program (MA only) is designed to prepare professionals who are either working directly with older people or are involved in education and research related to the elderly. Professionals offering direct services often are involved in health promotion programs; directing intergenerational activities; managing senior centers or retirement communities; counseling older people and their families; and helping people plan for retirement.

younger hand holding older hand

Professionals involved in education and research may evaluate community-based services; teach others about the aging process; develop policies and programs to serve the needs of the elderly; work with business and industry on issues related to an aging work force; and consumer education.

Employment Outlook:

The gerontology field offers challenging and rewarding careers in an area that is growing rapidly, that needs people with a broad range of skills, and that will improve people's lives. We live in an aging society, one in which the older population is growing both in absolute numbers and in proportion to all other age groups. Businesses, government agencies, service organizations, educational institutions, and self-employed professionals from every economic sector are recognizing the need for specialized knowledge and skills to meet the needs of this changing demographic.

The 36 credit master's degree program (MA) consists of 8 required core courses (24 credits), 12 credits of electives, and a comprehensive exam. With adviser approval, students can complete a 3-6 credit hour internship toward the elective requirement.

Courses are selected from (36 hours minimum):

Core Courses (24 credit hours):

HDFS 7252: Adult Development (3)
HDFS 7255: Economics, Public Policy, & Aging (3)
HDFS 7256: Environments and Aging (3)
HDFS 7257: Aging in the Family (3)
HDFS 8251: Perspectives in Gerontologya (3)
HDFS 8253: Physical Health in Aging (3)
HDFS 8254: Gerontology Research Methods and Program Evaluation (3)
HDFS 8258: Professional Seminar in Gerontology (3)

Suggested Electivesb (12 credit hours):

HDFS 7259: Mental Health & Aging (3)
HDFS 7260: Women and Aging (3)
HDFS 7261: Biological Principles of Aging (3)
HDFS 8221: Gerontechnology (3)

Independent Effort:

HDFS 8999: Examc
HDFS 8972: Internshipd (variable)

aHDFS 8251 should be completed in the first semester of enrollment.

bOr any advisor-approved course.

cNo course credit is assigned to the exam option. Students typically complete the exam during their final semester of coursework.

dThe Internship option is available by special approval only. Students must submit a formal petition to their adviser to enroll in the Internship option.

NOTE: Up to 6 credits can be transferred from other graduate programs, if your adviser deems the courses relevant.

Upon successful completion of the gerontology program:

The student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of specific issues regarding adult development, family systems, health and nutrition, public policy, the environment, and research as related to older adults and their families.
  • Apply research findings and skills to solve problems related to older adults and their families.
  • Synthesize critical issues related to aging from a multidisciplinary perspective.

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Understand. Deliver. Manage

The goal of the Family and Community Services Master of Arts degree is to create alumni capable of understanding family, interpersonal, and community dynamics in order to help individuals and their families through education, resource management, and effective service delivery. In addition, graduates of this degree option will acquire knowledge and skills in program and agency management.

woman in front of community building

Employment Outlook:

Individuals with degrees in social and behavioral sciences who want to work with children, youth, adults, and families in community agency settings are the target students for this master's option. We intend to educate professionals in the field who want additional knowledge and skills related to: (a) program management and evaluation, (b) delivery of programs for children and families, and (c) leadership in social service agencies. Although the primary goal of the Family and Community Services curriculum will be to educate students about family dynamics and how to assist families in their communities by working directly with children, youth, adults, and families in social service agencies, educational settings, and faith-based institutions, as well as military support agencies, we also want our graduates to be capable of directing agencies.

Family and Community Services at MU:

The Family and Community Services MA option consists of 36 credit hours, including the 10 core courses shown below. For the remaining 6 credits students may choose from: (a) 6 credits of electives and a capstone examination, (b) 3 credits of electives and 3-credit internship (requiring 120 internship hours), or (c) 6-credit internship (requiring 240 internship hours). Elective courses will be offered annually. Exams and internships will include an independently produced paper and an oral examination by the student’s MA committee.

Courses selected from (36 hours minimum):

Required Courses (30 credit hours):

Understand Families in Community Context

HDFS 8100: Foundations and Principles of Family and Community Services (3)
An introduction to the field of family studies and related professions that involve working with families and communities.

HDFS 7690: Family Resource Management (3)
Survey of current personal finance and family resource management literature to provide an overview of current consumer finance research from multiple perspectives.

HDFS 8012: Family Dynamics (3)
An examination of theories of family function and dysfunction, techniques of assessment, and models of family intervention.

HDFS 8520: Lifespan Development (3)
Human development from both lifespan and bio-ecological perspectives focusing on major theories of development and current research on micro-macro relationship.

HDFS 7640: Interpersonal Relationships (3)
In-depth examination of interpersonal relationships, including theoretical perspectives, research methods, relationship forms, relationship processes, and how context affects relationships.

HDFS 7600: Family Resilience Across the Life Course (3)
Exploration of resilience approaches to the study of families and human development across the life cycle.

Deliver Family Service Programs:

HDFS 8510: Parenting Programs and Parent-Child Relationships (3)
An examination of theories, models, research, and skills related to parenting and parent education.

HDFS 7650: Family Crises Intervention (3)
The purpose of this course is to provide students with resources related to managing stress and coping with crises across the lifespan that can be utilized in both their own lives and the lives of those families they serve. Students will be introduced to the bio psychosocial nature of stress; methods of coping with stress, anxiety, and conflict; models of effective family functioning in the presence of stress and crises; and the current literature on how families cope with a variety of life transitions and crises.

Manage Family and Community Service Programs:

HDFS 8235: Program Administration and Management (3)
This course is designed to introduce students to the development, administration, and management of youth, family, and community service organizations.

HDFS 8238: Program Design, Evaluation, and Implementation (3)
This course is an overview of the program development process and outcome evaluation of community, children, and family programs. Modes of outcome scholarship and their implications for community-based programs are discussed. Students will develop knowledge through participating in a community-based project involving the practical application of program design and evaluation methods.

Suggested Electives*:

ESC_PS 7087: (Summer) Youth Development Academy (3)
HDFS 7233: (Summer) Basic Grant Development and Management (3)
HDFS 8087 (Summer): Families in Poverty (3)
HDFS 8087 (Summer): Transitions to Adulthood (3)
HDFS 8234: (Spring) Adolescents and their Families (3)
HDFS 8237: (Fall) Youth Culture (3)

*Or any adviser-approved Course

NOTE: Up to 6 credits can be transferred from other graduate programs if the courses are deemed relevant by your adviser.

Independent Effort:

HDFS 8972: Internship (variable)
HDFS 8999: Exam*

*No course credit is assigned to the exam option.

Upon successful completion of the Family and Community Services program:

The student will be able to:

  • Understand individual, family, interpersonal, and community dynamics across the lifespan.
  • Develop knowledge and skills related to the design, implementation, and sustainability of family and community programming.
  • Develop essential knowledge and skills for leadership and management of family and community programs.

These online MA degree options are offered by Human Development and Family Science faculty in conjunction with several other university partners as part of the Great Plains IDEA. Interested applicants will apply for admission to this program to the MU Office of Graduate Studies and to the Department of Human Development and Family Science. Courses will be taught by MU faculty and by scholars from Great Plains IDEA sister institutions and the degree will be awarded by the University of Missouri.