Undergraduate Degree Programs

The Department of Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) prepares students for professional service to individuals and families. The technical standards presented here are pre-requisite for admission and graduation from the Department of Human Development and Family Science, College of Human Environmental Sciences of the University of Missouri. The courses required in each option area (Child Life, Child Development and Education, Families and Lifespan Development and Family and Consumer Sciences Education) develop essential skills for professional work with families and children.

Watch video to learn more about how MU HDFS helps students prepare for careers to improve the lives of individuals and families.

HDFS offers undergraduate programs in the following areas:

View MU General Education Requirements (PDF)

The Child Development and Education option provides instruction and experiences to help students gain competence in understanding, guiding, and teaching children. The option prepares graduates for positions of responsibility and leadership in public and private nursery schools, child care centers, infant-care programs, after-school programs, and other educational and social service facilities for children.

Degree Requirements and Sample Program

HDFS CDE Advisor

Michelle MathewsMichelle Mathews
Phone: (573) 882-3999
E-mail: mathewsm@missouri.edu

teacher and toddlers

This emphasis area prepares graduates to provide for the socioemotional needs, and support the optimum growth and development of children and their families in a variety of health care settings. Child life specialists use therapeutic play, psychological preparation, and coping skills interventions to help reduce the anxiety and stress related to illness, disability, hospitalization and medical procedures. Through a family-centered care approach, they provide parents and other family members reassurance and emotional support, help them understand psychosocial needs, and provide tools to help them minimize psychological trauma.

doctor with child patient


Courses focus on understanding normal and exceptional child and family development, effective methods of working with children and families, as well as integration of theory and research into hands-on clinical practice experiences (evidence-based practice). In addition to a 100-hour practicum experience (selection is on a competitive, space-available basis) at MU’s Children’s Hospital, the student’s last semester is spent off-campus (outside of Columbia, but within the U.S.) completing a 14 to 16 week clinical internship in a pediatric hospital setting. Students who successfully complete the degree program are generally well prepared to take the Child Life Professional Certification Exam presented by the Child Life Certification Committee.

Degree Program Strengths:

  • Hands-on experience with children in a variety of environments
  • Instruction from certified child life specialists and expert faculty
  • Early exposure to clinical settings through required coursework
  • Clinical practice and theory integration opportunities at practicum and internship levels
  • Internship instruction and support from both clinical and academic instructors
  • Undergraduate research opportunities

For more information on the child life profession in general, see www.childlife.org.

Degree Requirements and Sample Program

HDFS Child Life Advisor

Nora HagerNora Hager
Phone: (573) 884-5997
E-mail: hagern@missouri.edu

We are currently accepting applications for this online degree program!

For information about applying to this program, visit Mizzou Online.

Read 12/4/14 Mizzou Online press release regarding this program.


This online bachelor's of science degree prepares students to work in the field of early childhood education. Upon completion of the program, you will be qualified to work in various early education and care settings serving children from birth through eight years in a wide variety of community and military settings, including early education centers and preschools, family and home care settings, Head Start and Early Head Start programs, and before/after school programs, to name a few.

This program emphasizes the following areas:

  • Child development, growth, and learning
  • Early education curricula and frameworks
  • Learning activities, technology use, and other experiences for young children
  • Family and community influences on children
  • Challenges facing families in today‚Äôs world
  • Assessment of children and environments
  • Professional and ethical standards
  • Hands-on experiences and clinical practice

Learn more about the Great Plains IDEA programs.

Angela Staggs, a current graduate from the program, speaks about her experiences with the Great Plains IDEA program.

This new online BS HES degree program is offered by Human Development and Family Science faculty in conjunction with other university partners as part of the Great Plains IDEA. Interested applicants will apply for admission to this program through the undergraduate admissions office at the University of Missouri and to the Department of Human Development and Family Science. Courses will be taught by University of Missouri faculty and by scholars from other Great Plains IDEA institutions, including Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Oklahoma State University, South Dakota State University, Texas Tech University, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Your degree will be awarded by the University of Missouri.

Degree Requirements and Sample Program (pdf)

Courses Available by Semester (pdf)

HDFS ECEMS Handbook (pdf)

Great Plains IDEA website (access student handbook, Student Success Center portal, course availability matrix, course information and descriptions)


Students who meet admission requirements for the University of Missouri may declare a major in Human Development and Family Science and take Early Childhood Education in a Mobile Society Professional Development and Pre-Practicum One courses. However, admission to Pre-Practicum Two courses is contingent upon completion of 30 credit hours with a minimum GPA of 2.5 and successful completion of a course in lifespan human development (HDFS 2400 or equivalent), all Pre-Practicum One courses, and Practicum I.

For information about applying to this program, visit Mizzou Online.

Contact Information:

Please contact the Human Environmental Sciences Student Services office at HESStudentSuccess@missouri.edu or Ehren Oncken, the undergraduate enrollment counselor at Mizzou Online, at (800) 609-3727, with questions about this program.

In the Families and Lifespan Development option, students become familiar with theory and research about families and individuals across the lifespan. Coursework focuses on bio-psycho-social development, family functioning, and interpersonal relationships in relevant settings such as at home, in child care, at school, and in the work place. Diversity is emphasized through examining multicultural families and diverse family structures and processes, and variations in individual development and relationships associated with such factors as gender, race, ethnicity, social class and health status. Opportunities are available for the practical application of theory and research in working with individuals, families, schools, and communities.

Degree Requirements and Sample Program

HDFS FLD Advisor

Kelly WarzinikKelly Warzinik
Phone: (573) 882-3521
E-mail: warzinikk@missouri.edu

older adult holding baby

Due to current requirements by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for teacher certification, we are not currently accepting students into this emphasis area. We monitor state licensure requirements and hope to re-open the program in the future.

For FACS program information, please contact the HES Office of Undergraduate Academic Programs and Student Success at (573) 882-6424 or HESStudentSuccess@missouri.edu.

student raising hands in classroom

MU undergraduate students who have a 3.5 cumulative MU GPA can select to pursue the requirements for the HDFS Honors Program and graduate with department honors in HDFS.

To complete the HDFS Honors Program, eligible students must:

  1. select and meet with a faculty honors mentor (selected from full-time HDFS faculty members) early after admission to the department to complete the Honors
  2. enroll in the honors section of department courses when such sections are offered.
  3. attend 10 department or campus research colloquia that are pre-approved by the faculty honors mentor. For each colloquium, the student must write a one-page, typed reflective essay to be turned into the faculty honors mentor.
  4. engage in a significant year-long (at least 2 semesters) research experience with a faculty member (not necessarily the faculty honors mentor). Students register for HDFS 4085 (Problems) for 3-6 credit hours (1 credit hour = 40 hours of research work). The research supervisor assigns the S/U grade for this course upon evaluation of the research project.
  5. complete a written research paper/thesis based on the research experience noted in #4.
  6. present the completed research (noted in #4) to HDFS faculty and students in a public forum.

Application for Departmental Honors (pdf)

students in graduation caps and gowns

How to Apply    Application Deadlines