Family Science Undergraduate Major
Family science programs teach students about issues facing families and prepare them to carry out research and communicate effectively within the field. Degrees offer preparation for careers in family services, but are often sought by students who are planning to continue their studies at the graduate level.
Family science is the most academic of the undergraduate majors that focus on family systems. ‘Family science’ and ‘family studies’ overlap, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Still, there can be key differences, especially when an institution offers both options. Family science includes substantial coursework in research; there will likely be more writing as well.
Family science is a natural for students considering marriage and family therapy or other mental health disciplines like counseling. It is also appropriate for those considering graduate level training in other health or medical fields or in family law or public policy. Some students plan to continue in family science at the graduate level and make a career in academia.
Whatever an individual ends up pursuing, s/he will have research and communication skills and an understanding of key aspects of human behavior.
Institutional and Program Accreditation
Family science programs generally confer a Bachelor of Science, though some confer a Bachelor of Arts. Neither the degree nor the title of the program is most important. What is most important is the accreditation and the coursework.
Institutional level accreditation is fundamental for students who plan to continue their studies at the graduate level. While some graduate programs will admit students who have completed programs accredited by national agencies that are approved by the Department of Education, many schools require regional accreditation.
Program level accreditation is not crucial, but some students will find it advantageous to complete programs accredited by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). Programs include coursework which places the family in social and legal contexts and explores internal dynamics and interpersonal relationships.
Students may have the opportunity to select a minor in a field like psychology, women’s studies, communications, or economics. Electives may include options as varied as public policy, global families, or gay and bisexual individuals within a family context.
Family science majors often have the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research. Some schools include a capstone experience as part of the major requirement. Students may design their own project or work with a staff member on some area of ongoing research. Projects may focus on how parenting styles and routines affect children’s socioeconomic development or how support systems impact the aging process.
The family science program may include an internship requirement. Students typically progress from shadowing professionals to carrying out professional duties under supervision.
Baccalaureate Level Employment Opportunities
Family science majors open up career options that a person can pursue before, or instead of, graduate school. Some programs lead to certification as a Provisional Certified Family Life Educator. This is a voluntary credential for professionals who have at least a baccalaureate level education and have mastered ten fundamental content areas. Among these are human development, family resource management, internal family dynamics, parent education and guidance, and human sexuality. Many of these are areas that a person will study in greater depth later if they go on to pursue a degree in family therapy or counseling. A key difference is that at the baccalaureate level, a person doesn’t provide psychotherapy; the emphasis is on providing information.
Family life educators may conduct classes or workshops or provide educational materials in areas from managing family finances to preventing teen pregnancy. The path will be more direct for individuals who graduate from programs approved by the NCFR.
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