What is a Family and Consumer Science Degree?

Family and consumer wellbeing. Individual and family development. The relationship of households to their environment. These are the cornerstones of family and consumer science – a degree field that integrates studies in human development, family dynamics, nutrition and food, health and wellness, consumer science, personal finance, textiles and fashion, and design and merchandising. This wide scope of subject matter explains why students of family and consumer science – once known as home economics – develop skills for living and skills for earning a living.

Program Options

Associate Degree in Family and Consumer Science – Two Year Duration
A family and consumer science associate program combines courses in the major with some arts and science classes in subjects such as English literature and composition and the biological, physical, and social sciences. Internships and/or cooperative extension opportunities are often a component of the curriculum. As the associate curriculum is introductory in nature, some students go on to further education.

Here’s a look at the kinds of courses that family and consumer science students take at the associate level:

  • Introduction to Family and Consumer Science
  • Awareness and Appreciation of Design
  • Introduction to the Visual Arts
  • College Composition
  • Survey of Human Nutrition
  • Individual and Family Development
  • Fundamentals of Chemistry
  • Textiles
  • General Psychology
  • Business Computing Concepts and Applications
  • Personal Computing
  • Humans and Other Animals
  • Attributes of Living Systems
  • General Sociology
  • Consumers in the Marketplace
  • Health and Wellness
  • Public Speaking
  • Finance – Personal and Family
  • Food Principles and Applications
  • Preparing and Evaluating Food
  • Infant and Child Development
  • Adolescent / Early Adult Development
  • Housing Values in America
  • How to Conduct Research
  • Marriage and Family Relationships
  • Family and Parenthood across the Life Cycle
  • Families in the Legal Environment
  • Couple and Family Studies

Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Consumer Science – Four Year Duration
The family and consumer science bachelor’s degree is the most common credential in the field. At this level, internships and practicum opportunities are more extensive. Some schools offer both a general course of study in the field and a program focused on teaching family and consumer science at the secondary school level, which combines courses in the major with education leading to a teaching certificate. The general concentration curriculum covers the topics described in the associate degree section (see above), but in greater depth.

The family and consumer science education/teaching curriculum combines topics from the general concentration with courses like these:

  • Fashion Industries
  • Introduction – Interior Architecture Design
  • Clothing, Adornment, and Human Behavior
  • Schooling in the United States
  • Literacy and the Learner
  • Educational Technology and Assessment
  • Instruction – Individualization and Management
  • Methods – Family and Consumer Science Education
  • Instruction – Standards and Assessment
  • Student Teaching – Onsite Experience within a Public School Setting
  • Professional Relations

Master’s Degree in Family and Consumer Science – Two Year Duration
Master’s degree programs in family and consumer science focus on a particular concentration in the field. At most schools, graduate students can choose among several areas of specialization. Below is a list of some of the most common, with samples of coursework. The master’s program’s culminating requirement often varies from school to school. Typical options include a thesis or project, or a comprehensive exam.

Consumer Affairs and Family Studies

  • Research Methods
  • Research Applications
  • Decision Making in Family and Consumer Science
  • Current Issues in Family and Consumer Science
  • Family and Consumer Public Policy
  • Family and Financial Issues
  • Theories of Family Development
  • Family Strengths
  • Family Management
  • Family Relationships

Family and Consumer Science Education (Teaching)

  • Child Development and Guidance
  • Family Living and Parenting Education
  • Consumer Education
  • Housing and Interior Design
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Textiles / Apparel Design and Merchandising
  • Individual and Family Health
  • Leadership

Fashion Design and Merchandising

  • Fashion Design and Production
  • Fashion Merchandising
  • Textile and Fashion

Other possible areas of concentration include:

  • Interior Design
  • Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science
  • Hospitality and Food Service
  • Gerontology

Doctoral Degree in Family and Consumer Science – Four to Five Year Duration
The aim of doctoral degree programs in family and consumer science is to train the next generation of university faculty members in the field. To this end, programs offer Ph.D. candidates opportunities to:

  • Receive guidance and mentoring from scholars who have outstanding achievements in research, publishing, and educational innovation
  • Demonstrate their research ability
  • Receive teaching support and training
  • Become part of a broad professional network

While coursework at this level varies according to the individual student’s chosen doctoral dissertation topic, it is likely to include classes like these:

  • Current Issues in Family and Consumer Science
  • Evidence-Based Research Methods
  • Statistical Methods in Family and Consumer Science

Here are some sample dissertation topics:

  • Issues of Cohabitation and Parenting Styles
  • The Role of Parental Background in a Child’s Life
  • Benefits of Pre-Marital Counseling
  • Artificial Food Coloring versus Natural Food in the Confectionary Industry
  • Rationality in Food Decision Making
  • Effect of Television on Language Development
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Strengthening Family Resilience
  • The Role of Consumer Information in Public Policy
  • The Effect of Income and Family Structure on Child Education
  • The Role of Cultural Background and Social Class in Consumer Behavior

Degrees Similar to Family and Consumer Science

Culinary Arts
Culinary arts are the arts of preparing, cooking, and presenting food. Food that is as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the taste buds is the goal of the culinary artist. Degree programs in the field prepare students for a variety of roles within the food and hospitality arenas. The typical curriculum covers professional cooking techniques, world cuisines, how to balance flavors, food aesthetics, and menu planning.

Early Childhood Education (ECE)
A degree in early childhood education provides students with ECE fundamentals and helps them develop leadership and advocacy abilities, as well as the administrative skills required to work in the field. Typical coursework in degree and certificate programs focuses on child growth and development, behavior guidance, supporting children and families, children with exceptionalities, and effective curriculum planning.

Students who major in education study the learning and teaching processes. Among the courses they take are educational psychology and teaching techniques.

Food Science
The subject matter of food science degree programs spans the areas of biology, biochemistry, and chemical engineering. Students learn how to apply these foundations to examine food properties and develop foods that are sustainable.

Nutrition Science
This degree field is concerned with the complex relationships between the body, nutrients, and health. Classes cover human nutrition and how the body processes nutrients.

Human Development
Degree programs in this human development explore physical, cognitive, and psychosocial development through each stage of human life – prenatal, infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood, late adulthood, and death and dying.

The physical domain is concerned with growth and changes in the body and brain, the senses, motor skills, and health and wellness. Cognitive human development comprises learning, attention, memory, language, thinking, reasoning, and creativity. Psychosocial development involves emotions, personality, and social relationships. Students learn how these three domains of human development influence and impact every aspect of our lives – from self-respect and self-esteem to how we interact with family, peers, and society at large.

The scientific study of the mind and behavior is the focus of psychology degree programs. In simple terms, psychology students study the way that humans and animals act, feel, think, and learn.

Social Work
Social work is about helping people solve and cope with problems and challenges in their everyday lives. Students who pursue a degree in the field gain the knowledge and skills, as well as the ethics and values, to work for social justice for individuals, families, organizations, and communities. The typical curriculum examines issues such as child welfare, mental health, poverty, aging, domestic violence, and marginalized groups.

Skills You’ll Learn

Family and consumer science graduates come away from their studies with a diverse set of practical life skills, including the following:

  • Healthy nutritional habits
  • Healthy exercise habits
  • Food safety
  • Food preparation
  • How to develop and maintain strong family and other relationships
  • How to resolve conflicts
  • Understanding of dating
  • Understanding of pregnancy
  • Understanding of child development
  • Basics of interior design
  • Clothing selection and clothing care
  • Personal finance and budgeting
  • How to make wise consumer choices
  • Safe online banking and purchasing
  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Organization and multitasking
  • Stress management
  • How to conduct research and develop a presentation
  • How to run a meeting
  • Career exploration and planning

What Can You Do with a Family and Consumer Science Degree?

Because family and consumer science spans so many disciplines, the variety of potential workplaces for potential grads in the field is particularly wide. Opportunities for individual graduates will, of course, vary depending on the school they choose, the level of education they complete, and the focus of their program.

Here is a sampling of possible sectors and employers:

Social Service and Non-Profit

  • Public welfare agencies
  • Federal, state, and local government
  • Private social service agencies
  • Group homes
  • Religiously affiliated organizations
  • Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers
  • International aid organizations

Child Welfare

  • Public or private child welfare agencies
  • Adoption agencies
  • Foster care organizations
  • Day care centers and nursery schools
  • Recreational facilities (such as YMCA or YWCA)
  • Head Start programs

Business and Industry

  • Business firms in various industries
  • Developers of educational products
  • National foundations and associations


  • Hospitals
  • Community health centers
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Public health programs
  • Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
  • Nursing homes
  • Group homes
  • Hospices


  • Family service agencies
  • Child welfare departments
  • Social service agencies
  • State mental health departments
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Probation departments
  • Public interest groups
  • Local, state, and federal government


  • Hospitals
  • Nursing and retirement homes
  • Senior centers
  • Hospices

Developmental Disabilities

  • Community residential homes
  • State and local agencies
  • Medical facilities
  • Mental health organizations
  • Schools
  • Employment agencies
  • Vocational rehabilitation programs

Sample Roles / Titles

  • Case Manager
  • Child Life Specialist
  • Child Services Coordinator
  • Community Services Manager
  • Consumer Advocate
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Demonstrator and Product Promoter
  • Family Resources Specialist
  • Family Services Coordinator
  • Health and Wellness Consultant
  • Human Development Analyst
  • Interior Design Project Manager
  • Intervention Specialist
  • Personal Life Coach
  • Policy Developer
  • Preventive Care Consultant
  • Program Coordinator
  • Project Manager
  • Renovation Consultant
  • Researcher
  • Resident Service Director
  • Retail Consultant
  • Retail Sales Associate
  • Tailor / Dressmaker / Custom Sewer
  • Volunteer Coordinator
  • Youth Worker


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