Exploring Careers in Family Science

"What do Family Scientists do?"

"What can I do with a Family Science degree?"

Family Science scholars and professionals are diverse, and so are their careers. Their Family Science knowledge and expertise means they're uniquely qualified for many types of jobs that work to better understand, strengthen, and empower families — research, teaching, policy work, and many professional practice roles.

Click the links or scroll to explore these topics:

 


How Do I Get Started in a Family Science Career?

Map showing locations of academic degree programs in Family Science in the U.S. and Canada
There are hundreds of Family Science degree programs in the U.S. and Canada.

Earning a Family Science degree is a great way to start on the path to a Family Science career. Hundreds of colleges and universities offer academic programs in Family Science, which can provide the knowledge and skills to prepare you for one of the many professions stemming from Family Science.

Browse and search the list of Family Science academic programs in NCFR's guide to Degree Programs in Family Science.

Why Get a Family Science Degree?
  • Explore the specifics of family: family formations, functions, dynamics, issues, challenges, and more. Programs will help you look at families across the lifespan and through a multicultural lens.
  • Gain strong family-specific knowledge and skills for your career — strengthening family relationships, building on families’ strengths, using prevention education, translating and applying research findings and evidence-based information, and more.
  • Understand how family research, theory, and practice work are related and inform each other.
  • Learn to consider societal issues within the context of family and issues that affect families.
  • Receive training to identify programs and practices that are research-based or evidence-based, and learn to evaluate the effectiveness of programs and practices.
  • Get experiential training and learning through internships or service learning.
  • Get knowledge and skills that can apply to anyone’s life within their family and close interpersonal relationships.
  • Gain skills that are important across many professions and employers: application of research to practice, problem-solving, critical thinking, leadership, ethics, decision-making, and more.
What Unique Skills Does a Family Science Degree Provide?

 
A Family Science degree equips you with a unique set of knowledge and skills — different from other social sciences — for understanding and working with families:

  • Understand research findings as they apply to all types of diverse, evolving families.
  • Recognize what healthy family functioning and relationships look like.
  • Prevent problems within families before they occur.
  • Use an educational approach to help families identify and build on their strengths.
  • Positively impact society by empowering families to enrich their own well-being.
     
Certification & Resources Through NCFR

 
NCFR also offers its members professional development resources and opportunities — webinars, articles, conferences, and more — that add to their Family Science knowledge and skills.

NCFR's Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) credential is available to professionals with at least a bachelor’s degree who can demonstrate their knowledge in the 10 content areas of Family Life Education. The CFLE credential increases credibility as a Family Life Education professional. 

 


Where Can I Work in a Family Science Career?

Professional Family Life Educator working with family members

 

Family Scientists make valuable contributions in numerous settings. Here are just some of the general work settings where you can find Family Scientists (find even more specific examples here):

  • Community Education Organizations
  • Courts and Corrections System
  • Development or Support Organizations for Children, Youth, or Seniors
  • Family or Human Services Agencies (nonprofit, faith-based, secular)
  • Government Agencies – Administrative or Human Services
  • Health Clinics or Agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Military-Related Organizations
  • Policy Analysis, Advocacy, or Research Organizations
  • Private Practice or Consulting
  • Schools (K-12, early childhood)
  • Universities and Colleges — Academic Units and/or Cooperative Extension
  • Workplace Education Programs

 


What Family Science Career Options Exist at Different Degree Levels?

Earning a Family Science degree equips you with the knowledge and skills to have a successful, rewarding career in many employment sectors and jobs.*

Click each job title below — which represent just a handful of many possible jobs — to see the types of work and responsibilities involved. You can also find extended profiles of some of these jobs in NCFR's Careers in Family Science booklet.

Bachelor’s Degree 

More than 225 undergraduate degree programs are included in NCFR’s Degree Programs in Family Science guide.

Family Life Educator, Nonprofit Prevention Services for Parents & Caregivers

Sample responsibilities:

  • Encourage and provide information to parents and caregivers to enhance positive parenting skills
  • Help parents and caregivers identify and reduce behavior that could otherwise lead to child abuse
  • Teach classes and workshops to parents on site, online, and in other community locations
  • Assist with paperwork and curriculum development
Family Support Worker, Children's Hospital

Sample responsibilities:

  • Provide education, visitation, and/or support services to children and caregivers
  • Conduct needs assessments and plan services
  • Conduct teaching and make referrals
  • Develop support networks with families and support parent–child interactions 
  • Observe and document parent–child interactions
Education Coordinator, Dementia Care and Research Facility

Sample responsibilities:

  • Oversee educational offerings, faculty, and courses
  • Conduct needs assessments and plan courses/programs
  • Write grant proposals to support programming
  • Manage program marketing and outreach efforts
Case Manager, County Department of Health and Human Services

Sample responsibilities:

  • Provide parent education
  • Coordinate client services with other department divisions
  • Conduct evaluation, performance management, and development for employees
  • Provide community education about department resources
Community Representative for an Elected Official

Sample responsibilities:

  • Meet with local organizations and government entities to build partnerships and discuss issues (e.g., women and family issues, education, youth development, violence prevention, unemployment)
  • Attend community meetings and briefings
  • Coordinate public forums around timely issues
  • Work with individual constituents to assist in navigating government programs
Parent Educator, K-12 School District

Sample responsibilities:

  • Schedule and provide home visits to families
  • Help to plan and deliver parent–child playgroups, parent workshops, and other family-engagement events
  • Prepare home-visiting curricula, documentation, and assessments
  • Provide referrals to programs and resources as needed
  • Attend staff meetings and engage in professional development activities
Prevention Specialist (Housing), Faith-Based Social Services Organization

Sample responsibilities:

  • Provide case management services around housing stability needs, helping to prevent eviction and houselessness
    • Services may include tenant-rights education, tenant support, coordinating with landlords, mediation, and crisis intervention
  • Process applications
  • Coordinate rapid rehousing
Child Development Teacher, School-Readiness Program

Sample responsibilities:

  • Provide a developmentally appropriate classroom environment for 2-year-olds
  • Document observations to monitor progress of child learning and growth
  • Establish a professional relationship with parents and children
Youth Support Specialist, Nonprofit Social Services Organization

Sample responsibilities:

  • Perform youth-focused case management responsibilities, including needs assessment, case planning and management, documentation, and more.
  • Make and coordinate referrals to community resource programs
  • Create and maintain professional relationships with peers, community partners, educators, and other youth support systems to achieve program goals
  • Develop and maintain supportive and empowering relationships with youth
  • Perform administrative duties as needed
Family Advocate, Child Advocacy Center

Sample responsibilities:

  • Work collaboratively with a multidisciplinary team (law, social services, etc.) so the child’s various environments feel safe to them.
  • Guide families through the aftermath of the crises.
  • Provide families with access to needed information, services, and support, to promote healing and justice.
  • Help give children and their families back a sense of power and control.

Master’s Degree

More than 230 master’s degree programs are included in NCFR’s Degree Programs in Family Science guide.

Military Family Life Consultant, Health Care Company

Sample responsibilities:

  • Provide non-medical consultation to armed forces members, retirees, families, and children
  • Provide family life consultation to adults and children
Family Life Educator, Private Practice

Sample responsibilities:

  • Provide community and home-based services to families with loved ones experiencing mental illness
  • Develop and implement community-based parenting education workshops
  • Teach parenting skills and co-parenting strategies
  • Provide referrals as needed
  • Provide research and resources customized to the needs of families
Manager of Strategic Growth, Community Nonprofit Organization

Sample responsibilities:

  • Coordinate internal communications between service areas
  • Develop tools and strategies to enhance service integration, as well as program sustainability and efficiency
  • Organization and train program leaders
  • Facilitate gathering of data, client success stories, and fundraising narratives
  • Plan and implement new pilot programs in collaboration with program staff
Marriage and Family Therapist, Family Therapy Practice

Sample responsibilities:

  • Provide therapy services to individuals, couples, and families (teens and adults)
  • Keep updated assessments, progress notes, and treatment documentation
  • Complete required paperwork on deadline
  • Maintain a professional environment and communicate in a clear, timely manner with others on staff
Foreclosure Hotline Representative, Housing-Services Nonprofit

Sample responsibilities:

  • Engage in community outreach to promote the hotline and housing counseling services
  • Track call center data and client information for monthly reports
  • Monitor grant compliance for client files and grant reporting
Faith Engagement Coordinator, Habitat for Humanity

Sample responsibilities:

  • Advocate for the elimination of poverty housing
  • Educate local faith communities about poverty housing issues and help explore theological implications of and solutions to combat poverty housing
  • Develop opportunities for partnerships with the organization
  • Support partner families as they transition into new, safe, affordable homes
  • Serve as a referral source for staff, clients, and volunteers to access community resources
Early Childhood Program Manager, Education-Services Organization

Sample responsibilities:

  • Provide oversight to the organization's early childhood initiatives
  • Provide comprehensive child and family support services
  • Conduct home visits with families to identify needs and assist with connecting to community resources
  • Engage children and families in age-appropriate developmental activities that stimulate the child's learning
  • Facilitate parent education workshops and trainings
  • Maintain database files and create monthly reports
  • Create, maintain, and facilitate relationships with parents, students, schools, and community partners
Senior Consultant, State Department of Social Services

Sample responsibilities:

  • Write and obtain grants
  • Manage grant programs (e.g., a grant supporting scholarships and case management for low-income individuals studying health science)
  • Promote life skills, including family resource management

Doctoral Degree

More than 65 doctoral degree programs are included in NCFR’s Degree Programs in Family Science guide.

Development and Behavioral Specialist/Director, Pediatric Counseling Clinic

Sample responsibilities:

  • Complete comprehensive behavioral and developmental assessments on children, including family assessment
  • Meet with family and other partners to review treatment recommendations
  • Work to help families thrive using a variety of interventions:
    • helping parents understand and obtained specialized education services for their child
    • medication management
    • counseling and education regarding major transitions in family life
Cooperative Extension Services Associate (and Faculty), University Extension Setting

Sample responsibilities:

  • Conduct personal assessments with participants to identify needs and barriers to self-sufficiency
  • Connect participants with community resources and information in the areas of family wellness, job readiness, and career advancement
  • Provide parent education and case management
  • Collect resources from agencies and businesses
  • Provide presentations and educational workshops
Family Life Educator, Mental Health Services Organization

Sample responsibilities:

  • Provide informal and formal education to individuals, couples, and families to improve family functioning, on topics such as:
    • effective communication and conflict resolution
    • parenting across ages
    • caring for aging parents
    • premarital education
    • identifying marital strengths
    • embracing difficult family relationships
Academic Director, University Department

Sample responsibilities:

  • Plan, coordinate, budget, and develop the department and other programs in the college
  • Supervise child development program (full-day preschool and kindergarten)
Assistant Professor, University Department

Sample responsibilities:

  • Teach courses on topics such as family relationships, parenting and guidance, child development, human sexuality, and adult development and aging
  • Provide academic advising to students
  • Serve on department and university committees
  • Conduct scholarly research on parent–child relationships, family stress, and family strengths
Senior Research Scientist, National Research Organization

Sample responsibilities:

  • Produces briefs and papers targeted to policymakers and practitioners
  • Presents research insights to various stakeholders and audiences
  • Responds to media and other requests to communicate research findings to wider audiences 
  • Fundraises to support work and staffing
  • With teams, writes proposals and drafts and negotiates budgets
Survey Statistician, Federal Government Agency

Sample responsibilities:

  • Create official statistics on population trends
  • Manage and design sample surveys and questionnaires
  • Collect, analyze, and report on data
  • Write reports that influence policy

*Some jobs may require additional education, licensure, certification, or experience.

 


How Can I Specialize in a Career in Family Science?

Family Science knowledge and training provides a great foundation for many career paths, whether it's working directly with or advocating for families, teaching about families, or studying families through research.

A few ways to tailor your career to your interests and find your niche (click each to expand):

By Stage of Life

For example, work with issues or individuals in:

  • Infancy
  • Childhood
  • Adolescence
  • Adulthood
  • Later adulthood
By Family Subject-Matter Area

Examples include these and many more:

  • Ability/disability
  • Adoption
  • Aging
  • Blended families
  • Criminal justice
  • Diversity
  • Family law
  • Family Life Education
  • Family policy
  • Family resource management
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Immigration
  • Ministry
  • Parenting
  • Poverty
  • Pregnancy
  • Relationships
  • Sexuality
  • Spirituality or faith
  • Substance abuse
  • Violence prevention
By Employment Setting

Examples include these and more:

  • Community Education Organizations
  • Courts and Corrections System
  • Development or Support Organizations for Children, Youth, or Seniors
  • Family or Human Services Agencies (nonprofit, faith-based, secular)
  • Government Agencies – Administrative or Human Services
  • Health Clinics or Agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Military-Related Organizations
  • Policy Analysis, Advocacy, or Research Organizations
  • Private Practice or Consulting
  • Schools (K-12, early childhood)
  • Universities and Colleges — Academic Units and/or Cooperative Extension
  • Workplace Education Programs
By When, How, and/or to Whom Services are Delivered:

For instance, the Domains of Family Practice model describes differences in service delivery of three major Family Science career areas:

  • Family Life Education: Provides services before problems arise or early on, using an educational approach to increase families’ knowledge and skills, with input from all family members. Takes place in varied settings, and can be delivered to an individual, family, or members of multiple families depending on the service or program.
  • Couple, Marriage, or Family Therapy: Often begins by working to improve family issues using therapeutic methods. Usually delivered to one client or family at a time.
  • Family Case Management: Frequently results from a current crisis, focusing on helping a family negotiate and comply with systems and fix problems in the present.

 


How Can I Identify a Family Science Career That Fits Me?

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Erica Jordan, Ph.D., CFLE

Many resources exist to help you align your goals, values, desired lifestyle, and more with different career options.

In NCFR’s free webcast, “Preparing Students to Advance Their Careers in Family Science,” NCFR member Erica Jordan, Ph.D., CFLE, provides strategies for personal career exploration specifically for students and recent graduates of Family Science programs. Take the time for career exploration early on, Dr. Jordan advises, to help you avoid “spinning your wheels” later. 

Click below for more on Dr. Jordan's recommended career-exploration strategies, and watch the entire free webcast.

Strategies for Exploring Careers in Family Science
Identify What's Most Important to You
  • Goals: Reflect on your goals for both your professional life and personal life, e.g., Where do you want to live? How much free time do you want? What salary would you be comfortable with?
  • Values: Identify your professional and personal values. Values exploration tools are available online.
Keep an Open Mind
  • Limiting factors: Unless something is nonnegotiable, try not to list it as a limiting factor.
  • Location: Consider geographic location. If your location requirements are stricter, you may need to be more open in terms of types of jobs, or vice versa.
  • Job titles: Recognize that some job titles can mean different things in different settings (e.g., a “resident adviser” at a college is different than at a senior services facility).
Take First Steps in Exploring Broad Career Paths
Dive Deeper Into Career Options That Interest You
  • Review job openings to learn about the responsibilities and qualifications. (Don’t be discouraged if a listing doesn’t mention your specific academic major.)
  • Attend networking events or get involved with networking groups in your interest areas.
  • Ask to interview a person working in the career.
  • Ask to shadow someone at their job.

For more career advice and information from Dr. Jordan, check out her HDFS Careers website and podcast.

 


How Can I Explore More Family Science Career Options?

Learn more about the many careers where Family Science professionals and scholars can make a meaningful difference. Click below to expand lists of additional resources.

NCFR Career Exploration Resources

Read

 

Careers in Family Science infographic image

Infographic: Career Opportunities in Family Science: A quick glance at the many career options available through Family Science.

Booklet: Careers in Family Science: More details about earning a Family Science degree and career opportunities with a Family Science degree.

Family Science Career Paths and Profiles: Family Scientists and Certified Family Life Educators explain what they do in their work, how they got where they are today, and how they make a difference in the world.

Short Stories: The Impact of Family Scientists’ Work: Brief narratives illustrating the impact Family Scientists are making for families and society.
 

Watch

Webcasts

Career Video Profiles (Doctoral Degrees)

  • Survey Statistician at U.S. Census Bureau: Benjamin Gurrentz, Ph.D., talks about his career and career path for a session at the 2019 NCFR Annual Conference on jobs outside of academia for doctoral degree holders.
  • Research Scientist at Child Trends: Katie Paschall, Ph.D., discusses her career and career path for a session at the 2019 NCFR Annual Conference on jobs outside of academia for doctoral degree holders.

Recorded NCFR Conference Sessions

Resources From Members & Universities

 
Career Exploration Exercises From Domains of Family Practice: Exercises from the authors of the Domains of Family Practice model can help you clarify your career goals and engage in personal reflection related to careers (see handouts under "Self-Study Session #2).

Career Profiles on The HDFS Careers Podcast: NCFR member Erica Jordan, Ph.D., CFLE independently hosts a podcast of informal conversations with individuals in different Family Science careers.

Career Profiles of Family Science Alumni:

 


Do you have feedback about existing NCFR resources that support the Family Science discipline, or ideas and needs for future resources to support you in Family Science? Submit your feedback and ideas to NCFR here.