Child Development and Family Studies Emphasis
The Master of Arts in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Child Development and Family Studies prepares students to work with children, adolescents, or families in educational, applied, or other clinical settings, as well as preparing students for doctoral-level studies. Relative to employment opportunities, students have obtained positions for which they generally would not have been competitive with an undergraduate degree unless accompanied by many years of related experience.
Upon graduation, graduates have been hired as directors of child care programs in corporations, hospitals, and the private sector. Some students have obtained positions as instructors and faculty members at four-year colleges and branch campuses of major universities teaching classes in child/human development and family studies. Others have become specialists in parenting and curriculum development for head start and similar agencies. Graduates have also obtained employment as parenting and family specialists in community-based family agencies and community health care agencies. Some graduate students have entered the program with teaching certificates and have used their master’s degree in CDFS to broaden the scope of their teaching in elementary and secondary education. Graduates have also successfully pursued positions as Extension agents through land-grant universities.
Salaries for CDFS graduates with masters degrees are highly variable depending on the nature of the position and the location of employment. However, salaries are generally higher than students with only the bachelors degree.
In addition to educational and applied careers, some students have entered the program with the aim of pursuing doctoral studies. Through rigorous coursework and the requirement to complete a research-based thesis, students are prepared to pursue doctoral studies in human development, family studies, sociology, special education, developmental psychology, counseling, and related fields.
Admission Requirements and Performance Standards
Ideally, prospective students should have completed an undergraduate curriculum in an area of specialization related to child development and family studies, such as psychology, sociology, education, or social work. A student whose undergraduate degree is in an unrelated field and/or who lacks preferred foundation courses for graduate studies in CDFS will likely be required to take supplemental undergraduate courses if accepted into the program.
All CDFS faculty members review every graduate application and jointly determine whether a student will be admitted as a regular graduate student, or not admitted into the program. A majority of faculty members must indicate acceptance and one faculty member must be able to serve as the major advisor to the student. Final approval for admission rests with the graduate coordinator of the CDFS program.
Required coursework includes child development, family studies, statistics, research methods, elective hours, and thesis credits for a total of 33 hours. Six credits of electives are selected in consultation with the student’s faculty advisor and are based on the particular interests of individual students. For instance, students may take their electives in education psychology, curriculum and instruction, counseling and guidance, psychology, special education, sociology, women’s studies, social work, public administration, and related disciplines.
Six credit hours are assigned for the completion of the required research-based thesis. The student and his/her major professor determine the research topic with input from other committee members. The thesis requires six research credits, an extensive literature review, development of a research design with associated methodological procedures, data collection or use of faculty data sets, in-depth analysis of data, and analytic discussion of the results. Most students conduct quantitative/statistically-based theses. However, qualitative research designs are permitted, with appropriate rigorous application of qualitative research methods in the collection and interpretation of data. The format for a thesis must meet the requirements outlined in the CDFS Thesis Manual, available at theWVU Bookstore and is written in the style of the Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). Theses are electronically submitted upon their approval.
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