Family & Consumer Science Degrees: Master's, Bachelor's & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with a bachelor's or master's degree in family and consumer sciences? Read about family and consumer sciences program requirements, pros and cons of a bachelor's or master's degree in this field and potential careers.
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Studying Family and Consumer Sciences: Degrees at a Glance

A bachelor's or master's program in family and consumer sciences can prepare students for careers in education, family studies, hospitality or retail management. Students with a bachelor's degree can pursue a career as a health educator, social worker or retail buyer, while those with a master's degree might be able to teach at the postsecondary level. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the need for health educators to increase 37% between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). This faster-than-average growth was attributed to a need to educate the public about healthy eating habits so as to reduce the number and types of medical conditions caused by poor diets.

Bachelor's Master's
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking careers in education, family studies, retail merchandising or hospitality or those intending to attend a master's degree program Individuals pursuing a career in hospitality management, education or nutrition
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Wholesale and retail buyer ($57,000)*
- Health educator ($52,000)*
- Secondary school teacher ($57,000)*
- Social worker ($42,000)
- Home economics teacher, postsecondary ($68,000)*
- Dietitian or nutritionist ($55,000)*
Time to Completion 4 years full-time 3 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 120 hours of coursework
- Internship
- Roughly 35 hours of coursework
- Graduate thesis or research project
- Internship
Prerequisites - High school diploma or equivalent - Bachelor's degree
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Bachelor of Family and Consumer Sciences

Bachelor's degree programs in family and consumer sciences usually offer students the opportunity to concentrate in a specific area of interest. Schools also might offer programs in which students can meet state teaching licensure requirements during their studies. A bachelor's degree in family and consumer sciences can prepare students for a career in the education, fashion, healthcare or hospitality industries.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Curricula for these programs might meet state teaching requirements, enabling students to simultaneously earn a degree and teaching licensure
  • This major can prepare students for careers in many fields
  • Programs often allow students to concentrate their studies in a specific area, which can better prepare them for their intended career field

Cons

  • Careers in wholesale and retail buying may be difficult to obtain with this degree; the BLS anticipates that the need for wholesale and retail buyers will increase at a slower-than-average rate between 2010 and 2020*
  • In some careers, graduates might compete with master's graduates for jobs
  • Degree may not prepare students for a career in research

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Common Courses and Requirements

Students enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in family and consumer sciences can choose a concentration to specialize their studies. Common concentration areas include education and teaching, retail merchandising, family studies and hospitality. Most bachelor's degree programs also require that students complete an internship. Students interested in a teaching career usually complete a student teaching experience. Common courses in these programs include:

  • Nutrition for healthy living
  • Apparel construction
  • Family dynamics
  • Consumer education
  • Family relationships

Online Degree Options

Online family and consumer science bachelor's degree programs are available. Some programs can be completed entirely online, while others are offered in a hybrid format that allow students to complete some courses online and others in the classroom. Generally, the curricula of online programs parallel those of on-campus programs.

Stand Out with this Degree

To stand out with this degree, consider completing a teaching practicum. Even if you don't intend to embark on a teaching career, experience instructing others and managing a group of people can help you in a position as a buyer or in other fields. This type of experience might make you more attractive to employers.

Also, consider completing a class in personal finance. Knowledge of budgeting and managing financial affairs can benefit you and your clients. Possessing basic financial management skills could help you stand out against your competition.

Master of Family and Consumer Sciences

A master's degree program in family and consumer sciences can prepare you to work as a registered dietitian (if it includes a Dietetic Internship Program) or to teach at the high school or postsecondary level. Most master's degree programs are designed to be completed in three years and provide flexible distance learning opportunities for working students. The BLS expects the need for registered dietitians to increase 20% between 2010 and 2020.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Graduates might be qualified to teach at the postsecondary level
  • Graduates might be qualified for research positions
  • A master's degree in family and consumer sciences program might meet the requirements needed to hold a position in leadership or specialist positions in multiple industries

Cons

  • Teachers with a master's degree might not earn significantly more than those with a bachelor's degree*
  • Certain teaching and dietitian positions require only a bachelor's degree
  • Finding a position teaching home economics might be difficult

Source: *State of Washington, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 2010-2011 K-12 teacher salary figures

Courses and Requirements

Master's degree programs in family and consumer sciences allow students to specialize in areas like hospitality management and tourism, nutrition or curriculum and instruction. Most programs include an internship requirement. Common courses taken in these programs are:

  • Educational research methodology
  • Physical and health needs of students with disabilities
  • Food systems management
  • Advanced theory and practice in the teaching of early adolescents
  • Research methods

Online Degree Options

Online master's degree programs exist, but they aren't common. Most of these programs can be completed entirely online, with the exception of internships or student teaching practicums. Some master's degree programs allow students to take courses from other approved schools for transfer credit. Students in these programs study the same material as students attending in-person programs.

Stand Out with this Degree

To stand out from the crowd, consider earning one or more professional certifications. For example, the American Dietetic Association offers the Registered Dietitian (RD) certification to students. Being certified in your career field might make you more attractive to employers. Additionally, as in the case of the RD, it might help you meet any state licensing requirements.

You might also take an advanced statistics course. Being able to gather and compare statistical data is a skill many employers find attractive.

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