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Master's Degree Program

Program: Human Development and Education

The Human Development and Education (HDE) Program prepares you to support the unique needs and growth of all learners — whether you are interested in exploring a direct service role, starting a nonprofit organization, engaging in clinical or counseling work, or pursuing doctoral research. By linking theories and pioneering research with practice and policy about child, adolescent, and adult development, you will have opportunities to examine different developmental domains — including cognitive, emotional, social, moral, and neurological — as well as design strategies and interventions to promote healthy development.  


"We know much about the science of human development, but we are just beginning to figure out how to communicate and enact it to actually better the world. Our program helps our students gain a deeper understanding of learning and growth across diverse contexts, as they explore their professional roles in supporting human development for children, families, and communities."

Junlei Li, Faculty Co-Chair

After completing the HDE Program, you will have a deeper understanding of the following competencies that explore how:  

  • Learning and development are lifelong processes, with a predictable sequence at the population level and significant variation at the individual level  
  • Learning and development are active and interactive, driven by maturity and experience levels  
  • Ecological factors — including families, teachers, schools, communities, neighborhoods, and culture — influence learning and development  
  • Evaluation of evidence and research from human developmental science can inform effective change strategies to lead, design, and implement intervention, prevention, and support efforts  
  • Engagement in continuous learning can emerge from reflective practice, community involvement, and evaluation of intervention, prevention, and support efforts    

Curriculum Information

Through the HDE Program Core Experience, you will gain critical knowledge about human development in contexts that include parents, families, communities, preK–12 schools, and higher education. At the same time, you will learn practical skills and strategies that allow you to apply these insights to a variety of professional environments.

Cohort learning also plays a significant role in the HDE Program Core Experience as you will have the opportunity to discuss your own field-based work and reflect on professional goals through participation in peer-advisory groups. You can tailor your coursework to your chosen career pathway by selecting from a rich and diverse set of courses that deepen your knowledge in a specific age category or domain and a specific method or skill. 

Applicants to the HDE program may apply for consideration to our School Counseling Strand, which resumes in academic year 2022-2023, providing a pathway to Massachusetts licensure in school counseling. This curricular pathway will prepare counselors-in-training with the skills necessary to promote positive, healthy academic and social emotional development with an emphasis on prevention and social justice. Those who wish to continue their studies beyond this master's degree to pursue Massachusetts initial licensure as a school counselor, may apply to a second year of study through our Certificate of Advanced Study in Counseling program. Through a curricular sequence and field based placement, graduates will be prepared to enter K-12 schools as counselors, leaders, and advocates. 

Career Pathways

The HDE Program prepares you for a variety of career pathways, including: 

  • School counselor (K–12 or higher education)   
  • Teacher
  • Curricula developer
  • Adjustment counselor 
  • Family counselor  
  • College or university administrator   
  • Afterschool program, camp, or youth organization director  
  • Researcher (university centers, nonprofit/for-profit think tank)  
  • Local, state, or federal government administrator  
  • Field-staff or program manager at international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) 
  • Child-life specialist  
  • Education consultant  


Supporting the unique needs of learners is a critical element of our Human Development and Education Program. HGSE’s curriculum offers you the opportunity to gain the insights and preparation you need to promote social-emotional growth. Here are examples of the work our graduates are doing around child, adolescent, and adult development: 

Claudia Espinosa with students in Harlem

All They Need is L.O.V.E.

Mentoring Latinas in New York City schools.

Liz Zhong with students

Q+A: Liz Zhong, Ed.M.’18

How one alum is building relationships between children from rural areas and their migrant worker parents.

Cohort and Community

You will join an extraordinary cohort of students representing a rich diversity of personal and professional backgrounds. As an HDE student, you will engage in events and professional development opportunities that build community — including discussions about career pathways, conversations with faculty members about their research interests, and other community events. You will find that your cohort members exhibit energy, curiosity, and compassion, as well as a common commitment to understanding the deepest puzzles of development and addressing the greatest practical challenges. This community results in an exhilarating learning environment that forms the basis for lifelong friendships and long-term professional networks.

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