What is Child and Family Studies
Child and Family Studies (CFS) is the scientific study of child and family development. CFS students learn how social systems and societal institutions are interconnected in ways that either foster or hinder the development of children, youth, and families. CFS students also learn how the social, economic, and cultural contexts in which children and families live create opportunities for some and barriers for others. CFS students are prepared to enter the work world with the scientific knowledge and the practical skills needed to understand children and families and how to intervene to improve their welfare.
The CFS major is designed to accommodate the special interests and strengths of students by allowing for flexibility and individualization. CFS students complete an integrated core curriculum that includes human and child development, family dynamics and interaction patterns, research methods, and interpersonal and professional skills needed to function effectively in the workplace. Core coursework is complemented with a range of elective options that give students a broad, general education as well as specialized knowledge in areas of their choosing. The major includes a 12 credit-hour, field-based experience (the practicum) that enables students to hone practical skills and apply knowledge in a work setting consistent with their personal and professional goals.
Career Opportunities in Child and Family Studies
CFS graduates are prepared to work with individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds and in diverse settings: in schools as early childhood educators, with agencies providing services to children and families, and with for-profit businesses.
Recent graduates are employed in the following positions:
- teachers in public and private schools
- administrative staff and teachers in child care and pre-school agencies
- case managers with the Department of Children’s Services
- counselors in programs serving abused children and children with severe behavior problems
- therapists for adults and children in mental health centers
- family support workers in programs teaching parenting skills
- agents with UT Extension Service
- account managers for major consumer products companies
- sales representatives for insurance, pharmaceuticals, and other products
Many students pursue graduate study to prepare them for specialized work and professional positions. Recent graduates have completed advanced degrees in:
- Elementary and Secondary Education
- Child and Family Studies
- Adult Education
- Social Work
- Exercise Science
Salary Trends in Child and Family Studies
Entry-level salaries vary widely depending upon the field and from state to state. These entry-level salaries usually range from $20,000 to $32,000 per year. Because many CFS-related jobs have ties with educational and governmental agencies, many positions have long-term career ladders and good benefit packages.
High School Preparation
Students should take as many courses in the social sciences as possible, especially those dealing with child development, family life education, consumer studies, economics, sociology, and psychology. Volunteer work can help you examine whether you enjoy being with and helping young children, low-income families, as well as families and youth who are experiencing stress and crisis in their lives. You should visit with your guidance counselors for other advice about preparing for your university experience.
How to Major in Child and Family Studies
Students can choose CFS as their major upon admission to UT or at some later time. Students may obtain initial information from the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences Office of Student Services (865-974-8194) or from the Child and Family Studies Department. After admission to CFS, students are assigned individual faculty advisors who help them plan their program of study. Specific information about the major may be found at: http://cfs.utk.edu.
Requirements for Child and Family Studies
A major focus in our undergraduate curriculum is the linkages that children and families have with peers, schools, community agencies, sources of social policy, and varied cultural contexts. Important features include the internships and field placements we provide that allow students to apply knowledge in career-related settings.
There are three options for completing the CFS major. Students may follow the Community Outreach track or select one of two teacher licensure tracks: Early Childhood Education Teacher Licensure at the Pre K-3 level, or Early Development and Learning Teacher Licensure at the Pre K-K level.
Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships
In addition to the major, CFS students may pursue three professional options:
- A teacher licensure program in Early Development and Learning that prepares students to teach grades PreK through Kindergarten in the State of Tennessee.
- A teacher licensure program in Early Childhood Education that prepares students to teach grades PreK through 3rd in the State of Tennessee. This licensure program must be completed in conjunction with the Master’s Degree in Child and Family Studies program.
- A certification program through the National Council on Family Relations that prepares students for certification as a Family Life Educator. With this designation, students have the knowledge and skills to develop and implement family life education programs and services in a variety of community agencies.
All CFS students conclude their program of study with a practicum experience, which gives them real-world experience in their field, an opportunity to explore career interests, and the chance to learn more about children, families, and the support services available to them. Students electing the Early Development and Learning teacher licensure option, complete their practicum in area pre-schools and kindergartens. Early Childhood Education teacher licensure students complete their practicum in the Department’s Early Learning Center. Other students secure practicum placements with area agencies serving the needs of children and families. Recent placements include: The Department of Children’s Services, Knox County Juvenile Court, Helen Ross McNabb Center, Child and Family Tennessee, Children’s Hospital, Head Start, Project Grad, and UT Extension. Students also have the option to work with CFS faculty members on current research projects where they learn advanced research methods and how knowledge about children, youth, and families is discovered.
Highlights of Child and Family Studies
The department’s primary mission is to graduate students who have acquired the competence to work professionally with children and families and who possess knowledge and skills to enhance their own family life. The CFS curriculum has a strong, applied focus. Learning about child development and family dynamics and developing the skills to use this knowledge with children and families to improve their well-being is at the core of the major.
The practicum experience concludes the program of study and serves the department’s primary mission by integrating what has been learned in the classroom with the demands of the real world. For one student, the practicum was an opportunity “to tie together everything I had learned in my classes and have a hands-on, unedited experience of working with youth and families. It also was a way to confirm my career choice.” The practicum experience is an empowering, and potentially life-changing, experience. Students gain self-confidence and the assurance that they can contribute to their chosen profession. As expressed by a recent graduate:
“I have learned a lot about myself and how I would really enjoy spending my career. Professionally, I have become more assertive. I have developed administrative skills that will be useful in any job setting. I have learned to apply my book knowledge to practical experience, and I have come to appreciate the CFS curriculum. I feel ready for new endeavors and am anxious for what is actually ahead.”
Ready for the World
CFS students become “ready for the world” by exploring issues related to social class, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, gender, and disabilities in the core course Diversity Among Children and Families. In another core course, Development of Professional Skills, students gain further insight into the lives of diverse children and families, as well as learn the interpersonal, helping, and communication skills needed to apply their diversity training in today’s professional workplace. Students complete their preparation with field placements in educational settings and with public and private agencies wherein they employ the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to teach young children or assist at-risk children and families.
Additionally, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers study abroad programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. Program lengths vary from mini-term trips to the entire academic year, and students may choose to fulfill general education requirements, study a foreign language, or take courses within their majors.
Consult an academic advisor early in your academic career about the best time for you to study abroad as well as what courses you may need to take. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website. Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.
Academic Plan and Milestones
Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. Beginning with first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students entering in the Fall 2013 semester, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.
To see a sample academic plan and milestones for the Community Outreach Track go to
For the Early Development and Learning PreK-K Track go to http://catalog.utk.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=16&poid=6653.
For the Early Childhood Education Teacher Licensure PreK-3 Track go to http://catalog.utk.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=16&poid=6652.
For More Information
Carole McDonald, Administrative Assistant
Department of Child and Family Studies
115 Jessie Harris Building
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-1912
The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.