The Human Development major is a Bachelor of Science degree that prepares you for a career in medicine, law, business, child and family advocacy, social work and education, research or to become a professor of Human Development, Sociology, Psychology or Neuroscience.

Undergraduate students may become involved in research with the guidance of a faculty member by applying to join a lab. Students can earn credit while working on a faculty research project by enrolling in HD 4010, Empirical Research, (an undergraduate special studies course) with a chosen faculty member. 

Undergraduates may also conduct their own research as part of the HD Honors program, which is designed to give talented Human Development undergraduates the opportunity to formulate and carry out an independent research investigation under the supervision of a member of HD departmental faculty.

Students from other departments at Cornell may consider a minor in Human Development. A minor may be useful for students who are aiming for careers that involve interacting with children, teens, or older adults. Students are required to take one of three introductory courses in Human Development, plus four more HD classes. Students electing the minor may specialize in a particular age group or area in HD. 

Are you a NEW STUDENT?  Human Development advising pages will help you plan the years ahead.

Contact HD’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) at

More Information about the Bachelor of Science in Human Development degree

  1. Learn content and theories in the multiple areas that comprise the field of human development
  2. Learn how to write and communicate clearly and effectively
  3. Achieve basic literacy in research methods
  4. Learn how to think critically
  5. Comprehend and practice ethical behavior across academic, research, and professional settings
  6. Learn how to work effectively with others
  7. Learn how to analyze or create research applying principles of the scientific method
  8. Learn how to translate ideas effectively across disciplinary contexts, such as:  biology and psychology; psychology and sociology; social science and medicine; or health and public policy
  9. Learn concepts and methods to translate research knowledge into practice, programs, or policy
  10. Acquire the skills to direct own learning

Students wishing to transfer into the College of Human Ecology should work with the Human Ecology Admissions Office to understand what courses should be taken prior to admission into the College. You should also closely review the Required Courses for Transfer Students

Most students fulfill the requirements outlined for their major in effect at the time of matriculation (the time they entered the College of Human Ecology). Students may choose to follow requirements specified for subsequent years. However, they cannot mix and match requirements from 2 or more different years. 

Please note regarding the breadth requirement:

Human Development majors must take at least ONE class in EACH of the two areas listed below. Classes marked with * (a star) may count for either area, but only count once. A minimum of six credits must be taken to fulfill this requirement. Courses taken to fulfill the Breadth requirement cannot also be used to fulfill the 3000/4000 level requirement.

Mind, Health & Emotion:

2180 Human Development: Adulthood and Aging *
2520 Narratives of Women's Lives
2510 Social Gerontology: Aging and the Life Course
2580 Six Pretty Good Books: Explorations in Social Science*
2600 Introduction to Social Personality
2610 Development of Social Behavior *
2650 Psychology and Law *
2710 The Black Family and Socialization of Black Children *
2800 Cultural Psychology *
2820 Community Outreach
3270 Field Practicum I
3270 Field Practicum II
3290 Self-Regulation Across the Life Span *
3300 Developmental Psychopathology
3310 Psychology of Gender
3320 Gender and Psychopathology
3450 The Nature of Leadership
3460 Serious Fun! The Role of Play Throughout Development *
3490 Positive Psychology
3510 Racial and Ethnic Identity Development
3570 Social Inequalities in Physical and Mental Health
3620 Human Bonding
3650 Developmental Human Sexuality
3660 Affective and Social Neuroscience *
3700 Adult Psychopathology
4070 The Origins of Us vs. Them
4120 Aging Policy
4230 Research in Children's Testimony: Exploring Social and Cognitive Mechanisms *
4240 Stress, Emotion, and Health
4280 Research on Health Aging Lab
4310 Mind, Self, and Emotion *
4390 Positive Psychology in Prison
4410 Human-Environment Relations *
4420 Intimate Relationships
4430 Navigate the Social World
4490 Children's Learning in Social Context *
4500 Social Networks *
4520 Culture and Human Development
4570 Health and Social Behavior
4580 The Science of Social Behavior
4590 Transitions Across the Life Span
4690 Research on Adult Attachment Phenomena Lab
4770 Psychopathology in Great Works of Literature
4790 Contemporary Perspectives on Human Development *
4850 Translational Research Lab
4860 Nearest Neighbor

Cognition, Brain & Behavior:

2180 Human Development: Adulthood and Aging *
2200 The Human Brain and Mind: An Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience
2300 Cognitive Development
2580 Six Pretty Good Books: Explorations in Social Science *
2610 Development of Social Behavior *
2650 Psychology and Law *
2710 The Black Family and Socialization of Black Children *
2800 Cultural Psychology *
3110 Educational Psychology
3190 Memory and the Law
3210 Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
3250 Neurochemistry of Human Behavior
3290 Self-Regulation Across the Life Span *
3330 Children and the Law
3460 Serious Fun! The Role of Play Throughout Development *
3660 Affective and Social Neuroscience *
4230 Research in Children's Testimony: Exploring Social and Cognitive Mechanisms *
4250 Translational Research on Decision Making
4260 Translational Research on Memory and Neuroscience
4290 Psychology and the Law: Experimental and Correlational Research
4300 Concepts and Theories in Childhood
4310 Mind, Self, and Emotion *
4340 Current Topics in Cognitive Development
4380 Language and Thought Throughout Development
4410 Human-Environment Relations *
4440 The Nature of Human Intelligence
4450 Ethical Challenges in Behavioral and Brain Sciences
4470 Psychology of Imagination
4490 Children's Learning in Social Context *
4500 Social Networks *
4540 Creativity and Its Development
4620 Research Seminar: Brain Activity and Cognition Lab
4630 Introduction to Functional MRI Analysis for Human Neuroimaging
4720 Research in Emotion, Cognition, and Brain Lab
4765 How to Think Like a Scientist
4790 Contemporary Perspectives on Human Development *

Cornell University's Class Roster provides the complete list of HD courses that are offered each semester. Some classes may only be offered in alternating years. 

Enrolling in summer courses, including some on-line courses, can be useful for those who would like to Study Abroad and aren't sure where they'll find the time to complete all of their requirements. 

Examining the appropriate Human Development curriculum sheet will help students in planning.

Helpful Frequently Asked Questions

Human development majors explore the psychological, social, cultural, and biological development of people from conception to old age, focusing on the processes and mechanisms of growth and change over the life course. An important emphasis is the role that social institutions such as schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods play in human development, as well as the influence that developing people have on their environments. Classes in human development cover a wide range of issues and approaches, and are organized into five different areas: social and personality development, cognitive development, human developmental behavioral neuroscience, aging and health, and psychology, law and human development. The faculty in the Department of Human Development come from multiple disciplines, including developmental psychology, neuroscience, clinical psychology, education, and sociology.

That is okay.  The curriculum in Human Development and in Human Ecology allows for a lot of exploration of interests.  You will complete courses in Biology, other natural sciences, and social sciences that provide the foundation for all of the majors in the college.

The Human Development major provides an excellent foundation for many professional careers, such as in medicine, health, clinical psychology, counseling, administrative, and business careers. Many human development graduates attend graduate school in the fields of human development, psychology, and sociology.  Some common post-graduation careers are:

  • Medicine and other health careers such as physical therapy and dentistry, Public health and health administration
  • Clinical psychology, counseling psychology, and family therapy
  • Research and teaching at universities, in areas such as human development, psychology and sociology
  • Law
  • Social work
  • Teaching and educational careers
  • Business and non-profit organizations, especially human resources and marketing

Classes in Human Development major dovetail very well with these careers and the HD major allows for students to pursue self-directed research and learning opportunities that help prepare for these careers.  The Human Development Major Career Tree provides information about HD, Human Ecology and Cornell classes that prepare students for nine different careers. HD major requirements are flexible enough to give students ample opportunity to meet the requirements for admission to professional degree programs, including medical, dental, law, public health, social work, and business schools.

Human Development has a dual faculty advising system.  During Orientation you will meet with the members of Central Advising. Central Advising consists of two members of the faculty (the Director of Undergraduate Studies and the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies) and two staff members in the main HD office, Marianne Arcangeli and Timothy Snyder. They will be your first advisers at Cornell and will discuss HD major requirements with you and give advice about course scheduling.  You will also be assigned an individual faculty adviser. This adviser will be matched to your interests in Human Development.  It is important to declare a major officially during the summer to be assigned to a faculty adviser in the Fall semester.

View a sample four year plan for HD majors. It is important to remember that this is an ideal plan and that there are variations in students’ schedules depending on their career interests.  Human Development majors must take 36 credits in HD didactic courses, distributed among different levels and areas.  Human Development majors must also take courses in Biology, Statistics, and scientific methods.  About a third of credits HD students take at Cornell are electives.

It is not possible to complete a double major in the College of Human Ecology.

The College of Human Ecology recognizes all minors at Cornell.  Students in the college may complete any minor where enrollment is not restricted to its home college. Minors in Global Health, Inequality Studies, Health Policy, Gerontology, and Education are popular with Human Development majors.

Psychology does offer a minor and HD students may complete it.  Sociology does not offer a minor at this time, however, the Inequality Studies minor consists primarily of courses in the discipline of Sociology.

Courses required for admission to Medical School are very compatible with the HD major.  The HD major requires a foundation in biology and a course in research methods, both of which are also required for pre-medical study.  The HD major includes multiple courses in the area of Human Developmental Neuroscience.  Several of the courses in that area are viewed as natural science courses by medical schools.

We recommend that you use your electives wisely to explore career interests. The Human Development Career Tree is a guide to help you get started.

The majority of Human Development students take part in faculty research before they graduate, for credit, for pay, or as volunteers.  In both 2010 and 2011, over 65% of HD graduating seniors had taken part in research before they graduated from Cornell.  Most HD students work in laboratories or on projects in Human Development. Typically students get involved in research during their sophomore and junior years, although there are some exceptions.

 Human development students may earn credit toward the major by taking formal didactic courses designed to teach laboratory and other research techniques, including study design, data collection, and data analysis. (These are designated as LAB courses in the course roster.) Students may count one of these courses toward the credits required for the Human Development major. Additional elective credits can be earned toward graduation by enrolling in individual faculty research programs, as described below.

 Students get also involved in research by applying to faculty members who are conducting research and volunteering to join their projects.  The HD department keeps an up-to-date list of student research opportunities in the main office (G421 MVR).  We welcome students coming to browse those listings, which are updated every semester. Many faculty members who run large laboratories also have laboratory websites.   Most students receive credit for their research involvement, as HD 4010 Empirical Research. (HD 4010 is considered an elective and these credits do not count toward the 36 didactic credits required for graduation in Human Development.)

Students who want to graduate with honors begin by conducting research in faculty laboratories. Students in the Honors Program conduct original empirical research and write an honors thesis.  See the requirements for the HD Honors Program.

The research of the department’s faculty is extensive and world renowned and includes issues such as the neurobiological basis of personality, the role of childhood attachments in the development of adult romantic relationships, the acquisition of language in infants, the effects of environmental stressors on children’s cognitive development, interventions to prevent and mitigate the impacts of child maltreatment, risk-taking during adolescence, risk and resilience factors affecting reactivity to stress across the life course, the epidemiology of elder mistreatment, memory and the legal system, health care decision making among older people, and strategies to prevent social isolation and promote social integration among older people.

Juniors and seniors have the opportunity to serve as undergraduate teaching assistants in Human Development.  Undergraduate teaching assistants work with faculty members and the graduate teaching assistants for the course and often lead weekly discussion sections with other students.  Undergraduate TAs receive academic credit for their work through HD 4030.  (HD 4030 is an elective and does not count toward the 36 didactic credits required in HD for graduation.)  Students apply directly to the faculty member who is teaching the course.