Family Life Education Concentration—Master of Arts in Family and Consumer Sciences

Program description

A teacher works with kids.The family life education concentration prepares professionals to provide prevention and intervention services for effective coping with life events and family transitions. Students acquire knowledge and skills to conduct family life education in a variety of settings and work with individuals and families across the life span. Family life educators promote family well-being and resilience primarily through educational approaches.

The concentration in family life education requires a minimum of 30 credit hours of course work planned in consultation with and approved by the graduate student advisor. Although not required, this work can include a thesis. Students complete a minimum of 12 to 21 credit hours of core courses (21 hours are required if certification as a Family Life Educator is desired), two to three credit hours of an individualized practicum experience, five to nine credit hours of research courses and three to six credit hours of approved elective courses. Students are required to take course work in each of the 10 family life content areas and to complete an individualized practicum experience. Students who do not have a bachelor's degree in family studies or a related area may be required to take additional courses to meet requirements for family life educator certification.

A plan of study is designed with a student’s specific career goals in mind, within the parameters of the program's requirements. A specialization in gerontology, holistic health or addiction disorders may be added through additional course work and requirements.

Upon graduation, students may apply to NCFR for the Provisional Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) designation. More information about the CFLE designation is found below.

WMU Undergraduate students with declared majors in Family Studies, Child and Family Development or Youth and Community Development

Qualifying WMU students can accumulate up to 12 credit hours toward the Master of Arts in Family and Consumer Sciences (Child Life or Family Life Education options) through the Accelerated Graduate Degree Program while enrolled as undergraduates in the Family Studies major, the Child and Family Development major or the Youth and Community Development major. Students accepted into the AGDP take designated 5000- and 6000-level courses that are counted in both the bachelor’s degree and the master’s degree. For more information, see the AGDP program page.


Upon acceptance into the master’s program, each student is to make an appointment with the graduate advisor to plan a program of study. Advisors for the MA in family and consumer sciences are:
Dr. Karen Blaisure (September - April)
Dr. Suzan Smith-Ayers (May - August)


For more information on admissions application and instructions, please visit the Admissions page.


Family life educators are serving as:

  • Child program specialists
  • Community college or undergraduate college instructors
  • Directors of local social service agencies
  • Family program coordinators and directors in human services and faith communities
  • Family service field associates or parent involvement specialists for Head Start or Evenstart programs
  • Juvenile court workers
  • Parent coordinators
  • Parent educators
  • Youth advocates
  • Youth and family agents for county extension


The MA in FCS (concentration in Family Life Education) degree at Western Michigan University has been reviewed by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). It has been recognized as an NCFR CFLE-approved program offering coursework covering the content required for the Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) designation. Graduates of NCFR CFLE-approved programs qualify to apply for the CFLE designation via an Abbreviated Application process.

NCFR sponsors the only national program to certify family life educators. The Certified Family Life Educator at NCFR documents knowledge and competence, verifies professional credibility and enhances the reputation of professionals as family life educators.
Students who complete WMU’s MA in FCS degree with a concentration in family life education meet the academic qualifications to become a Provisional CFLE through NCFR. Application to NCFR is required to receive this provisional CFLE designation. In additional to academic credentials, documentation of work in the field of family life education is required to receive full certification as a CFLE. Visit the NCFR's CFLE Certification Web page for more information on the CFLE designation.

Students who do not have a bachelor's degree in family studies, child and family development, or a related area may be required to take additional courses to meet requirements for certification as a Family Life Educator.


Family life education concentration (30 hrs.)

Program requirements: core courses (12-21 hrs.)

Course codeDescriptionCredit
FCS 5100Teaching Sexuality Education3
FCS 5680Gender, Culture and Family3
FCS 6160Consumer Education3
FCS 6520Family Life Education3
FCS 6550Adult-Child Relationships3
FCS 6560Family Law, Ethics and Professional Issues3
FCS 6600Studies in Family Relationships3


Course codeDescriptionCredit
FCS 6220Practicum (Individualized)2-3

Research/Thesis (5-9 hrs.)

Course codeDescriptionCredit
FCS 6010Basic Research Methods and Design3

Select one of the following

Course codeDescriptionCredit
FCS 7000Master's Thesis6
FCS 7100Independent Research2-6

Elective Courses (3-6 hrs.)

Course codeDescriptionCredit
FCS 5350Communication Skills for Working With Families Across the Lifespan (highly recommended)3

Students may choose to specialize in an area by taking additional courses. Suggested areas of specialization include, but are not limited to, gerontology, holistic health, alcohol and drug abuse.

Planned rotation of classes

Students typically enroll in one to two classes per semester depending upon professional and personal responsibilities. Classes are offered year-round in fall and spring semesters and in summer sessions. Classes are offered in evening and weekend formats suited to lives of working adults and parents.


Advisors for the MA in FCS
Dr. Karen Blaisure (September - April)
Dr. Suzan Smith-Ayers (May - August)

Family Science Faculty
Dr. Jou-Chen Chen
Dr. Kimberly Doudna
Dr. Ángel Gullón-Rivera
Ms. Melinda (Mindy) Holohan
Ms. Karin Rourke

Graduate practicum

FCS 6220: Practicum in Family and Consumer Sciences (2 to 6 credits)
This practicum is designed to give master's level students an opportunity to apply knowledge and information acquired in the family and consumer sciences academic setting and further develop and refine professional skills with the guidance and assistance of professionals currently working in the field. Prerequisite: Admission to the M.A. in Family and Consumer Sciences or the M.A. in Career and Technical Education.

Student handbook

The graduate student handout is under revision.

Teaching assistants

The Department of Family and Consumer Sciences may hire teaching assistants during the fall and spring semesters. Graduate students wishing to be considered for one of these positions should send a letter of interest and a resume to Dr. Suzan Smith-Ayers.