Children, Families, & Schools

The Children, Families, & Schools program addresses the need for educators who are able to meet the educational and developmental needs of children in the varied settings in which they learn and grow.

The children, families, and schools program addresses the need for educators who are able to meet the educational and developmental needs of children in the varied settings in which they learn and grow. We’ve developed the program based on the knowledge that a complex interdependent relationship exists among school, family, and society and we advocate an approach that ensures educators are aware of the impact of culture, ethnicity, gender, history, values, and economics upon the lives of children and families.

Children, families, and schools offers future researchers and practitioners a program of study in child development, childhood studies, and learning, and examines how they relate to educational practice from birth through the early childhood and elementary school years. The program is inherently interdisciplinary. The faculty have a wide range of scholarly interests, such as anthropology of education, early childhood special education, developmental psychology, and early childhood emergent bilingual education. Students are able to develop a program of study based on their interests, taking courses in disciplines across the College of Education and the university, and have opportunities to engage in research at both the master’s and doctorate level. Courses are offered in the afternoon and evening, allowing students to pursue degrees while working in the field.


Children, family, and schools doctoral students build a firm grounding in the philosophical, historical, and cultural foundations of learning and development. Their dissertation research topics reflect a wide-range of scholarly interests, including family development, the child as learner, the human interactions involved in the teaching process, the implications of the new technologies for learning, character development, the family of the special needs child, and early intervention. In addition to the coursework, Ph.D. students have the opportunity to build practical experience through field supervision and teaching assistantships with early childhood and elementary teacher preparation programs.

Applicants to the program must have a masters in a related area (education, psychology, communication disorders) and teaching experience in a school setting. Many go on to faculty positions as in colleges and universities or leadership positions in preschool education.

Note: The education specialist degree (Ed.S) is an option for students who would like to pursue an advanced degree beyond a masters, without the dissertation component of the doctorate.

The child study and early education master’s program gives students a broad overview of the educational and developmental needs of young children in early education, care settings, and with their families. We emphasize the study of the child individually and in groups, and with close attention to the cultural context, in order to develop accurate assessments and effective programming. Students may also focus more specifically on early intervention (infancy to three years), early childhood education (infancy to five years), family services, public policy for children and families, or interdisciplinary work in childhood studies.

Students come to the master program with experience of early childhood in diverse educational settings and many come with substantial international experience as well. This diversity enhances our understanding of early education and care in a broad range of cultural contexts. Masters students often go on to work in non-profit early intervention and educational consultation.

Undergraduates at UMass Amherst may major in education with a concentration on early childhood education, leading to initial licensure and/or Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care Lead Teacher Credentials. Early childhood education students engage in a rigorous academic program as well as a carefully sequenced series of field experiences in diverse educational settings. They apply to the major once they have completed their prerequisites, generally in the spring of their sophomore year. While education is their primary major, they also complete a secondary major in the liberal arts, social sciences, or sciences. Graduates have been very successful in securing teaching positions in public and private schools in Massachusetts as well in as other states.