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M.A. in Human Development

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota’s unique Master of Arts in Human Development program allows you to design a customized course structure that best matches your interests and career goals.

Choose Classes That Match Your Goals

By selecting from more than 25 elective courses that are grouped in three distinct learning categories—personal development, professional and organizational development, and spirituality and holistic thought—graduate students are given the opportunity to explore the development of children and adults of all ages as broadly or as in-depth as they’d like. Students can choose to:

  • Study a narrow topic not available elsewhere
  • Combine two or more topics or disciplines
  • Learn a unique topic at an individual pace
  • Combine an academic interest with specific career goals

In order to graduate, 35 credits are needed, but only four credits are required. The other 31 credits are electives. Most students take a mix of traditional courses and independent studies.

The breadth of courses is substantial. Throughout the M.A. in Human Development program, a rigorous learning experience places an emphasis on applying critical thinking and evaluation skills to better understand how various theories of development provide a context for an individual’s life situation. Graduates of the Saint Mary’s M.A. in Human Development program have gone on to have successful careers as educators, caregivers, counselors, advocates for social justice, leadership coaches, and more.

Program Options

Because the M.A. in Human Development program is so flexible, there are lots of options to choose from.

Students design a unique program based on their own personal interests, goals, and learning styles. There is a remarkable amount of freedom to build a program that fits the unique needs of every student.

Initial Required Course

The program begins with a required two-credit course, HD690 The Process of Human Development, offered every semester. This course teaches students how to construct their program, and explores how to create independent studies that are engaging and academically rigorous.

Pursuing Your Custom Degree

After the initial required course, students proceed in a way that meets their needs. Students can take Human Development courses (some courses are online, though most are face-to-face or blended), construct independent studies, transfer in up to six credits from another university’s master’s program (provided they are less than five years old), or take courses from other master’s programs at Saint Mary’s University (some restrictions apply).

Students take traditional courses and independent studies during the semester (there is a three-credit minimum if the student desires financial aid). A faculty adviser help students plan their program, design independent studies, and will evaluate student work throughout the program. At the end of the program, students write and present a position paper. This is both a scholarly and creative work—a synthesis of the educational journey they have taken in the program.

There's almost no limit to what can be studied in this program.

Current students are studying:

  • Child-life
  • Leadership
  • Holistic Health and Wellness
  • Adult Education
  • Human Resources Training and Consulting
  • Career Coaching
  • Legislative Action for Human Trafficking
  • Environmental Renewal
  • Spirituality in Counseling
  • Social Justice
  • Writing
  • Career Counseling and the Psychology of the Unemployed
  • Philanthropy
  • Addiction and Mental Health
  • Leadership Skills Needed in Non-management Fields
  • Youth Development
  • Higher Education
  • Gerontology
  • Ethics in the Workplace
  • Creative Arts in Trauma Recovery
  • Online Teaching Methodology
  • Mythology in Art

Below is a detailed example of one student, John.

John’s Program Goal

To develop an employee benefit and assistance program that addresses the needs of employees who must care for elderly parents and family members.

Spring Semester
  • HD690 The Process of Human Development, 2 credits (required course)
  • HDIS1G Schools of Leadership Thought, 3 credits (independent study)
Summer Semester
  • HD708 Mid-life Career Makeover, 2 credits
  • HDIS2G Changes in Health Care Operations, 2 credits (independent study)
  • HD719 Building a Consulting Practice, 2 credits
Fall Semester
  • HD573 Creative Leadership Development, 2 credits
  • HD691 Ethics and Social Responsibility, 1 credit (required course)
  • HD693 Psychological Transformation and the Spiritual Journey, 1 credit
  • HDIS3G Strategic Partnerships in Health Care, 2 credits (independent study)
Spring Semester
  • HDIS4G Mission in Health Care, 1 credit (independent study)
  • HD709 The Art and Science of Problem-solving, 2 credits
  • HDIS4G Followership, 2 credits (independent study)
Summer Semester
  • MG335 Organizational Behavior, 3 credits (course from another Saint Mary’s program)
Fall Semester
  • HD511 Courageous and Authentic Leadership, 2 credits
  • HDIS1G Leadership in Health Care, 2 credits (independent study)
  • HDIS4G Building a Leadership Model, 2 credits (independent study)
Fall Semester
  • HDIS2G Organizational Leadership, 3 credits (independent study)
  • HD698 Writing the Position Paper, 1 credit (required course)

Total: 35 credits

What will your program look like?

From Start to Finish

  • You can earn your M.A. in Human Development degree in a little more than one year.
  • Cohorts begin each spring, summer, and fall.

Apply Now

Applicants must submit the following:

  1. Completed application form with the nonrefundable application fee (fee not required for alumni or students seeking readmission or veterans and active military personnel), and
  2. An official transcript issued to Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota from the institution posting the applicant’s completed bachelor degree and other relevant transcripts documenting program prerequisites and potential transfer credits. (An official transcript is one that is sent to the university by the credit-granting institution. Transcripts from countries other than the U.S. must be evaluated by a university accepted evaluation source, such as World Education Services, Educational Credential Evaluators, Educational Perspectives, or One Earth International Credential Evaluators and be deemed equivalent to accredited U.S. university standards).
  3. A reflective essay which includes the following:
    • brief description of the applicant’s background, training, and experience; and
    • statement indicating the career goals of the applicant and his or her reasons for seeking admission to the program; and
    • description of the areas the applicant considers to be his or her strengths and areas in which the applicant wishes to develop greater strengths and abilities; and
    • personal information the applicant wishes to share.
  4. Two letters of recommendation that verify professional and/or volunteer experience and academic ability; and
  5. A current résumé listing educational background and work experience.
  6. Applicants with international transcripts may require an English language proficiency exam (TOEFL, IELTS, PTE or MELAB accepted.)

Please Note: Application materials should be sent to the attention of the Office of Admission on the Twin Cities campus.

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Office of Admission
2500 Park Avenue
Minneapolis, MN  55404


This program is offered at our Twin Cities, Rochester, and Winona locations.

Connect With Us

James Callinan, M.A.

Director of Admission, SGPP

LaSalle Hall-TC Campus, LSH120

Campus Box: # 28

(612) 728-5158

James Callinan M.A.
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