MFCS - Comprehensive

The online Masters in Family Consumer Sciences - Comprehensive degree covers a variety of family and consumer sciences subject matter. Students have the flexibility to design a program of study that best meets their professional goals in the following concentration areas.

Educational studies

  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Educational leadership and policy studies
  • Special education

Human development and family studies

  • Family financial planning
  • Gerontology
  • Human development and family studies


  • Dietetics
  • Food science and human nutrition

About the program

Non-thesis degree

In lieu of a thesis or creative component, the student prepares a final paper and takes an oral final integrative exam.


Students typically complete the program in three years while employed full time. You can complete your degree entirely off-campus, but you may complete the program sooner by taking on-campus courses as well.

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Computer requirements

Students must have computer and internet capabilities that meet the minimum specifications.


Degree requirements

Core courses

 Core courses: 6-7 credits

  • Research Methods
  • STAT 401, RESEV 552, or RESEV 553

Concentration areas

Concentration areas: 18-21 credits

A student must take two or more courses (at least 6 credits) in the student’s chosen concentration area. 

Educational studies

  • Curriculum and Instruction (C I)
  • Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (EL PS)
  • Special Education (SP ED)

Human development and family studies

  • Family Financial Planning (FFP)
  • Gerontology (GERON)
  • Human Development and Family Studies (HD FS)


  • Dietetics (DIET)
  • Food Science and Human Nutrition (FS HN)


Elective courses: 8-12 credits

The required elective courses can include coursework from the following GP-IDEA programs:

  • Family and Consumer Education Studies
  • Food Safety and Defense
  • Merchandising
  • May include approved transfer credits from another university

The required elective courses can also include other Iowa State University courses as approved by your program of study committee.

Non-degree status

Students may take up to 9 graduate credit hours as a non-degree-seeking student before being formally admitted to the program. No more than 9 credits earned in non-degree status can be used on the program of study for a degree.

Final exam


The final exam for the MFCS Comprehensive program includes:

  • A written exam consisting of a paper the student prepares and submits to his or her committee two weeks prior to the final oral examination

  • An oral exam  based on the paper

A thesis or creative component is not required.


  • The student and the major professor discuss an appropriate topic for the paper based on the the application of the student’s course work to his or her life situation.  Based on that discussion, the program of study (POS) committee specifies a problem that the student will address in the paper.
  • The paper must take the form of a review of relevant literature, followed by a discussion of the application of the research findings to the problem.
  • The student has one month to prepare and submit the paper to the POS committee.
  • If the paper is not acceptable to the POS committee, the major professor repeats the written exam procedure for a second time.
  • This paper is to be an original effort on the part of the student. The major professor and POS committee will not serve in any editorial capacity.
  • References should include primary references from the research literature (journals, not magazines or newspapers), although a few citations from relevant review articles will be acceptable.
  • The internet should be used judiciously because much information is without peer review and would not count as primary reference material.  Some types of electronic information, for example, electronic journals, are acceptable; students should consult with the major professor when in doubt about those sources or other readings. Failure to follow this protocol may result in not passing the written exam.
  • The final paper should be 10-15 pages, double spaced, one-inch margins, 12 point font, with references formatted in APA style. The references are not included in the 10-15 pages.

Oral exam

The paper will serve as a basis for the oral examination, although areas of questioning also may cover any coursework taken for the MFCS Comprehensive degree. The final oral examination will be conducted only if the written exam is passed.

Related forms 

  • Contact Information

    MFCS graduate program information

    (Questions about admission, registration, etc.)

    Karen Smidt
    310 MacKay Hall
    2302 Osborn Drive
    Iowa State University
    Ames, IA 50011-1078
    Phone: 515-294-5397
    Fax: 515-294-5385

    Academic issues

    (Questions related to academic progress, such as advice on courses, timing of courses, career path, etc.)

    Carla Peterson
    E262 Lagomarcino
    901 Stange Road
    Ames, IA 50011-1041

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