Education options for launching a career as a child development professional FIND PROGRAMS
Working with young children can be both challenging and magical. They’re full of curiosity, and depend on caring adults to help them develop. People interested in taking on that job may consider postsecondary education in the field of child development. While there can be some overlap with early childhood education, which emphasizes teaching, child development degrees offer a more holistic approach to children’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive growth. Find out more about educational and career options in this field. Meet the Expert
Top 10 Child Development Degree Programs
|#1||University of La Verne La Verne, CA|
|#2||Mills College Oakland, CA|
|#3||Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN|
|#4||Berea College Berea, KY|
|#5||Idaho State University Pocatello, ID|
|#6||National Louis University Chicago, IL|
|#7||Texas Woman's University Denton, TX|
|#8||Purdue University Northwest Hammond, IN|
|#9||Tufts University Medford, MA|
|#10||Siena Heights University Adrian, MI|
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Best Child Development Programs
Enrolling in a child development degree program is a great option for prospective students interested in working with young children in a variety of settings. However, finding the best program that will provide students with the area-specific information needed to excel in the field can be tough. To help students find the best school for them, we have ranked schools all over the country based on our criteria including class size, cost of enrollment and availability of student resources. Check out the best schools with child development programs below.
4 Year Colleges
Adults seeking to teach students in public or private school systems could get the education required to gain state licensure within courses that are part of the University of LaVerne's Bachelor of Science in Child Development degree. Focal areas of the degree include child development, child growth and the role that family, community and school play in the healthy development of each child. Assessments and at least 24 credits in upper level courses are part of the graduation requirement. The university has community partnerships that allow students to gain field experience. Online and accelerated options are available.
Undergraduate and graduate degrees that give adults basic and advanced skills to teach children are conferred at Mills College. At the undergraduate level, there is the Bachelor of Arts in Teacher Education. Courses are accelerated, allowing students to earn a Master of Arts in Teacher Education within two years. The time to apply for the graduate degree is during the junior undergraduate year. There is also an urban education minor that focuses on the academic policies and practices in urban settings and challenges associated with urban education. Students who pursue this minor can teach in urban based schools prior to graduating.
Within the College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University is a Bachelor of Science in Child Studies degree. There are 36 credit hours in the degree, covering courses such as special education, human development, organizational development and psychology. Students who qualify for the honors program participate in research projects that allow them to work alongside faculty. A minimum GPA of 3.2 is needed to get into the honors program. In addition to education courses, the degree includes a blend of liberal arts and sciences classes.
The child development lab is a major component of the training within the Bachelor of Arts in Child and Family Studies at Berea College. Specializations in the degree are in child development, nutrition, family studies and food studies. The lab is where a bulk of field work takes place. Scholarly, practical, interactive and creative work is conducted in the lab. Children and parents living in the Appalachian region are the audience that the lab serves. Student organizations and academic honors programs are resources that encourage deeper and broader learning experiences for child development majors. Independent studies and internships are other learning pathways.
Idaho State University delivers its child development and teaching degrees through its College of Technology unit. Areas that graduates gain advanced instruction in impact the social, intellectual, emotional and physical development of a child. Admission into the program is competitive, as class sizes are kept small. College entrance exam scores play a role in which students are accepted into the programs. A Bachelor of Applied Science in Early Childhood Care and Education and a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education are the two child development degrees that the university awards. It takes four to five years to graduate with one of the degrees.
Early childhood teaching majors could earn a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education at National Louis University. Endorsements associated with the degree are an early childhood and self-contained general education endorsement and an English language learner endorsement. Completion of the degree positions students for a professional educator license. Classes that faculty teach meet guidelines set by the Illinois Professional Teaching Standards. A 2.5 GPA or higher and a practicum are required to graduate. Other education degrees at the school are in elementary education and early childhood practice.
At Texas Woman's University, the child life portion of the undergraduate and graduate degree plans is delivered completely online. Degrees that child development and teaching majors can be awarded include a Bachelor of Science in Child Development, a Master of Science in Child Development and a Doctor in Early Child Development and Education. The undergraduate and graduate degrees operate on set admissions deadlines. Generally, a 3.0 GPA or higher are needed to earn a child development degree. Courses that students take include theories of human development, adolescents in the family, theories of the family and the development of infants and toddlers.
Child development degrees at Purdue University Northwest are developed and taught by faculty within the College of Health and Human Sciences. Experiential learning, field experience, seminars, research and lectures are offered. Degree plans give students an interdisciplinary education in topics like family science, early childhood education and children with exceptional needs. Specific degrees that students can get include a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and Exceptional Needs and a Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences Education. Internships must be completed. Real life teaching experience takes place at the university's Ben and Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory School.
Ten courses are built into Tufts University's child study and human development undergraduate degree. There are two foundational courses, three electives, one methods course and research work and field experience in the program. Intellectual development in children, development of language and childhood across cultures are courses that lead to the degree. Specialties that degrees are awarded in include early childhood teacher preparation, early childhood and child and family policy and programs. Bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees are awarded. Tufts University also awards graduate education certificates. Collaborative research and outreach opportunities through community partnerships are available.
Infant, pre-primary and primary are the three child age groups are incorporated within Siena Heights University's child development undergraduate degrees. Practical training is as important as classroom training. As part of the practical training, students teach at child learning centers and schools. The curriculum meets standards set by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. At the four year level, there is the Bachelor of Arts in Child Development. Montessori education is the degree concentration. Career choices open to graduates include child care program director, bilingual assistant and teacher assistant.
2 Year Colleges
Instructors who teach courses in the Associate of Applied Science in Child Development degree and the child development associate certificate programs at Odessa College prepare adults to work with children in facilities like daycares, recreation centers, schools and community agencies. Adults in the certificate or degree program will take classes that teach them about topics like child care management, educating young children and child growth and development. Staff requirements that students enrolled in the program lab classes must meet before they graduate are set by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Del Mar College's Associate in Applied Science Child Development and Early Childhood degree and certificate programs are taught at its East campus. The two year program is a standalone program with credits that are transferable toward a baccalaureate degree. Program graduates can expect to have the abilities to teach children between the ages of birth to 12 years. In addition to working at schools, graduates can work at daycares, child care centers, community centers and Head Start. The curriculum requires students to complete field work where they teach students in a model laboratory. Academic advisors are on site to assist students with class registration.
Child development degree plans at Tyler Junior College lead to credentials such as an Associate in Applied Science in Child Development and Early Education. Embedded within the 60 credit degree program are 21 semester credits of general education classes. There are 39 credits dedicated to the major. Administration of programs for children, emergent literacy for early childhood, the infant and toddler and children with special needs are among the major related courses. During the summer semester session, students take a course in Texas Government and a course in English composition.
Tarrant County College teaches classes in its Associate of Applied Science in Child Development program at its Northeast campus. The curriculum is geared toward adults who want to receive childhood and family advocacy skills and tools to develop and use educational instruction for children. At the end of the program, adults can work as a senior teacher or a school or child care director. Child development certificates at Tarrant County College are awarded in child care administration, preschool child care provider, child development associate, after school provider and child life specialist advanced.
Takeaways of the Associate of Science in Early Education and Child Development at the Community College of Allegheny County include the ability to work with children and teachers at the pre-kindergarten through the fourth grade. The know how to integrate theories and practices and the skills to work with children from diverse backgrounds are other key takeaways. To graduate, students backgrounds need to be able to clear a Pennsylvania state and a federal investigation. It takes four semesters and between 60 to 63 credits to finish the degree. If students are permitted to take classes online, they will access course materials through Blackboard.
Hill College's child care and development programs are for professionals who want to work as lead instructors or who want to assist lead teachers in the classroom. Classes are held during evening hours and online. Students are encouraged to actively participate in class, joining discussions and sharing insights learned from readings. Critical thinking skills, problem solving skills and a commitment to lifelong learning are key to a student's a degree seeker's success. Types of jobs that adults who graduate from the program could step into include head teacher, at-home caregiver, home school teacher, child care center instructor and elementary school teacher's aide.
San Antonio College is a semester based postsecondary school that offers three training options for future and current child development educators. At the two year degree level there is the Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Studies. Early childhood studies level one and child development associate level one are the child development certificates that the school confers. Certificates can be completed in less than one year. If students want to continue their education and earn a bachelor's degree, they are encouraged to work with an advisor to choose classes that are most likely to be transferrable into a four year program.
Child development two year degrees at Mission College are built to be transferred into advanced programs at four year postsecondary schools. Careers aligned with the degrees include early childhood teachers, child development instructors and teacher's aides. Ages of children that students in the programs learn how to teach are from six weeks to five years. At the one year or less certificate level, the college awards an associate teacher, master teacher and an early intervention assistant credential. While enrolled in the programs, students work in the school's Child Development Instructional Lab.
As many as 60 semester credit hours are built into the Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education degree at Western Texas College. Of the 60 credit hours, about 42 are directly related to the major. Approximately 18 credits are in general education courses. To earn an early childhood certificate, adults must complete at least 36 credit hours. The child development certificate requires students to finish 18 credit hours. Depending on their major, students may take classes in child guidance, emergent literacy, observation and assessment, children with special needs and educating young children. A practicum is built into the curriculums.
Opportunity to get trained to start teaching infants and children from birth through the first eight years of their lives is available at Kellogg Community College. With about a one year commitment, students can earn a child development associate (CDA) credential. A two year time commitment is needed to earn the Associate in Applied Science in Early Childhood Education. Course descriptions cover instruction in areas like fundamentals of early childhood education, child growth and development and school age learning environments. Course rotation schedules are used throughout the training. Fall, spring and summer internships are where students get first hand teaching experience.
A Closer Look: Child Development Degree Options
Postsecondary education programs in child development are offered on every degree level. An undergraduate degree can work for those seeking entry-level positions in child care, preschool education, community services, or social work. A master’s degree is typically required for administrative and supervisory positions, as well as many teaching positions. Those planning career in postsecondary education or research should plan on earning a doctoral degree.
Some schools make little or no distinction in their degree offerings between career paths in child development and early childhood education. For a detailed look at early childhood education degrees and careers, refer to our page on early childhood education degree programs:
Child Development Associate Degrees
Type of Schools:
Community colleges, vocational or technical schools, online schools
Time to Complete:
Two years, full-time
Day Care/Child Care Provider; Preschool Teacher; Teaching Assistant
Associate degrees in child development graduates for entry-level employment in a several working environments. These degrees focus on basic physical, psychological and developmental elements in child growth and development. A high school diploma or GED is required for admission; many programs have additional requirements such as a criminal background check or first aid/CPR certification. Graduation requirements may include completing an internship and undergoing a period of direct observation.
Coursework for associate degree students typically consists of a combination of general education classes, core subject classes and, in some cases, a few subject-related electives. Here are some common courses students can expect:
Administration of Programs for Children
Covers the basics of management procedures regarding early care and education programs. Topics include program types, program policies, staffing, fiscal issues, and government regulation.
Child Growth and Development
Focuses on physical, social, emotional, and cognitive elements that influence the growth and development of children through adolescence.
Overview of guidance strategies for promoting positive social behaviors with groups of children. Topics include guidance principles, cultural influences and family participation.
Wellness of Young Children
Explores factors that affect children’s overall well-being, including nutrition, behavior, physical fitness, and safety.
Child Development Bachelor’s Degrees
Type of Schools:
Four-year colleges and universities, online schools
Time to Complete:
Four years, full-time
Preschool/Daycare Teacher or Provider; Elementary School Teacher; Head Start Teacher; Child and Family Social Worker; Guidance Counselor
The BA or BS degrees in child development prepare graduates interested in working with children from infancy through pre-adolescence. Curricula are designed to provide students with a strong background in the social and behavioral sciences, particularly regarding family and cultural influences. Students also receive education and training to apply their skills in the fields of teaching, research and social work.
For a bachelor’s in child development, major-related coursework focuses on psychological processes related to human development (cognition, personality development, etc.), major time periods in child development, research methodologies, and other key areas. Examples of specific courses include:
Fieldwork in Child Development
Students undergo field experiences in settings selected to correlate with their experience and interests. They also participate in on-campus classes for discussions in areas such as professional development and ethical considerations when working with children and families. Introduction to
An overview of the various theories of child development from birth to age 8. Areas of study include the stages of child development and what they entail, as well as creating strategies that contribute to positive growth.
Methods of Observation and Assessment in Child Development
Focuses on methods of observing children in educational and social settings, and assessing child development issues. Areas of study include choosing methods appropriate to the situation, using standardized measures, and interpreting and analyzing data.
Research in Human Development
Review of selected research topics related to human development. Designed to familiarize students with how quantitative research is designed and executed, and to develop skills in understanding, reporting and interpreting findings.
Child Development Master’s Degrees
Type of Schools:
Four-year colleges and universities
Time to Complete:
One to three years
Child Protective Services Manager; Mental Health Counselor; Research Assistant; School Administrator; Special Education Teacher/Program Director
Master’s degree programs in child development commonly focus on educating students in key areas of theory and research, which can be applied to careers in a number of specializations and also used as a foundation for continuation into doctoral studies. Specializations vary by program, but options may include administration, infancy, or children with special needs. Some degrees require students to present a thesis.
At the master’s level, students focus on specialized areas of study and prepare for professional and leadership roles. Samples of courses offered are: Administration of Early Childhood Programs
Examines the administration, supervision and assessment of programs, including how to structure and implement curricula that are child-focused and foster the inclusion children with special needs. Advanced Developmental Neuroscience
Examines the psychobiological factors that contribute to the development of human behavior. Topics covered include the neurobiological bases of developmental disorders, and how biological processes and environmental factors relate to behavior. Externship in Child Development
Students undertake supervised fieldwork in either public or private settings to gain additional experience and build upon skills acquired in a graduate program. Social and Historical Perspectives on Early Care and Education
An overview of social and historical circumstances that have contributed to how young children are educated and cared for. Explores policy, approaches to developing curricula, and financing issues.
Child Development Doctorate Degrees
Type of Schools:
Four-year colleges and universities
Time to Complete:
Four to five years
College Professor; School Principal or Administrator; Senior Research Analyst; Assessment Coordinator (School District or State Department of Education)
Doctoral degree programs in child development target students interested in pursuing careers in theory, research, policy, or practice in any number of areas, including consultation, school administration and academia. Programs combine research, coursework, internships and mentorships to develop competencies. Many schools offer programs leading to a PhD in human development, with a concentration in child development.
Traditional coursework for PhD programs is limited, with students instead focusing on research and supervised fieldwork. Below is a sample of courses typically offered in child development doctoral programs:
Family Systems Theory and Functioning
Survey of theories and developmental models that explore how families function, the role of parents, and how these impact the development of infants and young children.
Seminar in Applied Child Development
Introduction and overview of current issues, established and emerging theories, and major research areas in child development.
Seminar on Social and Cultural Contexts
A look at how social and cultural issues create a context for children and how they influence child development. Students discuss factors such as race, ethnicity and gender, as well as social institutions such as schools and families.
Qualitative Research and Practice
Examines both the underlying theories and applied methodologies for performing qualitative research, including designing studies, collecting data, and analyzing results. Activities may include conducting focus groups and doing interviews.
Pre-Enrollment Checklist: Things to Consider Before Choosing a Program
- Accreditation Proper accreditation is an absolute must. Students should ensure a school is accredited by one of six regional agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education. At the programmatic level, there are no specific accrediting agencies for child development, but some programs may be accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
- Faculty Consider the specific areas of expertise of faculty members, and how they dovetail with your own academic and career interests, such as administration, curricula design, or social work. This is especially important at the graduate level, where there will be close communication with professors.
- Internships Most child development degree programs include an internship or other field requirement, such as working at a school or with a social work agency. Explore the available options and how they relate to your particular career interests.
- Online vs. On-Campus Many online programs offer study in child development, especially at the pre-doctoral levels, which is often an appealing option for students with family or work obligations. Be sure that online schools are properly accredited, and that programs will offer sufficient real-world experience in child development to complement online coursework.
- Ranking Rankings can be a useful tool, but only when used in concert with an individual’s unique needs and goals. Look beyond the final number and consider how each factor contributed to the overall ranking of a child development program.
Careers & Specializations in the Child Development Field
Even in tough economic times, jobs for those who want to work with children continue to experience growth. Careers in child development are found in numerous settings, from small, private schools to government agencies to universities. The table below shows some of these choices available, along with the education necessary. Some options may require additional specialized training, professional certification, or government licensing.
Potential Career Paths in Child Development
|Minimum Education: Associate Degree||Minimum Education: Bachelor’s Degree||Minimum Education: Master’s or Doctorate Degree|
|Business||Daycare Worker Nanny||Daycare Operator Journalist with focus on child or family issues Marketing or sales for companies that make products for children||Childcare Administrator Researcher Child Development Consultant|
|Counseling & Social Services||Camp Counselor||Career Development Specialist Child Services Volunteer Coordinator Social Services Manager Social Worker Youth Development Adviser||Licensed Clinical Social Worker Marriage, Family & Child Therapist Program Coordinator School Counselor Social Work Supervisor|
|Education||Preschool Teacher Teaching Assistant||After-school Program Staffer Early Childhood Educator Special Education Technician Substitute Teacher Tutor||Community College Instructor Preschool Operator Research Assistant School Counselor School Administrator|
|Government||Internships||Probation Officer Recreation Specialist||Foster Family Case Manager Grant Writer Lobbyist Researcher|
|Healthcare||Child Life Specialist Health and Wellness Educator Patient Advocate||Art/Recreational Therapist Nutritionist|
Sources: California State University, Chico – “What Can I Do With This Degree?”
California State University, Fullerton – “Career Ideas for Child & Adolescent Development Majors”
Child Development Careers Spotlight
Browse Career Profiles
Childcare workers care for and supervise children when parents or other family members are unavailable. They help to prepare preschoolers for entering kindergarten, and watch school-age children before or after school. Childcare workers are employed by public and private childcare centers, or may provide services in either their home or the child’s home.
Job Growth (2014-2024)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)
School counselors work at elementary, middle and high schools to help students with academic, emotional or social issues. They evaluate student abilities and interests as well as identify and work to correct problems impacting school performance.
Job Growth (2014-2024)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)
* Figures are for school and career counselors combined. Social & Community Service Managers
Social and community service managers administer social service and community programs, particularly for government agencies or nonprofit organizations. They may work with a broad spectrum of the population or specifically with one group, such as young children.
Job Growth (2014-2024)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2015)
Expert Viewpoint: Advice from a University Director in Child Development
How does the University of Washington online program in child development work?
It is a degree completion program, so students come in with a couple of years under their belt. Over 75 percent of them are currently teaching or volunteering in a preschool or childcare center. The online degree works on a cohort model, so students progress together over seven quarters. The courses are basically the same as the on-campus program. Any differences are in response to the different student populations, since they are older than traditional college students and have different experiences, and the challenges with online learning.
What kind of internship or out-of-classroom experiences can students expect?
Our students are engaged in what we call “service learning” every quarter for at least one course. They have three to five hours a week of service learning, as well as assignments related to their service learning experience. So they might have to do a lesson with a small group of children, or do a case study observing a student. Our online students can videotape themselves teaching to do their service learning assignments.
Where do your students land after graduation?
A lot of our students are double majors because they end up going into public health or social work, or speech and hearing sciences. Our Teaching and Learning Students are interested in teaching in lower elementary school – preschool, kindergarten, first grade – and that means going on to a graduate program.
- All About Young Children
- Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL)
- Child Development Resources (CDR)
- Council for Professional Recognition: Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- Foundation for Child Development (FCD)
- National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)