Child Development Degree Programs

Updated January 6, 2023

Earning a degree in child development can lead to new and exciting career opportunities.

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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

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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.

#1 Child Development Degree Programs

University of La Verne

  • La Verne, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Individuals looking for a premier bachelor's-level education that fits their schedule should consider University of La Verne. For undergraduates, the college supports hybrid study from its main campus in La Verne, California and enables students to connect with peers, faculty, and staff during their studies.

Students near and far benefit from a supportive learning community. Throughout their studies, students in the child development program complete coursework as part of the program curriculum. Learners can also pursue internships, research projects, and experiential learning opportunities.

Students can customize their studies, choose electives, and declare degree concentrations and minors. They also receive guidance through career services, academic advising, and other institutional resources.

The college connects students with scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities to be applied to educational expenses. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$43,440
Out-of-state
$43,440
Retention Rate
82%
Admission Rate
55%
Students Enrolled
7,396
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
24% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#2 Child Development Degree Programs

Mills College

  • Oakland, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Mills College provides flexible study for students seeking a bachelor's-level education.

After enrollment in the child development and elementary education bachelor's degree, students join a supportive learning community, connecting with peers, faculty, and staff. Degree-seekers benefit from a robust education, completing coursework that familiarizes them with the education field. Participants take foundational classes, as well as advanced coursework, with the option to modify their schedule and choose electives.

Students can collaborate with an academic advisor to customize their degree program. Students seeking academic and career guidance can connect with campus resources, such as academic advising and career services.

To defray the costs of education, students can apply for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities. To date, 100% of all enrolled students receive financial aid awards.

Average Tuition
In-state
$29,340
Out-of-state
$29,340
Retention Rate
77%
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
1,122
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
3% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 Child Development Degree Programs

Vanderbilt University

  • Nashville, TN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Vanderbilt University is a private college offering premier bachelor's-level education to students worldwide. Undergraduate students benefit from hybrid learning opportunities, with the option to study in-person or online. Undergraduate students connect with peers, faculty, and staff through a supportive learning community.

Enrollees benefit from a supportive learning community throughout their studies. Child development students follow a rigorous program curriculum. Students complete foundational and advanced coursework, gaining a well-rounded education.

In consultation with an academic advisor, students can modify their coursework, choose electives, and pursue degree concentrations and minors to suit their career goals. Learners further benefit from access to institutional resources, such as academic advising and career services.

Learners can meet with a financial aid counselor to determine their eligibility for scholarships, fellowships, and federal financial aid. The institution reports that 68% of all degree-seekers receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$50,800
Out-of-state
$50,800
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
9%
Students Enrolled
13,131
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Child Development Degree Programs

Berea College

  • Berea, KY
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Students seeking flexible study should consider Berea College. For undergraduates, the college supports hybrid study from its main campus in Berea, Kentucky. Learners can choose from one of 44 bachelor's degree programs.

The college connects students with peers, faculty, and staff across campus-based and remote learning communities. Students gain skills and knowledge through their engagement with general and advanced classes.

Learners have the option to modify their coursework, choose electives, and declare minors and degree concentrations. A leader in students success, the college connects enrollees with career services, academic advising, and other supportive resources.

To defray the costs of education, students can apply for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$44,100
Out-of-state
$44,100
Retention Rate
84%
Admission Rate
30%
Students Enrolled
1,688
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Child Development Degree Programs

Texas Woman's University

  • Denton, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Texas Woman's University provides premier degree programs suitable for undergraduate students. Students can choose from 43 in-person bachelor's degree programs and benefit from a supportive learning environment and personalized interactions with faculty and staff.

Students enroll in foundational and advanced coursework, as well as industry-specific lectures. Degree-seekers can modify their classes, choose electives, and declare minors and degree concentrations. Students receive guidance throughout their studies through academic advising, career services, and other resources.

Depending on eligibility, students can apply scholarships, fellowships, and other funding towards their educational expenses. The college boasts an average financial aid award package of $8,739, with 93% of all enrollees receiving some form of aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,430
Out-of-state
$15,559
Retention Rate
73%
Admission Rate
93%
Students Enrolled
15,886
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
60% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#6 Child Development Degree Programs

Purdue University Northwest

  • Hammond, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Undergraduate students seeking competitive study should consider one of Purdue University Northwest's 55 bachelor's programs. The college supports 55 bachelor's programs, with five enabling fully remote study. Enrollees connect with peers, faculty, and staff, either through campus learning environments or virtual classrooms.

Students gain skills and knowledge through their coursework and become better prepared for their future careers. Students can work with an academic advisor to customize their degree and declare minors and degree concentrations. Enrollees can access career services, academic advising, and other resources throughout their program duration.

Students can explore their eligibility for scholarships, fellowships, and federal financial aid in consultation with the financial aid office. The college notes that 82% of all enrollees receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,803
Out-of-state
$13,254
Retention Rate
67%
Admission Rate
29%
Students Enrolled
10,006
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#7 Child Development Degree Programs

Tufts University

  • Medford, MA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students seeking a flexible education can explore Tufts University's in-person and online degree offerings. The private college offers 72 bachelor's degree programs.

In the bachelor of arts in child study and human development program, students complete foundational and advanced coursework. Degree-seekers can modify their classes, choose electives, and declare minors and degree concentrations. While enrolled, students can access institutional resources including career services and academic advising.

Students can explore their eligibility for scholarships, fellowships, and federal financial aid in consultation with the financial aid office. The college notes that 45% of all enrollees receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$57,324
Out-of-state
$57,324
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
15%
Students Enrolled
11,878
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
3% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#8 Child Development Degree Programs

Madonna University

  • Livonia, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Madonna University offers numerous bachelor's degree programs suitable for learners from all walks of life. The Livonia-based college supports both in-person and remote bachelor's degree programs. Regardless of modality, enrollees benefit from rigorous coursework, supportive faculty and peers, and a premier education.

Degree-seekers gain skills and knowledge through classes, lectures, and experiential learning opportunities. Students can customize their study by declaring a double major, minor, or degree concentration, and can also choose elective classes. Students receive guidance throughout their studies through academic advising, career services, and other resources.

Students may be eligible for scholarships, fellowships, and other financial aid awards. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$23,100
Out-of-state
$23,100
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
75%
Students Enrolled
2,992
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
61% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#9 Child Development Degree Programs

Olivet Nazarene University

  • Bourbonnais, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students seeking a flexible bachelor's degree can learn at their own pace at Olivet Nazarene University. The private institution offers hybrid degree programs at the undergraduate level. Regardless of location, students can connect with peers, faculty, and staff through a supportive learning community.

Remote and campus-based students connect with peers, faculty, and staff through a supportive learning environment. Degree-seekers benefit from a robust education, completing coursework that familiarizes them with their field of interest. Participants take foundational classes, as well as advanced coursework, with the option to modify their schedule and choose electives.

Students have the option to select electives, degree concentrations, and degree minors, and pursue other academic modifications. Students can receive guidance through career services, academic advising, and other institutional resources.

To manage the costs of education, students can apply for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunties through the financial aid office. According to the college, 100% of all enrollees receive financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$36,080
Out-of-state
$36,080
Retention Rate
77%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
4,317
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
58% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#10 Child Development Degree Programs

Bluffton University

  • Bluffton, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Bluffton University is a private college offering premier bachelor's-level education to students worldwide. Located in Bluffton, Ohio, the private institution offers competitive, flexible programs that can be completed in person or online. According to the college, undergraduates can access 46 bachelor's degree programs on campus.

Child development students complete coursework as part of the program curriculum. Participants take foundational classes, as well as advanced coursework, with the option to modify their schedule and choose electives.

Students have the option to select electives, degree concentrations, and degree minors, and pursue other academic modifications. Learners further benefit from access to institutional resources, such as academic advising and career services.

The financial aid office can connect students with funding opportunities to make the costs of college manageable. Of all enrollees, 100% receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$33,286
Out-of-state
$33,286
Retention Rate
60%
Admission Rate
55%
Students Enrolled
768
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#11 Child Development Degree Programs

Concordia University-Saint Paul

  • Saint Paul, MN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Concordia University-Saint Paul provides flexible study for students seeking bachelor's-level study. Located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the private institution offers competitive, flexible programs that can be completed in person or online. Students gain access to a supportive learning community regardless of their location.

The college connects students with peers, faculty, and staff across campus-based and remote learning communities. Child development students follow a rigorous program curriculum and complete foundational and advanced coursework, gaining a well-rounded education.

Students can work with their academic advisor to modify their studies, select electives, and pursue additional coursework that suits their career goals. 

The financial aid office can connect students with funding opportunities to make the costs of college manageable. The institution boasts that 98% of all enrollees receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$22,800
Out-of-state
$22,800
Retention Rate
64%
Admission Rate
98%
Students Enrolled
5,137
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#12 Child Development Degree Programs

University of Akron-Main Campus

  • Akron, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students seeking a flexible education can explore the University of Akron-Main Campus's in-person and online degree offerings. Students can choose from 143 in-person bachelor's degree programs or select remote programs. Students benefit from a supportive learning environment and personalized interactions with faculty and staff.

Students complete foundational and advanced coursework throughout their studies. Degree-seekers can work with their academic advisor to modify their coursework, pick electives, and customize their learning to suit their academic and professional goals.

Based on their eligibility, students can receive scholarships, fellowships, and other financial aid awards. On average, students receive $6,998 in financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,371
Out-of-state
$15,500
Retention Rate
71%
Admission Rate
73%
Students Enrolled
17,600
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
37% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#13 Child Development Degree Programs

Central Methodist University-College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

  • Fayette, MO
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Located in Fayette, Missouri, Central Methodist University-College of Liberal Arts and Sciences provides flexible educational opportunities for learners worldwide. The Fayette-based school supports hybrid learning opportunities, with in-person and online programs. To date, the private college supports 43 bachelor's programs.

Whether in-person or online, students join a supportive learning community, working alongside peers, faculty, and staff. Students gain skills and knowledge through their engagement with general and advanced classes in child development.

Enrollees work with an academic advisor and customize their degree to meet their academic and career goals. Learners can also connect with career services to receive guidance throughout the child development program.

Depending on eligibility, students can apply for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities. Of all enrollees, 100% receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$24,300
Out-of-state
$24,300
Retention Rate
69%
Admission Rate
93%
Students Enrolled
1,145
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#14 Child Development Degree Programs

Weber State University

  • Ogden, UT
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Weber State University supports a variety of undergraduate-level degree options. Undergraduate students benefit from hybrid learning opportunities, with the option to study in-person or online. Learners can choose from one of 131 bachelor's degree programs, or opt for remote study across eight programs.

Once enrolled, students connect with colleagues, faculty, and staff in a supportive learning community. Throughout their studies, students in the family studies and child development program complete foundational and advanced coursework, gaining a well-rounded education.

Learners can customize their studies to suit their personal and professional goals. Students seeking further academic and career guidance can access numerous institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising.

Depending on eligibility, students can apply for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities. To date, 91% of all enrolled students receive financial aid awards.

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,990
Out-of-state
$14,973
Retention Rate
66%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
29,644
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
35% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#15 Child Development Degree Programs

Voorhees College

  • Denmark, SC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students seeking a flexible bachelor's degree program should consider Voorhees College. The private college offers 22 bachelor's degree programs, which allow students to benefit from a supportive learning community, top-ranked faculty, and motivated peers.

While enrolled, students complete foundational and advanced coursework in child development, gaining skills and knowledge relevant to their field. Students can customize their studies by choosing electives and declaring minors and degree concentrations. Learners can also access institutional resources, such as career srevices and academic advising, throughout the course of their studies.

The college connects students with numerous funding opportunities, from scholarships to federal financial aid. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,630
Out-of-state
$11,630
Retention Rate
61%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
510
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#16 Child Development Degree Programs

Michigan State University

  • East Lansing, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students looking to jumpstart their career should consider a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University. Learners can choose from in-person or online bachelor's degree programs. Regardless of modality, enrollees benefit from rigorous coursework, supportive faculty and peers, and a premier education.

Students complete foundational and advanced coursework in child development while enrolled and can pursue internships and other experiential learning opportunities. Students can work with an academic advisor to customize their degree and declare minors and degree concentrations. Throughout their program, students can access resources, such as career services, academic advising, and library services.

Students can meet with a financial aid counselor to determine their eligibility for funding and explore scholarships, fellowships, and other forms of aid. The college reports an average financial aid award package of $11,755.

Average Tuition
In-state
$15,555
Out-of-state
$40,384
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
71%
Students Enrolled
49,809
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#17 Child Development Degree Programs

Henderson State University

  • Arkadelphia, AR
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students seeking a flexible education can explore Henderson State University's in-person and online degree offerings. Learners can choose from in-person or online bachelor's degree programs. 

Early childhood degree-seekers gain skills and knowledge through classes, lectures, and experiential learning opportunities. In consultation with an academic advisor, students can customize their coursework, select electives, and declare minors and degree concentrations. Students benefit from institutional resources throughout their studies, including career services and academic advising.

Prospective students can inquire with the financial aid office about funding opportunities and explore their eligibility for scholarships, fellowships, and other aid. The college reports an average financial aid award package of $8,486.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,930
Out-of-state
$8,640
Retention Rate
62%
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
4,037
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#18 Child Development Degree Programs

University of Alaska Fairbanks

  • Fairbanks, AK
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of Alaska Fairbanks is a public college offering premier bachelor's-level education to students worldwide. Undergraduate students can choose from in-person and remote degree programs. At present, the college provides 54 bachelor's degree programs, with 13 programs supporting remote study.

Students near and far benefit from a supportive learning community. After enrolling in the child development and family studies bachelor's program, students take foundational classes, as well as advanced coursework, with the option to modify their schedule and choose electives.

Learners further benefit from access to institutional resources, such as academic advising and career services.

When preparing for the costs of education, degree-seekers can meet with the financial aid office to explore funding opportunities. According to the college, 88% of all enrollees receive financial aid, with the average student awarded $8,323 in aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,962
Out-of-state
$22,980
Retention Rate
73%
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
7,179
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#19 Child Development Degree Programs

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

  • Durant, OK
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Southeastern Oklahoma State University provides premier degree programs suitable for undergraduate students. The college supports 41 bachelor's programs, with 13 enabling fully remote study. Enrollees gain access to a supportive learning environment during their studies.

Early intervention and childhood development tudents benefit from foundational and advanced coursework, as well as industry-specific lectures. Students can work with an academic advisor to customize their degree, and declare minors and degree concentrations. Throughout their program, students can access resources, such as career services, academic advising, and library services.

Prospective students can meet with the financial aid office to determine their eligibility for scholarships and other financial aid awards. The college reports an average financial aid award package of $7,828.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,240
Out-of-state
$14,880
Retention Rate
62%
Admission Rate
74%
Students Enrolled
5,049
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
80% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#20 Child Development Degree Programs

Fresno Pacific University

  • Fresno, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Fresno Pacific University offers numerous bachelor's degree programs suitable for learners from all walks of life. Of its 89 bachelor's degree programs, three are offered online. Undergraduate students benefit from skilled faculty, rigorous coursework, and a supportive learning environment.

Early childhood development students benefit from foundational and advanced coursework, as well as industry-specific lectures. Degree-seekers can work with their academic advisor to modify their coursework, pick electives, and customize their learning to suit their academic and professional goals. Throughout their early childhood development program, students can access resources, such as career services, academic advising, and library services.

Based on their eligibility, students can receive scholarships, fellowships, and other financial aid awards. According to the institution, 100% of all enrollees receive financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$32,458
Out-of-state
$32,458
Retention Rate
74%
Admission Rate
66%
Students Enrolled
4,300
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
40% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

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:

LEARN ABOUT EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION DEGREES

Child Development Associate Degrees

Type of Schools:

Community colleges, vocational or technical schools, online schools

Time to Complete:

Two years, full-time

Career Opportunities:

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.

Child Guidance

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

Career Opportunities:

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

Child Development

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

Career Opportunities:

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

Career Opportunities:

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 DegreeMinimum Education: Bachelor's DegreeMinimum Education: Master's or Doctorate Degree
BusinessDaycare Worker NannyDaycare Operator Journalist with focus on child or family issues Marketing or sales for companies that make products for childrenChildcare Administrator Researcher Child Development Consultant
Counseling & Social ServicesCamp CounselorCareer Development Specialist Child Services Volunteer Coordinator Social Services Manager Social Worker Youth Development AdviserLicensed Clinical Social Worker Marriage, Family & Child Therapist Program Coordinator School Counselor Social Work Supervisor
EducationPreschool Teacher Teaching AssistantAfter-school Program Staffer Early Childhood Educator Special Education Technician Substitute Teacher TutorCommunity College Instructor Preschool Operator Research Assistant School Counselor School Administrator
GovernmentInternshipsProbation Officer Recreation SpecialistFoster Family Case Manager Grant Writer Lobbyist Researcher
Healthcare Child Life Specialist Health and Wellness Educator Patient AdvocateArt/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

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)

5%

Median Annual Salary (May 2015)

$20,320

School Counselors

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)

8%*

Median Annual Salary (May 2015)

$53,660*

* 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)

10%

Median Annual Salary (May 2015)

$63,530

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.

Additional Resources

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Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

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