Earning an Online Child
Development Bachelor's Degree

Earning a child development degree online prepares graduates to work directly with children or on behalf of children. Ideal candidates for a child development program include compassionate, hardworking individuals who aspire to advance their career and help others.

Online learning formats allow students to pursue university options beyond city or state lines while offering the flexibility for professionals to continue working while earning their degree. Read on to learn more about child development degree plans and potential careers for graduates.

Overview of Child Development Degrees

Child development refers to the biological, emotional, and psychological changes experienced during the newborn to adolescent stages of growth. The field of child development includes several interdisciplinary areas. Child development professionals include educators, psychologists, social workers, special education teachers, daycare directors, and pediatric doctors and nurses.

Ideal for individuals looking to advance their career and work with or for children, a bachelor's in child development degree online prepares graduates for a variety of entry-level careers. As parents strive to provide the best opportunities for their children, the demand for childhood development professionals remains high. Between 2016-2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects preschool teaching and social worker jobs to grow by 10% and 16%, respectively.

Students pursuing an online child development degree study human growth and development, family and community relationships, curriculum and instruction, emergent literacy, and early intervention. Many child development degrees offer 100% online completion. Others, especially those preparing graduates for teaching licensure, require students to complete local onsite experiences, like student teaching.

Application Process

Colleges and universities may accept applications on a rolling basis throughout the year or during a window of time before new semesters begin. Check with prospective institutions to ensure you provide the materials on time, and aim to submit your application several weeks ahead of the deadline to allow for any unforeseen mistakes or processing errors.

Applicants to a bachelor's program typically must provide an online or paper application, a nonrefundable application fee between $20-$90, transcripts from high school and college, an essay or personal statement, and several letters of recommendation. Contact your high school office for instructions on how to obtain official transcripts. If you plan to transfer any previous college credit, either from dual-degree high school courses or an associate degree, complete an official transcript request with your college registrar's office. In most cases, your previous institution can send transcripts directly to a prospective institution.

What Will I Learn?

An online bachelor's in child development degree typically requires students to complete 120 credits of coursework. Students transferring with an associate degree may begin their child development bachelor's with up to 60 transfer credits. A child development degree online generally consists of 32-44 credits of major courses, 40-44 credits of general education courses, and 9-32 credits of open electives. The number of available electives depends on whether a program requires additional core classes. For example, a child development degree aimed at preparing students for elementary education licensure may require 24 additional core classes in education and student teaching.

An online child development degree focuses on major concepts, including child growth, learning, and development; family and community relationships; and teaching methods and curriculum. Students may learn through a combination of lectures, critical analyses, readings, class discussions, and hands-on experiences.

Preschool Curriculum and Instruction

With an emphasis on teaching in public schools and daycare facilities, a course on preschool curriculum and instruction introduces students to the major cognitive, language, social, and physical development theories. Students apply these theories to curriculum planning and instruction processes, considering typical and atypical needs of early childhood learners.

Growth and Development of Children

Growth and development courses may take a broad look at growth from prenatal to elementary age or focus on a section of growth, like ages 0-2 or 3-5. Students apply biological and developmental perspectives to gain an understanding of concepts, principles, and developmental theories.

Play and Learning

A course on children's play and learning typically centers on the ideas of major theorists, such as Piaget, Parton, Erickson, and Vygotsky, as well as current research, trends, and cultural influences. Students examine how children learn to play and discuss the significant role of play throughout every stage of a child's development.

Understanding Behavior and Family Dynamics

Whether planning for a career in education or human services, an understanding of child behavior and relationships remains vital for child development professionals. Course content involves study of family structure and dynamics; interactions between children and families; and the relationship each plays in a child's socialization, development, and learning.

Ethics in Early Childhood

Professionals who work with children may face difficult questions or scenarios. This course prepares students to make ethical decisions in professional and personal contexts. Students explore classical ethics, historical ethics, and their personal values as they pertain to early childhood.

Early Childhood Assessment and Intervention

Students analyze the importance of assessment in supporting the development of children. They also examine how to enhance child growth and development through the use of assessment tools and strategies. Students synthesize course concepts to develop an assessment portfolio of intervention strategies.

What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Child Development?

Graduates who complete an online degree in child development enjoy a variety of potential career paths and academic endeavors. The following sections outline the core skills developed in an online child development degree and review popular career options for graduates.

Core Skills

Top online child development degrees provide graduates with the professional competencies needed to work with children and their families. Degree plans focus on fostering comprehensive knowledge of child development and learning; family and community relationships; observation and assessment; curriculum development; and ethics, professionalism, and employability.

Students develop the communication skills needed to work with children, parents, communities, and colleagues. An emphasis on the complex processes of a child's social, mental, and physical development allows graduates to work with children at various stages of growth while ensuring access to age-appropriate environments, classroom lessons, and learning tools. Knowledge of individuality, diversity, and relationships between children, families, and communities allows future child development professionals to facilitate supportive relationships in a multicultural society.

The skills and knowledge gained during an online degree in child development promote positive, lasting effects on the youth, clients, and communities that child development professionals work with.

Potential Careers and Salaries

Graduates of an online child development program pursue careers in diverse fields and settings. Three of the top employers of child development professionals include public and private education, child care, and human services. The knowledge and skills gained from the best child development degrees online prepare graduates to work directly with children or with those involved in shaping the developmental progress of children, including parents, families, child care staff, and policymakers.

While a bachelor's degree provides sufficient education for the entry-level careers listed below, note that some employers may require or prefer applicants with additional training, certification, licensure, or experience.

Career Profiles

BSW Social Worker

Annual Median Salary: $47,980

Social workers with a bachelor's degree typically work in entry-level positions pertaining to child welfare, family services, or public health. These professionals assess client needs and situations, and help determine which support services clients should receive.

Preschool Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $28,990

Preschool teachers care for children younger than five in a classroom environment, monitoring development and teaching fundamentals, including number and letter recognition, social skills, and motor skills. Teachers record individual progress and discuss each child's development with parents.

Kindergarten or Elementary School Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $56,900

Kindergarten and elementary teachers work with young children, covering basic concepts in math, reading, social studies, and science. They prepare students for academic success by developing students' critical thinking skills, introducing students to testing, and encouraging collaborative problem solving.

Early Intervention Specialist

Annual Median Salary: $38,589

Early intervention specialists work directly with children experiencing developmental delays. They may work for schools, nonprofits, or government entities, completing assessments of children ages 0-3. They develop plans to address individual needs and educate and assist parents in providing support.

Childcare Director

Annual Median Salary: $46,890

Directors of preschools and childcare centers lead, train, and supervise staff members; oversee daily operations; develop educational program plans; and handle budgets. Directors ensure their programs and facilities comply with the guidelines and regulations set by the government and parent organizations.

Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Child Development?

Earning an online bachelor's degree in child development prepares graduates for entry-level careers in early childhood education, child care, or child welfare. Whether a graduate must pursue additional education depends on their career goals. Advancement into school leadership roles, supervisory or clinical social work, or other specialized areas typically requires graduate education.

However, opportunities for advancement exist for those who only plan to attain a bachelor's in child development online, as bachelor's degree holders can also pursue nondegree certification, professional development, and training to enhance their skills, knowledge, and employability.

Accreditation for Child Development Bachelor's Programs

Accreditation provides quality assurance for a university's degree and curriculum offerings, procedures, and policies. Students should look for schools with accreditation from regional or national agencies, like the Higher Learning Commission, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, or Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

In some cases, depending on their field of study, students may find additional accreditation at the degree level, known as programmatic accreditation. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accredits associate, bachelor's, and master's programs in child development and early childhood education.

The NAEYC evaluation process adheres to a set of standards concerning curriculum content, professional development, and field experiences. Though an online child development degree with programmatic accreditation undergoes additional vetting, this does not mean a program without NAEYC credentials is necessarily subpar.

Child Development Professional Organizations

Everyone in the child development field -- from students completing a child development degree online to graduates with extensive years of work experience -- benefits from joining a professional organization. Members enjoy access to in-person and online networking opportunities, discounts on national conferences and events, training and professional development opportunities, and the latest research and information.

National Association for the Education of Young Children
NAEYC works for the advancement of early childhood education by engaging in public and political advocacy and providing professional development resources to professionals. Member benefits include online networking opportunities; exclusive content; and discounts on publications, insurance, and events.

National Head Start Association
Dedicated to meeting the needs of families and children, the NHSA advocates for policy developments, provides professional development training to professionals, and conducts and shares research. Members enjoy access to exclusive resources, award and scholarship opportunities, and discounted training and conferences.

Child Care Aware of America
As a membership-based nonprofit, Child Care Aware of America assists more than 860,000 families each year and devotes its efforts to the advancement, accessibility, and affordability of child care. Membership benefits include access to networking opportunities; industry research; and a child care database of local, regional, and national information.