From associate to master’s programs, explore top schools and degree options where you can learn to help children grow up to be their best selves.
Timon Kaple, Ph.D., is a full-time writer and researcher. His work focuses on sociolinguistics, small-group folklore, the anthropology of sound, higher education, and student support services. He has experience as an ethnographer and enjoys conducting fieldwork and archival research.
Standout Online Child Development Degree Programs for 2022
Do you see yourself working directly with children or in research roles focused on child development issues? Do you enjoy teaching and have an analytical mind that enjoys thinking through learning processes? A career and degree in child development may be a great fit for you. And if you need an option that lets you learn from home or the road, an online child development degree program can be a smart choice. But as with any big decision, it’s crucial to do your research before committing to an online degree program.
In the school spotlights below, we’ve started that research for you by identifying some of the best online child development degree programs with an eye on affordability and flexibility. These programs hold the appropriate accreditations that ensure their students earn valuable credentials that can lead to a rewarding career in the child development field. Here’s a deeper look at three of our top-ranked programs.
Appalachian State University
Appalachian State offers a 120-credit hour bachelor of science degree in child development. With a concentration in the birth-through-kindergarten population, online degree-seekers learn to develop leadership skills that are applicable in the classroom and in their communities. Online students typically take 6-8 hours per semester during the fall, spring, and summer. Classes are delivered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. Incoming students can transfer up to 30 credit hours toward the bachelor’s degree, saving time and money. Depending on their transfer credits, bachelor’s degree-seekers complete the program in seven semesters of coursework plus one additional semester of student teaching.
Upon completion of the program, child development graduates exit the program with “A” licensure, which qualifies as a certification for both special and general education in North Carolina and potentially other states. Additionally, this program at Appalachian State prepares students to pursue graduate degrees focusing on the population in birth-through-kindergarten, elementary school, and middle school. Appalachian State grads often move on to careers as preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, daycare directors, and child life specialists. All programs within Appalachian State University’s department of family and child studies are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
Incoming students may transfer up to 90 credit hours toward the degree. Upon completion of the program, Eastern Kentucky graduates can pursue a wide variety of careers including public and private preschool teachers, curriculum specialists, early childhood educators, and program assessment specialists. Grads can also pursue employment at for-profit and nonprofit agencies that support children and families, advocate for young victims of abuse, and more.
Eastern Kentucky students take courses in accelerated eight-week terms and follow a personalized graduation plan. Required courses include family stress and resilience, nutrition in the life cycle, early childhood literacy, and philosophical historical foundations of the early childhood professional. Applicants with fewer than 24 hours of applicable transfer credits must submit their high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores for consideration.
All of EKU’s online child and family studies programs hold programmatic accreditation from the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), while the college is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
West Virginia University
WVU is a public institution located in Morgantown. The school is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and offers a bachelor of science in child development and family studies, which is further accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Degree-seekers may choose to complete an optional Pre-K certification track that meets the requirements for the West Virginia State Department of Education requirements for Pre-K certification.
This curriculum follows the standards for initial professional preparation as outlined by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Required courses for the major include introduction to marriage and family, research methods and data analysis, early childhood development, and adolescent problems and disorders. Students complete their classes entirely online.
In total, students need to complete at least 120 credits for graduation, including nine credits of internship or field experience in a child development scenario. Competitive applicants possess a 2.5 or higher GPA. Prospective students with fewer than 20 transferable college credits need to submit to their official transcripts for consideration. Online students may need up to four years to complete this program.
How to Choose the Right Child Development Degree Program for You
With so many educational options out there today, especially with the growing popularity of convenient online programs, how can you know which child development program best fits your personal and academic needs? Here are a few important points to consider as you continue your search for an online child development degree program.
Is properly accredited
In addition to checking a college is regionally or nationally accredited at the institutional level, you should make sure that your child development program holds programmatic accreditation from organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Examples include the National Association for the Education of Young Children and Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Accreditation ensures that the credentials you earn are recognized as legitimate and you’re getting a quality education for your hard-earned dollars.
Fits your schedule and career timeline
Many students choose online programs because of flexible scheduling options. Be sure that your program offers you the flexibility you need to take care of your outside responsibilities, such as your job or familial obligations. Additionally, some programs take longer than others. Be sure that your prospective programs align with your intended career timeline. If you need to locate an accelerated or self-paced program in order to finish more quickly, then look for those features.
Is within your budget
There’s no doubt about it, paying for school can be a challenge for anyone today. Thankfully, there are many online programs in child development that offer affordable programs that won’t break the bank, and you may qualify for financial aid. Many college and university websites offer a tuition calculator to help you get a better idea of what your overall costs will be, should you choose to pursue your degree there.
Aligns with your interests
Child development programs at colleges and universities reflect the strength of their faculty members. It can be useful to look through online course catalogs and faculty biographies to see what the strengths of a program are. It’s also important to remember that child development spans multiple disciplines, from teaching to psychology, so make sure the program matches your professional interests. You want to find programs with curriculums that support these interests and prepare you for the competitive job market in an area of your choosing.
Qualifies you for professional certification
If you plan on earning a professional certification you will need to find a program that positions you to take certification exams, grants you the certification(s) upon completion of the program, and/or qualifies you for state licensure. If any of this is unclear on the school’s degree website, it is best to email the department directly to find out these important details. For example, if you’re looking to earn your Child Development Associate credential, you’ll want to make sure the training program has been approved by the Council for Professional Recognition Early Childhood Education Training.
Offers a strong online student support system
Completing a degree remotely online or in a hybrid format can sometimes make you feel a little disconnected. Colleges and universities that offer strong online support systems can help you get more out of your educational experience, especially those that offer online technical support, remote tutoring options, distance learning discussion boards, and online academic or personal advisors.
What It’s Like to Earn Your Child Development Degree Online
When pursuing an online degree in child development, you get the chance to understand the significance of cultural and familial influence on a child’s environment. You will study the stages of child growth and development, including cognitive, affective, language, and physical development. Depending on your concentration area, you will also engage in specialized classes that further develop your knowledge in a specific topic or area in the field.
The majority of your classes for your child development degree will be online, if not all of them. Depending on the school’s format, you may be able to work on homework and review course content such as recorded lectures on your own time, whenever you wish. Most child development programs, however, require degree-seekers to complete an in-person internship for at least one semester.
As a remote student, you may be able to choose electives or emphasis areas to broaden your coursework beyond the required standard ones in your program. Some common emphasis areas for child development degree-seekers include cognitive studies, environmental management sustainability, public administration, and public relations. Your options for expanding into specialized areas and taking extra electives depends largely on the school and your degree level. There will be fewer options at the associate degree level compared to bachelor’s and master’s programs.
Types of Child Development Degrees You Can Earn Online
In this section, we take a closer look at the types of child development degrees you can pursue online. We will give a detailed explanation of associate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs in this field.
Online Child Development Associate (CDA) Training Programs
Best for … working professionals who want to bolster their resume and increase employment options and those new to the child development field who want to receive training quickly and pursue a job.
Students who complete CDA training possess the skills to foster positive developments in children on intellectual, social, physical, and emotional levels. This is an early career, pre-degree training option that can be a great first step into a career in child development or a way for current professionals to improve their job prospects.
Students choose between four focus areas for their certification: preschool, infant-toddler, family child care, and home visitor. Each concentration area helps students explore eight central subject areas to ensure that professionals become well-rounded leaders for all early childhood education environments.
Subject areas include safety, intellectual development, social and emotional development, relationship skills with family members, teaching effectiveness, professionalism, behavior observation, and basic principles of child development. While it is certainly possible to find a job working in child development without earning a CDA credential or degree, it is a cheaper alternative, with a smaller time commitment, than an associate’s or higher degree.
Total hours: 120 total hours of formal ECE (Early Childhood Education) training and classes
Other Common Requirements: To apply for the CDA credential after this program, you need 480 hours of work experience and a professional portfolio.
Time to Complete
Part-Time Program: 3-5 months
Full-Time Program: 3 months (complete 10 hours per week)
Perhaps you’re ready to make a larger investment in your future as an early childhood development professional. The associate degree is an excellent choice. These two-year programs can prepare you with the necessary skills to help young students develop characteristics that will help them achieve long-term academic success. Associate degree programs allow you to delve deeper into supporting children’s emotional, educational, and social needs than the CDA credential. Additionally, you will develop the skills to make informed decisions about curriculum design and effective instructional classroom practices.
You can complete associate degree programs in child development entirely online. During the last semester, online students typically complete a faculty-supervised internship in a childcare setting. This associate degree is an excellent choice for professionals who want to jumpstart their career and pursue full-time entry-level positions in the field.
Total Credits: ~60-65
Other Common Requirements: Faculty supervised internship in childcare or community setting.
Bachelor’s degrees in child development can prepare you to pursue careers as an educator as well as a manager or administrator in a variety of settings including government agencies, schools, and nonprofit organizations. You may find yourself working with children individually one-on-one, working as part of a team to manage an educational facility, or designing community programs that serve children.
These programs typically require four years of work. During this time, child development students develop advanced communication, research, and critical thinking skills that help them better assist young students today. Degree-seekers typically choose from several concentrations, including early childhood education, child development practitioner, Montessori education, prevention and intervention sciences, or pre-health professions.
An online bachelor’s degree in child development can be an excellent, flexible fit for working professionals who want to make a career change. These programs are also valuable for first-time college students preparing to enter the competitive job market.
Total Credits: 120
Other Common Requirements: Multiple internships for hands-on experience in classroom or community settings.
Best for … The master’s degree is for those passionate individuals who want to develop a specialty area in the field and seek out higher level careers in managerial and administrative positions.
Master’s degrees in child development build further upon the skills that students acquire in their bachelor’s programs. Master’s degrees allow graduate students to focus on a specialized area of study. In many cases, degree-seekers must produce a final project or traditional master’s thesis based on their original work or research.
Your intended concentration area and research interests are some of the most important factors for you to consider when it comes to choosing a school. Concentration options vary among schools. Popular areas of specialty in master’s programs include adolescent growth, mental health, counseling and family services, and infant and early childhood development.
Master’s degree-holders, depending on their area of specialization, can pursue careers as teachers, social workers, social and community service managers, nonprofit directors, and more. When you apply, you will need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited Institution, prior professional experience working in the field, and at least a 3.0 or higher GPA. Additionally, graduate schools often require applicants to submit letters of recommendation and GRE scores.
Total Credits: 30-40 credits
Other Common Requirements: Final master’s project or traditional master’s thesis
Inside Look at Online Bachelor’s in Child Development
It is essential that you get to know a program before you spend the time applying. It can be a good idea to reach out to administrators and professors in the department to answer specific questions that you may have regarding the curriculum, what recent child development grads are up to now, and more. Additionally, you will want to look into the overall cost of each program to ensure that it fits in your budget. The best decision is an informed decision. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions regarding bachelor’s degrees in child development.
What do you learn in an online child development degree program at the bachelor’s level?
While every program will have strengths and weaknesses, and therefore an emphasis on particular types of classes and subject areas, many should have similar foundational courses and intentional learning outcomes. Bachelor’s programs will give you the chance to learn about the essential social, cognitive, psychological, and emotional components of the field, focusing on youth from infancy through adolescence. This coursework will also teach you to examine social and cultural elements that influence young students today.
Identify and Utilize Essential Learning Materials: Bachelor’s graduates develop the skills to identify and use the latest technology and techniques in the classroom and in community settings. They know how to play to their own strengths but also what materials best serve their students or clients.
Documentation and Assessment Skills: Child development majors learn how to observe and document the actions and developments of their students or clients. This information can then be used to communicate with educators, curriculum designers, parents, school administrators, and more.
Adhere to Legal and Professional Standards: Bachelor’s degree-holders understand the foundational guidelines that ensure their students’ and their own safety. They also know when professional, legal, or ethical lines are crossed and can intervene when appropriate.
Written, Technological, and Oral Presentation Skills: Graduates of this program possess the necessary communication and technology skills to provide quality instruction, advising, and mentorship for their students or clients and their families.
Social Skills and Ability to Foster Community: These trained professionals have the ability to foster community in their classrooms, community centers, clinics, and more. They help create positive environments and relationships for children, which ultimately contribute to their academic and social success as young students.
Common Online Child Development Classes
Early Childhood Skill Sets
Bachelor’s degree-seekers in this class further develop their pedagogy skills, aimed at assisting young students to engage in self-exploration and relationship building with peers. The class pays special attention on how teachers and mentors can help children develop more social skills, learn how to appreciate their classmates and surroundings, and exercise self-control in social situations.
Professional Roles in Child Development
Students in this class study the various roles that adults play in children’s lives from a teacher’s and professional’s point of view. The class covers theoretical and historical foundations of work in the child development field while introducing instructional techniques designed for young students. Bachelor’s students also study how family, community, and culture affect child development processes and outcomes.
Special Education in Child Development
This class helps bachelor’s students adapt lessons and instructional methods to accommodate special education students. Degree-seekers learn teaching strategies based on variety and variations that benefit young students with exceptionalities. As a result, graduates are better prepared for the diversity of classrooms and instructional scenarios they will encounter in their professional careers.
Mental Health Studies in Child Development
Focusing on toddler and infant mental health issues, this class is designed for child development bachelor’s students who are interested in work with this particular population. Course content helps undergraduates examine the work of childhood specialists, psychologists, and child social workers to learn effective counseling and care practices for both toddlers and their families.
Children and Language Development
This class helps bachelor’s students understand the complexities and necessities of fostering learning environments that promote language development among young students. The class covers parent-infant communication development, social and physical cues of human interaction, learning activities focused on early writing and spelling, and the general development of literacy.
What are the prerequisites to get into a child development bachelor’s program?
When researching prospective schools to pursue your bachelor’s in child development, make sure you understand all of the admissions requirements and prerequisites before applying. In general, you can expect there to be a handful of admissions requirements at virtually every school, including:
Online application and application fee
Competitive GPA, usually a 2.5 or higher, varies among programs
History of completed coursework in social and hard sciences with a “C” or higher grade
Submission of high school transcripts
Depending on the school, there may be additional prerequisites or requirements. You may find that bachelor’s programs in child development also require you to submit:
At least one letter of recommendation from a former teacher or employer
Standardized test scores such as the ACT or SAT
Personal statement outlining career goals and why you wish to attend a particular program
Bear in mind that even though online child development bachelor’s programs may have more “seats” available than on-campus programs, admissions numbers may still be limited and highly competitive. If appropriate, send supplemental materials to help bolster your application and further articulate your desire to attend a particular school or program.
How much do online child development bachelor’s degrees typically cost?
The cost of your online child development bachelor’s program will vary among schools. For the most part, you’ll find cost differences between public and private institutions, and even differences based on location despite a program being fully online. Additional factors that will affect your overall cost include how long it takes you to complete the program and how much funding you’ve secured, often in the form of grants or scholarships, to put toward your education. Here’s a look at the cost of three online childhood development bachelor’s degree programs to give you a better sense of the pricing landscape.
Ways to Help Pay for Your Online Child Development Degree
The cost of a degree in child development is a significant investment for just about anyone. It is important that you consider all of the ways to help you pay for your education. Whether or not you think you need to do so, it is important that all college students complete a FAFSA® so that they receive consideration for federal funding. Additionally, there are many institutional, private, and public scholarships available for students of all backgrounds, majors, and extracurricular interests. Many students choose to take out student loans to pay for their education. Federal loans typically offer better deals for students compared to private loans.
Degrees in social work can also help you make a difference in the lives of others, especially children. In general, you receive training to help children and adults face daily problems that affect their personal lines, relationships, careers, and more. Social work degrees are available at all levels and can open the door to dozens of rewarding careers.
A degree in child psychology is essential for students who wish to work in counseling roles with children or become child psychologists. In order to become a clinical child psychologist, you will need to earn a doctoral degree and certification. There are, however, many alternative careers out there where the doctoral degree is not required and allow professionals to help children and families with their emotional and mental well-being.
Master’s degrees in applied behavior analysis allow students develop the necessary skills to help individuals with autism and other behavioral or developmental disorders. Degree-seekers complete evidence-based curricula that help them improve social learning skills and specific behaviors among people with behavioral disorders. Students in these programs typically have a bachelor’s degree in the behavioral sciences or a background working in counseling.