The Best Degrees for Working With Children

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Prepare for a Career Working with Children

A variety of degrees prepare graduates for careers working with children, such as education degrees. Healthcare, criminal justice, library science, nonprofit management, and social work degrees can also lead to jobs that help kids. Careers working with children require strong communication and interpersonal skills. Professionals also rely on their patience and creativity to connect with kids.

This guide introduces degrees leading to careers working with children.

Teaching and Education Degrees

Teaching and education degrees prepare graduates for roles in the classroom and education administration. Educators can pursue various specializations. For example, an elementary education concentration leads to teaching jobs in kindergarten and elementary grades. A secondary education concentration trains teachers for jobs in middle schools and high schools.

Educators can also specialize in different subject areas and fields, such as math, literacy and reading, special education, and educational administration. Learn more about education degrees working with children.

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10 Degree Paths That Can Lead to Working With Children

Various degrees can lead to careers working with children, such as counseling, criminal justice, and law degrees. This list outlines several degree paths that can help graduates land jobs that help kids.

  • Athletic Trainer

    Athletic trainer programs cover human anatomy, injury prevention, biomechanics, exercise physiology, and emergency care. Degree-seekers also learn how to create and implement rehabilitation plans. Most athletic trainers need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program to apply for a professional certificate.

  • Counseling

    Counseling degrees emphasize the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral problems. Counseling majors study topics like individual and group therapy, substance abuse disorders, and counseling children. Most counselors need a master’s degree to practice. A concentration in school counseling or child and family counseling prepares graduates for careers working with children.

  • Criminal Justice

    Criminal justice majors study criminal behavior, law enforcement, and the correctional system. The curriculum covers topics like child welfare laws, victimology, and criminal justice research. Within criminal justice, students can specialize in juvenile justice and train for careers as juvenile correctional counselors, juvenile probation officers, or juvenile correctional officers. A criminal justice degree also leads to child protection careers.

  • Law

    Law and legal studies degrees focus on the legal system, the courts, and the application of the law. Within the legal field, professionals can work as youth advocates, children’s services specialists, and lawyers that specialize in cases involving children.

  • Library Science

    A library science degree trains students in collection development, curriculum services, and information management. A master’s degree in library science prepares graduates for careers as librarians. Many library science programs offer tracks for school librarians, a career path that may require a teaching license.

  • Nonprofit Management

    Nonprofit management programs build leadership skills for careers in the nonprofit sector. Students learn about fundraising and donor development, financial management, and strategic planning. Graduates can work in roles such as executive director, fundraising manager, and chief financial officer. Many nonprofit managers hold a master’s degree.

  • Nursing

    A nursing degree educates students in providing patient care, conducting health assessments, and applying evidence-based practices. Common courses include community health nursing, surgical nursing, and emergency care. Nursing students can specialize their training by completing coursework and nursing rotations in pediatric and neonatal healthcare. An associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing prepares graduates to earn RN licensure.

  • Physical Therapy

    Physical therapy students learn how to treat injuries and other health conditions that limit mobility. Physical therapists need a doctorate to qualify for licensure. Doctor of physical therapy programs train students in human anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and biomechanics. Physical therapy students also complete practicums.

  • Psychology

    Psychology majors examine human behavior, mental health disorders, and developmental problems. They study topics like human development, experimental psychology, and abnormal psychology. Graduates with a psychology bachelor’s degree often pursue careers in social and community services. A doctorate prepares graduates for careers as child psychologists and developmental psychologists.

  • Social Work

    Social work degrees train students in social work practice, social welfare agencies, and social justice. Many programs offer concentrations geared toward child and family social workers and school social workers. Social work majors often complete a practicum to gain hands-on experience. Clinical social workers must hold a master’s degree.

Career Paths for People Who Want to Work With Children

When many people think of careers working with children, education comes to mind. While millions of teachers work with young learners every day, many other types of professionals also interact with children. For example, school counselors, pediatric nurses, and child and family social workers may work with children. This section introduces several children-related careers.

  • Athletic Trainer

    Athletic trainers work with athletes to prevent and treat injuries. They evaluate injuries on the field, offer first aid, and create rehabilitation programs for injured athletes. They also implement programs designed to prevent injury and illness. Some athletic trainers specialize in working with child athletes, including elite athletes at the Olympic level.

    Athletic trainers often hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited athletic training program. Most states also require a license to work as an athletic trainer.

  • Counselor

    Counselors support people with mental, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Counselors may specialize in areas like child and adolescent therapy, family counseling, and school counseling. For example, school counselors help students strengthen their academic and social skills. They also offer career and college counseling.

    Most counselors need a master’s degree and a license to provide therapy. School counselors may also need a teaching license.

  • Nurse

    Nurses provide patient care in healthcare settings, including hospitals and doctors’ offices. They educate patients about health issues, provide wellness recommendations, and offer emotional support for patients and families.

    Nurses can specialize their training to pursue roles like pediatric nurse, neonatal nurse, and labor and delivery nurse. Registered nurses need at least an associate degree to apply for an RN license. Nurses with a graduate degree can work as pediatric nurse practitioners and family nurse practitioners.

  • Social Worker

    Social workers may help clients access social services, remove children from neglectful environments, and manage behavioral problems. Child and family social workers support vulnerable children and advocate on their behalf. School social workers help learners manage academic and social problems.

    Many social work careers require a bachelor’s degree. Licensed clinical social workers must hold a master’s degree.

  • Teacher

    Teachers may work with children from preschool through 12th grade. They instruct young learners in core subjects such as reading, math, and writing. At the secondary level, educators may specialize in subjects like social studies, science, math, or language arts. All teachers design lesson plans, assess student learning, and supervise students.

    Most teaching careers require a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license. Private school teachers may not need a license, depending on the school.


How to Prepare to Work With Children

A career working with children requires patience, creativity, and strong communication skills. Researching career paths, learning about degree options, and gaining experience prepare students for success in jobs that help kids.

  • Do Your Research

    Before pursuing a degree working with children, set aside time to research potential career paths, including their educational requirements, earning potential, and projected growth.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers data on many careers involving children. Career advisors and exploratory interviews with people working in your prospective field can also provide valuable information.

  • Find an Education or Training Program

    Many careers involving children require a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree. For example, school counselors typically need a master’s degree. Before enrolling in a program, prospective students should consider their unique interests and needs. For instance, some students thrive in online programs, while others prefer in-person options. Prospective students should also begin preparing financially by saving for college costs, researching financial aid options, and filling out the FAFSA.

  • Get Experience

    Gaining real-life experience with children helps professionals break into the workforce. Some programs incorporate internships that allow students to work directly with children. For example, educator preparation programs include a student-teaching experience. Seeking out volunteer or professional opportunities outside of a program can also build valuable experience.

From the Expert: Laura Giammusso

Interview with Laura Giammusso

  • How did you decide to become a teacher?

    When I was working in counseling, I discovered that I found the most enjoyment working with children in school settings. Also, my mother is a retired special educator who showed me the importance of making a difference in the lives of children and families.

  • What are some of the unique challenges of working with children?

    It is so important to meet individual students’ needs and provide instruction that will help all learners make progress and feel motivated to do their best.

  • What are the rewards?

    It is wonderful to feel the excitement when students are engaged in the learning process and connecting with others. I love seeing students push themselves to grow as learners and feeling motivated by the results of their hard work. I especially enjoy hearing my students’ ideas, questions, and insights.

  • In what ways has your master's program helped you in your career?

    My master’s program has provided me with opportunities for deeper reflection on my current practice, which helps me to set personal goals and improve my teaching. I have greatly enjoyed collaborating with other teachers, especially sharing resources, lessons, and ideas.

  • What advice would you offer someone interested in pursuing a career working with kids?

    My advice would be to find ways to incorporate the things that you find most important and that bring you happiness into your daily practice, whether it is art, the outdoors, or helping your community. I also think that one of the best ways to inspire students to be lifelong learners is to pursue new opportunities in your own learning.

Professional Organizations for Working With Children

Professional organizations help students and professionals expand their network, specialize their skills, and advance their careers. The following professional organizations offer membership benefits to professionals working with children.

  • American Association of School Librarians AASL represents more than 7,000 school librarians. The association runs education programs, provides career information for prospective school librarians, and offers resources on national board certification and loan forgiveness for school librarians.

  • American Counseling Association ACA promotes the counseling profession. The organization offers a knowledge center with licensure requirements, mental health resources, and school counselor information. Members can also access publications, career resources, and continuing education opportunities.

  • American Psychological Association APA counts over 122,000 psychologists, researchers, and students among its members. The association provides information on psychology careers, licensure requirements, and mental health resources for children and adolescents.

  • American Nurses Association ANA advocates for 4 million registered nurses. Dating back to 1896, the professional association offers licensing information, professional development support, and information for nurses in specialties.

  • Child Welfare League of America CWLA dates back to 1920 and advocates for vulnerable children and families. The league offers programs and practices to improve child welfare and information on supporting children and youth.

  • Council for Exceptional Children CEC advocates for children with disabilities and gifted and talented learners. The council offers professional development resources for special education teachers, sets professional standards, and provides information on education policies and career development.

  • National Association of Social Workers Founded in 1955, NASW represents over 120,000 social work students and professionals. The association provides information on clinical licensure, professional standards, and career paths in child and family social work.

  • National Athletic Trainers' Association NATA represents over 45,000 certified athletic trainers and students. Dating back to 1950, NATA offers professional development resources, career planning information, and other membership benefits.

Portrait of Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton

Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University and earned tenure as a history professor at the University of Louisville. An award-winning historian and writer, Genevieve has published multiple scholarly articles and a book with the University of Chicago Press. She currently works as a freelance writer and consultant.

See more articles by Genevieve

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