Online Master’s in Child Development Programs 2021

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The study of mental, emotional, and physical development from birth through adolescence, child development addresses various learning challenges and developmental setbacks. Child development programs often feature curriculum concentrations studying particular age groups or developmental issues.

Earning a master’s degree in child development can lead to careers such as teacher, administrator, or social worker. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports kindergarten and elementary teachers and preschool and childcare directors earning median annual salaries of $59,420 and $48,210, respectively. Social workers make a $50,470 median annual salary and enjoy job growth projections of 13% during 2019-2029. See below to learn more about online child development degree jobs, coursework, benefits, and financing.

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Master's In Child Development - Top Questions From Students


  • Q. Is child development a good career?

    An online child development degree can lead to many meaningful careers supporting the next generation. Many master’s in child development graduates enjoy above-average salaries and job growth protections.


  • Q. What can you do with a child development degree?

    Master’s in child development degree-holders often work for schools, nonprofits, and childcare facilities. Common jobs include teacher, administrator, counselor, and child life specialist.


  • Q. How long does it take to get a master's degree in child development?

    Master’s degrees usually take two years to finish. Many accelerated online programs offer quicker timelines by running short, intensive courses throughout the year.


  • Q. Can you become a teacher with a child development degree?

    Public school teachers need state certification, which typically requires specific coursework, training, and an examination. Online child development degree coursework and internships may count toward some of these education requirements.


Why Get a Degree in Child Development?



Childhood development degrees cultivate advanced skills useful in various professional and personal contexts, including family life. Online child development degrees’ flexible schedules allow working professionals to maintain their jobs and income while studying.

Earning an online childhood development degree can help working professionals specialize their knowledge and skills. Specialization and degree advancement often leads to promotion or career transition. Promotion to social and community service manager positions yields a median annual salary of $67,150.

According to December 2020 PayScale data, master’s in child development graduates average $48,800 annually. As of March 2021, master of social work in child development graduates average $55,600 annually. Some master’s graduates pursue related doctoral degrees and become postsecondary teachers, earning a $79,540 median annual salary.

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How Much Does a Child Development Degree Cost?

Master’s degree costs vary widely by program, school, and location. College Board’s 2020 Trends in College Pricing reports in- and out-of-state students at four-year public institutions paying an annual average of $10,560 and $27,020, respectively. Private four-year schools average $37,650 annually, making them the most expensive option. Master’s degrees typically take two years to finish, meaning average tuition costs range from $21,120-$75,300, depending on the type of school.

The same report indicates that college tuition averages vary widely by state. Average in-state tuition at New England colleges often costs twice or three times that of states such as California, Wyoming, Florida, or New Mexico.

For an affordable master’s degree in child development, consider an online degree at a public university. Note that online learners often qualify for in-state tuition, even at out-of-state schools. Online childhood development degrees often cost considerably less than on-campus equivalents due to discounted tuition and absence of commuting or residency costs. Online enrollees may also save on campus-related student fees.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree



Affordable Colleges Online provides an affordability calculator to help prospective students plan their educational financing. By entering current income, living expenses, and financial aid offerings, users can estimate their online master’s degree in child development’s net cost.

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How Much Do Child Development Majors Make?

Salaries for child development degree jobs depend on position, credentials, employer, and sector. Child development undergraduates may find entry-level jobs as childcare workers, earning a $24,230 median annual salary. Master’s in child development degrees meet or exceed minimum degree requirements for various higher-paying jobs. These include preschool or childcare director, social worker, and social and community services manager. According to the BLS, median annual salaries for these jobs fall between $48,000-$68,000.

Many online child development degree-holders work in education. With appropriate certifications or licenses, child development master’s graduates may qualify for jobs including school counselor, kindergarten and elementary teacher, or K-12 administrator. Median annual salaries for these careers range from $57,000-$99,000. Master’s graduates sometimes pursue related doctoral degrees and become college professors or researchers.

Courses in Child Development



Child development master’s programs usually feature courses in research methods, learning theory, and ethics. Enrollees develop advanced skills in assessment, communication, curriculum design, and counseling. Most master’s programs require internships, plus an original thesis or capstone project that hones research and writing skills.

Common online child development degree concentrations include infancy, child life, and special needs development. Many programs also offer specializations such as administration or child and family policy. The following sample course topics appear under various titles in many master’s in child development programs.


  • Learning, Cognition, and Assessment

    This course surveys various human learning theories, including social learning, constructivist, cognitive, and behavioral approaches. Participants study principles, practices, and tools for teaching and assessment. Aspiring teachers and educational psychologists benefit from this course.


  • Early Childhood Education Foundations

    This core course explores early childhood education history, theory, issues, and trends. Learners analyze current research, create a personal child education philosophy, and cultivate advanced observation and assessment skills. The course proves valuable to childcare and preschool teachers and administrators. Many master’s in child development degrees feature specializations in early childhood education.


  • Infant and Child Development

    Child development programs explore this broad subject area through single or multiple core courses and curriculum concentrations. Beneficial for aspiring childcare workers and teachers, this course surveys theories on infant and child cognitive, linguistic, emotional, and physical growth. Students gain familiarity with contemporary issues in the field, including common family, cultural, and legal problems.


Certifications and Licensure for Child Development



A master’s in child development meets degree requirements for some careers, but graduates may benefit from additional professional credentials. Teachers and social workers often need licensure from state boards. Some employers expect child development professionals to hold child life or development certifications. See below for descriptions of some common child development professional credentials.

Early Childhood Education Teacher License


These state-issued licenses qualify holders to teach preschool and early elementary education. Requirements vary by state, but usually include a related degree, passing scores on various assessments, and supervised internships and professional experiences.

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Certified Child Life Specialist


This credential usually serves child life professionals who support children in medical facilities. The Association of Child Life Professionals awards this five-year credential. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree with ten related courses, 600 hours of supervised clinical child life experience, and a passing score on the Child Life Professional Certification Exam.

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Child Development Associate


The Council for Professional Recognition offers the widely-recognized CDA credential. Applicants must meet experience requirements, submit an appropriate portfolio, and pass a CDA assessment test and verification visit. Specific requirements vary based on chosen specialization. CDAs often work as early childhood education teachers and administrators.

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Scholarships for Child Development



Some online master’s in child development enrollees qualify for scholarships or grants. Often awarded based on financial need or academic merit, they do not require repayment and can help defray educational expenses. Many scholarships serve underrepresented minority learners. Master’s in child development students may qualify for opportunities like those below.

  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation Graduate Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: The EAF scholarships go to graduate students who demonstrate a minimum 2.5 GPA and an impressive history of community service. Only full-time students at accredited, degree-granting schools qualify. Applicants submit a resume, recommendation letters, a financial-needs analysis, and a description of scholarly plans.

    Amount: Varies

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  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant Program

    Who Can Apply: The U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid administers the TEACH Grant Program. Child development degree-seekers may qualify with participation in a TEACH Grant eligible program at a participating school. Recipients agree to teach full-time at a low-income school for four years after graduation.

    Amount: Up to $4,000 annually

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Online Master’s in Child Development Programs 2021



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  1. Arkansas State University-Main Campus
    Location

    Jonesboro, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A-State Online manages one of Arkansas's oldest virtual colleges. Licensed teachers can earn the M.S.E. in early childhood education in as few as 12 months. They learn about the education and developmental needs of young children. The online M.E.D. holds accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

    The 30-credit master's in child development explores topics such as developmental perspectives and models of early childhood curriculum. Participants learn how to use technology as a teaching tool. A practicum allows enrollees to apply lessons learned in the classroom.

    Students culminate the degree with a comprehensive exam, thesis, or capstone portfolio. Seven-week courses help accelerate degree completion. All students pay the same affordable tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires a bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and a valid teaching certificate.

  2. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
    Location

    Natchitoches, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Northwestern State University of Louisiana operates the state's first and largest e-campus. The college offers the state's only M.Ed. in early childhood education. Certified teachers enhance their knowledge of how to work with children ages birth to eight years. Enrollees explore concepts such as advanced child development and instructional improvement and assessment. They learn how to develop early childhood/primary curriculum and standards.

    All participants learn how to design spaces conducive to early childhood/primary learning. A practicum provides hands-on experience implementing concepts learned in this master's in child development. Students culminate the M.Ed. with a thesis or action research focused on school improvement. The program meets National Association for the Education of Young Children standards.

    E-NSU features a flat rate tuition for all enrollees regardless of residency. E-NSU offers a steep tuition discount for active-duty personnel, reservists, and their dependents. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and a teaching license.

  3. Missouri State University-Springfield
    Location

    Springfield, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Missouri State continues a long tradition as a teachers training college. The MS in child life studies prepares enrollees for certification as child life specialists. The degree offers a standard degree plan for learners new to the field. Practicing certified child life specialists choose an advanced option.

    Participants learn from certified child life specialists with experience working in clinical settings. Students complete 35-44 credits depending on their educational background. Course topics include child life theory and practice and advanced family studies.

    All participants complete a research practicum or child life internship. Students choose either an evidence-based practice project or child life research thesis. They must also pass a comprehensive exam to earn this master's in child development. Enrollees pay the same affordable tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.75 GPA.

  4. Northern Arizona University
    Location

    Flagstaff, AZ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Northern Arizona University offers programs on campuses throughout the state. NAU offers the M.Ed. in early childhood education exclusively online. The program prepares educators who can work with children in preschool and primary school. The 30- to 31-unit curriculum offers tracks for certified teachers and those seeking national board certification. The program aligns with National Association for the Education of Young Children standards.

    All enrollees complete a core that examines concepts such as the early childhood curriculum and curriculum and instruction. A notable course explores challenges in American culture and the school curriculum's objectives. Participants supplement the core with a track such as early childhood teacher or early childhood national board preparation.

    The early childhood leadership track includes an emphasis on educational psychology and curriculum and instruction. Admission to this master's in child development requires a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

  5. Stephen F Austin State University
    Location

    Nacogdoches, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in East Texas, Stephen F. Austin State University offers an M.Ed. in early childhood education online. The 36-credit program prepares early childhood professionals who can work with children ages birth through eight years. Participants study child development research and classroom learning strategies. They explore the psychological and sociological factors that influence young children's behavior.

    A course teaches educators how to manage classrooms. They also learn about age-appropriate assessments for young children. Enrollees focus on curriculum development by exploring mathematics and science in early childhood education. Participants also learn exercises that promote language development in young children. Students culminate the program with an action research project that uses quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methodologies.

    Students living near campus can apply for a teacher assistant position in SFA's early childhood lab. Admission to the master's in child development requires a bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA.

  6. University of Houston-Clear Lake
    Location

    Houston, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Houston-Clear Lake enrolls about 9,000 students in 90 programs. UHCL offers an online MS in early childhood education that blends coursework and research opportunities. The 36-credit degree prepares early childhood educators who can teach children up to age eight. Both career changers and certified teachers can enroll in the MS.

    The curriculum explores concepts such as how to teach young children, creative arts in early childhood, and play and the developing child. The program also develops leaders who can manage programs for young children. Educators may opt for one of two tracks: a focus on young children with disabilities or core subjects EC-6 certification.

    Learners culminate this master's in child development with a thesis or 160-hour practicum.

    Participants can take courses at their own pace. Enrollees complete the degree in as few as three semesters. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and GRE or MAT scores for some applicants.

  7. University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Location

    Birmingham, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham produces some of the state's finest teachers.

    The online M.A.Ed. in early childhood education enrolls teachers with a current class B certification in early childhood education. The customizable curriculum requires 33 semester hours. All enrollees learn how to teach reading and comprehension to children in pre-K through grade 12.

    Participants build the rest of the curriculum with coursework chosen from several areas. They learn how to teach subjects such as math, social studies, and language arts. Enrollees explore the diagnostic process and educational interventions for exceptional learners. They can choose additional courses that match their career goals. Students receive hands-on training through an optional ECE or elementary education practicum.

    Students complete most classes in this master's in child development online. Admission requires a bachelor's degree in education and an Alabama teaching certificate.

  8. Boise State University
    Location

    Boise, ID

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Boise State University offers a fully online M.Ed. in early and special education. This program enrolls educators and specialists who already work in schools or education agencies. The 34-credit M.Ed. deepens their practice and does not lead to initial teacher certification. The program requires a core that explores key topics such as multi-tiered systems of support and issues and advocacy in early childhood.

    The curriculum includes coursework on behavior support, instructional design, and early childhood special education. All participants complete a research component that begins with the fundamentals of educational research. Enrollees may opt for a concurrent graduate certificate in an area such as behavioral interventions and supports. Students use a portfolio to highlight lessons learned and their competencies.

    Boise State offers affordable tuition and scholarship opportunities. Admission to one of the nation's best child development master's programs requires a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

  9. University of North Dakota
    Location

    Grand Forks, ND

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1883, the University of North Dakota is the state's largest college. UND's thriving virtual college includes the online MS in early childhood education. The program develops educators who can meet the educational needs of children age eight or younger. The 30- to 32-credit curriculum aligns with the National Association for the Education of Young Children's standards. This master's in child development does not lead to teacher certification.

    The curriculum offers thesis and nonthesis options. Students explore topics such as social emotional learning and guidance and reading instruction. Another topic is language development and cognition in children. Participants can complete the degree's 60-hour practicum in their own early childhood classroom. They culminate the degree with a thesis or scholarly project. Students pay in-state tuition regardless of where they live. Full-time students complete the degree in 18 months.

    Admission requires a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or related major and a minimum 2.75 GPA.

  10. Portland State University
    Location

    Portland, OR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Portland State University manages the state's largest and most diverse school of education.

    The master's in early childhood: inclusive education prepares educators for children ages birth through eight. The degree does not lead to teacher licensure in Oregon. Enrollees choose one of four specializations. These are constructivism, infant toddler mental health, distributed pathway, and early childhood special education. The 45-credit curriculum varies depending on specialization.

    Students complete core courses such as child development in early childhood and issues in early childhood and inclusive education. Participants can pursue elective training in specific areas such as culture and language in early childhood families. The culminating action research sequence allows educators to address challenges in their own classroom. The school of education can arrange practicum and internship experiences.

    This master's in child development features study abroad opportunities and optional summer immersives. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and experience working with young children.

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