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Online Degree in Child Development Unlock Children’s Full Potential

From preschool teachers to community social workers, child development professionals are skilled at understanding the needs of children. Each child is different, requiring these workers to adapt to a variety of emotional, social and academic situations. An online degree program in child development provides the training needed to foster positive outcomes in the lives of children. Learn more about online child development degree programs, coursework, career outlook and licensing requirements.

The Best Online Child Development Programs

Earning an online degree in child development can put students on the right path to become a successful worker in the child development field. Students will develop a comprehensive understanding of the emotional, mental, and social development of children, all without compromising the student’s already busy schedule. We’ve done some research and found the best programs offered throughout the country, basing our findings off of student/teacher ratio, acceptance rate, and overall cost. Students interested in completing an online child development program can look below to find the best programs offered in 2017.

University Name Score Net Price Financial aid percent Online Programs Aavailable Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateUniversity Information Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services
University of Alaska Fairbanks Score98.98
Net Price
Financial aid %43%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate33%

At the University of Alaska Fairbanks, students may pursue their goals of becoming a child development professional by completing a bachelor of arts degree in child development and family studies. A degree in child development can lead to a variety of opportunities, including working as an early childhood teacher, as a family support specialist, or even continuing into a graduate program to further specialize the student’s knowledge. UAF courses are offered in both traditional, in-class environments as well as in online formats, allowing students the scheduling flexibility that is often necessary for academic success.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
Missouri State University-Springfield Score95.56
Net Price
Financial aid %51%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate55%

By graduating with a bachelor’s degree in child and family development from Missouri State University, Springfield, students will have accrued the skill necessary to begin a career in a wide variety of fields involving children and families. In addition to emphasized curricular learning, students will also develop a well-rounded knowledge base developed through comprehensive general education learning. Attending Missouri State means students also have the opportunity to live in on-campus housing, a unique and exciting option for students interested in further integration into their college community. Students may also wish to interact with their peers through one of Missouri State’s several on-campus clubs.

Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
Union Institute & University Score86.73
Net Price
Financial aid %15%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio
Grad Rate27%

Union Institute & University work hard to prepare programs that will prepare students for their career goals. The bachelor’s program in child and adolescent development, for instance, is specifically designed to help students who are interested in early childhood education or becoming a childcare director. The goal of Union is to provide convenient learning at the higher-education level for students who have other life obligations to work around, which is why they offer a large selection of their courses in an online format. Online students will be afforded with all the same benefits that are available for traditional students, including tutoring and advising services.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesNo Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
RankUniversity Name Score Net Price Financial aid percent Online Programs Aavailable Student-Teacher RatioUniversity Information Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services
1Odessa College Score99.81
Net Price
Financial aid %32%
#Online programs7
Student-Teacher Ratio

Odessa College offers students the opportunity to work towards becoming a professional in the field of child development by pursuing an associate’s degree in child development. This program will provide students with all the skills and knowledge required to be successful in the child development field, including a well-rounded understanding of physical and mental development, youth guidance, and key leadership abilities. Associate degrees from Odessa College can help prepare students for immediate entry into the workforce, or can lead to transferring into a four-year bachelor’s program. Odessa College students will have the benefit of learning in a small class environment, ensuring their needs won't be overlooked by their professors.

Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
2Snead State Community College Score96.36
Net Price
Financial aid %65%
#Online programs3
Student-Teacher Ratio

Snead State Community College offers a wide selection of associate degrees, including an associate of applied science degree with an emphasis in child development. This degree is designed to teach students the skills needed to become a teacher or a teacher’s aide after just two years of schooling. Students will develop the leadership skills, class management skills, and communications skills that employers are looking for. Learning at Snead comes with several student benefits, including access to academic advisement, peer tutoring, and the possibility of financial aid coverage. Several of Snead’s programs incorporate online learning options for students who may have scheduling conflicts.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
3Tulsa Community College Score94.69
Net Price
Financial aid %39%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio

As the largest community college in Oklahoma, it is Tulsa Community College’s goal to provide as many programs as they can to ensure students are able to meet their academic goals. Included in these programs are several variants of child development, including an associate of science degree in child and family studies and an associate of applied science in early childhood development. All TCC programs are taught by faculty members who are highly familiar with their respective fields; most teachers have also spent several years gaining hands-on work experience. Students interested in learning from a distance also have the opportunity to take TCC classes online.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
4Lassen Community College Score94.32
Net Price
Financial aid %36%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio

Lassen Community College provides its students with the chance to select from one of their numerous degree programs, including an associate of arts degree in child development. The need for child development specialists has only increased over the years, which is why LCC hires only the most competent faculty members to teach the men and women that will be filling these positions. LCC helps its students to stay on the right academic track by allowing them free access to tutors and academic advisors. If a student feels college may be too expensive for them, they are able to apply for one of LCC’s several forms of financial aid coverage.

Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
5Grayson College Score93.77
Net Price
Financial aid %20%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio

Students who have a passion for working with young children may wish to consider pursuing an associate of applied science degree with an emphasis in child development from Grayson College. This program is comprised of 60 credit hours, and spends an equal amount of time teaching students in applied learning environments as it does in theoretical study. Several Grayson College programs are fully transferable to partnering four-year schools, allowing graduates to continue their education to earn a bachelor’s degree. Grayson also goes to great lengths to make their campuses an active community, which is why they are the host of several student clubs and organizations.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
6Gadsden State Community College Score93.50
Net Price
Financial aid %25%
#Online programs1
Student-Teacher Ratio

Whether a student is interested in become a child care specialist or becoming an integrated assistant in a K-6 classroom environment, earning an associate degree in child development from Gadsden State Community College will help them to reach their goals. While learning at Gadsden, students will create close bonds with their peers and faculty members, allowing for the development of a lively and productive learning community. Gadsden is the home to several student organizations which allow students a variety of extracurricular activities to participate in during their free time. Students also have the chance to make use of Gadsden’s several student services, such as tutoring, career counseling, and academic advisement.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
7Central Texas College Score92.34
Net Price
Financial aid %13%
#Online programs3
Student-Teacher Ratio

Making an impact on a child’s life is a noble pursuit, which is why Central Texas College is happy to an associate of applied science—as well as several certificates—in child development. These programs will guide students towards a fulfilling career as a teacher’s assistant, a center program director, or a preschool teacher. Students will learn how to manage groups of young children, develop communication skills, and learn essential leadership principles that are valuable to any employer. Students attending Central Texas College can spend their free time participating in club sports or attending on-campus events.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
8Tidewater Community College Score91.13
Net Price
Financial aid %3%
#Online programs3
Student-Teacher Ratio

Students studying at Tidewater Community College have the unique opportunity to complete a 12-credit career studies certificate with an emphasis in child development that is comprised of courses that are also needed for the associate of applied science degree in early childhood development. Students who complete this certificate can either choose to continue learning in the full two-year program, or start an entry-level position in a learning-based environment. TCC offers a variety of financial aid options which will ease the financial burden that earning a college degree can put on a student. Students can utilize their free time by joining one of TCCs clubs, or possibly becoming a member of student government.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
9Navarro College Score90.94
Net Price
Financial aid %26%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio

At Navarro College, students have the chance to complete an associate of applied science in child development in just four short semesters. The goal of this program is to provide students with practical knowledge that will be applicable to teaching and other working environments that are characterized by child/adult interaction. One of the most notable benefits of learning at Navarro College is its affordability. The combination of low tuition rates and several financial aid options, students will have less financial stress to worry about and will be able to better focus on their learning. Navarro students may also wish to consider learning online if they are unable to attend class on campus.

Credit for ExperienceNo Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less
10Hennepin Technical College Score87.72
Net Price
Financial aid %3%
#Online programs2
Student-Teacher Ratio

Preparing to become a necessary team member in a childhood education setting means first finding the right degree program to pursue. This is why Hennepin Technical College offers its childhood development program, which provides students with the required skills to work as an educational assistant, a family child care provider, or even a nanny. Students enrolled at Hennepin Technical College will become members of a lively and productive community characterized by hard work and integrity. By joining one of Hennepin’s student organizations, students may also utilize their extracurricular time to pursue their personal interests and develop relationships with their peers.

Credit for ExperienceYes Placement ServicesYes Counseling ServicesYes Read More Read Less

National Median Annual Salary & Job Growth For Child Development

The bureau of labor statistics provides the following data about job growth in the Child Development industry. As well as the following national median salary data for several different careers in the field of Child Development.

Career National Job Growth (2014-2024) National Median Annual Salary (May 2014) Minimum Education
Preschool Teacher 7% $42,580 Bachelor’s degree
Elementary School Counselor 8% $60,660 Master’s degree
Elementary School Instructional Coordinator 7% $67,060 Master’s degree
Social / Community Services Manager 10% $62,740 Bachelor’s degree
Child and Family Social Worker 12% $42,120 Master’s degree


Child Development Experts: Milestone Map

No single career path exists within child development. Instead, graduates of online child development programs can pursue—or even create—the occupational avenue that best suits their personal and professional goals. Below is an example of how one individual embarked on a career in child development.

High School

Works at city-sponsored summer day camp for elementary children

Bachelor’s Degree

Gets degree in elementary education

First Job

Gains experience working as kindergarten teacher for three years

Graduate Degree

Completes online master’s in child development

Moves Up

Becomes curriculum director for private educational program targeting pre-K to second grade students

Branches Out

Opens consulting firm offering educational services that span both home and school environments

What to Expect from an Online Child Development Degree Program

Given the hands-on nature of child development work, it’s natural for students to have concerns about attending an online child development degree program. Fortunately, most programs are designed to provide the same level of education and experience as a campus-based option, and online students will receive a comprehensive educational experience. Below are some features of online programs in child development.

  • Self-Paced Learning Although curriculum mirrors campus-based programs, online degrees in child development come with a bonus: the flexibility to set a self-paced schedule. Most programs can be completed almost entirely online, supplemented with a local clinical experience.
  • Local Clinical Experience Students gain practical experience by working in local childcare facilities or other centers. Some programs have placement coordinators, while others require students to secure an approved site for their field experience.
  • Extensive Use of Technology Learning Management Systems, such as Blackboard or Moodle, allow students to access their course materials, take examinations, and communicate with instructors and peers. Some programs may offer mobile apps and other forms of online instructional support. Software and hardware requirements vary by program, but typically include the latest version of a web browser, a webcam and microphone, and Microsoft Office suite.

Online Degree Types for Child Development Studies

Child development is a dynamic area of academic study, with online degrees available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Curriculum is designed to provide students with a foundational understanding of the concepts of child development, preparing them for either graduate study in related fields (e.g. psychology, education), or direct entry into a career. Child development can also serve as a secondary major for students pursuing coursework in areas such as early childhood education or special education.

  • Bachelor’s
    (4-5 Years)
  • Master’s
    (2-3 Years)
  • Doctorate
    (4-6+ Years)
  • Graduate Certificates
    (1 Year)

The Bachelor of Arts in child development usually takes four to five years of full-time study, with most programs requiring between 120 and 128 credit hours. Graduates should be prepared to enter a range of careers in early childhood settings, or to continue into graduate and professional programs of study. Coursework covers the theoretical foundations of early childhood cognitive development, educational and social psychology, and evidence-based teaching techniques. Classroom instruction is typically enhanced by a supervised practicum or clinical experience conducted at a local preschool or early childhood development setting.

A Master of Arts in child development can serve as a launching pad to leadership positions in a range of disciplines, or may position graduates for continued studies at the doctoral level. Curriculum concentrates on the theoretical underpinnings of child development, as well as research into issues in the field. Drawing upon multiple academic areas—from anthropology to psychology—master’s programs examine how emotional, social, cultural, family and hereditary factors influence the development of children. Master’s programs typically require between 30 and 36 credit hours, and culminate with a thesis or project.

The number of fully online doctoral programs in child development is limited; however, several hybrid programs are available that allow students to take classes online and supplement coursework with field research. These terminal degree programs focus on applied research, and graduate students can expect to conduct advanced studies into the biological, behavioral and psychological factors of learning and development, gaining insights that inform educational practices. Curriculum not only addresses the philosophical and cultural foundations of development, but also examines current scholarship and research in the field. A doctoral program traditionally requires 60 to 72 credit hours of study; students must also research, write and defend an original dissertation.

Graduate certificate programs typically range from 12 to 21 credit hours, and allow students to focus on specialized areas of child development, such as students with disabilities, mental health, or emotional/behavioral concerns. These programs are geared toward working professionals and can be completed either as a stand-alone certificate, or as a complement to a graduate degree in child development. Curriculum varies by program but typically covers topics such as assessment, clinical practice, and child development theory.

Specialization Tracks in Child Development

Child development students may also choose to specialize their programs of study at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Academic concentrations typically require additional course requirements and cover a variety of sub-disciplines. Common child development concentrations include the following:

  • Child Development Administration
  • Child Life
  • Child Youth and Family Studies
  • Children with Special Needs
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Elementary Education (Pre-Credentialing)
  • Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Social and Community Development

Common Online Child Development Courses

Child development degree programs connect theory, research and practical field experiences, preparing graduates for a range of professional opportunities. Curriculum focuses on three major concepts: foundations of child development, learning environments, and the understanding of developmental contexts such as social, cultural and family issues. Although specific coursework varies by program, the table below outlines common classes offered in online child development degree programs.

Early Childhood Learning Activities

Introduces students to the learning processes of young children, covering subjects such as creating interactive learning environments and evaluating instructional activities.

Child Growth and Development

Focuses on foundational principles and research into the social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and language development of young children. Students examine the impact of educational settings upon each domain.

Toddler Programming

Students examine how to create effective and supportive learning environments for toddlers and young children. Topics include building child relationships, the roles of families and child care teachers, and communication skills.

Infant and Toddler Curriculum Development

Discusses the theoretical frameworks of toddler development, teaching educators strategies for teaching toddlers, techniques for crafting appropriate curriculum, and ways to create adaptive learning environments and assess toddler development.

Health, Safety, and Nutrition

Examines major issues involving the safety, health and nutrition of toddlers and young children, including a review of pediatric medications, working with sick children, proper record keeping, disease control, and classroom sanitation and maintenance.

Choosing an Online Child Development Program

Because of the sheer breadth of professional opportunities within the child development field, prospective students have a wide selection of potential educational programs. Some may concentrate on a general curriculum, while others will focus more specifically on preparing graduates for careers in teaching. Students considering online child development degrees may want to consider the following before choosing a program.

  • Is the program accredited?Licensure typically mandates that students graduate from an accredited program; employers often set this requirement as well. Students should check if the program holds accreditation from either the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) or the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
  • Does the curriculum follow NAEYC standards?The NAEYC sets the accreditation standards for child development curriculum. Programs that meet this standard demonstrate a commitment to quality and meet industry guidelines.
  • Are academic concentrations available?Depending on the student’s future goals, it may be necessary to specialize within a degree program. Students should check to see if the program offers academic concentrations in areas such as preschool, infant/toddler, or family health.
  • How are clinical practicums handled?Like their campus-based peers, online child development students must also complete in-person practicums. It’s important to know how site placements are handled, and whether the program has agreements with local social service or child development centers/programs. In some cases, students may be responsible for locating and getting approval for a local site placement.
  • Are graduates qualified for teacher certification or graduate degree programs?Students who wish to pursue teaching or careers that require graduate studies (e.g. school counseling) should make sure that credits are recognized by other institutions and can be transferred.

Child Development Program Accreditation

Accreditation is a voluntary review process that measures the quality of both educational institutions as a whole, as well as their individual programs, to ensure they meet industry guidelines for instruction. The main accrediting body for education is the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). State agencies typically require graduates to attend a CAEP-accredited program to teach at the K-12 level.

For child development and early childhood education programs, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is the primary accrediting body. The NAEYC accredits programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, through its NAEYC Early Childhood Associate Degree Accreditation and the NAEYC Early Childhood Baccalaureate and Graduate Degree Program Accreditation (in partnership with CAEP).

In addition to CAEP and NAEYC, other accrediting agencies for early childhood and development programs include the Council on Accreditation and National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. To learn more, visit our page about the overall process of accreditation.

Steps to Prepare for a Bachelor’s
in Child Development

Careers in various child development occupations begin with earning a bachelor’s degree in child development. The map below details a sample timeline of preparation steps to take prior to applying for admission to a four-year program of study.

Time Before Program Start Date
Step 1

Earn high school diploma: courses across the humanities, philosophy and psychology offer a firm foundation

1+ Years
Step 2

Clear background check and sex offender registry

6+ months
Step 3

Prepare professional statement, request official high school transcripts, collect letters of recommendation

3 to 6 months
Step 4

Request SAT/ACT scores and apply for financial aid

3 to 6 months

Step 5

Apply to program

3 to 6 months

Prospective applicants interested in online child development degrees can take steps to help their applications be recognized by admission committees. Students can consider some of the following ways to stand out from the crowd:

Gain work experience

While in high school, students can get hands-on experience through internships or employment opportunities with child development programs such as Head Start or day care facilities.


Volunteering with service- or youth-oriented programs can familiarize students with concepts and situations they will encounter as a child development student.

Get personalized references

Students should consider reference sources who know them well and can speak to their knowledge of and commitment to the child development field, as well as their academic abilities.

Obtain CPR and safety certification

Such extra training is another way to demonstrate a comprehensive commitment to serving others.

Career Options in Child Development

From working as a day care provider to a preschool director, or a family development specialist to a case manager, prospective students can tailor their education to meet their future career goals. Advanced education in the field can also open the door to upper-level careers in areas such as teaching, special education, counseling or educational leadership. Below is an overview of five child development career possibilities.

Preschool Teacher

Working on the front lines of child development, preschool teachers work with children under the age of 5 to familiarize them with organized learning environments and introduce them to the fundamentals of reading, writing and math. Working in a variety of educational settings—from day care centers to private schools—preschool teachers help children develop their motor skills, refine their social skills, and engage in physical play. Although some entry-level positions are possible with a diploma or associate degree, preschool teachers may be required to hold a bachelor’s degree and teaching certification if they work in public school districts or with Head Start.

School Counselor

As licensed educators, professional school counselors are typically required to hold a master’s degree. Uniquely positioned to understand the intersection of the personal, social, emotional and academic needs of students, school counselors help guide students to success in K-12 educational settings. Working with school faculty, parents, administrators and community members, counselors help create a safe learning environment by developing and addressing counseling programs that address the needs of all students. Beyond master’s-level preparation, school counselors must also meet their individual state’s certification and licensure requirements.

Instructional Coordinator

Early childhood instructional coordinators are educators who possess not only classroom-based experience, but also a broad understanding of standards-based curriculum and instruction in early childhood education (birth to grade 3). Instructional coordinators develop curriculum and assessment models that create active classrooms and meet the standards for their individual states. They may also host teacher development workshops, help teachers implement instructional activities, assist with early childhood assessments and screenings, and conduct site visits. A master’s degree, along with teaching certification and professional experience, are typically required for the position.

Social Services Manager

Social services managers serve as liaisons who connect families to community resources. They may assist clients in counseling services, coordinate with families in transition, and maintain records and reports. Social services managers work for a variety of organizations, from nonprofit associations to government agencies; depending on the scope of the organization, they may focus their efforts on an area that targets a certain population (e.g. early childhood education or infants/toddler services). A bachelor’s degree is the typical minimum educational requirement for employment.

Child Welfare Social Worker

The primary responsibility of child welfare social workers is to ensure that children’s needs—physical, psychological, emotional and social—are met. Employed at the local, state and federal levels, child welfare social workers may work in organizations such as community health centers, schools or youth facilities. Central to their position is the ability to identify and assess needs, and then match children and their families with the appropriate social services or counseling. They may conduct individual interviews with children and participate in home visits to determine a service plan. Serving as case managers, child welfare social workers monitor progress and change service plans accordingly. Social workers are required to be licensed, which usually requires a graduate degree.

Next Steps: Licensure and Professional Certification

Within the field of child development, certification and licensure requirements vary by occupation. For example, in social work licensure is managed at the state level. Requirements are dependent on the jurisdiction, and professional practice and social workers can be licensed for several positions, such as Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), or Certified Case Worker (CSW). On the other hand, teachers must hold state certification and licensure, with common requirements including graduation from an approved teacher program, a bachelor’s degree, and passing scores on licensure examinations. Students should check with their state’s licensing agency for specific requirements to work in day care centers, schools, and other youth programs.

Professional Certifications

There are two central professional certifications in the child development arena: Certified Childcare Professional and Child Development Associate. The requirements for each are different, but either demonstrates knowledge of best practices and an overall commitment to the field.

  • Certified Childcare Professional

    Sponsored by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation, the Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) is a credential specially designed for teachers who wish to enhance their teaching skills and demonstrate their understanding of early childhood development.

  • Child Development Associate

    Developed by the Council for Professional Recognition, the Child Development Associate (CDA) is a nationally recognized credential that educators typically use to advance their careers in early childhood education and childhood development.

Similar Online Teaching Programs

Future educators can select programs of study that prepare them to work with different student populations—from infants and toddlers to students with disabilities. Below are three related teaching programs that may appeal to those interested in becoming teachers.

Online Teaching Degrees in Elementary Education

Offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, teaching degrees in elementary education can prepare educators to teach in K-8 classrooms.

Online Teaching Degrees in Early Child Education

Online early childhood education programs provide students with an understanding of the foundational concepts of child education, preparing them to work in pre-K or other early childhood educational settings.

Online Teaching Degrees in Special Education

Special education teaching programs are designed to foster the skills and knowledge base required by educators to best serve students with special needs in both public and private school systems.

Child Development Education Resources