Best Online Child Development Courses

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Child development programs cover the biological, cognitive, and social development of children, typically from infancy through adolescence. Drawing heavily from behavioral and social sciences, a child development degree prepares graduates to work in various professional arenas. Degree-holders may work in early childhood education, curriculum design, and career and technical program development.

Kindergarten and elementary teachers earn a median annual salary of $59,420, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These professionals typically only need a bachelor’s degree in child development or a closely related field. Child development specialists with a master’s or doctoral degree earn even higher annual median salaries, including postsecondary teachers ($79,540) and college administrators ($95,410).

Like most educators, child development specialists believe that education plays a pivotal role in helping individuals reach their full potential. Child development experts believe that this process begins before a child enters preschool and continues through adolescence.

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Online Child Development Questions

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

    Professionals with a child development degree can pursue many roles, including school and career counselor, middle school teacher, and instruction coordinator.

  • Q. Is child development a good career?

    A child development degree qualifies graduates for work in diverse career fields, many of which show steady growth and above-average salaries.

  • Q. What is the difference between child development and early childhood education?

    Child development encompasses the development of children and adolescents. Early childhood education focuses on learning activities and educational institutions for children prior to entering kindergarten.

  • Q. What do you learn in child development?

    A child development program covers topics such as language development in young children, social and emotional growth, and adolescent development.

What Are the Requirements for a Child Development Degree?

A child development degree typically maintains similar admission requirements as other bachelor’s programs. Applicants must submit a school transcript from every secondary school attended, a high school diploma, and at least one recommendation letter from a school staff member. Some programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Typical child development degrees require 120 credits, and major courses comprise at least half of those credits. Child development programs often include an internship for junior and senior enrollees. Culminating activities vary, with many schools requiring learners to complete a capstone project or pass a comprehensive exam. Some programs require degree-seekers to write a thesis to graduate.

Accreditation for Child Development Degrees

Accreditation refers to the process of evaluation that postsecondary institutions voluntarily undergo to demonstrate their commitment to quality education. Independent accreditors assess a school’s academic offerings to determine whether they meet recognized standards of excellence.

Nonprofit, degree-focused colleges and universities seek regional accreditation, while for-profit, career-centric vocational schools seek national accreditation. Since regionally accredited institutions maintain stricter admission requirements, regional accreditation is often viewed as the most prestigious.

Some accrediting bodies focus on specific programs instead of entire schools and issue programmatic accreditation. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is the main accrediting agency in the child development and early childhood education field.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) recognizes all three accreditation types. Learners who plan to apply for federal financial aid should only apply to accredited schools since the ED channels funds only to accredited schools.

Online Guide to Accredited Colleges and Universities

Certifications and Licensure for Child Development

Professionals who want to work in the classroom need licensure in the state where they plan to teach. Licensure requirements vary between states. Some states participate in reciprocity agreements, so students should check specific licensure requirements before completing a program. Child development graduates can also pursue the credentials below.

Certified Child Life Specialist

The Child Life Certification Commission requires candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree in a child-focused field, show completion of required coursework, and possess at least 600 clinical internship hours or work experience. Candidates must pass the Child Life Professional Certification Exam for initial certification. Renewal occurs every five years and requires the completion of professional development units.

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Child Development Associate

Nationally transferable and widely recognized in the early childhood education field, the CDA credential presents the holder as a professional trained to nurture children’s emotional, psychological, emotional, and intellectual development. Requirements include a professional portfolio, completion of at least 120 clock hours of professional education in all CDA subject areas, and 480 direct contact hours with young children.

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Special Education Teacher Certification

Candidates must pass three tests to earn this credential. They also need a bachelor’s degree or higher and must pass a national background check.

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Child Development Specializations

Many child development programs offer concentration areas or study tracks that allow students to focus on specific areas of professional or personal interest. Most schools offer concentration coursework only at the junior and senior levels.

Students enrolled in an online child development program may find that schools do not offer all specializations online. However, learners can still focus their studies by enrolling in a cluster of classes in a specific subject field. See below for three of the most common concentration options for child development majors.

  • Childcare Management

    This specialization focuses on how to run facilities that cater to children, including daycare centers and nursery schools. Childcare administrators ensure their facility offers age-appropriate learning activities, adheres to industry safety standards, and complies with relevant legal regulations.

  • Counseling and Family Services

    Enrollees examine the various issues and challenges that impact the stability of family structures, including addiction, mental health problems, and abuse. Courses cover topics such as behavior modification and personality disorder theories. Independent practice in this field may require licensure and additional education and training.

  • Early Childhood Education

    Child development majors who specialize in early childhood education focus on the social, emotional, and academic needs of children under age eight. Many early childhood education specialists work as teachers who directly monitor and further children’s growth and development. Some practitioners work in curriculum development or as child advocates within the social work arena.

Scholarships for Child Development

Students pursuing a child development degree can explore financial assistance from several sources, including professional organizations, federal agencies, and nonprofits. Most of these funding options accept applications from students pursuing an on-campus or online child development degree.

  • Bright Futures National Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Bright Horizons welcomes applications from undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in early childhood education or a related field, such as child development. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must have completed at least 30 credits of coursework in the field. The program gives preference to minority students and nontraditional enrollees.

    Amount: $250-$1,000

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  • Jack Kinnaman Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The National Education Association administers this program and accepts applications from undergraduate students pursuing an education-focused degree. Child development majors who plan to pursue a career as an educator can apply. Applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA and must demonstrate financial need.

    Amount: $2,500

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Best Child Development Classes Online

  1. Appalachian State University

    Boone, NC



    Located in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian offers a part-time online BS in child development program. Students explore development from birth through kindergarten. Appalachian's online child development degree emphasizes both practical experience and academic research relevant to teaching infants, toddlers, and young children. Graduates often pursue careers as day care directors, preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, and child life specialists.

    Applicants to the online child development program need at least 30 transferable credits and three child development prerequisite courses. Associate degree-holders can finish the 63-credit child development program in eight semesters. Participants take courses year round, completing 6-8 credits of coursework per semester, along with one semester of student teaching. The online child development program features both synchronous and synchronous courses.

    This program meets the educational requirement for North Carolina state licensure or certification. In-state learners pursuing the online child development degree pay a reduced tuition rate. Appalachian is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. Central Michigan University

    Mount Pleasant, MI



    CMU's online BS in early childhood and special education prepares individuals to support learning for children from birth through sixth grade. This online child development degree requires 124 credits of general education courses, core courses, concentration courses, and electives.

    General education coursework covers topics including mathematics and writing. CMU's online child development degree also requires 19 core credits related to development and family. Learners explore topics including infant and toddler development, early childhood development, quantitative methods in childhood assessment, and teaching and learning about race in early childhood.

    The curriculum also covers constructivism as a tool for learning, early childhood special education, early literacy, and early childhood program administration and leadership. All enrollees complete an infant-toddler practicum experience.

    Applicants to CMU's online childhood development program must hold a high school diploma or GED and have a minimum 2.0 GPA. CMU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  3. Point University

    West Point, GA



    Point is a private, Christian, nonprofit university in West Point, Georgia. The university offers an online BS in child development that teaches enrollees how to assist children's development from birth through age eight. Graduates of Point's program often work in churches, day cares, and school and community organizations. Point graduates may also apply for an early education teacher certificate from the Association of Christian Schools International.

    The online child development degree requires 120 credits and takes most students about four years to complete. However, because the program is self-paced, graduation timelines vary. Point's curriculum covers educational foundations, classroom management, education psychology, and culture and education. Learners participate in synchronous online courses and complete two in-person practicum experiences.

    Students may transfer up to 75% of required credits from other accredited schools. Point holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  4. Concordia University-Saint Paul

    Saint Paul, MN



    A private, Lutheran university founded in 1893, CSP participates in the eight-member Concordia University System and enrolls about 5,600 students. CSP features an online BA in child development program that emphasizes play, growth, language, and ethics. This online child development degree features a flexible program format that accommodates working students.

    CSP's bachelor's curriculum requires 120 credits, including general education coursework and 42 credits of child development classes. Learners explore topics including child social and emotional growth, language development and emergent literacy, ethics in early childhood, and children's play and learning.

    Degree-seekers prepare to serve students with diverse backgrounds through coursework on human diversity and relations, dual-language learners, and young children with special needs. Learners in the online child development program complete a capstone portfolio and synthesis.

    The program's coursework meets accreditation standards set by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. CSP is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  5. Fresno Pacific University

    Fresno, CA



    A private, Christian university in California, FPU offers an online BA in early childhood development degree for aspiring preschool teachers. FPU's holistic curriculum aligns with the California Preschool Learning Foundations. Graduates can work for various preschool education providers, including churches, schools, and businesses. The curriculum focuses on child development from birth to age eight. Individuals who plan to pursue elementary school teaching or counseling jobs must typically obtain additional education and licensure.

    Enrollees can complete FPU's child development degree program in person or fully online. Classes in the cohort-based program meet one evening per week. Learners complete two Bible courses, and core childhood development courses cover topics including children's art and literature, math and science for young children, and early childhood physical education. Learners also take courses on exceptionalities and human diversity.

    Applicants need a minimum 2.4 GPA. To enter the major, applicants need at least 60 transferable bachelor's-level credits and two years of postsecondary professional experience. FPU holds regional accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

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