Child Development Degree

Child development refers to the field of study in which one learns about how a child grows, develops and learns at different ages and stages. This field covers what is normal in the typical development of boys and girls under the age of 18. However, most people who study child development want careers as preschool educators, elementary school teachers, day care workers, child care directors or at higher levels, psychologists or social workers.

History of the Child Development Practice

Jean Piaget was one of the first to propose formal operations as the universal ends of cognitive development of children. Though it was commonly accepted that children changed, grew and developed, Piaget assigned specific stages to each "phase" children went through into adulthood.

Since that time, the developmental stages have been altered slightly and renamed or rearranged by other theorist, but the basics remain the same. These stages are used by medical personnel, psychologists, psychiatrists and even the education realm to properly assess and teach children.

Knowing and learning about child development is part of gaining a degree in the field of child development. Degrees can be obtained at different levels, bachelor's, master's or doctorate with each leading to different career options.

Child Development Degree Programs

In child development programs, students study and learn about developmentally appropriate practices for children and focus on pushing for advocacy and leadership for the overall field of early childhood education. Initial child development degree programs are structured around the standards as set by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children).

Once students complete such degree programs, they will be able to succeed in the field with a strong background embedded in the theories of early childhood education that back best practices. Child development scholars are aware of the role of families as the primary caregivers, teachers and models in the lives of young children and create inclusive learning environments for their young students. Graduates are prepared to make ethical decisions as early childhood professionals with each student and special circumstance in mind.

Note: This page provides overall information on child development programs. For more detailed degree level information, please see our pages for a Master's in Child Development or a Ph.D. in Child Development.

Getting an Online Degree in Child Development

Getting a degree on a college campus can be very restricting. This can be problematic for students with families or those working full time. One way to gain flexibility is by attending classes online. Online classes are usually more accommodating and allow students to set their own learning schedule. Many schools offer child development degrees online. Below are some more features that make online schooling so popular.

Flexible Schedule

Online degree programs allow students to maintain flexibility in their schedules. Since students will not be required to physically attend class on a regular basis, they will have the opportunity to complete coursework whenever is most convenient for them.

For some working students, earning a degree can seem impossible, since they don't have the time to commute to and attend lectures. With online degree programs, students will not be required to reorganize their work schedules. Rather, students can fit their studies into their daily schedule, which can be late in the afternoon at a coffee shop or early in the morning before work.

Online schooling takes away the fear of not being able to attend classes because of work or other family duties.

Accessibility and Convenience

To earn an online degree, students will not be required to travel to and from campus (in most cases).

Coursework is mostly completed from a computer - all you need is a reliable computer and a good internet connection.

Even if observation hours or fieldwork are required, accommodations will most likely be set up to meet your geographic needs. With that said, online degree programs allow students to participate in programs regardless of where they live and how close they are to a campus. This also opens up opportunities for students with scheduling restrictions or physical disabilities.

Tuition and Costs for a Degree in Child Development

When considering higher education, cost is a big factor.

A recent study found that affordable tuition and associated fees were some of the most significant decision factors when choosing a school where you can get a degree in child development. About half of the studied students chose the least expensive school.

In many cases, online degree programs make more financial sense to students for reasons such as:

  • No costs associated with room and board or relocation
  • No fees having to do with transportation, car maintenance, gasOnline or parking
  • Many online schools don't require out-of-state tuition fees
  • Students are able to continue making money without having school impede on their work schedule

Fast Completion

Since online child development degrees are self-paced, it is frankly quite possible for someone to complete their degree requirements faster than at a traditional college. Traditional colleges usually offer most classes during the fall and spring semesters and limited courses during summer.

However, online colleges allow students to take classes all throughout the year. Since online students do not incur the costs of relocating and commuting, they are able to use the saved money to pay for more classes. As soon as one set of classes are completed, online students can immediately begin the next set - leading to faster completion time.

Additionally, many online schools offer accelerated degree programs.

Online Degree Program Accreditation and Reputation

Online degree programs have quickly become a popular way to earn degrees. However, it is very important to know that the school you choose to enroll in is accredited and reputable. Accreditation occurs when a third party assesses a school or program. When a program or school has attained accreditation, it has proven that it meets the standards as established by an official agency representing the academic field. In other words, a sc or program that has requested an agency's evaluation and has met the agency's criteria are then declared "accredited" by the agency. Learn more about accreditation.

Online Degree Program Curriculum

Respectable online degree programs should be quite parallel to traditional ones, if not more rigorous, when it comes to curriculum.

In a good program, you should be able to find:

  • Solid deadlines and liability markers that keep online on the right path. This may include assignments, presentations, quizzes or reading reflections.
  • Whole class chat rooms or message boards in order to help students network and acquire occupation contacts.
  • Cumulative exam, thesis, portfolio or project.

Choosing an Online Child Development Degree Program

Choosing an online school can be overwhelming. When faced with this decision, it is important to pick one that is reputable. To help you with this decision, ask the following questions:

Is the Program Accredited?

If you choose a school that is not accredited by an official accrediting agency, your degree may not be valid. To help weed out online schools that may not be reputable and recognized, avoid schools that have not been around long enough to obtain accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education maintains more information on the accreditation process of institutions of higher education.

What Technologies Will Be Used to Facilitate Online Learning?

Online schools use virtual classrooms to facilitate instruction. Students and teachers access multimedia lectures, assignments, grades, resources and other learning materials via online learning platforms such as Moodle or Canvas. Students also have access to class message boards where they can collaborate and communicate.

What Resources Will I Have Access To?

Online schools often give students access to a wealth of resources. These resources aid in the process of completing degree requirements. Students may be given access to learning materials such as online research databases, scholarly journals and additional reading materials. Some schools even offer student services such as technical assistance and student advising. Not all online schools offer quality resources -- know what is available to you before signing on.

What Skills and Topics Are Covered?

Another way to choose the right online child development school for you is to assess a program's curriculum and program goals. Before committing, check out what is planned for you. What skills, knowledge and ideas are graduates supposed to obtain upon completion of the program. See how those program goals align with your personal and professional goals.

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Bachelor's Degree in Child Development

If you want to earn a Bachelor's Degree in Child Development, you will need to find an appropriate program from an accredited college or university. Although each school has their own requirements, the following is a general outline of what you can expect:

Degree Requirements

In order to enroll you will need to submit an application which typically requires an essay, proof of high school graduation with transcripts and an appropriate score on either the ACT or SAT exam. If previous college classes have been taken, these may replace high school transcripts.

A Bachelor's Degree in Child Development is likely to lead to an education degree at many colleges. This means that the college must be accredited by a recognized organization in order for the degree to be valid.


A typical bachelor's degree will take between four and five years to complete and a bachelor's degree in child development is no different. The time will depend largely on class load.

Overall, the time it takes to earn a bachelor's degree is the equivalent of six to 10 semesters at most colleges.


A Bachelor's Degree in Child Development will have a cost that varies from college to college, but the average cost of a bachelor's is approximately 45,000 dollars for a four-year degree. However, there are other costs to be considered such as books, student fees and graduation fees.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is available to students who qualify through FAFSA, but grants, internships and scholarships are also available for many who apply. Most applications can be filled out and submitted online.

Learn more about scholarships for child development majors.

Possible Careers

A bachelor's degree in child development can lead to a job as a daycare worker, a preschool teacher, an elementary school teacher (with certification) or even a child advocate with specialized training. A bachelor's degree is also the basis for further advanced degrees in the area.

Bachelor's Degree in Child Development Course Topics

Created and administered to provide students with the theoretical and practical groundings in child development, working on a child development degree is a useful first step to employment in the field of education.

Bachelor's degree programs in child development equip students with the skills needed to find success in the field and prepare them for critical analysis of emerging theories and practices regarding child development. While degree course offerings do vary between institutions, student can expect to find the following curricular goals in their program of choice:

Early Childhood Development

This course would survey the social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of children from birth until adulthood to help students understand appropriate teaching and learning methods.

Child Safety, Nutrition and Health

This course would help students advance their knowledge of the factors that can affect health, nutrition and the safety of young children.

Young Children with Special Needs

This class would introduce and explain how to be an appropriate caregiver and advocate for young children with special needs.

More Childhood Development Course Topics of Study:

  • Examine the world of children from a variety of scholarly and practical perspectives
  • Read and critically analyze current research and literature regarding children and their development
  • Analyze a variety of issues relating to childhood, infant and toddler development, as well as pre-teen and teen development
  • Focus on the development from multiple perspectives and contexts including developmental, cognitive, social and cultural
  • Examine issues related to the child in the context of family, community, educational environment and additional social factors
  • Examine issues related to the whole child as they may affect daycare, play and socialization, instruction, technology, exceptionalities and language development
  • Liaise with researchers, practitioners and prominent professionals in the field
  • Examine select topics in human development
  • Critically analyze the role of biology, experiences and culture that can affect each child's development
  • Analyze important social issues and available barriers and supports for children and their families
  • Focus on the role of the helping professional for addressing gaps in service and supporting the child and family throughout development
  • Apply foundational developmental and cognitive timelines to child, adolescent and youth development
  • Become familiar with a practical care approach that focuses on multidisciplinary practice
  • Build a personal philosophy toward child development and care that integrates programs and services for the individual and family
  • Apply knowledge of healthy physical and emotional environments for developmental well-being
  • Apply knowledge of how less than optimal social, physical and emotional stressors can impact child development
  • Critically analyze human development theories from a variety of perspectives including social, anthropological, religious and historical
  • Examine underlying biological and social events that influence and have influenced human development theories
  • Clearly articulate the strengths and weaknesses of child development models by theorists like Bandura, Erikson, Bowlby, Ainsworth and Piaget.
  • Identify developmental, cognitive, social
  • Analyze play as it impacts developmental psychology, education and social theory

Master's Degree in Child Development

Those who choose to continue their higher education in the field of child development may seek a master's degree in child development.

The following will give you a general understanding of the requirements, time and cost of a typical master's degree program for child development.


For master's level programs, the following are the typical requirements that colleges and universities ask for:

  • A score for the GRE examination (within the last 3 to 5 years), some schools have a specific cutoff score
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts and proof of graduation from an undergraduate program from an accredited school with a minimum GPA


On average, master's degree programs take about two years to complete, but can take anywhere from one and a half to three years depending on class load, term length and other requirements.

Cost and Financial Aid

Costs will vary greatly from school to school, but the average price per unit is about $450. Generally, you can expect to take nearly 50 units in a master's degree program for child development.

Keep in mind that financial aid is sometimes available for graduate students through FAFSA, grants and scholarships. Take the time to find and apply for scholarships and grants as those sources of assistance do not need to be paid back.

The U.S. Department of Educational has a helpful Scholarship Finder tool where users can search for scholarships using multiple criteria such as program of study, veteran status, gender and member of a minority group.

People who earn a master's degree in child development will take on careers as teachers, school administrators, counselors, social workers, community organizers, child advocates, child home operators or youth services organizers.

Doctorate Degree in Child Development

If you already have bachelor's and master's degree in child development, you may be interested in pursuing the next level of higher education - a doctorate degree in child development. A doctorate in child development allows professionals in the field to obtain more specific career roles such as child psychologists or college professors.


Every college or university will have their own requirements; however, you can generally expect that doctorate programs require a previous GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose and an application.

Timeline & Cost of a Doctorate Degree in Child Development

Depending on class load and the time it takes to complete a successful dissertation, earning a doctorate usually takes between three to four years. Some doctoral programs allow candidates to enter with a bachelor's degree. In that case, the time of completion can be extended by at least one year since you will be fulfilling master's degree requirements as well.

Depending on the school and the number of units needed to complete a program, getting a doctorate degree in child development can cost $60K-$100K. Keep in mind that some of the cost can be deferred with loans, grants, scholarships and in many cases internships or teaching assistant jobs on campus.

Careers in Child Development

With a doctorate degree in child development, you may likely hold such vocations as college professors, researchers or even highly certified counselors. Depending on geographic location and specific careers, salaries for college professors average $92,200 per year, according to May 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Scholarships for Those Getting a Degree in Child Development

Child development is a major designed for students who wish to study and work with children from infancy through adolescence. The degree will equip students with the knowledge they need to understand children along with family, culture, peer, school and neighborhood contexts. Courses may include a wide variety of topics from language acquisition to behavior.

Of course, earning a degree in child development can be expensive. There are many scholarships available for students who want to become teachers or work in the field of education.

Here are just some scholarships that can help child development majors pay for their degrees:

Richard M. Weaver Fellowship

The Richard M. Weaver Fellowship offers $5,000 and payment of tuition at the school of the applicant's choice. This program is intended exclusively for those who wish to take on a career in teaching. The Weaver program assists future teachers who are motivated by the need to integrate the idea of liberal education into their required curriculum.

For a list of scholarships available to you, visit our Scholarships and Grants page.

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What Can I Do With a Child Development Degree?

A degree in child development can open up many career pathways. In addition to the career list below, becoming a Preschool Teacher or an Elementary School Teacher are also possibilities for individuals with a degree in child development.

Childcare Center Director in Elementary School

Directors at this level must typically hold a graduate degree and will interact at the local, state and federal organizational level for their school and/or district. Growth is slow in this area, but educational administrators at the primary and secondary level earn an average annual salary of $102,650. The typical work setting could be at a school or local board office.

Early Childhood Education Specialist

This area of teaching typically focuses on special education and designing curricula for students with special needs. These positions are holding steady in overall growth with new curriculum being created often.

Preschool Admissions Coach

A preschool admissions coach's job is to ensure toddlers get into the preschool of their choice. This includes coaching parents and ensuring the readiness of the child. Coaches typically charge an hourly fee to meet with parents and potential preschool enrollees. This is a growing area in larger cities.

Day Care Director

Day cares open daily and having a qualified director to handle curriculum, budgeting and overseeing of teachers can lead to a full-time career. Day Care Director positions are at a slow, yet steady rise in availability as more parents are working outside the home. These positions are relatively low paying in some areas with an annual median salary of $47,310.

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Education Administrators and Day Care Center Directors reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2023.

More Information on a Master's or Ph.D. in Child Development

This page provides overall information on child development programs. For more detailed degree level information, please see our pages for a Master's in Child Development or a Ph.D. in Child Development.