Ph.D. in Child Development

Note: This page provides details on getting a Doctorate in Child Development. For general program information, please visit our Child Development Degree page.

If you choose to pursue a PhD or EdD in Child Development, in most cases, you will need to already have a bachelor's and master's degree in a related field. There will be an application process which may include proof of transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and even an interview. Some doctoral programs will allow candidates with only a bachelor's degree to enter; however, that program will be longer in length as all requirements will need to be met. Most doctoral programs will take from three to five years to complete. Gaining a Doctorate Degree in Child Development typically leads to a career as a child psychologist, education specialist, researcher, college professor, center director, advanced teacher, or in another position in which credentials are highly necessary.

Choosing an Online PhD in Child Development Program

If online schooling is in your horizon, it is a good idea to conduct your own assessment before signing on. It is important to know that the school you select is reputable and recognized worldwide. Use the questions below to help make your online doctoral program selection.

Is the Program Accredited?

One of the first things you should find out is if the program is accredited or not. Accreditation is a review conducted by an agency or organization representing the field. Upon request, schools should be able to easily provide you with proof of accreditation. Keep in mind that not all accreditation agencies are valid. Valid accreditation agencies are those that are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). You can learn more about accreditation here: ed.gov/accreditation

How Long Has the Program Been Offered?

A good way to tell if a school is reputable is to assess how long the institution has been around and proved to be successful. In other words, what is the history of the school? Keep in mind that online schooling and programs are a relatively new learning medium. It is ok if a PhD in Child Development program has not been around for decades. However, it is a red flag if a school has only been around for a couple years and has not obtained proper accreditation.

What Technologies Will Be Used to Facilitate Online Learning?

With online schooling, participation and learning occurs via virtual platforms, such as Moodle or Canvas. These teaching and learning platforms consist of whole class discussion boards, multimedia lectures, online assignment submission modules, and more. Not all online schools use the same online learning platforms. Some are more user friendly than others. A good idea would be to explore the technology before signing on.

What Resources Will I Have Access To?

Schools often allow students to access resources like online databases, career contacts, mentors, technology assistance, and online scholarly journals. Such resources can really aid in the overall online learning experience. In PhD programs, you will be required to do a lot of research. Online research resources, like the ones mentioned above, may really enhance the overall learning experience. Before signing on, find out what resources are available.

What Skills and Topics Are Covered?

Familiarizing yourself with a program's goals and expectations will give you a good understanding as to whether or not the program is compatible with your career needs. Good schools should be able to communicate this to you upon request. Program goals are measurable outcomes that students should acquire as part of their educational experience.

Do You Have Job Placement Information for Students Who Recently Graduated from the Program?

The success of recent graduates is a good indication of a program's credibility and its compatibility with you career goals. These individuals can give you great insight and advice about the online PhD program. If given the opportunity, ask alumni about their online learning experience. Ask graduates how their online PhD in Child Development has helped in their career.

Is an Online Degree Right for You?

Getting a degree online can be a cost and time effective way to complete classes while still getting the education you want and deserve. Getting a doctorate online is highly beneficial for those also trying to raise a family and/or work while furthering their education. Most doctoral degrees can be completed almost fully online, though some seminars and fieldwork components may be required.

Flexible Schedule

More and more students have been choosing the online medium as a way to earn their degree. It seems as though one of the biggest appeals is the flexibility online offers. Online programs allow students to complete their class requirements in a time and place as desired by the students. This opens up opportunities for working students and those with families

Accessibility and Convenience

Online education allows students to partake in degree programs from virtually anywhere in the world. This opens up doors for people who do not live close to a college campus and for those who do not have the means or option of relocating. With online schooling, students can complete degree requirements regardless of their geographic location, physical ability, or scheduling restrictions. Two basic things will be needed - steady internet connection and a reliable computer.

Tuition and Costs

Fees and costs associated with earning a degree is known to be rather expensive, particularly if relocation is required. When considering online schooling as an option for your doctoral degree, you may notice that the overall sum may be lower than that of a traditional school:

  • No fees related to commuting to and from school, gas, parking passes, or on-campus dining.
  • No costs associated with moving and living on campus.
  • Ability to continue working in your career in order to maintain a source of income.

Program Curriculum

The curriculum of online degree programs should be very comparable, if not more demanding, than traditional schools. Reputable programs will include most of the following:

  • Accountability points throughout the program to keep students on the right track.
  • Practicums, community message and group tasks in order to assist students in networking and establishing career contacts.
  • Cumulative exam, thesis, portfolio, or project.

Doctoral Program Course Topics

Committed to pursuing an area of deep study in the field of child development, a doctorate degree in the field is designed to greatly expand students' theoretical knowledge and practice. A doctoral program allows students to focus intently on research in their area of child or youth developmental specialty. While practicum, teaching assistant, and dissertation opportunities are unique to the individual and the school, many institutions outline the following curricular goals for doctoral students:

  • Articulate childhood and adolescence as a structural form
  • Relate research and practice in childhood development with their implications for education, schooling, and socialization
  • Articulate specific movements in child development research and practice throughout history
  • Analyze, evaluate and deploy various research methodologies for effectiveness with various developmental, social and cognitive demographics
  • Articulate a flexible ‘mission statement' for indicators and practices that create ideal child development that is research, practice and experience-based
  • Deconstruct and evaluate socio-cultural perspectives on children's play, the right to play, and play's role in development
  • Examine how cultures value and direct children's play
  • Advocate for and describe supporting families' role in the developing child or adolescent
  • Discuss family dynamics as a foundation in forging a child with healthy development
  • Examine and evaluate the indicators that lead to empowerment of children
  • Analyze the cultural context of the family unit and how it might affect developmental, cognitive, social and emotional arcs of development
  • Articulate the role of community support programs for early developmental intervention
  • Compare and contrast various philosophies in family interaction and how they impact healthy child and youth development
  • Identify barriers to effective family support for a child's healthy development; provide research backing for practical and legislative strategies to overcome these barriers
  • Develop and implement strategies to build proactive partnerships with young families for research and practical purposes
  • Identify key performance factors for organizations and stakeholders in caring and advocating for families and children with mainstream and alternative developmental curves
  • Maintain respectful, positive and nurturing relationships with children, family groupings and educational professionals
  • Use effective written, oral, nonverbal, visual, and electronic communication in order to foster responsive and ethical communications in every instance
  • Communicate effectively in regard to children's needs, act ethically and providing excellent service to families and young children
  • Utilize insightful and effective observation techniques in pursuit of information and research in an educational or clinical setting
  • Use proven research strategies to ensure best practice in the lab and classroom
  • Conduct procedures with emphasis on a collaborative approached between colleagues, community stakeholders, and families
  • Critically analyze one's own teaching and research practice in order to maximize effectiveness and improve communication and behavior

What Can I Do with a Doctorate in Child Development?

Child development is a very broad field encompassing many careers. A Doctorate in Child Development typically comes as either an Ed.D or a Ph.D. A doctoral degree in child development allows graduates to take on leadership positions in the educational and research realm. An Ed.D relates to education and will typically lead to careers as:

  • school counselors
  • principals
  • preschool administrators
  • superintendents
  • education specialists
  • college professors

Those with a PhD in Child Development can also become:

  • postsecondary teachers
  • licensed counselors
  • clinical psychologists
  • government program coordinators
  • child life specialists

Professional Organizations

Policies that support children are ever changing. Networking and staying updated may be beneficial for your career. Participating in organizations and conferences dedicated to child development will be great for your career as it allows for opportunities to network and develop professionally. The Young Child Expo & Conference, for example, aims to provide useful information to professionals (teachers, psychologists, special education teachers, therapists, social workers, etc.) in order to help all young children learn and grow. Through conferences and expos, you will be able to stay current with new research and findings in the field of child development.