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Many working parents entrust their young children to day care, child care centers, and preschools during the business day and they want to be confident that their children are getting the best of care in those environments. Child care workers and early childhood development professionals play a critical role in helping young children to learn and grow.
Those considering a degree in child care and child development should enjoy working with children and have a sincere desire to assist them in the different stages of their development. Ideal candidates should be extremely patient, caring, and possess effective communication skills. A gift for creativity and a high-energy personality are also a plus. If you have these skills and want to hone them, then take the next step and earn a degree in child care or child development.
Earning an online degree is an option to consider if you're high school graduate with a part-time job, or already working in the field but want to gain credentials, or you're a stay-at-home parent who would like to prepare for a career from the convenience of your own home, and at your own pace. With round-the-clock access to online learning materials, busy students have the flexibility to pursue their degree based on a schedule that suits their needs.
What is the difference between child care workers and child development professionals?
Generally, those who babysit don't need formal training to find positions. However, child care centers and day cares usually prefer to hire child care workers who have some postsecondary education or credentials. Earning a degree in child care can hold you in good stead.
Early childhood development professionals can play an important part in creating high-quality learning environments. They also are trained in how to monitor and support a child's social, emotional, and behavioral development, and to help them be ready for learning in preschool, kindergarten, and beyond. Earning a degree in child development is essential if you would like to grow in this profession.
What do child care and child development professionals do?
Depending on their educational qualifications and interests, child care workers and child development professionals may work with young children in settings such as day care, licensed in-home child care centers, child safety organizations, hospitals, preschools and elementary schools.
Typical duties of child care workers
Child care workers attend to children's basic needs; from making sure they wash their hands and eat healthy foods to overseeing playtime.
The duties of child care workers may include:
- Preparing and organizing mealtimes and snacks
- Assisting with proper hygiene, changing diapers or assisting with potty-training
- Teaching children basic skills like identifying colors, shapes, alphabet and numbers
- Watching for emotional or developmental problems in children and, if necessary, raising these issues with parents or social workers
Typical duties of child development professionals
Child development professionals work to create nurturing learning environments and systems so that children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Their duties may include:
- Creating interactive activities to support behavioral, intellectual, social and/or emotional growth in young children
- Identifying whether children are on track with typical developmental milestones
- Working with parents, educators, and/or others to understand why a child may not be developing in a typical manner and setting in place potential remediations
- Connecting children in need and their families to resources that can help them
Occupations and Career Outlook
The following table offers insights into the potential occupations available to graduates of online child care and child development programs, as well as where the highest levels of employment are in the field.
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
|Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists||108,060||$81,330||14.2%|
|Special Education Teachers, Preschool||28,540||$58,390||11.2%|
|Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education||409,740||$33,590||10.5%|
|Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education||1,409,140||$60,830||7.4%|
|Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School||184,920||$61,960||7.4%|
Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals
A high school diploma may be sufficient for entry-level roles in the child care field. However, child care workers with postsecondary education may be eligible for higher-level positions. Additionally, a child care degree can show potential employers and parents that you are knowledgeable about how children develop and learn and are equipped in safety procedures.
Those interested in a career in child development are usually required to have some type of postsecondary education. A bachelor's degree may be required to work in schools or therapeutic environments like hospitals. Some employers may prefer candidates with graduate degrees to fill management positions.
Online Certificate Programs in Child Care and Child Development
What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?
Students can expect to study the complex world of child development, learn best practices in child care and instruction, and work on the interpersonal skills required to relate to children in their care.
Typical duration: Less than a year
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
Typical coursework: Apart from child care and development-focused topics, you may be required to complete a general education subject like business math as a part of your online certificate program.
Online certificate programs in child care generally include topics such as:
- Interaction techniques with young children
- Child care administration and organization
- Infant and toddler care
Online certificate programs in child development may include topics like:
- Child growth and development
- Early childhood
- Health, safety, and nutrition for the young child
What can I do after earning a certificate?
Those who have earned a child care certificate may go on to provide child care in other people's homes, in their own homes, in day care centers and in preschool programs. Potential occupations you may find:
- Child care worker
Online Associate Degree Programs in Child Care and Child Development
What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?
This is generally found as an online associate of science degree program incorporating both child care and child development as a part of its curriculum. This may include a solid foundation in core requirements such as English composition, math and science.
Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
Child care degree programs may include basic child care courses. The curricula can vary depending on the program chosen, but common subjects can include:
- Observation techniques
- Infant and toddler programs
- Introduction to the American family
Child development programs may include topics like:
- Observation and assessment in child development
- Children with special needs
- Movement and creativity in young children
You may have to complete a supervised practicum as a part of your associate degree program.
What can I do after earning an associate degree?
An associate degree in child care or child development may allow you to apply for jobs in Head Start programs or prepare you for higher-level roles in child care centers.
According to the BLS, child care workers with an associate degree are typically paid more than those without. Jobs you may be eligible for are:
- Child care worker
- Child welfare worker
The credits you earn from an accredited online associate degree program may be transferred toward a bachelor's degree in child development.
Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Child Development
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?
A bachelor's degree in child development usually takes your education a step further to focus on advocacy and leadership in the field and on developing assessment strategies to influence child development and creating learning environments.
Similarly a bachelor's degree in child care management can help you gain the knowledge you need for leading or starting a child care program. These programs can also include business and management topics surrounding the child care system.
Typical duration: Approximately four years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent; associate degree
Child care programs build on what was taught in an associate degree program and introduce more specialized subjects such as:
- Administration of child care programs
- Social issues and family development
- Child psychology
Child development programs may include topics like:
- Growth and development of humans
- Ethics in early childhood
- Child social and emotional growth
Programs often culminate in capstone projects or required work in the field, where students can observe children and staff and participate in the implementation of activities.
What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?
A bachelor's degree in child care management or child development may be more helpful in preparing you for a leadership position. Some potential occupations you may be eligible for:
- Special education teacher (which would also require a teaching credential)
- Preschool or child care center director
- Family support specialist
- Child life specialist
- Special education paraprofessional
Online Master's Degree Programs in Child Development
What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?
At the master's level, you may pursue advanced study in child development. Concentration options can range from child care administration programs, policy and advocacy to child development psychology and family relations.
Typical duration: Approximately two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Typical coursework: You may find topics like:
- Cognitive development
- Administration of early childhood programs: leadership, management and community relations
- Physical growth and development
- Developmental psychology
- Early childhood and public policy
- Child welfare law and policy
You may also be required to complete an internship or write a master's thesis as a part of your program.
What can I do after earning a master's degree?
Master's degree programs can qualify you to work in leadership roles or in careers that require a great amount of responsibility. Occupations you may be eligible for:
- Child, family or school social worker
- Preschool director
- Nonprofit program manager
- Foster care coordinator
- Developmental play specialist
Online Doctoral Degree Programs in Child Development
What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?
At this level, students can focus deeply on one particular subject in the field of child development and prepare them to be independent scholars in their chosen profession.
Typical duration: Between four to seven years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Master's degree
Typical coursework: Students may be required to take some preparatory programs in topics like statistic and research methodologies as a part of their doctoral degree program. Examples of coursework are:
- Lifespan development
- Gender and development
- Developmental psychopathology
- Development in the digital age
Dissertation: Students are required to prepare and defend a doctoral dissertation based on original research.
What can I do after earning a doctoral degree?
Ph.D. programs in child development can prepare students for careers in academia, research and policy-making fields. You may be able to apply for the following positions:
- Child development policy coordinator
- Child therapist
While most entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree or less, some employers may prefer to hire or promote individuals holding a graduate degree in child development. Students may be given the opportunity to specialize in a certain area of the field. Specializations can include:
- Special education
- School psychology
- Family child care
- Children's law and policy
- Child life
- Children with special needs
Specializations within child development are generally determined by the level of education and type of degree being sought. For instance, students interested in clinical counseling or school psychology, are generally required to earn at least a master's degree with a specialization in child development and psychology.
Some specializations, such as family child care, may not require a degree. Other specializations could require some postsecondary education plus a state-issued license. Additionally, certain states and employers require child care or child development professionals to hold a professional certification or credential.
In evolving fields such as child care and child development, it is important that schools offering child care or child development degree programs remain relevant, up-to-date and accurate in the curriculum that is taught. Accrediting bodies validate schools that meet these quality levels of education. Attending an accredited school has its benefits:
- Students enrolled in an accredited college may be able to transfer credits earned to other institutions.
- Knowing candidates have graduated from an accredited schools gives future employers confidence of a candidate's abilities and skills to perform the job.
- Most certifying bodies require students to have earned a degree from an accredited college in order to be eligible for certification.
Some bodies that accredit online colleges for child care and child development are:
Certifications and Licensures
The requirements for certifications and licensures vary by state as well as employer. Typically child care centers need to be licensed. Some states may require staff in child care centers to have certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid.
States require child care workers to obtain the Child Development Associate (CDA) certification offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. The National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) also offers a nationally recognized accreditation for child care workers.