Online Child Development Degree Program

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.

Everyday approximately two million adults, mostly women, are paid to care for and educate approximately 10 million children between birth and age five.

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

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.

Median Salary
Projected Job Growth
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists192,300$79,8203.7%
Special Education Teachers, Preschool23,000$61,4008%
Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education540,400$31,9302%
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education1,579,800$60,6604%
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School191,170$60,6202.8%

Source: 2020 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2019-29 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

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.

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:

  • Nanny
  • Child care worker

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

Typical coursework:

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
  • Nanny
  • 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.

Sixty-five percent of children under 6 have parents in the workforce. Most of these children spend time in the care of someone other than a parent.

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

Typical coursework:

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

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

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:

  • Professor
  • Researcher
  • 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.

Employment Statistics

Child Care Workers

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Child Day Care Services
  • Elementary and Secondary Schools
  • Other Amusement and Recreation Industries
  • Civic and Social Organizations
  • Other Residential Care Facilities
States with the highest level of employment
  • Texas
  • New York
  • California
  • Florida
  • New Jersey
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Fairbanks, AK
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
  • Santa Rosa, CA
  • Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

Education Administrators, Preschool and Childcare Center/Program

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Child Day Care Services
  • Elementary and Secondary Schools
  • Individual and Family Services
  • Civic and Social Organizations
  • Religious Organizations
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Illinois
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Nassau County-Suffolk County, NY Metropolitan Division
  • Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL Metropolitan Division
  • Framingham, MA NECTA Division
  • New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division
  • Fresno, CA

Source: 2020 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

There are plenty of scholarships and financial aid programs out there for individuals with an interest in pursuing child care or child development degrees online. Check your state’s child care home page, you may find financial aid resources and scholarship programs meant exclusively for residents of your state.

Other resources for aspiring child development professionals

  • 2017-2018 Degrees & Certificates, Academic Catalog, Cowley College, 2017,
  • Associate of Arts – Early Childhood Care and Education, American Public University System,, accessed October 2018
  • Bachelor of Arts Early Childhood Development, Fresno Pacific University,, accessed July 2018
  • Bachelor of Arts in Child Development, Ashford University,, accessed July 2018
  • Bachelor of Arts in Child Development, Concordia University – Saint Paul,, accessed July 2018
  • Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Care, Breyer State Theology University,, accessed July 2018
  • Building Social Bonds, NIH News in Health, April 2018,
  • Care and Development of Young Children, AS, Louisiana State University Eunice,, accessed July 2018
  • Career: Child Care Workers, Big Future, The College Board,, accessed October 2018
  • Careers in Child Development, Ashford University,,accessed October 2018
  • Child and Adolescent Development: PhD in Developmental Psychology, Walden University,, accessed October 2018
  • Child Care Certificate, Cowley College, Child Care and Development,, accessed July 2018
  • Child Development AA Degree, San Bernardino Valley College,, accessed October 2018
  • Child Development Certificate Online Course Details, Penn Foster Career School,, accessed July 2018
  • Childcare Workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,, accessed July 2018
  • Early Childhood Workforce Index 2018, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, University of California, Berkeley,
  • Head Start Program Facts Fiscal Year 2017, Head Start program,, accessed July 2018
  • Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,, accessed July 2018
  • Locsin, A., The Education Requirements for a Child Life Specialist, Work –,, accessed October 2018
  • Master of Science in Child Development, Erikson Institute,, accessed July 2018
  • Mincemoyer, C. C, 2016, Why learn about child development? The Pennsylvania State University,
  • Preschool and Childcare Center Directors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,, accessed July 2018
  • Preschool Teachers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,, accessed July 2018
  • Whitebook, M., McLean, C., Austin, L.J.E., and Edwards, B., 2018, Early Childhood Workforce Index – 2018, Berkeley, CA: Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley,

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Methodologies and Sources