Online Degrees in Child Development

In today's competitive job market, it is more important than ever for children to get the best educational start possible. Starting early can help prepare students for success throughout their academic careers and beyond. Early childhood development professionals are a vital part of this process, working with young students in settings such as preschools, elementary schools, and daycare centers.

Those considering a degree in child development should enjoy working with children and have a sincere desire to assist children as they learn and grow. 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.

Depending on the position, entry-level employment in child development usually requires at least a high school diploma, although some type of postsecondary education is often preferred. Many positions within the industry require at least a bachelor's degree, while some employers prefer candidates with graduate degrees to fill management positions. Teaching positions in public schools require at least a bachelor's degree and a state-issued teaching license.

Online degrees in child development help students complete the educational requirements needed for licensure and employment. Degrees in child development can be found at all educational levels, ranging from certificate programs to doctoral degrees. Various types of degrees, and their potential career outcomes, are outlined in the table below:

Degree Type

Length of Completion

Potential Careers

Certificate or Diploma in Child Development

These programs take up to one year to complete.

Childcare Worker, Preschool Teacher

Associate in Child Development

Associate degrees are usually completed in two years of full-time study.

Childcare Worker, Preschool Teacher

Bachelor's in Child Development

Bachelor's degree programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.

Preschool Teacher, Kindergarten Teacher, Elementary School Teacher, Special Education Teacher, Preschool or Childcare Center Director

Master's in Child Development

These programs take about two years of full-time study after completion of a bachelor's degree.

Kindergarten Teacher, Elementary School Teacher, Special Education Teacher, Preschool or Childcare Center Director, Elementary School Principal, School Psychologist

Doctorate in Child Development

These programs take three to four years of study to complete. A master's degree may be a prerequisite to enrollment.

School Psychologist, Postsecondary Teacher

As cited by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, entry-level employment for child development professionals often requires some type of postsecondary education. While some positions may only call for a high school diploma, others require an undergraduate degree, diploma, or certificate. Obtaining a state-issued license might also be required and varies based on specialization. Generally speaking, those child development professionals who work in public schools must earn at least a bachelor's degree and become licensed by the state in which they practice. Additionally, a graduate degree may be preferred by employers looking to hire or promote individuals for management positions.

Average Salary
Expected Job Growth
(2014 - 2024)
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists107,980$78,69014.2%
Special Education Teachers, Preschool28,140$56,99011.2%
Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education385,550$33,30010.5%
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education1,392,660$59,0207.4%
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School190,530$60,0907.4%
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Online degrees in child development help students obtain the theoretical knowledge and earn the academic credentials needed to pursue careers in early childhood education and development. These careers often balance the disciplines of instruction, management, and childhood psychology. Students generally study topics like childhood health and safety, child growth and development, early childhood education, psychology, and sociology.

Curriculum will vary by specialization and degree level. For undergraduate degrees and certificates focusing on early childhood education, common courses include:

  • Introduction to Early Childhood Education
  • Physical Growth and Development in Children
  • Play and Learning for Young Children
  • Social and Emotional Growth in Young Children
  • Ethical Considerations for Child Development
  • Children's Literature and Learning
  • Early Childhood Reasoning
  • Young Children with Special Needs
  • Health, Safety, and Nutrition in Early Childhood
  • Caring for Infants and Toddlers
  • Language Development in Young Children
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Introduction to Sociology

Successful completion of an internship or practical learning experience may be required for some types of child development degrees. These hands-on experiences allow students to practice the theoretical concepts learned in the classroom. Internships are generally carried out at preschools, elementary schools, daycare centers, or other childcare facilities. In addition to gaining real-world experience, students have the chance to learn from child development professionals and make contacts that could lead to future employment opportunities.

Child Development Degree Specializations

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. Oftentimes, students are given the opportunity to specialize in a certain area of the field. Some common specializations include:

  • Special Education
  • Pre-Kindergarten Instruction
  • Licensed Daycare Provider
  • Elementary School Instruction
  • Clinical Counseling
  • School Psychology
  • Childcare Center Management
  • Family Childcare

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 childcare, may require no degree at all. Other specializations could require some postsecondary education plus a state-issued license. Additionally, certain states and employers require child development professionals to hold a professional certification or credential, like the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential.

Online degrees in child development help lay the academic foundation for the practical application of child development theories and concepts. Because much of the information taught is theory based, this field of study translates well to the online environment. Students learn through online lectures, reading, and discussion, allowing them to enjoy a similar educational experience to those studying on campus.

Working adults and parents are a perfect fit for online degree programs. Since most schools allow round-the-clock access to online learning materials, these busy students have the flexibility to pursue their degree based on a schedule that suits their needs. Online degrees in child development can be particularly beneficial for those seeking to advance their full-time career in the field of early childhood education.

A child development degree helps prepare graduates with the foundational knowledge and practical skills needed to meet the academic standards imposed by employers and licensing agencies. These degrees may lead to a number of careers within the childcare and child development fields. The chart below lists several popular career options, along with wage and job growth data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:


Projected Job Growth 2014-2024

Mean Annual Wage in 2015

Childcare Workers

5 percent


Preschool Teachers

7 percent


Preschool or Childcare Center Directors

7 percent


Kindergarten Teachers

6 percent


Elementary School Teachers

6 percent


Special Education Teachers, Preschool

9 percent


Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School

6 percent


Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

6 percent


Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists

20 percent


Postsecondary Teachers, Education

9 percent


To learn more about earning an online degree in child development, request information from any of the schools listed below.

Childcare Workers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/childcare-workers.htm
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/preschool-and-childcare-center-directors.htm
Preschool Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/preschool-teachers.htm
Postsecondary Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
Psychologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm
Special Education Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm

I needed a program that worked into my life and not a program that required making adjustments to my existing travel schedule for work. Although I was living approximately 30 minutes from campus, I often needed to do my schoolwork from other cities due to the travel demands of my job. The beauty of online learning is that you can be anywhere at any time and still have the experience of community. - Amanda Haddaway
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