Why This Matters


    More skilled professionals are needed to assist children and their families with education and emotional support in hospital environments.


    It’s estimated there will be 553,900 pre-school teachers nationwide by the end of the next decade due to the continued demand for teachers who have training in early childhood development.


    The median annual wage for preschool and childcare center directors that work at elementary and secondary schools is $22,310 more than the median annual salary for all other U.S. occupations.

Our Research

This list covers associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in child development. Graduates are prepared for roles as child life specialists, social workers, and early childhood education consultants. Degrees offered include Bachelor of Science in Education, Bachelor of Applied Science in Child Development, Bachelor of Arts in Human Development, and Bachelor of Science in Child Development and Family Studies.

National and regional accreditation is given to degree programs that meet specific academic criteria and adequately prepare students for roles in the global workforce. The schools on this list are accredited nationally by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 76 hours to write this article
  • 200 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 304 education programs we compared

The Top 45 Child Development Degree Programs

Best Child Development Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

When choosing a career that involves working with youth, you should also consider pursuing a bachelor’s in early childhood education. Child development programs specialize in identifying challenges and roadblocks that children might experience during their development and providing services to support these challenges. Early childhood education programs prepare graduates for roles as teachers and youth educators. Child development focuses on monitoring development and helping youth reach specific milestones in cognitive and brain development. On the other hand, childhood education focuses on developing and implementing a curriculum that covers the critical components of development. Both degree programs are geared toward hands-on work and programming with youth. Students who wish to hold teacher positions beyond pre-school education will need to obtain additional certification and state licensure.

Certifications are an important part of the education sector and can help provide a competitive edge to graduates when applying for job opportunities. The Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential is a nationwide credential that ensures prospective educators have the professional skills needed to teach young children. This certification requires professional experience as well as the passing of a written exam.

The job outlook for child life specialists remains positive, but a decline in the need for pre-school teachers and childcare center directors is expected. Graduates who wish to work with young children can also pursue other careers as counselors, special education paraprofessionals, and early childhood education consultants.

What’s Next?

Ask yourself these questions when pursuing a degree in child development:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Students from all educational backgrounds who hold a high school diploma or equivalent may pursue associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in child development. Some programs may require a minimum GPA and standardized test score. Many entry-level roles in childhood education require at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • How long does it take to complete this online degree? Associate’s degree programs require two years of full-time study. Bachelor’s programs require students to complete four years of full-time study. The bachelor’s programs on this list require a minimum of 42 credits and a maximum of 128 credits to graduate.

Application deadlines and academic prerequisites vary by program. Visit the school’s website or contact the admissions department for detailed information about the program to which you are applying.

Consider how you will cover the costs of your higher education degree. Funding opportunities such as scholarships, grants, and work-study programs are available. You may also be eligible for federal student aid. Make sure to complete and send in all financial aid applications on time.