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The best master’s in child development degree programs equip students with the skills needed to support the holistic growth and well-being of children. Graduates are prepared for various roles in education, healthcare, social services, and research, such as child development specialist, early childhood educator, child life specialist, or program coordinator. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, professionals in these fields earn average salaries ranging from $40,000 to $70,000 annually, depending on the specific role and experience level.

The program typically requires 1.5 to two years of full-time study and includes around 30 to 45 credits. However, program length may vary based on part-time or full-time enrollment options and whether the program is offered online or on-campus. The average cost of tuition varies depending on the institution and program structure but is likely to be between $12,000 and $30,000.

How to Choose a Master’s in Child Development Degree Program

Choose your area of study

Choosing your area of study sets the foundation for your career trajectory. Assess your interests, strengths, and career goals to determine the specialization that best aligns with your aspirations. Consider fields like early childhood education, child psychology, or family studies. Research each specialization’s scope, job prospects, and salary potential to make an informed decision. Reflect on your passion for working with children and families, as this will drive your commitment and success in your chosen area of study. Take time to explore various options before finalizing your decision to ensure it resonates with your long-term objectives.

Research schools and programs

Start by compiling a list of accredited institutions offering child development programs. Explore each program’s curriculum, faculty expertise, and research opportunities. Look into factors like class size, student support services, and alumni outcomes. Consider visiting campuses or attending virtual information sessions to get a feel for the learning environment. Reach out to current students, faculty members, or alumni for firsthand insights. Utilize resources like school websites, program brochures, and independent rankings to gather comprehensive information before making your decision.

Prepare for tests and applications

Preparing for tests and applications is essential for success in pursuing your master’s degree. Start by familiarizing yourself with the specific admission requirements of each program you’re interested in, which may include standardized tests like the GRE, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. Develop a study plan for any required exams and utilize resources such as practice tests and review materials. If necessary, consider hiring a tutor to help prepare you for any needed tests. Tailor your application materials to highlight relevant experience, skills, and your passion for child development. Seek feedback from mentors or advisors to ensure your application is strong and compelling.

Select your program

When selecting your program, consider factors like program accreditation, faculty expertise, and curriculum alignment with your career goals. Research the program’s focus areas, faculty backgrounds, and opportunities for hands-on experience or research. Evaluate factors such as class size, student support services, and alumni outcomes to gauge the program’s quality and fit for your needs. Attend information sessions, open houses, or virtual events to learn more about the program’s culture and community. Finally, consult with advisors or mentors to gather insights and make an informed decision about the best program for your academic and professional aspirations.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Determining how to pay for your master’s degree requires careful financial planning. Explore options such as scholarships, grants, and fellowships offered by academic institutions, government agencies, or private organizations. Consider part-time employment, teaching assistantships, or research positions to supplement your income and gain valuable experience. Investigate federal student aid programs like loans or work-study opportunities, and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility. To offset costs, you may also want to explore employer tuition assistance programs, savings accounts, or educational tax benefits.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Child Development Degree Programs

Best Master's in Child Development Degree Programs_2024 badge

University of La Verne

Erikson Institute

Pacific Oaks College

California State University, Sacramento

Tufts University

San Diego State University

Vanderbilt University

University of Delaware

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

Our list includes programs in child and adolescent behavior and psychology. Depending on the focus of the program you choose, you may earn either a Master of Science or a Master of Arts degree. Programs are either online or on campus — some schools offer both options, allowing you to choose what works best for you.

Note that these programs do not lead to licensure as either a psychiatrist or social worker, although they give you many of the skills needed to work in either of these fields. All of the programs listed in this guide are approved by the regional accrediting organization that vets colleges and universities in that area.

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.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Child Development Degree Program?

A master’s in child development program prepares students to understand the complex processes involved in the growth and development of children from infancy through adolescence. Students delve into aspects of child psychology, sociology, education, and health to gain a comprehensive understanding of child development theories, research methods, and practical applications. They learn to assess and support children’s cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development in diverse cultural and familial contexts.

Typically, completing the degree requires around 1.5 to two years of full-time study, depending on the program’s structure and credit requirements. Some programs may offer part-time options to accommodate working professionals. Certain programs may have prerequisites or require applicants to have prior coursework or experience in child development or related fields.Students may engage in hands-on experiences, such as internships, fieldwork, or supervised practicum placements in educational or clinical settings. Some programs may offer opportunities for students to specialize in areas like early childhood education, child advocacy, or developmental disabilities.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in child development degree program

  • Child Development Theory. This course explores foundational theories and models of child development, including cognitive, emotional, social, and physical aspects. Students examine key theorists and their contributions, analyze developmental milestones, and explore the implications of theory on practice.
  • Developmental Psychology. Students delve into psychological processes with a focus on childhood and adolescence. Topics may include cognitive development, socialization, personality development, and psychopathology. Students learn to apply psychological principles to understand and support children’s development in diverse contexts.
  • Family Dynamics and Child Development. This course examines the role of family dynamics, relationships, and environments in shaping children’s development. Students explore theories of family systems, parenting styles, and the impact of family structure, culture, and socioeconomic status on children’s well-being and development.
  • Early Childhood Education and Development. In this course, students focus on principles and practices in early childhood education, including curriculum development, assessment, and instructional strategies for promoting children’s learning and development. Students explore theories of early learning, play-based approaches, and effective teaching practices for diverse learners.
  • Research Methods in Child Development. This course provides an overview of research methodologies and techniques used in studying child development. Students learn to critically evaluate research literature, design and conduct empirical studies, and apply ethical principles in research with children and families.

Master’s Program in Child Development Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in child development degree program?

To apply to your chosen program, you typically need to submit an application form, academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose outlining your goals and qualifications. Some programs may require GRE scores or relevant work experience. It’s crucial to check the specific requirements of each program and communicate with admissions counselors for guidance. They can provide valuable insights into the application process, program requirements, and any additional materials needed. Reaching out to faculty members or current students can offer valuable perspectives on the program and help you tailor your application to align with the program’s focus and values.

How much does a master's in child development degree cost?

The cost of a master’s in child development program varies widely depending on factors like the institution, program format (online or in-person), and whether you qualify for any financial aid. On average, tuition for these programs ranges from $12,000 to $30,000 per year. However, additional expenses such as books, materials, and living expenses should also be considered. Online programs may offer more flexibility but can sometimes have additional technology fees.

How long does it take to earn a master's in child development degree?

A master’s degree typically takes about 1.5 to two years to complete full-time and requires around 30 to 40 credit hours. Part-time enrollment may extend the duration to 2.5 to four years. Online programs often offer more flexibility, allowing students to pace themselves and potentially complete the degree faster or slower. However, some online programs may have structured timelines that align with traditional semesters. The total number of required credits and the pace at which you complete them will ultimately determine the length of your program.

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