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Why This Matters


    A degree in child development lets you choose your own path: Consider working as a child life specialist, parent educator, early childhood education consultant, preschool teacher, or with any organization that works with children and parents.

  • THE U.S. NEEDS 56,100 MORE OF YOU BY 2029

    And that’s just in the field of elementary education. Other child development fields are also growing across the U.S.


    Positions such as child development specialist and early childhood education specialist earn an average of $64K a year, with some individuals bringing in six figure salaries for leadership positions in the field.

Our Research

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 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 programs are accredited 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.

  • 50 hours to write this article
  • 64 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 108 education programs we compared

The Top 24 Master’s in Child Development Degree Programs

Best Master's in Child Development Degree Programs
Intelligent Pick
University of North Dakota
Best Master of Science Degree
University Of La Verne
Best Master of Arts Degree
University of Colorado Denver
Best in the Midwest
University of Minnesota
Best in Canada
Concordia University
Best Graduate School
Erikson Institute
Best in the West
Pacific Oaks College
Best Leadership & Advocacy Focus
University Of Dayton
Best Public University
Texas Woman's University
Best in the Southeast
Duke University
Best Online University
Northcentral University
Best On-Campus Program
Oklahoma State University
Best Specialization Options
San Diego State University
Best in the Northeast
Tufts University
Best Faculty
The University of Alabama
Most Affordable
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Best Educational Psychology Focus
West Virginia University
Best Private University
Boston University

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What You Should Know About This Degree

A degree in child development is a generalist degree which allows you obtain a professional position or continue on to doctoral studies in areas such as psychiatry. For teachers who are required to have a master’s degree, it is a good choice that is accepted by most school districts.

Locations that are likely to hire professionals with this degree include child welfare agencies, schools, group homes, parenting programs, and hospitals. Any public or non-profit agency that serves the needs of children may have child development specialists on staff.

Professional credentials are not mandatory for jobs in child development. The most common credential available for a child development professional is one from the Child Development Associate National Credentialing Program of the Council for Professional Recognition.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching child development programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? For most of these programs, you will need to have earned an undergraduate degree with a 2.5 or above GPA from an accredited college or university. You’ll need to submit an application that may include an essay or letters of recommendation. If your undergraduate degree is in psychology, education, social work, or a related field, it will make for a stronger application, but is not required. Be sure to review the requirements for the program you choose on the institution’s website.
  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? This depends on the institution, as well as the nature of the program. Online courses may meet at a designated time (synchronously), or you may have the opportunity to watch the classes at your convenience, with some flexibility on when you submit assignments (asynchronously). If you are attending school part-time while you continue to work, an asynchronous situation might be your best option.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the admissions office of any institution that interests you. Counselors should be able to answer your questions and help guide you to the program that’s best for your own circumstances.

You’ll also want to pay attention to the financial aid that the school offers, which can be a game-changer if your finances are tight. Also look for scholarships, grants, and loans through any professional organizations you belong to.

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