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Students enrolled in an online degree in child development program will prepare for a number of jobs in an array of high-demand fields: early childhood education, intervention, psychology, public policy, research, advocacy, sports, social work, and speech-language pathology. Degrees in this field are available at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels, and provide the necessary training for graduates to work with children at all stages of development in various settings.

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of  preschool and childcare center directors is expected to increase by 8% through 2031. Individuals in this role can expect to earn a median annual salary of $47,310. Additionally, jobs for childcare workers are expected to increase by 6% during the same time period. The median salary for these workers is $27,490 per year.

The average cost of an online child development degree program will vary. Tuition for undergraduate students averaged $7,869 at public schools and $37,095 at private schools during the 2021-22 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The agency reports that average tuition for graduate programs was $12,394 and $26,21 at public and private schools, respectively.

How to Choose an Online Child Development Degree Program

Choose your area of study

Students should start by considering their professional goals to ensure they select a program that will prepare them for their desired career trajectory.

First-time college students can consider an Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in child development. Professionals who are looking to build on existing experience or prepare for a career change can explore Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) degrees.

The majority of programs are located in either the education or social sciences departments of colleges. As a child development major in one of those departments, graduates might work toward earning teacher certification. Students should familiarize themselves with popular areas of study before making a choice:

  • Child’s social and emotional growth
  • Individual and family development
  • Language development and emergent literacy
  • Applied research methods
  • Infants and toddlers
  • Children’s literature
  • Ethics in early childhood

Find out if an area of study requires in-person orientation, labs, or other activities in person before choosing courses that will strengthen your career after graduation.

Research schools and programs

When conducting research, it’s always a good idea to confirm that any schools and programs you’re considering are accredited. Attending an accredited institution ensures that students are getting a high-quality education, and will be eligible for federal financial aid, educational opportunities at other post-secondary institutions, and future employment. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of accredited schools in the U.S. At the programmatic level, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accredits degree-granting programs in this field.

Other things to consider when researching schools are the program’s delivery format (synchronous, asynchronous or hybrid); the faculty; hands-on learning experiences like internships, and support services for online students.

Most schools and programs maintain robust websites that provide answers to these questions. Students can also learn more about programs that interest them by following schools on social media, attending virtual open houses or information sessions, and contacting program representatives and admissions counselors directly. ther options

Prepare for tests and applications

An admission counselor can explain the school’s application procedures and requirements and answer any questions about the process. Application demands differ from school to school, so it’s also a good idea to maintain a spreadsheet or checklist with requirements and due dates.

Generally speaking, students will have to submit the following:

  • Completed application and fees
  • Official transcripts from all schools previously attended
  • Letters of recommendation from teachers, employers, or community leaders
  • An application essay explaining why you are a good fit for the program
  • A resume or CV highlighting jobs, experience, extracurricular activities, and positions of leadership

Undergraduate students may be required to submit SAT or ACT scores, while graduate programs may require submission of GRE scores. Additional application requirements for graduate students may include a bachelor’s degree in a related field, specific undergraduate coursework, or a minimum undergraduate GPA.

Select your program

Students should review and compare all information they’ve gathered about schools before selecting the one(s) to which they’ll apply. There’s no right or wrong number of schools to apply to; some students submit multiple applications, to increase the odds of acceptance, while others focus on a single program based on their particular needs and interests. Most schools charge application fees, so applying to a large number of schools can get pricey.

Once students receive their acceptance letters, they should consider factors like cost, financial aid offers, and program quality to determine which school they’ll attend.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Get in touch early with the school’s financial aid office to help you understand the cost of the program and what financial aid resources are available. If you haven’t yet completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), now is a good time to fill out this form. Schools use the information on the FAFSA to determine eligibility for institutional need-based aid like scholarships and grants, federal student loans, and work-study funding.

Students should also explore other avenues of funding, including merit-based scholarships and grants from external organizations, employer tuition assistance benefits, and military discounts and GI Bill benefits, if applicable.

The Top 50 Best Online Child Development Degree Programs

Best Online Child Development Programs badge

Appalachian State University

Central Michigan University

Eastern Washington University

Point Loma Nazarene University

Concordia University at St. Paul

Fresno Pacific University

Missouri State University

University of North Florida

Kansas State University

University of Southern Mississippi

West Virginia University at Parkersburg

Pacific Oaks College

Maryville University

California State University, East Bay

West Virginia University

Stephen F. Austin State University

Oklahoma State University

Eastern Kentucky University

Western Michigan University

Union Institute & University

Point University

University of Alaska Fairbanks

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How We Rank Schools

This list focuses on online degree programs in child development and related fields. These programs are available at nonprofit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with high standards of quality for post-secondary education. We reviewed fully online and in-person/online hybrid programs.

We evaluated each degree program on factors like tuition costs, faculty, reputation, student resources, and admission, retention, and graduation rates. We then calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

We also compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect From An Online Child Development Degree Program?

An online child development degree program will help students expand the theoretical knowledge and practical communication skills required to advance in their child development careers and help children excel. Coursework draws from a variety of disciplines like psychology, biology, and sociology. Students examine social, medical, and cultural factors that might affect how children learn and develop. Some programs for childhood development concentrate on psychology and sociology. Other typical programs include assessment studies to observe and assess children. Several child development curricula concentrate on family dynamics.

Studying pedagogical theories and the practical application of these theories is central to the program. Students will learn distinct ways to advocate for families and children, communicate with a wide range of different people, and be community partners. Various online programs for child development require a capstone project, in which learners design and implement a project related to their area of study.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online child development degree program

  • Language Development and Emergent Literacy. Students explore the cognitive process of language development. They receive tools to provide early literacy skills effectively.
  • Young Child With Special Needs. Classwork prepares learners for work in a wide range of diverse backgrounds and levels of ability. Individuals explore advocacy, educational intervention, and legislative dilemmas.
  • Child Social and Emotional Growth. Learners study the factors that influence and add to children’s interpersonal relationships and self-perception.
  • Children’s Literature. This class teaches how to use children’s literature to fortify and develop a curriculum. Students learn how to create classroom communities that are culturally responsive.
  • Applied Research. Enrollees polish research skills. Their goal is to solve problems faced by individuals or communities.

Online Child Development Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online child development degree program?

A counselor from the school’s admissions office can answer any questions about application procedures, prerequisites, and deadlines. Begin early by making a list of the most important dates and deadlines.

Most schools accept applications and supplemental materials through their website. If you’re applying for an undergraduate program, find out if  your school accepts the Common Application, which allows students to apply for multiple colleges with one application. Some materials, like transcripts and test scores, must be sent directly from the school or testing agency to be considered official.

How much does an online child development degree cost?

For undergraduate students, tuition in bachelor’s programs averages $7,869 at public schools and $37,095 at private institutions, according to the NCES. At the graduate level, public school students pay an average of $12,394, while private universities charge an average of $26,621. Students should also confirm their tuition rate with the school prior to enrolling.

Schools also typically charge fees for things like technology, labs, and student support services. Students should also budget for learning materials such as books, computers, and internet access.

Online learning has some cost-saving benefits. The flexible schedules may allow students to work full- or part-time while enrolled, so they can have a steady income. Students also save money on transportation and room-and-board expenses.

How long does it take to earn an online child development degree?

Program enrollment time can fluctuate depending on the student and the program. Each student’s pace and prior education can influence how long it takes to attain a degree. Usually, students enrolled in bachelors in child development degree programs finish in four years if they’re studying full-time. Part-time students may take five or six years to finish. At the graduate level, programs can take 1-3 years to finish, depending on enrollment status. .

Other elements that could determine how long it takes to graduate include:

  • A student with an associate degree in child development might transfer those previous credits to lessen the time to attain a bachelor’s degree
  • Students carrying more credit hours every semester or enrolled in summer school might complete the program quicker
  • Any type of experiential learning activity has the potential to lengthen enrollment time

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