Why This Matters


    According to the Forum on Child and Family Statistics, the number of children under age five will increase in the next decade. Schools and agencies will need trained child development personnel to work with children and families.


    Individuals with a master’s in child development find employment in a variety of settings, including daycare centers; public, private, and postsecondary schools; social service agencies; and nonprofits.


    One of the fastest-growing jobs for individuals with a master’s in child development is preschool and childcare center directors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 4,800 new jobs in this occupation by 2028.

Our Research

We researched multiple graduate programs related to child development, including Master of Science (MS), Master of Arts (MA), and Master of Education (M.Ed) programs.

We focused on programs that are delivered completely or primarily online to ensure access for as many students as possible, regardless of their geographic location and availability. Some programs can be completed through a combination of online and on-campus coursework.

All of the programs on our list are regionally accredited, meaning they meet high standards of quality for postsecondary education. Additionally, some programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), a specialized accrediting body for education programs.

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

  • 80 hours to write this article
  • 167 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 383 education programs we compared

The Top 14 Online Master’s in Child Development Programs

Best Online Master's in Child Development Degree Programs
Intelligent Pick
University Of South Florida
Best Private University
UNC Greensboro
Best Online University
University of La Verne
Best Alumni Network
Missouri State University
Fastest Completion Time
Texas Woman's University
Best Family Science Focus
University of Wyoming
Most Affordable
University of Southern Mississippi
Best Public University
University of Minnesota
Best Specialization Options
University of Missouri
Best Interdisciplinary Curriculum
Southern New Hampshire University
Best Concentration Options
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Most Flexible
Capella University
Most Flexible Start Dates
Northcentral University
Best Psychology Focus
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

What You Should Know About This Degree

While a master’s in child development will prepare you to work with children and may lead to jobs in schools, this degree does not lead to teaching certification, which is required for most teaching jobs. If you are interested in a career as a teacher, you will need to obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the specific area in which you plan on teaching (elementary, secondary, or special education).

Another option for individuals who want to work with children in a support capacity is school counseling. To obtain the necessary credentials for this job, individuals must have a master’s degree in school counseling.

Individuals with a master’s in child development can work in daycare and preschool centers, as support staff in elementary, middle, and secondary schools, and in government, private, and nonprofit agencies that work with children and families. Before selecting a program, think about your personal interests and professional goals to help you choose the program that’s right for you.

Many online programs have an experiential learning component that involves working with children. As you research programs, find out what the specific experiential requirements are and consider how they will fit into your schedule. If you are already working in a setting with children, you may be able to use regular work hours to fulfill these requirements.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Online Master’s in Child Development programs:

  • Does this program offer the specialization that I want? Many master’s in child development programs give students the opportunity to concentrate on a particular area such as family and community services, international family studies, or infant and early childhood mental health. If you are interested in specializing, be sure to select a program that will allow you to do so through electives or specialized tracks.
  • How are online courses delivered? Distance learning programs are typically delivered through synchronous or asynchronous classes. Students attend synchronous classes remotely at set times throughout the term. Asynchronous classes are more flexible, as students can access lessons and assignments at any time. Decide which type of delivery method works best for you based on your schedule before selecting a program.

As you research programs, take note of their application requirements and deadlines, and begin gathering your application materials. This is also a good time to think about how you will finance your graduate education. Find out what loans, scholarships, and assistantships are available to you. If you are currently employed, find out if your employer offers tuition assistance benefits.