What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Child Development Program?

Individuals enrolled in master’s programs for child development can expect to find various career options upon graduation, including teaching and counseling, overseeing a school library, or developing a curriculum based on development standards.

When you enroll in a master’s program for child development, you can expect to receive the same quality of academic instruction that you would receive in a traditional on-campus course. The online format is more convenient for students balancing work and family responsibilities. When searching for a master’s program in child development, finding one that’s right for you and aligns with your career goals is important.

Available concentrations

Once you have chosen the college or university where you will study, you may have the option to select an area of specialization within your child development degree program. Here are a few of the common concentrations offered in this field.

  • Early development and learning: Prepares students with foundational knowledge and skills in curriculum development and assessment methods in early childhood settings. Graduates with this concentration may find jobs as preschool teachers or childcare providers.
  • Counseling and family services: Provides students with knowledge and skills to work directly with families in child and family services settings. This concentration equips graduates to work in child and family services, social work, or counseling positions.

Common degree curriculum

The courses you take throughout your master’s degree program will vary by concentration and school; however, there are some common ones across master’s degree programs in child development.

  • Social and Historical Perspectives in Early Childhood Education: Examines the numerous perspectives in place across the historical spectrum of child development theory. This course covers mainstream cultural ideas, beliefs, values, and social purposes.
  • Cognition, Language, and Play: Students become familiar with how cognitive functions develop in children and how they naturally learn through language and play. This type of course usually covers children from birth up to 8 years old, but it could vary among programs.
  • Physical Growth and Development: Focuses on the physical growth and development children experience from birth through 8 years old. Students also usually learn how nutrition and wellness impact growth and development.

Certification and license preparation

Each state has its own requirements for obtaining teaching licenses in early childhood and other education areas. Be sure to check with the state you plan to teach in to determine the requirements.

You can also earn a Child Development Associate credential if you choose. The Council for Professional Recognition provides this credential, which helps individuals advance their careers and demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning. Nearly 400,000 educators hold a CDA credential.

Program accreditation

Since the majority of careers that require a master’s degree in child development also require state licensing or certification, it’s essential to make sure you attend an accredited institution.

Schools earn institutional accreditation on a regional or national level based on their ability to meet school-wide requirements. Programmatic accrediting agencies oversee accreditation for individual programs or subjects.

When searching for accredited master’s programs in child development, the two accrediting bodies to look for are:

Earning your master’s degree in child development at an accredited institution also helps your job prospects upon graduation. Employers often look to see that you obtained your degree from an accredited school.

Program completion timeframe

The time it takes to complete an online master’s degree in child development varies by program and individual circumstances. For instance, individuals with undergraduate degrees in unrelated subject areas may have to take prerequisite courses to be eligible for core courses in their master’s degree program.

Characteristics of individual programs also influence their overall length. Self-paced programs let students move through coursework at their own pace. Meanwhile, cohort programs have small groups of students take the same classes together.

The majority of online master’s programs in child development require between 30-38 credits, so students who are taking courses full-time can complete the program within two years. Those studying part-time will need three years to complete their degree.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Child Development Graduates

While an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in child development can help you be competitive when applying for entry-level jobs, salaries and career growth potential are much higher for those with master’s degrees in child development. The following table outlines popular careers for child development professionals and the median annual salary.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, child daycare services employed 48,930 individuals in 2022. The next highest industry is elementary and secondary schools, which employ 4,260 preschool education administrators. These are among the highest-paid positions in the field, with a median annual wage of $75,300 annually.

An online master’s degree in child development opens doors to various career opportunities. Most of them involve teaching young children in some capacity. Those who enjoy working with children can find many career opportunities in the field. Here are some common career choices for individuals with degrees in child development.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate
Instructional Coordinators Instructional coordinators work closely with school leadership to create and oversee a school’s curriculum and delivery. They may also help with assessing its effectiveness. The materials they create align with different ages and stages of cognitive development in children. This type of position usually requires a master’s degree. $66,490 per year 2%
Preschool Teachers Preschool teachers are responsible for educating and caring for children, typically younger than age 5, who have not yet entered kindergarten. They teach them basic skills related to language, socializing, fine and gross motor skills, and some basic math. They may work in public or private schools or childcare centers. $35,330 per year 3%
Preschool Directors Directors of preschool and childcare centers supervise and lead their staff of teachers, design lesson plans, and supervise their implementation. They manage all preschool program aspects, including daily activities, curriculum, and budgets. They also help ensure their program meets state and local early childhood education standards. $49,690 per year -3%
School Counselors School counselors can work at all levels of education. They help students develop the academic and social skills they need to succeed in a school environment. This requires a good understanding of childhood development, and many counselors choose to get master’s degrees in this field. They can work in public or private schools. $60,140 per year 5%
Special Education Teachers Special education teachers work with students with a wide range of cognitive, developmental, emotional, and physical disabilities. Part of their job is to adapt general education lessons for smaller groups and meet adaptive learning goals. They can work at many education levels, from early intervention to secondary schools. $62,950 per year 0%
Childcare Workers Childcare workers are responsible for attending to children’s basic needs in daycare or childcare settings, including dressing, bathing, feeding, and supervising play. Depending on the program, some childcare workers may help an early childhood teacher implement or execute lesson plans. $28,520 per year -2%

Professional organizations

Membership or participation in professional organizations is important in any industry, especially for those pursuing a master’s in child development. Working within the child development field lets individuals interact and network with countless other people working in similar positions, learn about new research in the field, and build their knowledge base.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Child Development Degree

Regardless of the pace, earning online degrees is generally less expensive than taking traditional on-campus classes. Expenses related to transportation, for instance, are usually minimal because students can complete most of the program from home.

However, many students still require financial aid to help them pay for tuition. Many financial aid resources are available to help. Students interested in obtaining financial aid should start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Schools use the information from the FAFSA to determine eligibility for grants, loans, and scholarships available through the federal government. Students interested in education programs should determine if they’re eligible for the federal government’s TEACH Grant program.

Many nonprofit organizations, companies, and schools offer private scholarships, so be sure to investigate the programs you’re interested in applying for to find out what they offer.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

Do you have questions about the financial aid process? The following resources can help answer them and guide you in the process of applying for financial aid.

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