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

Individuals enrolled in master’s programs for child development have a variety of career options upon graduation, ranging from teaching and counseling, overseeing a school library or developing 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 also much more convenient for students balancing work and family responsibilities. When searching for a master’s program in child development, it’s important to find one that’s right for you and aligns with your career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Child Development

Early Development and Learning Prepares students with foundational knowledge and skills in curriculum development and assessment methods in early childhood settings. Preschool teacher, Childcare provider
Counseling and Family Services Provides students with knowledge and skills to work directly with families in child and family services settings. Positions in child and family services, social work and counseling

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Child Development

The courses you take throughout the duration of your master’s degree program are going to 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 or Education Examines the numerous circumstances and perspectives in place across the historical spectrum of child development theory. Mainstream cultural ideas are usually covered along with 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 while in utero through 8 years old. Students also usually learn how nutrition and wellness impact growth and development.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Child Development?

The time it takes to complete an online master’s degree in child development varies by program and individual circumstances. For instance, individuals who have undergraduate degrees in unrelated subject areas may have to take a number of prerequisite courses to gain access to the core group of courses required for the master’s degree.

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

In general, 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 on a part-time basis will need three years to complete their degree.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Child Development Prepares For

State Teaching License Each state has their own requirements for obtaining teaching licenses in early childhood and other education areas, so be sure to check with the state you plan to teach in to find out what those requirements are.
Child Development Associate Credential This credential is provided by the Council for Professional Recognition and helps individuals advance their careers and demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning. Nearly 400,000 educators hold a CDA credential.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Child Development

Since the majority of careers that require a master’s degree in child development also require state licensing or certification, it’s important 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 accreditation is overseen by accrediting agencies who are focused solely on individual topics.

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 your degree was obtained from an accredited program or school.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Child Development Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

While an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in child development can help you become 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, the required level of entry education and the median annual salary.

Expected Salary

Career Path Education Required Median Annual Salary
Teacher Assistant High School Diploma or Associate’s Degree $22,700
Childcare Provider High School Diploma or Associate’s Degree $30,771
Youth Counselor Bachelor’s Degree $35,621
Preschool Director Bachelor’s Degree $40,524
School Counselor Master’s Degree $49,134
Elementary or Secondary School Administrator Master’s Degree $68,144

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 49,130 preschool and childcare center administrators were employed in the United States in 2017, and of these, the great majority of them (36,570) are employed at child day care services. Interestingly, the annual mean wage for preschool and childcare center directors is the lowest for those who work in child day care services. The next highest industry is elementary and secondary schools, who employ 5,200 preschool education administrators and earn the highest annual mean wage for this field at $73,360.

Along with workplaces, geographical location also plays a role in salary. Below is a map of annual mean wages for preschool and childcare center education administrators nationwide.

Career Opportunities

An online master’s degree in child development opens the doors to a wide range of career opportunities. Most of them involve teaching in some capacity to young children. Those who enjoy working with children, multitasking and find value in educating the next generation can find lots of career opportunities in the field.

Instructional Coordinators Instructional coordinators work closely with school leadership to create and oversee a school’s curriculum and its 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. $63,750 per year 11%
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 and some basic math. They can work in public or private schools or childcare centers. $28,990 per year 10%
Preschool Directors Directors of preschool and childcare centers supervise and lead their staff of teachers, design lesson plans and supervise their implementation. They are responsible for managing all aspects of a preschool’s program, including daily activities, curriculum and budgets. They also help ensure their program is meeting state and local standards for early childhood education. $46,890 per year 11%
School Counselors School counselors can work at all levels of education, but in general, 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. $55,410 per year 13%
Special Education Teachers Special education teachers work with students who have 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 stages to secondary schools. $58,980 per year 8%
Childcare Workers Childcare workers are generally responsible for attending to the basic needs of children in day care 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. $22,290 per year 7%

Professional Organizations

Membership or participation in professional organizations is important in any industry, but it’s particularly important 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.

National Association for Child Development (NACD): This organization provides child development professionals with resources on more than 3,000 methodologies and teaching techniques to help them inform instruction and give them access to the latest research.

Professional Association of Childhood Educators (PACE): The purpose of PACE is to help advance the profession of childhood education. It also provides research results, hosts annual conferences and offers other job-related resources to child development professionals.

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC): NAEYC is a large organization that supports early childhood education professionals across the country. Members enjoy access to its many publications and a host of professional development opportunities. It also hosts conferences and events.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Child Development

Earning online degrees, regardless of the pace, is generally less expensive than taking traditional on-campus classes. Expenses related to transportation, for instance, are usually minimal because the majority of the program can be completed at home.

However, many students still require financial aid to help them pay for the cost of tuition, and 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. This provides you with access to grants, loans and scholarships available through the federal government. Many nonprofit organizations, companies and schools offer their own private scholarships, so be sure to investigate the programs you’re interested in applying to find out what they offer.



Scholarships Details
Altra Howse Hamman Graduate Scholarship Award: Varies

Deadline: February 15

Eligibility: Provided by the University of Southern Mississippi, this scholarship is awarded to graduate students who have declared a major in Family Life or Child Development. Applicants must have a minimum 3.75 GPA and have completed at least one semester of graduate work.

Ann-Marie Ogletree Child Development Scholarship Award: $500-$1,000

Deadline: March 31

Eligibility: Residents of the Cleveland area pursuing studies in early childhood education, child development and other related areas.

Bright Futures Scholarship Award: $250-$1,000

Deadline: June 10

Eligibility: Students pursuing an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree in childhood development, early childhood education or another learning field to ultimately become childcare providers. Must be enrolled full-time in an accredited program, carry a minimum GPA of 3.0 and demonstrate achievement in field-based experiences with children.