Best Online Bachelor’s in Child Development Programs

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleBachelor'sin Child Development2017
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Online bachelor’s in child development programs emphasize the cognitive, social, and psychological growth of youth, from infancy through adolescence. In each developmental stage, growth is understood through the lens of the cultural and societal influences that surround the child. Graduates of online bachelor’s in child development programs are equipped for careers devoted to the growth of children in their care. They are prepared for careers as probation officers, counselors, managers or supervisors in a child service business, and educators or administrators in a school.

Preschool education is a popular career path for graduates. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 7% increase in preschool teaching positions through 2024. This guide is designed for aspiring preschool teachers and child development professionals.

Online bachelor’s in child development programs explore learning and growth in the context of developmental milestones. Core curricula in typical child development degrees online begin with an examination of the cognitive, behavioral, psychological, and physical changes that take place at each stage of development. Cultural and social elements that influence these processes are also explored, laying the groundwork for students to serve as advocates for children in their care. Coursework and supervised practical experiences prepare graduates for an evidenced-based approach to the design, implementation, and administration of effective programs for children and youth.

An online degree in child development offers concentrations geared toward individual career goals. Concentrations emphasize skills and best practices that are specific to career paths like teaching, counseling, and administration; some programs provide a pathway to teacher licensure. Most programs will prepare students for graduate studies. Additional field experiences may be required in a concentration area, and some schools offer thesis options instead of a practicum. A bachelor’s program will offer professional certification or prepare you to take certification exams. You have many options for online bachelor’s in child development degrees. Once you know what you want out of a program, it will be easier to choose one.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus 72.00 86% University Park, PA

Pennsylvania State University offers a bachelor of science in human development and family studies that focuses on improvement across the human lifespan, from childhood to old age. Students explore the role that surroundings play on human development, from work to school to community to family, with a focus on evidence-based assistance services and the role they can play in improving lives. The program also provides students the skills to navigate human services and social institutions, advocating for change through effective policies and programs. Students have the option to arrange their degree plan around certain professional certifications and milestones, allowing them to begin improving their career prospects and service potential even before graduating. Penn State's online degree in child development also includes an internship at a local human services organization, allowing students to gain experience through hands-on applied learning.

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2 The University of Alabama 70.90 67% Tuscaloosa, AL

Founded in 1820 in Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama is the oldest and largest college in the state. For students interested in an online child development degree, UA offers two options: a bachelor of science in human environmental sciences, early childhood education with a concentration in early childhood development and a bachelor of science in human environmental sciences, human development and family studies degree. Both train students to understand the development of children from birth to age eight. The programs focus on child development in a cognitive, emotional, physical, and social context, and places particular emphasis on parent-child relationships. Program graduates are prepared to design and implement preschool education programs, helping both children and parents interact effectively and address life problems. UA's human development and family studies program is Intended only for students who work at Head Start agencies, while its early childhood education degree is open to all applicants.

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3 Arizona State University-Tempe 70.30 58% Tempe, AZ

Arizona State University’s Tempe location is the largest of the school’s four locations, with a total student body of more than 51,000. A significant portion of that enrollment comes from online learners, and ASU ranks as one of the most innovative online schools in the country. ASU's online bachelor of science in family and human development focuses on development from infancy to adulthood. The degree emphasizes the formation of families and family dynamics along with factors that lead to both family development and dissolution, giving students an in-depth perspective on subjects including marriage, parenting, ethnicity, work, and culture at large. In addition to specialized studies in family and childhood topics, students earning their child development degree online also gain skills in research methods, written communication, active listening, and even statistics. Program graduates are prepared for careers in counseling, law, family and developmental sciences, medicine, social work, and human services.

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4 University of Washington-Seattle Campus 69.60 81% Seattle, WA

Founded in 1861 in Seattle, the University of Washington is one of the oldest colleges on the West Coast. The school’s bachelor of arts in early childhood and family studies is relevant both to students already working in the field and those looking to enter it. Based on the latest research in childhood development, the program trains students to improve the lives of both children and their families, emphasizing healthy development and academic success. Students pursuing the child development degree online at UW choose from two degree pathways: one for teaching and learning settings and one for nonprofit and policy settings. Graduates are prepared for a variety of careers, including social and health services, community support, child protective services, and education. Online students must have at least 70 transferable quarter credits before entering the program, and graduation requires 180 credits total. Most students complete the degree within two to three years.

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5 University of Alaska Fairbanks 67.70 33% Fairbanks, AK

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is the flagship school of the University of Alaska system, enrolling more than 10,000 students annually. UAF offers a bachelor of arts in child development and family studies with three options for concentration: administration, curriculum and teaching, and family support. The administration path prepares graduates for managerial positions in human services or education, focusing on areas of program development, finance, marketing, and human resources. The program's curriculum and teaching path provides students with the skills to design and implement effective preschool education programs, while the family support path focuses on helping families develop healthy, reciprocal relationships that encourage positive childhood development. UAF offers an associate program in child development that funnels into its bachelor’s program, and students who complete their associate can transfer 23 credits toward the program. UAF's online child development degree requires no campus visits, making it ideal for students based in more rural areas of Alaska.

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6 North Dakota State University-Main Campus 66.70 53% Fargo, ND

North Dakota State University was founded in 1890, and today it's Fargo, North Dakota campus serves over 14,000 students, a significant portion of which are enrolled in online courses. Available in a fully online format, the school's bachelor of science in human development and family sciences program helps students build an understanding of child development in both a familial and societal context. Students in the program can choose from four relevant concentration areas, including family science, child and adolescent development, child development/elementary education, and family science/social work. Broadly, the degree prepares students for either direct service work, such as community service and outreach, or support service work, such as child care directing, human services, and family life education. NDSU's online degree in child development typically takes four years of full-time study to complete, though students can shorten the length by taking summer courses or extra credits each semester. With extra courses, students often complete the degree in three years.

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7 Oregon State University 65.40 61% Corvallis, OR

Located in the city of Corvallis in Oregon's famed Willamette Valley, Oregon State University is a respected Pacific Northwest college that also boasts a highly ranked online education program. OSU's bachelor of science in human development and family sciences offers a concentration in childhood development, giving students the skills to support positive behaviors in early childcare settings and participate in programs supporting families and children. The school also offers a dual degree option, allowing students to combine childhood development with education and earn dual licensure for both pre-k and elementary school teaching. Many students also choose to add a minor to their degree, which can increase job prospects. Common minors that combine with the child development degree online include anthropology, business, public health, and sociology. Graduates often find careers as preschool teachers, family support workers, curriculum writers, and policy advocates for early childhood programs.

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8 Colorado State University-Fort Collins 64.40 63% Fort Collins, CO

Colorado State University is based in Fort Collins, Colorado, but the school’s online programs offer in-state tuition to residents of any U.S. state. CSU's online bachelor of science in human development and family science is an interdisciplinary degree that combines theories of human development with biology, psychology, social work, and sociology, providing students with a versatile education applicable to a range of human services careers. Students in the program choose from five distinct concentrations, with the option to specialize in up to two based on professional interests: early childhood professions, leadership and entrepreneurial professions, pre-health professions, prevention and intervention sciences, and human development and family studies. Students in CSU's online child development degree program also work with an adviser to pursue early childhood director qualifications, which meet Colorado state requirements for early childhood education credentials.

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9 University of Massachusetts-Amherst 63.20 70% Amherst, MA

The flagship school of the University of Massachusetts system, the University of Massachusetts Amherst boasts a student enrollment of around 30,000 students, making it the largest public college in New England. The college offers online education through its University Without Walls program, which helps working adults earn their degree through fully online coursework. Students earning their child development degree online can even receive up to 100 credits for life experience, including prior coursework, professional certification or training, military training, credit exams, or a portfolio demonstrating relevant experience. The school’s bachelor of arts in children's learning and development gives students the skills to support children and families, preparing graduates for careers in education, administration, youth and family programming, child advocacy, and human services. While the program does not confer a teaching license, advisers can help students prepare for preliminary Massachusetts state licensure exams. Montessori teachers also earn academic credit for previous Montessori trainings.

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10 Washington State University 61.70 67% Pullman, WA

Located in the city of Pullman — a town by the Idaho border — and with a student population of more than 20,000, Washington State University is one of the largest colleges in the Evergreen state. WSU's bachelor of arts in human development focuses on social policies, educational approaches, and prevention/intervention strategies for the development of families and children. Students in the program analyze the effects of developmental factors including biology, family dynamics, community, neighborhood, and school, applying this knowledge to education programs and initiatives. Learners enrolled in the program prepare for work in both educational and human services settings, from preschools and child care centers to Child Protective Services and family crisis centers. Online students have the option to earn a professional certificate in early childhood education, preparing them for more specialized work in the field. The certificate path includes core courses in child development along with electives in child maltreatment and family stress and coping.

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11 University of Wisconsin-Stout 60.50 52% Menomonie, WI

Based in Menomonie, University of Wisconsin-Stout is a polytechnic school dedicated to professional training and increased career opportunities for students. The college emphasizes applied learning and 85% of students complete some form of hands-on experiential learning before graduation. UW-Stout’s bachelor of science in human development and family studies is a degree completion program intended for students who already possess an associate’s degree or equivalent and want to progress in the field. For students based in Minnesota and Wisconsin, UW maintains articulation agreements with several local colleges, allowing for maximum credit transferability. Offered entirely online, the degree can be completed with two years of full-time study, though the course scheduling is flexible enough to meet the needs of working students. The program curriculum includes several general education and major courses, along with a selection of concentration and elective courses that allow students to personalize their degree.

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12 Hope International University 60.50 40% Fullerton, CA

Founded in 1928, Hope International University is a private, non-denominational Christian college affiliated with both the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and the Restoration Movement. The school operates a main campus in Fullerton, California, along with another campus in Anaheim that primarily serves online and grad students. Hope’s bachelor of science in human development with a family studies concentration examines the development of children and adolescents from cognitive, physical, and social perspectives. The degree includes a core selection of courses in leadership and ethics, combining studies in communications and critical thinking, humanities, biblical studies, and math and science. Students then take a range of courses that blend Christian perspectives with contemporary theories of human development. Graduates from the school's online child development degree program are prepared for a range of careers, including adoption case worker, child life specialist, counselor, day care center director, elementary teacher, and youth services director.

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13 Concordia University-Saint Paul 59.10 47% Saint Paul, MN

Part of the ten-member Concordia University System, Concordia University Saint Paul is affiliated with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. The college was founded in 1893 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and today serves more than 4,000 students. CSP’s bachelor of arts in child development is an education-focused degree, and admission to the program is only open to students who are already employed in childhood education or possess significant volunteer experience in the field. Focusing on practices for leadership and advocacy in education, the program stresses developmentally appropriate teaching approaches and the family’s role as a child’s primary teacher. Students also gain strategies for creating inclusive, effective learning environments and making ethical decisions in the context of early education. The online child development degree utilizes an accelerated format that requires just 42 credit hours for graduation.

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14 Southern New Hampshire University 56.00 59% Manchester, NH

With more than 75,000 online students, Southern New Hampshire University is one of the major providers of distance education in the country. The school’s fully online bachelor of arts in psychology with a concentration in child and adolescent development explores developmental needs from a cognitive, social, psychological and physical perspective, giving students the skills to work with children in a variety of settings, from education to healthcare. Program curriculum includes a strong liberal arts foundation, along with both core and advanced psychology courses and specialized courses in child development. SNHU’s focus on online education makes for a program that’s highly interactive, and students often collaborate with faculty on special research projects, gaining professional and academic experience without ever leaving home. Students pursuing their online degree in child development also have opportunities for networking typically unavailable to online learners, including membership in both the SNHU Psychology Club and the International Honor Society in Psychology, Psi Chi.

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14 California State University-East Bay 56.00 41% Hayward, CA

Based in Hayward, a city near San Francisco, California State University, East Bay also operates campuses in Oakland and Concord, along with a range of fully online programs. The college’s bachelor of arts in human development with an option in childhood development is a degree completion program, primarily intended for community college students who have already completed an associate’s or equivalent and wish to pursue a bachelor’s. The online child development degree is interdisciplinary, synthesizing theories and methodologies from diverse disciplines such as biology, linguistics, and sociology. Students explore human development from a cultural, emotional, physical, and social perspective, gaining an overview of lifespan concepts and the developmental issues that accompany childhood and adolescence. Due to the program’s degree completion curriculum, students who have already completed upper level coursework in human development are not eligible for admission.

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16 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin 54.80 37% Odessa, TX

Based in the West Texas city of Odessa, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin is a rapidly growing member of the University of Texas system with a current enrollment of over 5,000 students. The University of Texas’ Online Consortium offers a degree completion program, allowing for community college students to earn their bachelor of arts in child and family studies through UTPB. The program is intended particularly for students who have completed Texas Early Childhood Articulate courses or have earned an associate of arts in teaching. Focusing on facets of development both cognitive and physical, this online child development degree gives students the skills both to teach children and improve their quality of life. Many students pursue the degree alongside Texas teacher certification, though UTPB does not offer all required classes for state certification online. However, the degree builds a foundation for students to obtain certification after graduation. Completion of the degree requires 120 credit hours, at least 30 of which must be completed through UTPB.

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17 Utah State University 54.60 50% Logan, UT

Founded in 1888, Utah State University is a major public college in Logan, Utah, about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City. The school is home to more than 28,000 students, with nearly a quarter hailing from outside the state. Available exclusively online, the bachelor of science in family life studies trains students both to improve their own family dynamics and help children and families achieve more fulfilling relationships. Focused on both individual and family perspectives, the degree examines topics in family economics, human development, and consumer issues in relation to development and interpersonal dynamics. Flexible course scheduling and a fully online platform make the degree an ideal choice for new or returning adult students, allowing them to complete the program at their own speed. Courses for this online child development degree are offered in 14-week sessions, with several start dates available throughout the year.

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18 Eastern Kentucky University 52.70 37% Richmond, KY

A public regional college in Richmond, Eastern Kentucky University maintains six additional branch campuses throughout the state along with a range of online programs. The school offers a bachelor of science in child and family studies with a concentration in child development, available fully online and with courses in convenient eight-week blocks. Featuring studies in child literacy, family stress and resilience, program planning, research analysis, and more, the degree prepares students for positions as teachers, administrators, or education coordinators in private childhood education programs. Online students also perform two early childhood practicum experiences, allowing them to build skills through hands-on work at an early childhood center or related organization. Enrollment in the online child development degree program is open to residents of most states, and students may be able to apply coursework toward state credentials, though out-of-state students should consult an adviser to determine the credit transfer process.

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19 West Virginia University 50.40 56% Morgantown, WV

Located in North-Central West Virginia in the city of Morgantown, West Virginia University operates three additional campuses, an online program, and an Extension Service with offices in all 55 state counties. WVU's bachelor of science in child development and family studies focuses on advocacy and leadership for early childhood education, training students to help children develop social, academic, and cognitive skills. The program offers two tracks: preschool education for birth to age 4, which includes Pre-K certification, and child development, which does not include certification. Students in the Pre-K certification track must pass the PRAXIS Core Exam within two semesters of enrollment. Graduation requires a minimum of 120 credit hours, with nine credits devoted to a child development internship/field experience that students perform in public or private child care facility. All courses for the degree are available entirely online, except for a CPR/First Aid requirement, which students may fulfill locally.

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20 Stephen F Austin State University 45.60 44% Nacogdoches, TX

Located in the historic East Texas town of Nacogdoches, Stephen F. Austin State University is a three hour drive from Dallas (or two from Houston). The school’s bachelor of science in human sciences with an emphasis in human development and family studies is a degree completion program, allowing students who have taken two years of courses at another institution to complete the major at SFA. The program focuses on children, adults, and families, examining growth, development, and change over the course of the human lifespan. The curriculum includes courses on child development, aging, parenting, social policies, consumer problems, and more, and all courses are available fully online. Students earning SFA's online degree in child development also perform a supervised internship at a potential career location, such as an early childhood intervention program or a child life specialist program.

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21 San Diego Christian College 45.30 43% Santee, CA

Serving a small student body of around a thousand, San Diego Christian College is an evangelical Christian college in Santee, California, a suburb of San Diego. SDC offers a bachelor of arts in human resource development, intended to train students for work in helping professions such as counseling and human services. The degree examines human development from a range of perspectives, including cognitive, emotional, moral, social, physical, and spiritual, all within a Christian framework. In addition to courses in lifespan development, counseling theory, and crisis intervention, the curriculum includes faith-based courses such as biblical perspectives, servant leadership, and historical perspectives of the gospels. Offered entirely online, this 124-credit degree typically takes around four years to complete with full-time study, and courses are available in convenient five-week blocks. Graduates from this online child development degree program are prepared for careers as crisis center staff, early child program directors, youth advocates, and employment recruiters.

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22 Union Institute & University 45.00 27% Cincinnati, OH

A nonprofit college geared toward adult learners, Union Institute & University maintains campuses in Ohio, California, New England, and Florida, along with several online programs. The school offers two options for students interested in a child development degree online: a bachelor of science in child and adolescent development and a bachelor of science in early childhood studies. The child and adolescent development program prepare students to work with children and families in a range of service, health, and education settings, exploring development from affective, cognitive, emotional, physical, and social perspectives. The school's early childhood studies program focuses specifically on early childcare and education and features a curriculum adapted from the National Association of the Education of Young Children. The program offers two concentrations: teacher as practitioner or early childhood administrator. This early childhood studies degree is available entirely online, while the child and adolescent development degree is available in a blended format that mixes online classes with classroom sessions at either the Los Angeles or Sacramento campus.

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23 Warner Pacific College 40.80 54% Portland, OR

A private Christian college based in Portland, Oregon, Warner Pacific College offers faith-based liberal arts education to a student population of about 1,100. The school’s online child development degree is a bachelor’s completion program, intended for students who have already completed two years of undergraduate study at an institution such as a community college. Applicants must also have at least two years of full-time job experience. The degree takes about two years to complete and includes 14 courses, most of which are offered in flexible five-week blocks. Focusing on technical knowledge in counseling, psychology, and sociology, WPC's bachelor of science in human development provides students with an overview of theories for both human behavior and human development, all within a Christian framework. Program graduates are prepared for a range of positions in human services, social sciences, and ministry.

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24 Southern Oregon University 39.80 32% Ashland, OR

Based in Ashland, Southern Oregon University offers a bachelor's in early childhood development that trains students to work with children and families in a range of educational and social service settings. SOU's online degree in child development is a completion program that allows students to fulfill prerequisite courses in early childhood studies at a community college before transferring to SOU for upper division courses. Many students complete an associate degree in early childhood studies before transferring into the program, and SOU can help students determine the most effective course of study even if they’re not yet enrolled in the program. To facilitate the credit transfer process, the school maintains articulation agreements with several community colleges in Oregon and three in Northern California. Adding to the accessibility of the degree, SOU offers online courses to all students at the in-state tuition rate, regardless of where they reside.

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25 Pacific Oaks College 37.70 40% Pasadena, CA

Pacific Oaks College traces its origins to a children’s school opened in 1945, and today the college maintains an emphasis on early childhood development and education programs. The bachelor of arts in human development explores the biological, behavioral, emotional, psychological, and sociological factors that affect development, with the goal of optimizing these areas for longer, healthier lives. The program adopts an interdisciplinary approach that recognizes the effects of history, anthropology, religion, genealogy, and other fields on the development needs of groups and individuals. Students in the online child development degree program also examine the effect of these developmental factors on various social institutions, from education and health to law and business organization. With 30 to 60 credits required for graduation, the human development degree can typically be completed with two years of full-time study or five years of part-time study. Pacific Oaks also allows students to earn credit for learning from experience, which translates relevant life experiences into academic credit hours.

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Every child development degree online is different. Some focus on one or two specialty areas, while others offer numerous concentrations across different disciplines. Because such variety exists, it’s worth spending the time to thoroughly explore potential schools. Below, we’ve listed some of the most popular concentrations in this field.


Concentration Description Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Counseling and family services Students examine the factors that can affect a young child’s development, including family dynamics, death and dying, and the sociology of substance use and abuse. Practical skills are emphasized, including behavior modification and small group seminars. Social work, marriage and family therapy, parent education, child life specialization, and counseling
Management Students acquire the administrative skills required to manage educational facilities or businesses. They explore finance, marketing, human resources, nonprofit best practices, and business communications. Owner, supervisor, or manager of a business or organization that’s dedicated to the enrichment of young children
Juvenile delinquency Graduates are prepared to work with at-risk youth, and they learn the theories and principles that drive the juvenile justice system. Course topics include gang subcultures, substance use and abuse, deviant behavior, and causes of delinquent behavior. Guidance counselor, probation officer, and youth program coordinator
Preschool teaching Students explore literacy and language development in very young children, early mathematical concepts, the role of play in learning, classroom teaching strategies, and classroom assessment and analysis. Preschool teacher-birth through preK, Head Start teacher
Elementary education Provides preparation for state teaching licensure in elementary or early elementary grades. Courses explore learning within the context of healthy child development. Special topics include curriculum development, classroom strategies, and subject-specific teaching best practices. Licensed elementary school teacher K-6 or PreK-3; educational administrator


A fundamental knowledge base in child development principles must generally be completed before students advance to upper-division concentration courses. Typical core courses in an online bachelor’s in child development might include the following classes:

  • Biology of childhood: Examination of the biological basis of childhood disease, immunity, and well-being. The course includes discussion of nutrition, contemporary health issues, and the importance of biological information in political, social, and ethical decision-making that affects children.
  • Gender and sexuality development in children: This course explores multiple theories around gender and sexuality development; the biological, cultural, social, and cognitive influences on concepts of gender and sexuality; and best practices to encourage healthy and safe development and expression in young children.
  • Professional partnerships in early childhood education: Students apply their knowledge of physiological and psychological health to the context of child abuse and neglect. The course emphasizes cues to abuse and neglect and the early childhood professional’s legal responsibilities to report. Class discussion focuses on advocacy for the student and the profession.
  • Play theory and aesthetics: Learners examine the role of play, art, music, and drama in child development. This course emphasizes the creation of environments that stimulate social skills development, which in turn facilitates growth in self-control, self-esteem, and self-motivation.
  • Observation and assessment in child development: Students learn about appropriate methods for observation and assessment, standardized measures, ethics, and data interpretation. The course emphasizes impartial and unbiased observation, formal and informal assessment, and principles of observational research.


An online bachelor’s in child development requires an average of 120 credits to graduate. Full-time students can generally complete the program in four years. Depending on your circumstances, part-time study may be advantageous, allowing you to take more time to finish your program. Part-time students are usually required to finish the program in 7-10 years. Full-time attendance is required for financial aid eligibility; this is defined as a course load of at least 12 credits per term.

A child development degree online is commonly offered as a bachelor’s degree completion program. These programs continue the learnings of similar associate curriculums. Students who enter a degree completion program already holding an associate degree can earn the bachelor’s degree in two years. In some cases, accelerated degree completion options offer even shorter timeframes to completion.

Being accredited means an institution has been vetted by a neutral agency. This process ensures that certain academic standards have been met. Accreditation occurs on the national, regional, or program level, or all three, but each of these accreditations means something different.

National accrediting bodies are focused on a type of education, such as technical or vocational. If you’re interested in an online degree in human and family development, consider searching for schools that are nationally accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council Accrediting Commission. Regional accreditation is more focused on academic rigor. It carries more weight than national accreditation does, particularly when it comes to graduate school admissions. Program-specific accreditation is useful for evaluating the academic offerings in certain fields. Accrediting bodies you might find in the best online bachelor’s in child development programs include:

  • The Council for Professional Recognition Early Childhood Education Training
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children
  • National Council for Accreditation for Teacher Education
  • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation
  • American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation

Though the federal government does not involve itself at the accreditation level, the U.S. Department of Education does provide oversight of the process; it also maintains a database of accredited schools. Similarly, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation is an independent association of accredited degree-granting institutions; it also offers a database of accredited schools.


An online degree in child development prepares graduates for many child-centric careers. Individual curricula and concentrations will play a role. We’ve listed a few of the most common careers below.

  • Preschool teacher: Educate and care for children from birth through age five. You’ll introduce fundamental concepts of reading, math, and science; create optimum environment for learning; design curriculum; and prepare children for kindergarten.
  • Teacher assistant: Job responsibilities include assisting classroom teachers by reinforcing lessons in small groups and one-on-one; enforcing classroom and school rules; assisting with recordkeeping, observation, and assessment; preparing lessons; and supervising students outside of the classroom.
  • Social worker: Generally employed by government or nonprofit agencies, social workers identify problems that affect communities, families, and individuals. Working with cross-disciplinary resources, social workers solve problems or mitigate them. Daily tasks might include arranging for a family to receive food stamps, referring a teen to counseling, or investigating a claim of child neglect.
  • Community services manager: Supervise and coordinate the administration of a social service agency or community service program. Depending on the employer’s size, daily duties may center around a specific program or encompass an entire facility’s programming. Duties include budgeting, strategic planning, staff development, program assessment and analysis, grant writing, and community outreach.
  • Juvenile probation officer: Responsibilities include supervising youth that are on probation by ensuring that the terms of probation are met, assessing rehabilitation plans, providing rehabilitation resources, monitoring contact with law enforcement, and maintaining case files.
Job Title Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
Preschool teacher $28,790 7%
Teacher assistant $25,410 6%
Social worker $46,890 12%
Community services manager $64,680 10%
Juvenile probation officer $50,160 4%


Investmenting in a four-year degree can help learners achieve higher earnings and greater career mobility. Graduates of the best online bachelor’s in child development programs are prepared for roles that correspond to their specialty; in many cases, these graduates hold a competitive advantage over peers who lack a bachelor’s degree. The table below illustrates the benefit to preschool teachers who hold a baccalaureate degree.

Job Title Degree Required Median Annual Salary
Preschool teacher Associate $28,790
Preschool or childcare director Bachelor’s $45,790

Source: BLS

Licensure and Certification

Professional credentials can boost your earnings or provide career advancement. They are not always required by employers, but they indicate that you’ve met a standard of education and competency in your field. In the child development sphere, there are two nationally recognized professional credentials.

  • Child Development Associate (CDA): The most widely recognized credential in early childhood education, the CDA signifies that the holder has met rigorous standards of competency in the proper methods of nurturing the emotional, physical, intellectual, and social development of children.
  • Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS): Granted by the Association of Child Life Professionals, the CCLS credential is an examination-based certification. To sit for the exam, candidates must demonstrate completion of a bachelor’s degree, ten extra college courses in special content areas, and a 600-hour supervised clinical internship. This credential signifies that the holder has mastered the advanced knowledge and practical application of child life theory.


Students and working professionals can benefit from membership in industry-specific professional organizations. These groups offer networking opportunities that can pay off as you build your career. They also provide a means to stay current in your field by hosting conferences, holding educational seminars, and hiring guest speakers to discuss relevant issues. Many professional associations offer continuing education credit options to members. Larger organizations frequently publish journals, newsletters, or other materials. There are many professional associations devoted to child development. Some of the largest and most recognized professional associations in child development include:

  • Society for Research on Child Development: This international organization primarily facilitates research across disciplines involved in child development. The organizations research focus provides great benefit to students, including discounted textbooks, independent research funding, mentoring, networking opportunities, travel awards, and scholarships.
  • National Association of Social Workers: NASW, the largest professional organization in this discipline in the world, authors the industry’s code of ethics and behavior. Members enjoy professional development opportunities through specialty practice sessions, a job board, access to professional credentials, continuing education, and best practices information.
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children: Dedicated to the educational and developmental needs of children from birth through age eight, NAEYC accredits academic programs, lobbies for public policy that benefits young children, and provides resources to early childhood educators.
  • Council for Exceptional Children Division for Early Childhood: This organization supports the optimal development of children from birth through age eight with developmental delays or disabilities. They also lobby for public policy improvements, provide resources for families and educators, and offer numerous professional development options.

Undergraduate students at any accredited university may apply for financial aid by filling out the FAFSA application. The information in this application is used to calculate federal and state need-based awards such as grants, scholarships, and low-interest loans. Students may also qualify for merit scholarships or fellowships offered by a school or a department; there are a wealth of private scholarships available to students who meet eligibility standards. Even if you don’t think you qualify for federal financial aid, you must complete the FAFSA to be considered for any monetary award; most schools use the FAFSA data to manage students’ financial aid packages.


Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.