The initial years of a child's life are infused with growth and change. This process involves the development of cognition, social interaction, physical skills, sensory awareness, speech and language, and emotional regulation. Early childhood is also a vital timeframe for identifying developmental challenges; identifying these challenges early can minimize them significantly.

If you are passionate about helping children evolve, consider a child development associate, which creates many opportunities for a career in a growing field. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for preschool teachers to increase 10% by 2026. An associate in child development teaches you how to work with parents and manage relationships with community members to provide children with the best possible care. It also provides a unique opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the next generation.

Should I Get an Associate Degree in Child Development?

Patient individuals with a knack for engaging children are ideal candidates for associate in child development programs. Recent high school graduates are often drawn to on-campus programs, which give students in-person networking opportunities with peers and professionals. On-campus students also receive access to resources like writing labs, in-person tutors, and a physical library.

Working professionals and those with family obligations may prefer the flexibility of an online program. Many online programs offer asynchronous learning, which allows students to complete coursework at their own pace. Online students can also engage with teachers and peers through discussion boards and email.

In a child development associate program, students learn communication skills and how to apply theories in developmental psychology to working with children. Programs often include dual language learner and special needs courses to ensure graduates can assist diverse populations. Most universities provide students with access to internships, which offer hands-on experience while enhancing a resume. Many schools also help students secure employment upon graduation.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Child Development?

Earning a child development associate provides access to a variety of career paths. Child development providers exhibit objectivity, patience, and enthusiasm in professional environments. These professionals are also flexible and effective communicators. Professionals often work in schools or in a child's home.

Childcare Worker

Childcare workers care for young children while their parents are at work. Professionals focus on maintaining a schedule, which includes eating and sleeping at the same time every day. Childcare providers also prepare daily activities to develop motor skills and improve social interaction. Identifying emotional and developmental problems is an important aspect of this job.

Median Annual Salary: $22,290

Preschool Teacher

Preschool teachers teach children foundational information that prepares them for kindergarten. Educators at this level develop interactive games that also teach pertinent skills. Some states allow professionals to perform this job with a high school diploma; however, associate degree holders enjoy a competitive advantage.

Median Annual Salary: $28,990

Teacher Assistant

Also referred to as paraprofessionals, teacher assistants work alongside classroom teachers to reinforce lesson content. They may work in small groups or one-on-one. Assistants help prepare lessons and grade assignments. Most schools require professionals to have an associate degree, especially if it is a Title 1 program.

Median Annual Salary: $26,260

How to Choose an Associate Program in Child Development

Students considering child development programs should examine the time commitment necessary to earn the degree. An associate in child development typically takes two years of full-time study. Students who wish to graduate earlier can take summer classes or higher course loads. However, students relying on financial aid should check with their adviser to ensure additional classes are covered. Students who cannot attend full time can enroll part time, which may add years to the degree.

Both on-campus and online students should anticipate a field experience requirement. Online students can complete field experiences at an approved local site. On-campus students should consider a school's location and where their degree qualifies them to teach. Depending on state requirements, students may have to take additional steps to qualify for licensure.

This degree prepares graduates for entry-level childcare positions with the possibility for advancement. Students who wish to continue their education can complete a bachelor's degree with roughly two more years of school.

Associate in Child Development Program Admissions

While admission processes vary by school, most programs require an online application and supporting documentation, like transcripts and test scores. The admission process for online and on-campus students may differ. Due to the self-paced learning model, online programs may require students to work with an admission adviser when applying to ensure the program is a strong fit. To increase chances of admission, students should apply to around six schools with varying degrees of selectivity.

Admission Materials

  • Application: Students submit an online application detailing their professional and educational background. Some schools require an essay with the application.
  • Transcripts: Students submit transcripts from all prior learning. Most high schools release transcripts for free, while most colleges charge a fee.
  • Application Fee: Most applications require a processing fee of around $40. Some schools waive this fee for students with demonstrable financial need.

Educational Paths for Child Development Associate Programs

After earning a child development associate, students may want to continue their education with a bachelor's degree, which can double earning potential and lead to more job opportunities. According to the BLS, the average salary for a preschool teacher is $28,990, while elementary school teachers, for which a bachelor's is required, earn an average of $56,900.

Bachelor's in Kindergarten and Elementary School Teaching

These teachers create and implement lesson plans, grade assignments, evaluate students' strengths and weaknesses, and communicate with parents. Students with an associate in child development must take additional education courses, such as curriculum development and culturally responsive pedagogy. This degree includes a student teaching and practicum experience.

Bachelor's in Child and Family Development

Students with a bachelor's in child development are prepared for mid-level positions. Graduates can become child, family, and school social workers or administrators of childcare programs. Typical programs are 120 credits, but an associate degree can account for 60 of those credits. Field experiences are required.

Bachelor's in Special Education Teaching

Professionals work with students with learning, emotional, mental, and physical disabilities. Coursework focuses on education theories and practices. Special education providers may work in their own classrooms or alongside general education teachers, which requires students to complete student teaching hours.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate Program in Child Development?

Child development associate programs vary by cost, curricula, and time to completion. This section outlines what students can generally expect regarding those factors.

Courses in an Associate Program in Child Development

Curricula vary by school and specialization, but most associate in child development programs offer similar core coursework in areas such as diversity, human development, and early childhood education. Below are common courses found in associate in child development programs:

Intro to Early Childhood Education

This course covers early childhood education as well as philosophical and psychological foundations. Students explore current trends and issues in addition to identifying program applications. Coursework is applicable in primary education environments. This class also provides an overview of how legislation and public policy affect families and children.

Intro to Human Development

Students study milestone events and theories related to different life phases. Students learn how to explain biological, psychological, and social changes in human development. The course also examines how economic, cultural, and geographic factors influence development at different stages of life.

Community and Diversity

Community and diversity courses focus on cultural differences and social constructs. Students examine political, social, and economic implications of diversity in today's society. This course also focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of groups as well as the processes of interaction.

Infant and Toddler Care

Students learn to identify developmental behavior in infants and toddlers. Students must demonstrate an understanding of developmentally appropriate materials that foster developmental growth. Assessment processes and procedures, as well as parent involvement strategies, are also discussed.

Research Methods

Students study how to develop methods for research, needs assessments, statistical analysis, and program evaluation. Students learn how to use research to support evidence-based practice through qualitative and quantitative methods, action research, and outcome-based research. Many professors require students to prepare research proposals that are developed throughout the course.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Child Development?

Most traditional, semester-based associate in child development programs are completed in two years of full-time study and comprise 60 credits. However, several factors impact this timeline. For instance, if students take classes during the summer or more than the standard credit load per semester, they can graduate faster. On the other hand, students balancing work and family obligations with school may prefer a part-time track, which can add years to the degree.

How Much Is an Associate in Child Development?

The average child development associate costs between $25,000 and $30,000, but costs vary by program and residency status. In-state students at public schools tend to pay the least, while out-of-state, public school students and private school students pay the most.

Beyond tuition, students should also consider additional expenses, such as housing, book, and technology fees. Online learners save on commuting, housing, and childcare expenses but may have to pay an additional technology fee per class. On-campus students should consider the cost of living at prospective schools.

Regardless of the program, all students should consider financial aid options, such as grants and scholarships, which can significantly offset the cost of the degree.

Professional Organizations in Child Development

Child development organizations offer many benefits to professionals and students, such as access to scholarships, research, mentoring opportunities, and industry trends. Other benefits include job boards, workshops, conferences, and members-only networking events. Some organizations offer student discounts on membership fees.

Division for Early Childhood

This organization promotes evidence-based practices to support children and their families who may be at risk for developmentally related issues.

National Association for the Education of Young Children

Members of this organization promote quality learning for children from birth through eight years old. With 60,000 members, students have access to a vast network.

National Black Child Development Institute

This organization works to create solutions for African-American children who suffer from developmental issues.