Students in child development have a passion for helping kids grow into healthy, productive, and happy adults. Students earning a child development degree complete coursework in areas such as ethics, law, psychology, and education.

Graduates pursue diverse positions in settings such as schools, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and hospitals. Some work with children individually, while others manage facilities or design community programs.

Should I Get a Bachelor's in Child Development?

A working professional who wants to make a career change may benefit from the flexibility of an online program. However, recent high school graduates often require the resources of an on-campus program. On-campus students often network with professors in person, attend events on campus, and complete internships.

Whether in an online, on-campus, or hybrid program, interdisciplinary child development degrees prepare students for the practical demands of the workforce. Students gain communication, critical thinking, and research skills.

After earning a child development degree, some individuals pursue a graduate degree in a related field, such as counseling or social work. However, other graduates enter the workforce immediately. While some entry-level jobs in the field do not require a four-year degree, a bachelor's degree in child development can make job applicants more competitive. A child development degree can also increase earning potential and improve career outlook.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Child Development?

A child development degree can lead to a variety of career options in positions working with different types of children. For example, students who are interested in helping children with special needs may become special education teachers. Graduates may also help children through positions in nonprofit organizations, government agencies, childcare centers, and hospitals.

Preschool or Childcare Center Director

These professionals manage childcare workers and design programs that help young children develop. Many employers require a bachelor's degree and childcare experience.

Median Annual Salary: $46,890 *

Special Education Teacher

These teachers work at the secondary level and below with children who have developmental disabilities. Many states require these professionals to hold a bachelor's degree and certification.

Median Annual Salary: $58,980 *

Kindergarten or Elementary School Teacher

Graduates with a bachelor's degree and teaching certification can lead classrooms at these levels. These teachers sometimes specialize in subject areas.

Median Annual Salary: $56,900 *

Social Worker

Social work positions are often in government agencies, though medical institutions and nonprofit organizations also employ social workers. These professionals work with children outside the classroom to ensure their safety and healthy development. Most states require social workers to hold at least a bachelor's degree and a license.

Median Annual Salary: $47,980 *

Child Life Specialist

These specialists comfort hospitalized children and use child development knowledge to prepare kids for procedures, tests, and long hospital stays. A child development degree is a significant advantage for applicants in this competitive field.

Median Annual Salary: $60,380 *

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Choose a Bachelor's in Child Development Program

Choosing the right child development program is crucial to a student's success. With so many institutions offering this major, learners have plenty of options. Applicants should consider each program's cost, format, length, location, and accreditation. Learners should determine the number of required credits and approximate degree completion time, which impacts cost. While tuition is a significant factor in the price of a program, students should also include the cost of books, fees, missed work, commuting, and room and board.

When choosing a program, prospective students should review each school's child development curriculum. Learners who have chosen a career path should only apply to schools that offer the relevant courses or concentrations. Learners should also determine whether an on-campus or online program better suits their needs and should choose their enrollment status. Part-time programs are ideal for students with work or family commitments, while full-time students typically graduate more quickly. Students who choose programs with on-campus requirements should also consider location. A long commute increases total costs and can make scheduling more difficult.

Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Child Development Programs

Choosing an accredited school is vital to a student's success in the field. Institutions can receive regional or national accreditation. National accreditation generally applies to private, for-profit schools. While these institutions meet the Department of Education's (ED) standards, credits from nationally accredited schools do not transfer to regionally accredited institutions. Furthermore, degrees from nationally accredited schools may not meet certification requirements.

Seven ED-recognized agencies in the U.S. award regional accreditation. To maintain regional accreditation, institutions must undergo regular evaluation to ensure it maintains academic standards. Degrees and credits from regionally accredited institutions transfer easily and meet requirements for certification and membership with professional organizations.

Specific programs within accredited institutions can earn programmatic accreditation. No field-specific accreditation exists for child development programs, but programs may have related credentials.

Bachelor's in Child Development Program Admissions

After determining the best programs for their needs, prospective students submit applications. Learners can rank potential schools and keep a list of application fees to compare against their budget. These considerations should determine to which schools learners apply.

For both on-campus and online programs, prospective students typically submit applications online. While application requirements vary by institution, most schools require applicants to submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, and test scores. Many schools also require applicants to submit essays regarding their goals and background. Candidates can streamline the application process by identifying and gathering necessary documents in advance.


  • Minimum GPA: Some schools require a minimum GPA, which is often between 2.5 and 3.5. Some schools may waive this requirement for applicants with high test scores or significant professional experience.

Admission Materials

  • Application: After preparing their information, students can typically complete an application in less than an hour. However, the application process is still a significant time investment for students applying to several institutions. Services such as The Common Application allow students to apply to many schools simultaneously.
  • Transcripts: Most institutions require applicants to submit high school and college transcripts from all previous schools. Applicants may pay a small fee for official transcripts.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Schools often require one to three letters of recommendation. Recommenders should not be family and should be able to credibly attest to the applicant's academic abilities or work ethic.
  • Test Scores: Undergraduate applications typically require SAT or ACT scores. When registering for the exams, test takers can select schools to receive their scores.
  • Application Fee: Schools often charge an application fee, which is typically $20-90. The application fee covers the administrative costs of processing applications. Institutions may offer application fee waivers for students who demonstrate financial need.

What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Child Development Program?

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of child development degrees, each student's experience is unique. The learner's career goals, interests, experience, and institution affect the curriculum. However, the courses and concentrations below are common for students earning a degree in child development.

Concentrations Offered for a Bachelor's Degree in Child Development
Concentration Description Careers
Early Childhood Education While childhood spans from birth to 18 years of age, this specialization focuses on the unique needs of children under the age of eight. Learners study the emotional, social, and educational needs of children in this stage of life. Elementary school teacher, preschool teacher, childcare worker, childcare center director
Child Development Practitioner Students earning this specialization focus on children under the age of eight. Graduates often work in Head Start programs. Head start teacher, elementary school teacher, preschool teacher, childcare worker
Montessori Education The Montessori style of child education has become popular in recent years. Many institutions offer this concentration as part of child development degree programs. Montessori teacher
Prevention and Intervention Sciences Students in this specialization learn to identify potential problems in a child's life and intervene to prevent harm. Graduates often work in the human services field. Social worker, counselor, teacher
Pre-Health Professions This concentration is ideal for students who plan to pursue graduate education and positions as clinicians in the medical field. Graduate student

Courses in a Bachelor's in Child Development Program

The exact courses necessary to earn a degree in child development vary based on the student's school, previous experience, and concentration. While curricula vary significantly, the courses below are common to many child development programs.

Language Development in Young Children

Fundamental aspects of childhood development include gaining skills in listening, reading, writing, and speaking a language. This course explores the process of acquiring language from birth to elementary school age. Students learn best practices to use when teaching these skills to young children.

Child Social and Emotional Growth

This course examines the social, psychological, and emotional factors that can affect a child's development. Students explore subjects such as attachment, friendship, and family connections. This course prepares learners to work with children in a variety of settings.

Family Violence and Neglect:

Graduates often work with children who face abuse and neglect at home. This course provides a basic understanding of the signs, statistics, and best practices for helping abused and neglected children. Students learn how these circumstances can change a person's development.

Development and Administration of Human Services Programs

Many child development graduates work in human services as social workers, managers, and administrators. This course explores the intricacies of managing nonprofit and government organizations.

Adolescent Development

Students examine how older children and teenagers process emotion, learn, and grow. This course prepares students for positions as middle school or high school educators.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Child Development?

Full-time students typically earn their child development degree in about four years. However, several factors can affect degree completion time. For example, students who transfer credits from previous studies, and those who take summer courses, often graduate in less time than their peers. Schools often limit the number of credits a student can take per semester, so learners should not count on doubling their course load to speed up degree completion time.

Learners with professional or personal responsibilities may need to attend school part time, which can delay graduation. To speed completion time while working around a busy schedule, students can choose an accelerated program with shorter classes or can take courses during seasonal breaks. Part-time students usually pay more per credit than full-time learners.

How Much Is a Bachelor's in Child Development?

Tuition rates vary widely among four-year schools. Factors that impact price include the type of institution and the student's residency status. According to College Board, on-campus, in-state learners at public, four-year institutions paid an average of $9,970 for tuition and fees during the 2017-2018 school year, while their out-of-state counterparts paid an average of $25,620. Private institutions are typically more expensive and do not offer discounts for in-state students.

Along with tuition, students must pay for books. On-campus students should also consider the cost of living in the area. Students attending schools in cities with high costs of living must often seek additional financial aid to cover living expenses. Applicants should research all possible costs before choosing a program.

Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Child Development Prepares For

Certified Child Life Specialist

Students who plan to become child life specialists can benefit from earning this credential. Although the CCLS certification is not required for child life specialist positions, the credential makes job applicants more competitive. Candidates take courses through the Association of Child Life Professionals and must pass an exam to earn certification.

Certified Social Work Case Manager

Social workers may need this certification to work independently, depending on their state's legal requirements. To obtain the certification, candidates must have a bachelor's degree, about three year of paid social work experience, and a passing score on the appropriate exam.

Teaching Certification

Each state requires teachers to hold certification. While requirements vary by state, candidates may need to complete additional coursework and pass content exams after earning their bachelor's. Most states require teachers to be certified in each content area they instruct.

Special Education Certification

Aspiring special education teachers must earn teaching certification prior to obtaining the special education credential. This additional certification requires candidates to pass a test.

Child Development Associate

The Council for Professional Recognition awards this credential to early childhood education professionals who demonstrate competencies in the field. The credential can make applicants more attractive to employers.

Resources for Child Development Students

International Child Resource Institute

Child development students can network with future colleagues through this nonprofit organization. Graduates can apply for positions with the institute's programs, which are located around the world.

Society for Research in Child Development

This society keeps members updated on recent child development research. The organization provides the latest news, advocates for policies that benefit child development researchers, and hosts networking meetings.

Journal of Child and Adolescent Behavior

This scientific journal helps child development students and professionals keep up with important research in the field.

Council for Professional Recognition

This organization provides resources for students planning to pursue careers in early childhood education. The website provides information about certification, webinars, and scholarship opportunities.

Psychology Today - Childhood Development

The child development section of Psychology Today is an alternative to scientific journals for learners seeking information about current research.

Professional Organizations in Child Development

Professional organizations offer resources to promote career advancement and are ideal for recent graduates. These associations often host annual meetings and other networking events. Many professional organization provide continuing education opportunities and award certifications to qualified candidates. Some organizations maintain job boards and offer career services that can be particularly useful for entry-level professionals.

Association of Child Life Professionals

ACLP provides members with certification, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Members can also access professional development webinars and attend networking events.

Association of American Educators

AAE is the country's largest non-union organization for teachers. The association offers liability insurance, scholarships, grants, a discount program, and policy advocacy.

National Association of Special Education Teachers

This association represents special education teachers. Members have access to free professional development courses, classroom resources, and webinars.

National Association of Social Workers

NASW represents social workers with positions at all levels. Members receive career advancement resources, legal assistance, and networking opportunities.

National Association for the Education of Young Children

NAEYC comprises early childhood educators who can choose from several membership options. Available resources include webinars, online and in-person networking opportunities, and discounts.