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.

What are the best child development programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 Appalachian State University Boone, NC
2 Eastern Washington University Cheney, WA
3 Point Loma Nazarene University San Diego, CA
4 Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, MI
5 University of North Florida Jacksonville, FL
6 Fresno Pacific University Fresno, CA
7 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS
8 Concordia University, St. Paul Saint Paul, MN
9 Washington State University Pullman, WA
10 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH

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.

Choosing a Program

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.

Accredited Online Child Development Programs

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

Appalachian State University

Boone, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 72%

Appalachian offers an online bachelor of science in child development - birth through kindergarten for students interested in working with young children. This program serves as a degree completion pathway. Graduates can pursue work as preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, and daycare directors.

Students earning their bachelor's in child development complete 63 credits at Appalachian. Participants take 6-8 credits per semester and graduate in four years. Each enrollee must also complete a clinical internship through one semester of student teaching. Instructors deliver courses through a blend of asynchronous and synchronous formats.

Transfer applicants must submit college transcripts, and they can access an online transfer equivalency course search tool to make sure their previous credits will count. Appalachian is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

2

Eastern Washington University

Cheney, WA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

EWU offers an online bachelor's degree in children's studies that provides an interdisciplinary perspective on child development. The curriculum combines coursework from the disciplines of education, psychology, geography, and social work. This program prepares graduates for careers as adoption counselors, after school program directors, juvenile justice workers, and child life specialists.

This online bachelor's degree requires 60-70 major credits, along with general education credits. Core courses include research methods for studying children and childhood, children and the family, the geography of childhood, and child and adolescent development.

Each applicant must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate. In addition, learners must have taken two years of foreign language in high school or one year of foreign language in college. EWU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

3

Point Loma Nazarene University

San Diego, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 84%

PLNU's hybrid bachelor of arts in child development provides students with an understanding of developmental and cognitive processes in children from birth through adolescence. This is a degree completion program designed for students who already possess an associate degree or some college coursework.

This child development degree requires 120 credits and can be completed in 15 months. Core courses include adolescent development in the family context, child and adolescent nutrition and health, development of infants and toddlers, and writing for child development professionals. At least 36 credits must be completed through PLNU.

Applicants must have completed at least 40 credits of college-level coursework with a minimum 2.75 GPA. PLNU is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

4

Central Michigan University

Mount Pleasant, MI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 62%

The online bachelor's in early childhood development and learning program at CMU prepares students for careers in early childhood settings, such as preschools, childcare centers, and Head Start programs. This program meets the Michigan Department of Education's coursework requirements for early childhood education and teaching.

This online bachelor's degree in child development requires 43 major credits, along with general education and university requirements. Core courses include lifespan development, infant and toddler development, and developmental assessment of children. Each enrollee must complete an infant and toddler practicum, as well as a teaching capstone. Participants must maintain a minimum 2.7 GPA to graduate.

Each candidate must be enrolled in or have completed prerequisite courses for the major and possess a minimum 2.0 GPA to gain admission. CMU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

5

University of North Florida

Jacksonville, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

UNF features an bachelor of arts in early childhood education with a concentration in early childhood development. Much of this concentration is available online. This program prepares learners to become educators who specialize in working with preK-6 children.

Core courses include educational psychology, family-school partnerships, measure and evaluation of young children, and foundations of literacy. Students also complete a six-credit practicum, which can be carried out at a variety of locations.

First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Transfer students with at least 30 college credits need not submit standardized test scores, although they must have a minimum 2.0 GPA. UNF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

6

Fresno Pacific University

Fresno, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 66%

FPU offers an online bachelor of arts in early childhood development to individuals who want to work with children from birth through eighth grade in a professional care or educational setting. This program serves as a degree completion pathway. Instructors deliver coursework entirely online in a cohort structure. Each cohort of 12-24 students progresses through coursework together.

Students pursuing their bachelor's in child development complete 39 credits of major coursework. Core courses include advanced child growth and development, children's play and learning theory, and curriculum development of early childhood education.

Applicants must have completed at least 60 credits of bachelor coursework with a minimum 2.4 GPA for admission. FPU is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

7

Kansas State University

Manhattan, KS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 32%

K-State's online bachelor's degree in early childhood education prepares students to work in early education settings as administrators or teachers. Graduates can also apply for the early childhood unified teaching licensure in Kansas.

This online bachelor's degree in child development requires 120 credits and takes four years to complete. Core courses include family relationships and gender roles, exceptional development in early childhood, language development, and reflective practice. Enrollees can complete field experiences at accredited schools near their homes. Out-of-state students pay higher tuition rates.

First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts showing a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 and SAT or ACT scores. Transfer students can bring in up to 60 credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA. K-State is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

8

Concordia University, St. Paul

Saint Paul, MN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

CSP offers an online bachelor of arts in child development for those who want to work in the early education field. Instructors deliver courses entirely online through seven-week terms.

This BA degree requires 42 credits of major coursework, in addition to general education and university requirements. Core courses include child social and emotional growth, infants and toddlers, children's play and learning, and ethics in early childhood.

This program accepts candidates who already hold an associate degree from an accredited institution, as well as first-year students. First-year applicants must submit high school transcripts, and transfer applicants must possess a minimum 2.0 college GPA. Ninety-five percent of CSP graduates receive job offers within one year of graduation. CSP is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

9

Washington State University

Pullman, WA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

WSU offers an online bachelor of arts in human development with optional certificates in early childhood education and gerontology. Graduates are eligible to work in many settings, including Head Start programs, childcare centers and preschools, social service agencies, and the YMCA.

This degree requires 120 credits, including 42 major credits, and can be completed in four years. Of the 42 major credits, at least 21 must be taken through WSU. To obtain a certificate in early childhood education, students must take classes like parent-child relationships, child development, guidance in early childhood programs, and curriculum for early childhood programs. Students must maintain a minimum 2.6 GPA in major and certificate courses to graduate.

Out-of-state distance learners pay slightly more per credit than in-state students. WSU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

10

Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, NH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

SNHU offers an online bachelor of arts in psychology with a concentration in child and adolescent development. During this program, students study how children develop and grow from birth through adolescence. Participants also learn how to meet the needs of children in a variety of education and childcare settings.

The curriculum requires 120 credits, including 24 major credits and 12 concentration credits. Participants can graduate in four years. Core courses in the concentration cover topics like lifespan development, disorders of childhood and adolescence, child development, and adolescent development.

Applicants must submit their transcripts, although SAT/ACT scores are not required. There is no set GPA minimum for admission but higher GPAs will qualify students for scholarship options. SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

What Else Can I Expect from an Online Bachelor's in Child Development Program?

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.

CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN CHILD DEVELOPMENT

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

CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN CHILD DEVELOPMENT

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.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN CHILD DEVELOPMENT?

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.

Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Child Development Degrees

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.

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

CAREER PATHS

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

As a preschool teacher, you will 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.

Median Annual Salary: $28,790

Projected Growth Rate: 7%

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.

Median Annual Salary: $25,410

Projected Growth Rate: 6%

Social Worker

Social workers are 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.

Median Annual Salary: $46,890

Projected Growth Rate: 12%

Community Services Manager

Community services managers 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.

Median Annual Salary: $64,680

Projected Growth Rate: 10%

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.

Median Annual Salary: $50,160

Projected Growth Rate: 4%

Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Child Development Graduates

JOB PLACEMENT

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.

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

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:

Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Child Development Program

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.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

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.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

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 STUDENTS

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.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

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.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

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.