If you're considering a career in child development, you're seeking a degree that provides you with a variety of professional options upon graduation. Individuals who complete an online master's in child development choose from many different roles, ranging from teaching and counseling to overseeing a school library or developing curriculum. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the economy will add nearly two million education and education-related positions in the next few years.

Choosing a Program


Not necessarily. Previous work experience isn't a common requirement for online master's in child development programs, but prior education is often a prerequisite. Students with baccalaureate degrees in unrelated subjects should be prepared to take a few prerequisites before digging into the core curriculum.


Before committing to any online master's in child development programs, prospective distance learners should do their research. Take time to look at many different programs, consider any concentrations offered, compare costs, and research different learning options. It's also important to speak to faculty and staff within each school to get a sense of whether or not the department can provide the support and academic success that you're seeking.


Yes. Many online master's in child development programs offer part-time learning paths for individuals who want or need to continue working while completing their degree. Once enrolled, however, students should plan to spend between 10 to 15 hours per week completing requirements for each class taken.


An online master's degree in child development offers all the benefits of a traditional program without requiring students to visit campus. These benefits are especially important to people juggling personal and professional responsibilities or those who don't live close to a school offering such a program. Because the school offers most of its courses asynchronously, students create their own schedules and turn in assignments at times that suit them best.

What Are The Best Online Master's in Child Development Programs?

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

University of South Florida

Tampa, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 71%

Founded in 1956, USF hosts over 50,000 students at three different campuses and through their online classes. The school's online master's in child and adolescent behavioral health operates fully online, although students can choose to participate in field experience at the end of the program.

The 39-credit master's in child development online equips students to work at public and nonprofit organizations and help children in positions as supervisors, mental health case managers, and consultants, to name a few. After completing their coursework, master's students must pass a comprehensive exam that tests everything they've learned throughout the program. Full-time students typically take two years to complete the degree, while part-time students can graduate in three.

Distance learners may choose between a thesis or non-thesis field work track. Field experience consists of 200 hours working at an agency or organization. While working, students complete a research project and summarize their findings in a final report. USF also offers four concentrations: developmental disabilities, leadership in child and adolescent behavioral health, research and evaluation, and youth and behavioral health. Students should state their chosen track and concentration when they apply.

Applicants must submit their undergraduate transcripts and hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. Those applying for the thesis track must send GRE scores and will need at least a 153 verbal score and a 144 quantitative score. Applicants should also submit three letters of recommendation and a one-page essay concerning their professional goals. USF holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Program Overview
Program Name: MS in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health
Available Concentrations: Developmental disabilities; leadership in child and adolescent behavioral health; research and evaluation; youth and behavioral health
Tuition: $436/credit in-state; $881/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 39 credits
Program Length: 2 years

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE (thesis track)

Phone: (813) 974-9265
Email: algreen@usf.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter


University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, MN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

Based in Minneapolis with five locations across the state, U of M offers a plethora of online and hybrid undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs as well as certificates and licensing options. The College of Education and Human Development at U of M offers a fully online master's in applied child and adolescent development.

The curriculum comprises 32 credits of coursework, and full-time students generally take 6-14 credits each semester. Core curriculum includes courses like advanced developmental psychology and cognitive and biological development, which builds on students' undergraduate knowledge of development and psychology.

After completing their core courses, students can choose between three specializations: infant and childhood mental health, child life, and an individualized study track. The infant and early childhood mental health path includes courses like infant observation and field experience with reflective practice. Child life students take courses on therapeutic play and childhood death and bereavement. They must also participate in a clinical internship within two years of finishing their coursework. Finally, the individualized study track allows students to take elective courses that align with their professional goals.

Distance learners who pursue the child life concentration and successfully complete the program qualify to work as certified child life specialists. Those on the infant and early childhood mental health track can earn endorsements as infant family specialists, infant mental health specialists, and infant mental health mentors.

U of M requires applicants to submit their undergraduate transcripts but does not ask for GRE scores. Candidates should possess at least a 3.0 GPA from their bachelor's degree. Those applying to the child life track should also hold at least 100 hours of work or volunteer experience in a pediatric healthcare setting under professional supervision. The Higher Learning Commission accredits U of M.

Program Overview
Program Name: MA in Applied Child and Adolescent Development
Available Concentrations: Infant and early childhood mental health; child life; individualized studies
Tuition: $1,422/credit
Credit Requirements: 32 credits
Program Length: 1-3 years

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Work Experience: 100 hours of work or volunteer experience in a pediatric health care setting

Phone: (800) 991-8636
Email: online@umn.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter


University of La Verne

La Verne, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 66%

Accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, La Verne has valued adult and nontraditional learners since the 1960s when it established its first adult education program. Today, La Verne educates about 8,600 traditional and nontraditional students through its on-campus and online programs.

The online child development master's degree at La Verne offers identical content to its on-campus child development program. Distance learners can pursue their degrees entirely online or as a hybrid program, taking both face-to-face and digital courses. Students dive into advanced studies about childhood psychology and development, studying leadership and supervision responsibilities within this field. The curriculum culminates in a graduate seminar. Distance learners can finish the program in 18 months, full-time students generally take 2-2.5 years, and part-time students generally take 3.5 years.

Semesters last 16 weeks, and students can also take courses during the 10-week summer term. Distance learners work asynchronously, which means they can study whenever fits their schedule, with only one course exception that requires a presentation to the rest of the class. Students can expect to study 6-9 hours each week for every course.

The program requires undergraduate transcripts and a statement of intent that outlines an applicant's work experience and professional goals. Applicants should also hold a minimum 2.75 GPA from their undergraduate degree and a 3.0 GPA from their upper-level coursework in childhood development. Applicants also participate in an interview and writing assessment with the program chair.

Program Overview
Program Name: MS in Child Development
Tuition: $800-$885/credit
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Program Length: 18 months-2 years

Format: Online or hybrid
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 2.75 minimum

Phone: (909) 448-4644
Email: cranells@laverne.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter


Missouri State University-Springfield

Springfield, MO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 55%

Located in the Ozarks at the state's southwest corner, MSU educates over 26,000 students through its three campuses and online school. MSU runs several distance learning programs fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The master's in early childhood and family development allows distance learners to determine their own pace and complete the degree in as few as three semesters.

The online master of science in early childhood and family development comprises 32 credits, including 20 core credits and 12 elective credits. Students can transfer a maximum of nine credits. Part of the core curriculum includes research-heavy courses such as educational research methodology and proposal development. Students will use the skills learned from these coursers to write a research paper in a seminar toward the end of their program.

Distance learners may also choose electives based on their professional goals. Some options include forensic child psychology, prevention of child abuse and neglect, or the relationship of language to literacy and intellectual development. Students may also opt to participate in a field work experience in schools or other educational settings. To graduate, students must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and pass a comprehensive exam.

Applicants should possess at least a 3.0 GPA in the upper-level coursework of their undergraduate degree. Typically, prospective students do not need to send in GRE scores unless they do not meet the minimum GPA requirement. Candidates must also write a letter of intent outlining their professional goals and submit two letters of recommendation.

Program Overview
Program Name: MS in Early Childhood and Family Development
Tuition: $295-$325/credit
Credit Requirements: 32 credits
Program Length: 18 months-2 years

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum

Phone: (417) 836-4492
Email: denisecunningham@missouristate.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter


Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, NH Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 49%

With over 90,000 students enrolled in its online programs, SNHU aims to provide educational opportunities to nontraditional students and adults who want to pursue degrees on their own time. The private, nonprofit university offers over 200 degrees, all accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.

Individuals interested in child development can pursue a master's in child psychology with an emphasis in child and adolescent development psychology at SNHU. The curriculum comprises 36 credits and instructs students in cognitive psychology, social psychology, and learning theory. Students learn how to apply these theories to the real world, especially in relation to children and adolescents. Other courses include theories of personality, cognitive neuropsychology, and intervention strategies. Students typically work at their own pace on assignments like papers, projects, or presentations but still have deadlines to meet. The program ends with both a seminar and a capstone that students use to summarize and analyze the knowledge learned throughout the degree. Distance learners take two courses during each 10-week term, allowing them to complete the curriculum in as few as 15 months.

Interested individuals can apply to start the program during all five graduate terms throughout the year. Applicants should possess at least a 2.75 minimum undergraduate GPA, although they may attain provisional acceptance with a 2.0 GPA. SNHU does not require GRE scores.

Program Overview
Program Name: MS in Psychology in Child and Adolescent Development Psychology
Tuition: $627/credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 15 months-2 years

Format: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements
GPA: 2.75 minimum

Phone: (888) 387-0861
Email: enroll@snhu.edu
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Child Development Program?

Completing an online master's in childhood development is a popular option for degree seekers throughout the country, and for good reason: these types of programs translate well to a distance learning format and make it easy for learners to attend school while working. Programs vary by school, but the following section provides students with a good idea of what to expect.


Graduation requirements differ from program to program, but the classes listed below are common across master's degrees in child development.

Social & Historical Perspectives of Early Childhood/Education: In this course, students look back at the numerous circumstances and perspectives in place across the historical spectrum of childhood development theory. The course places special emphasis on mainstream cultural ideas during these periods, as well as beliefs, values, and social purposes.

Cognition, Language, and Play: This course familiarizes distance learners with the basic knowledge they need to understand how cognitive functions develop in children, particularly children up to eight years old. Enrolled students review prominent theoretical frameworks, social contexts, and how language and play fit in.

Physical Growth and Development: Understanding how children grow and develop while in utero and through to eight years of age is the focus of this course. Degree seekers learn how to research typical development paths while studying how nutrition, growth, wellness, and general health welfare impact growth and development.


The time it takes to complete an online master's degree in child development is affected by a number of factors. Programs may require individuals who hold undergraduate degrees in unrelated subjects to take a number of prerequisite classes, while those with degrees related to education can begin core coursework upon enrollment.

Programmatic characteristics may also influence how long it takes. Individual pace programs allow students to move through coursework according to their needs, while cohort programs place students in a group with their peers. This group completes each class together.

The majority of online master's in childhood development require that students complete between 30 and 38 credits, meaning students taking courses on a full-time basis can graduate in two years whereas those studying on a part-time basis will need three years between matriculation and graduation.


Teaching License: Although each state has different requirements for obtaining licensure, every state requires that teachers earn certification before entering the classroom. Students interested in pursuing this path should check with their state's Department of Education before proceeding.

Child Development Associate: Provided by the Council for Professional Recognition, the CDA helps individuals advance their careers, show a commitment to lifelong learning, and developed nuanced understandings of developmentally-appropriate practice. Nearly 400,000 educators carry a CDA credential.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Child Development Degrees

Because the majority of careers requiring an online master's degree in child development also require applicants to hold licensure or certification, attending a properly accredited institution is critical. There are two different categories of accreditation with which to be familiar:

  • Institutional: Schools earn regional and national accreditation based on their ability to meet school-wide requirements. Employers, schools, and other institutions consider regional accreditation to be the most prestigious and difficult to attain of the two. Regional accreditation-awarding agencies require institutions to go through a multi-year certification process. National accreditation, conversely, is considered to be a less rigorous process and is therefore less respected. Students who graduate from nationally accredited institutions may face problems transferring credits and earning certification.
  • Programmatic: Overseen by accrediting agencies focused singularly on those topics, this type of accreditation is earned by individual degree programs or departments. Within child development, the two accrediting bodies to look for are the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Accreditation agencies must also live up to a set of standards: the Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) are governing bodies that ensure these agencies are functioning properly and maintaining appropriate requirements. Accrediting agencies must provide reports of their work to the ED and CHEA to maintain their status. To learn more about accredited schools throughout the country, students can review the regularly updated list provided at the ED's website.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Child Development Graduates


While an associate or bachelor's degree in child development can help graduates become competitive for entry-level roles, salaries and growth potential are much higher for individuals who complete a master's degree in the field. The following table highlights common careers for child development professionals with different degree levels, and demonstrates the financial benefits that come with completing an online master's in child development.

Career Path Education Required Median Annual Salary
Teacher's Assistant High School or Associate Degree $22,468
Childcare Provider High School or Associate Degree $28,486
Youth Counselor Bachelor's Degree $34,616
Preschool Director Bachelor's Degree $40,024
School Counselor Master's Degree $48,737
Elementary or Secondary School Education Administrator Master's Degree $71,455


Depending on the long-term goals of professionals in this field, salaries can be very competitive. Individuals pursuing leadership or managerial roles can top out with a six-figure salary, while those just starting out typically earn close to the national average for all professional roles. The table below provides insight from Payscale regarding earning potential throughout the lifespan of each career.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20 years)
Elementary School Principal $79,046 $72,316 $77,515 $89,000
High School Principal $85,628 $76,000 $82,000 $95,000
Assistant Principal $68,340 $66,000 $68,000 $77,000
Academic Dean $92,437 $78,000 $85,000 $122,000
School Superintendent $113,779 $100,000 $109,000 $124,000


An online master's in child development opens the door to several career possibilities for people who enjoy working with children, are able to multitask, can withstand long days, and find value in educating the next generation of professionals. Roles in this field tend to be demanding, but also highly rewarding. Here are a few examples:

Instructional Coordinators

Working with other school leadership, institutions charge instructional coordinators with creating and overseeing school curriculum. These professionals develop materials that are appropriate for different ages and stages of cognitive development, oversee its implementation, and ensure that instructors meet teaching and learning standards. This position requires a master's degree.

Median Annual Salary - $62,460
Projected Growth Rate - 7%

School Librarians

Librarians at primary and secondary schools ensure students have access to reading and media materials appropriate for their age and developmental levels. They also work with teachers to bring in materials that tie into content being taught while helping students use those materials in their assignments. This position requires a master's degree.

Median Annual Salary - $57, 680
Projected Growth Rate - 2%

School Counselors

This position, which requires a master's degree, focuses on working with individual students to ensure success. Whether helping learners develop academic or social skills, working with them to decide on a career path, or even providing a listening ear about difficulties at home, school counselors are on the frontline of serving students.

Median Annual Salary - $54,560
Projected Growth Rate - 8%

Special Education Teachers

Although special education teaching roles require only a bachelor's degree, individuals who pursue a master's degree are well placed to move into supervisory roles. When they're in the classroom, SPED teachers work with students who have any number of physical, emotional, mental, or learning issues to develop appropriate lesson plans and help them succeed.

Median Annual Salary - $57,910
Projected Growth Rate - 6%

Middle School Principals

After completing a master's degree, individuals with aspirations to lead a school are qualified and prepared. Once in the role, principals oversee school functions, manage school staff, make curriculum decisions, and ensure that every student has a safe and worthwhile learning environment.

Median Annual Salary - $92,510
Projected Growth Rate - 6%


Working in the field of child development affords individuals the opportunity to interact with countless others who hold similar positions, but the fast-paced natures of their days can often make these professionals feel like they're working in a vortex. Professional organizations help child development workers connect with others, learn about new research in the field, and continue building their knowledge base.

Financing Your Online Master's in Child Development Program

Like any other form of advanced education, online master's in child development programs aren't cheap. Students who may otherwise choose this path are often discouraged by the cost, but they don't have to be. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can help prospective students gain federal scholarships, loans, grants, or work-study funds to help offset costs. Private organizations and foundations also exist and provide myriad scholarships and grants. Schools frequently offer departmental funds in the form of scholarships or teaching assistant roles.


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 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.

Rankings Archive

Best Online Master's in Child Development of 2018
Ranking School Location
1 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN
2 University of South Florida Tampa, FL
3 University of La Verne La Verne, CA
4 Missouri State University-Springfield Springfield, MO
5 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH
Best Online Master's in Child Development of 2017
Rank School Location
1 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN
2 University of South Florida Tampa, FL
3 University of La Verne La Verne, CA
4 Missouri State University-Springfield Springfield, MO
5 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH