Best Online Master’s in Child Development Programs

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By The BestColleges Rankings Team

Published on March 17, 2021

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An online master's in child development program prepares graduates to work with children from infancy through adolescence. These professionals help children meet their physical, educational, cognitive, and emotional needs through counseling, caretaking, and instruction. Graduates can pursue many different career paths, including education, childcare, community services, healthcare, and research.

The U.S. economy will likely see a slowly increasing demand for child development professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 3% job growth for preschool and special education teachers between 2019 and 2029.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Child Development Programs? Here Are Our Top 5:

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#1 University of South Florida Tampa, FL
#2 University of Minnesota Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN
#3 University of La Verne La Verne, CA
#4 Missouri State University Springfield, MO
#5 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Child Development Programs

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University of South Florida View School Profile Tampa, FL

Based in Tampa, USF serves over 50,000 students, many of whom enroll in online courses. USF offers a fully online master of science in child and adolescent behavioral health that prepares graduates for careers as directors of juvenile justice organizations, substance abuse rehabilitation clinics, and child welfare agencies. USF provides distance learning through the Canvas platform.

Required coursework in the program's 39-credit curriculum covers topics like behavioral health policy and cultural competency in children's mental health. Students also learn advanced research and evaluation methods. This master's in child development program lets candidates personalize the curriculum through seven electives. Participants also choose between thesis and applied (non-thesis) options.

The program offers fall and spring entry dates. Applicants must submit three recommendation letters, a resume or CV, a writing sample, and a one-page statement of purpose. USF recommends — but does not require — that students send in GRE scores.

University of Minnesota Twin Cities View School Profile Minneapolis, MN

UMN maintains its flagship campus in the Twin Cities, where it serves more than 50,000 students. The university also offers online degrees, including an entirely online master of arts in applied child and adolescent development. Program graduates are prepared to work as clinical counselors, social work case managers, and healthcare advocates for clients in this age group.

Students choose from three specialized tracks: individualized studies, child life, and infant and early childhood mental health. Learners in the child life track complete a 600-hour internship and qualify to sit for the child life professional certification examination and the Association of Child Life Professionals eligibility assessment. All three pathways require 32 credits.

Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA. UMN's College of Education and Human Development awards several scholarships each year.

University of La Verne View School Profile La Verne, CA

La Verne hosts over 90 academic programs across its four colleges and eight regional campuses. The university also offers several degrees through the Blackboard platform, including an online master of science in child and adolescent development. Students in the program can complete all coursework online or complete some classes on campus.

The program's 39-credit curriculum includes courses like educational psychology, studies in attachment, and cognition and brain development. The program culminates in a practitioner-focused experience or a research-oriented capstone. Distance learners can graduate in 18 months.

To earn admission into La Verne's online master's in child development program, applicants need a minimum 2.75 GPA. All prospective students must also submit a statement of purpose detailing relevant work experience and career objectives and complete a writing assessment and an interview with the program chair.

Missouri State University View School Profile Springfield, MO

MSU provides distance education through the Blackboard platform, delivering over 50 fully online certificates and degrees, including a master of science in early childhood and family development. This program allows working professionals to complete one class at a time around their schedules. Students may also take a full course load and graduate in three semesters.

MSU also offers an accelerated, dual-degree track for learners who want to earn both their bachelor's and master's in child development in five years. Core courses in the program include advanced human development studies and children/families in a diverse society. Learners can use 12 elective credits to personalize their curriculum.

Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students who do not meet this threshold may still enroll if they submit adequate GRE scores. The program accepts up to nine transfer credits.

Southern New Hampshire University View School Profile Manchester, NH

Based in Manchester, SNHU serves over 90,000 online students every year. The university offers roughly online 300 certificates and degrees, including a master's in child development. By taking two courses each10-week term, learners can complete the program in 15 months.

The program's 36-credit curriculum covers topics like theories of personality, cognitive neuropsychology, and ethical practice in psychology. Students learn common psychometric techniques and how to evaluate test results. The curriculum culminates with a capstone project.

SNHU does not require standardized test scores for admission. Applicants must hold a bachelor's in psychology or complete prerequisite coursework. SNHU provides a variety of financial aid, including scholarships and tuition discounts for military personnel.

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

Successful individuals in this field typically excel at multitasking, tolerating long hours, and exhibiting patience when helping children through illness or personal problems.

People who enjoy working with children might benefit from an online master's in child development. Successful individuals in this field typically excel at multitasking, tolerating long hours, and exhibiting patience when helping children through illness or personal problems.

Most master's programs require 30-38 credits and take about two years to complete. Students who enroll in classes while working full time might need three or more years. Many programs require applicants with bachelor's degrees outside of child development to take extra prerequisite courses.

Many students choose a concentration while earning their master's in child development. Common options include counseling, mental health, and education. Students might also select an age group for their focus, such as adolescent or infant development. Picking a specialization can expand graduates' employment opportunities.

In addition to coursework, a master's in child development program might require a thesis. Many graduates find that a teaching license can help them qualify for more jobs and advance their careers. Professionals who want to operate a childcare center need a childcare license, for which requirements vary by state.

Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Child Development Programs

Applicants to most online master's in child development programs need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. Some programs also require work experience, especially from prospective students who hold a bachelor's outside of child development. Many schools require at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA but may offer conditional admission to applicants with lower GPAs.

Prospective students must often submit writing samples, recommendation letters, a statement of teaching philosophy, GRE scores, and an application fee. Applicants with other backgrounds than child development might need to take some prerequisites before enrolling in core courses.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Child Development Program?

A master's in child development program typically offers courses in theory, curriculum development, and legal issues. Students might also get exposure to research methods, communication theory, and principles of assessment.

Master of arts (MA) programs often prepare students for fields like social work, healthcare advocacy, and counseling. Many students pursuing a master of science (MS) degree learn more about psychology and brain development and receive more research-based training.

While courses will differ according to the specific program, below are some of the common courses you will likely encounter in an online master's in child development program.

Social and Historical Perspectives of Early Childhood

This course reviews child development theory's historical progression. Students learn about the various cultural ideas and beliefs that shape how society has cared for children and how those perspectives have changed. Learners also explore the legal, political, and social factors shaping education and childcare practices throughout U.S. history.

Cognition, Language, and Play

Students learn how children develop cognitive functioning and learn to interact with others in various social settings. The course introduces theories explaining how children acquire language and learn to socialize through play. Coursework typically addresses children's development through their eighth year.

Physical Growth and Development

This course can prove helpful to professionals who seek employment in childcare centers and elementary schools. Coursework typically explores how children physically develop from before birth through the eighth year of life. Students also learn how physical activity, nutrition, culture, and family dynamics affect physical, intellectual, and emotional development.

Literacy Development

Aspiring educators, tutors, and reading specialists might find this course useful. Students learn how children acquire reading and comprehension skills and how family dynamics impact literacy development. Additional topics include phonics and learning strategies to help children develop reading proficiency.

Child, Family, and Community

Students pursuing careers in childcare, social or community services, and education typically benefit from this course. Students learn about theories and historical perspectives on how families and communities affect children's growth. Degree-seekers also learn how culture, family upbringing, and identity impact childhood development.

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What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Child Development Degree?

The BLS projects 3% growth for preschool teachers between 2019 and 2029, slower than the projected 4% rate for all occupations. During the same period, the BLS projects 2% job growth for childcare workers. Increasing costs for childcare might reduce some demand for workers. Nevertheless, the need to replace professionals who retire or transfer will still increase.

Are you curious about what you can do with a master's in child development? Find out about child development careers.

Elementary or Secondary School Principal

Principals, vice principals, and other administrators guide faculty and hold them responsible for their lesson plans. These professionals also plan and oversee budgets, create safe school environments, and help ensure that students' academic performance meets district and state requirements. Principals often meet with parents, deal with disciplinary violations, and uphold student conduct codes.

School Counselor

School counselors work at the elementary or secondary level, helping students with personal and academic problems and guiding them in achieving academic goals. These counselors also support students in navigating educational transitions, such as adjusting to a new school or filling out college applications. Counselors also work with parents to address their children's academic and personal needs.

Special Education Teacher

These educators teach children with physical, learning, and intellectual disabilities. Special education teachers create and carry out lesson plans that accommodate special needs and help children learn and succeed in the classroom. Teaching in special education typically requires a bachelor's degree, but educators who obtain a master's in child development can take on administrative roles.

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators work with educators and administrators to create and implement a school's curriculum. These professionals create and recommend educational materials appropriate for different age groups. They also make sure that teachers adhere to best teaching practices and help students meet their learning objectives.

Preschool or Childcare Center Director

These directors oversee all operations that accommodate children's physical, social, and emotional needs while under a center's care. These professionals work with parents to discuss their children's development. Directors also maintain budgets and plan programs with input from other staff. They make sure employees follow company policies and evaluate their performance at regular intervals.

Child Development Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Special Education Careers Child and Adolescent Psychology Careers Behavioral Psychology Careers

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Child Development Programs

Is a master's in child development worth it?

People who enjoy helping children and learning how children grow might find child development a worthwhile career path. Graduates of master's in child development programs can find meaningful work and can earn competitive salaries in managerial roles.

What can I do with a master's in child development?

An online master's in child development can offer various career opportunities. Graduates can go into teaching, childcare, healthcare, and curriculum development. Other professionals work in social or community services, ensuring that children gain access to the programs that they need to grow and thrive.

Is child development a good career?

People with a curiosity about how children develop emotionally, physically, and socially might find child development a rewarding professional path. While jobs in this field do not typically come with high salaries, they can provide the potential to positively influence children during their formative years.

How much money can I make with a master's in child development?

Salaries can vary based on job type and geographic area. According to the BLS, preschool teachers earned a median annual wage of $30,520 in 2019. Professionals looking for managerial positions might find more competitive salaries. For example, preschool and childcare center directors earned a median annual wage of $48,210 in 2019.

What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in child development?

Professionals in administrative positions tend to make higher salaries. According to PayScale, school superintendents earn an average salary of $119,110 per year. The BLS reports that elementary, middle, and high school principals earned a median income of $96,400 in 2019.

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