Over the years, there have been incredible advances in understanding how the brain develops as it matures, and one of the things we have come to understand is that early childhood is one of the most important periods of development for this highly complex organ. If you love children and want to foster their growth and development at a time and place of your own choosing, earning an online child development degree may be worth considering. By attending an online degree progra for childhood development, you can study the way children grow and learn, gain valuable insight into childhood behavior, and make an lifelong impact in children's lives.

Before you start that application process, it helps to know what some of the best colleges in the field are and why. The following list features 10 online colleges for childhood development, any of which might be the ideal college for your needs. We selected the schools to feature on this list by analyzing data gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) with our unique methodology, which you can learn more about at the bottom of this page.

1

Western Oklahoma State College

Tuition & Fees
$3,878
Distance Education Participation
57%
Number of Programs Offered
10
School Type
2-year

If you're a non-traditional student who needs to get started on a career path, consider Western Oklahoma State College and its accessible Associate in Applied Science in childhood development degree program. Western Oklahoma State has an open admissions policy, which means that they accept any applicant who has a high school diploma or a GED certificate, making their programs easily accessible to a wide range of people.

Coursework for the AAS in childhood development includes an array of introductory lessons, ranging from the study of childhood nutrition, safety and learning methods, to the stages of child development. The program appears to be a popular one, as Western Oklahoma State awarded the second highest percentage of childhood development degrees in 2015, out of all ten schools featured on this list.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

Location:

2801 N Main St
Altus, Oklahoma 73521-1397
2

Tulsa Community College

Tuition & Fees
$3,221
Distance Education Participation
41%
Number of Programs Offered
27
School Type
2-year

Tulsa Community College makes a point of tailoring its educational offerings to the needs of its student body. To this end, the college offers its students a wealth of options for pursuing an education in child development: an Associate of Science program, an Associate of Applied Science program, or one of two certificate programs:

  • Child Development, CDA Preparation
  • Child Development Certificate of Mastery

The Associate of Science degree program is particularly interesting, as Tulsa recommends a specific order of courses for the program that can help you transfer to one of three four-year universities with a head start on a child development bachelor's degree. Tulsa has recommendations for transferring to Oklahoma State University, Northeastern State University and the University of Oklahoma. You can see the schools' website or set up an appointment with one of the child development faculty members if you'd like to learn more about these options.

Accreditation:

  • Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education
  • Higher Learning Commission

Location:

6111 E Skelly Dr
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74135-6198
3

Craven Community College

Tuition & Fees
$2,053
Distance Education Participation
72%
Number of Programs Offered
21
School Type
2-year

Rather than a full associate or bachelor's degree, Craven Community College offers a certificate in early childhood education with a focus in child development. Consisting of only five courses, for a total of 16 credit hours, this certificate is a quick way for the working professional to improve their education in their chosen field or to acquire new knowledge in order to make a career change. The courses involved in this program focus primarily on child development, with one course in psychology in order to provide background for the cognitive side of the child development courses.

This certificate program can be completed online, from the comfort of your own home. If the sound of it is interesting to you, you'll also be glad to know that Craven boasts an open admissions policy, making this program highly accessible to a wide range of candidates.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Location:

800 College Ct
New Bern, North Carolina 28562-4900
4

Union Institute & University

Tuition & Fees
$12,896
Distance Education Participation
100%
Number of Programs Offered
24
School Type
4-year

Union Institute & University has the highest percentage of degrees awarded in child development in 2015 out of all ten schools on this list, all awarded through a single program: a Bachelor's of Science with a major in child and adolescent development. Interestingly, this is a hybrid program, blending some physical presence at the school's Los Angeles or Sacramento classrooms with an online learning element. The goal of the program is to provide a comprehensive perspective of all aspects of the development of children, from birth through adolescence, in order to prepare students for helping children at any of those stages.

With its high percentage of child development degrees and an open admissions policy, Union Institute & University is an option well worth exploring.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Location:

#115, 160 Promenade Cir
Sacramento, CA 95834
5

Hennepin Technical College

Tuition & Fees
$5,198
Distance Education Participation
31%
Number of Programs Offered
5
School Type
2-year

Hennepin Technical College offers programs for both an Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science in child development. According to the school's website, most courses can be completed during the day, evening, or online. While you may be able to complete all your coursework in a web-based format, Hennepin Technical College does require in-person practicums that ensure you gain hands-on experience working with children — a valuable addition to one's education.

In addition to an open admissions policy, Hennepin Technical College had one of the better graduation rates out of the online colleges for child development we profiled — No.4 out of the ten on this list. The school also features one other interesting offering: a child development program that, upon completion, awards a diploma in the subject. If degrees and certificates are not quite what you're looking for, learning more about Hennepin's diploma program might be just what you need.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Member of the HLC Academic Quality Improvement Program

Location:

9000 Brooklyn Blvd
Brooklyn Park, Minnesota 55445
6

West Virginia University at Parkersburg

Tuition & Fees
$3,552
Distance Education Participation
52%
Number of Programs Offered
6
School Type
4-year

West Virginia University at Parkersburg offers three tiers of online learning within the field of child development: a Certificate, Associate or Bachelor's of Applied Science. If you already attend the school, it's worth pointing out that you can take the school's general education courses in person and then transition online for the aforementioned programs. This can be quite convenient if you're expecting a coming change in your lifestyle, such as the birth of a child, a workday- lengthening promotion or a move to another city.

It's important to note, however, that the school's AAS and BAS degree programs still require some face-to-face presence in the classroom; if you need the courses to be completely online, consider the certificate program instead. Further, the school is only authorized to offer online learning in 38 states. Make sure your state of residence is included before you devote yourself to this school's programs.

West Virginia University at Parkersburg earned a spot on this list not only due to its accessibility and open admissions policy, but also its relatively high graduation rate. The fact that you have three different degree programs to choose from based on your educational needs and goals is certainly worth featuring as well.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA)

Location:

300 Campus Drive
Parkersburg, West Virginia 26104
7

Post University

Tuition & Fees
$16,610
Distance Education Participation
93%
Number of Programs Offered
37
School Type
4-year

With Post University's Bachelor's of Science in child studies degree program, you can learn how to create helpful and nurturing educational environments for children while also improving your job prospects. This degree program focuses on understanding the development of children between the ages of newborn and eight, in both private or school environments. When it comes to goals, the program has a wide variety of topics it wishes to impart to its students:

  • Development of learning environments
  • Exposure to and understanding of diverse families and communities
  • Observation and assessment of children's learning
  • Construction of a classroom curriculum
  • Efficient and professional communication

Post University notably achieved the fourth-highest percentage of degrees awarded in child development during 2015, out of all the schools on this list. If you want to earn a bachelor's degree online, make sure to explore the opportunities afforded through this program.

Accreditation:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

Location:

800 Country Club Rd
Waterbury, Connecticut 06708
8

Concordia University - Saint Paul

Tuition & Fees
$21,750
Distance Education Participation
67%
Number of Programs Offered
53
School Type
4-year

Concordia University of Saint Paul, a Christian liberal arts university founded in 1893, offers a Bachelor of Arts in child development that can be completed online. The online portion of the degree program requires only 47 credits. However, a full 120 credits are needed to earn a bachelor's degree. In other words, this degree program was created for students who already have some of their college coursework completed.

Students of this program are required to complete fieldwork in a licensed child care or early childhood learning center. This fieldwork may consist of observing children and staff; interviewing teachers and program administrators; or many other activities related to the topics of coursework. Students are not required to be employed in a licensed child care or early childhood learning center. Your Enrollment Counselor can provide more details.

One interesting aspect of Concordia University from our data is that it has the second-highest graduation rate of all ten schools featured on this list. Another interesting aspect, stated directly by university itself, is that 92 percent of their graduates find jobs after graduation — an encouraging number for a prospective career-minded student.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission

Location:

1282 Concordia Ave
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55104-5494
9

Grayson College

Tuition & Fees
$2,904
Distance Education Participation
50%
Number of Programs Offered
5
School Type
2-year

Grayson College offers an online Associate of Applied Science in Child Development. This program is perfect for students who want to earn a two-year degree around their busy schedules. You can even get started on enrollment and orientation right from their website, without ever needing to visit the campus!

Grayson College's open admissions policy ensures that, so long as you have a high school diploma or GED certificate, you can qualify to get started in their program. Another feature that helped Grayson College earn a spot on this list is the array of important features their degree programs offer. Once you sign up, you'll gain access to online academic advising, online video chat with advisers and other helpful resources.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Location:

6101 Grayson Drive
Denison, Texas 75020-8299
10

Southern New Hampshire University

Tuition & Fees
$31,136
Distance Education Participation
93%
Number of Programs Offered
106
School Type
4-year

SNHU offers a dynamic bachelor's degree program that is perfect for students interested in child development and psychology. Earning this school's online Bachelor's of Arts in psychology with a concentration in child & adolescent development can start you on a fulfilling path toward understanding children's development and improving their lives. Not only does this program feature courses intended to teach you about traditional childcare and learning settings, but its psychology courses could help you to start a career in a clinic or hospital setting.

A high admissions rate — the highest of any school on this list that does not have an open admissions policy — made including Southern New Hampshire University on this list an easy decision. Further, this school earned the No.1 spot for graduation rates among all other child development programs featured on this page.

Accreditation:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc., (NEASC) through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE)

Location:

2500 North River Road
Manchester, New Hampshire, 03106-1045

Degree Overview: Child Development

Those seeking online child development degrees have a wide range of options, depending upon their ultimate career goals. From certificates for entry-level workers to PhDs for those who want to engage in clinical counseling or research, child development programs can be taught through many different courses and impart many different skills. Here's a general overview of some of the more common courses and skills child development students may encounter at the different levels of available programs.

Online Child Development Courses

Certificate or associate degree in child development

The first step in childhood development lies in the Child Development Associate Credential (CDA). Earning the CDA usually takes less than a year, and the college courses taken during that time can often be transferred to an associate degree program in child development. The CDA is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education.

Those who choose the associate degree program in child development can complete coursework in two years or less. Common courses in this program include:

Any online child development program, from associate all the way to doctorate, may require the completion of field work in order to graduate. Often, colleges will have agreements with many schools and systems in different locations so that online students can complete the necessary field work at a local school in their area, even at quite a distance from the college.

Online bachelor's degree programs in child development

Those who want better opportunities for advancement can opt for a bachelor's degree program in child development. This program typically takes four years to complete, though accelerated programs might require less time. The courses for a bachelor's degree program can cover a wide variety of topics, from the value of play in learning to language and development milestones. Some of the more widespread classes in these programs include:

Students at this level may choose to specialize in a particular area of child development, such as child psychology. They can also choose to take certain elective courses in preparation for their child development program at the graduate level.

Master's degrees and PhD options for child development

When students reach the master's level, they can expect targeted, rigorous courses that go further in-depth on child development topics or focus on a particular concentration, such as Early Childhood Mental Health, Child and Adolescent Psychology or Social and Community Settings, to name a few. A master's degree program can take anywhere from 18 months to a few years to complete.

Students who want to work in clinical studies or research often opt to put in the work to earn a doctorate in child development. PhD programs allow students to blaze their own path with highly individualized courses that focus on their interests in the field, as well as set the stage for long-term research opportunities. Such programs can be exacting and take several years to complete, but they can also unlock one-of-a-kind career opportunities that make them worth the hard work.

Career-Related Skills to Develop

No job requires one single, simple skill to assure success, and child development is no different. Many different skills can be a boon when working in this foundational field; here are a few of the more prominent.

Child Development Specializations

Those in the field of child development will become quite familiar with the most popular certification available to them: the Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential. This renowned credential is widely-recognized in the world of early childhood education and serves as a vital stepping stone for those who want to enhance their career.

Earning the CDA requires 120 hours of formal education in a variety of related subjects, such as health and safety, childhood nutrition, child growth and development and more. Students can specialize their experience to gain a credential in various areas of child development, including the following:

Those vying for the credential must meet competency standards in six key areas. These include:

The credential must be renewed every three years. Renewal consists of paying a fee, filling out an application and providing a training verification form and other information as required by the Council for Professional Recognition.

Students can take the credential one step further with the Bilingual Specialization, designed for those who work with children who use more than one language in their everyday lives. There is also the CDA Professional Development Specialist credential, an option for those who want to provide mentoring and coaching for newcomers to the world of early childhood education and child development.

Child Development Career Outlook

Those interested in child development will be pleased to learn there are many career options available to them. Here are a few of the careers that allow graduates to work closely with children and families in order to help their clients reach their full potential.

Developmental Services Workers
Average Salary
$46,050
Projected Job Openings
13,300
Projected Job Growth
8.1
Entry-level Education
master's degree

Developmental services workers focus on promoting the physical, emotional and social well-being of those with special needs. The job requires effectively communicating with those who might have limited verbal skills and understanding; creating effective behavioral programming plans; administering medications safely and accurately; and assisting those with special needs with integrating into the community. They might choose to specialize in order to help clients who have certain issues, such as those with autism, traumatic brain injury, mental illness or dementia.

In most cases, developmental services workers can start their career with an associate degree. However, those who want to improve their counseling skills can opt for a bachelor's degree in social work. Development services workers careers can be found in a variety of settings, including schools, private homes, community centers, residential programs, vocational day programs, long-term care and more.

Child, Family and School Social Workers
Average Salary
$49,760
Projected Job Openings
36,900
Projected Job Growth
7.3
Entry-level Education
Bachelor's degree

Offering support to children and families is an often rewarding job, and one that falls under the purview of child, family and school social workers. These professionals strive to improve the social and psychological well-being of children and their families, with the goal of providing broader well-being of all family members, better academic success for children and much more.

Those who work in schools serve both students and teachers in dealing with issues of academics, truancy, misbehavior and the like. They often work closely with guidance counselors to help students achieve their greatest potential. Meanwhile, professionals in child and family services might facilitate foster care and adoptions, work with the court system to ensure the best health and safety of children who have been abused or neglected, and serve as a point of contact for a wide range of community resources for families.

In most cases, a bachelor's degree is the minimum for entry into the profession, though those who want higher levels of responsibility and the ability to advance must earn the master's degree or higher. Licensing and credential requirements vary by state.

 
Sources
Methodology

To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:

  1. Offer at least one degree or certificate in that subject online
  2. Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2015-16

Once we had our list of schools for each subject, we ranked them on six criteria:

  1. In-state tuition, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  2. Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  3. Accessibility, based on the admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  4. Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded by the school in 2015-16 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  5. Related subjects, based on the number of similar programs that the school offers at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  6. Variety of degree levels, based on the number of degree and certificate levels out of a possible nine that the school offers in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
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