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.
Featured Online Colleges for Child Development in 2018
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.
Western Oklahoma State College
Tulsa Community College
Craven Community College
Union Institute & University
Hennepin Technical College
West Virginia University at Parkersburg
Concordia University - Saint Paul
Southern New Hampshire University
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:
- Health, Safety and Nutrition for the Young Child
- Interpersonal Communication
- Elements of Psychology
- Child Growth and Experience
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:
- Language Development in Young Children
- Understanding Behavior and Family Dynamics
- Issues in Education
- Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence
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.
- Instructional skills: Childhood is a learning experience, and professionals working with child development need to have a good understanding of what children need to learn and how they can learn it.
- Interpersonal skills: A crucial part of instruction and science both, being able to convey your lessons to your students is just as important as being able to deliver your paper at a scientific conference, and vice versa.
- Organization: Whether you're teaching students directly, studying how to best teach students or instructing others on how to teach students, chances are good you're going to have more documents, studies and reports than you know what to do with. A healthy organizational skillset can prove necessary for one's sanity as the years go by and the papers keep piling up everywhere.
- Physical stamina: This may come as a surprise, but young children are not in fact generally inclined to sitting still. Keeping up with children — be they happy and rambunctious, or upset and fractious — is a job in and of itself, and child developers need the stamina to do so.
- Business and leadership: Don't discount these skills. Those who intend to work in administration, research or post-secondary education will have particular use for them, but a schoolteacher can also make good use of leadership skills to keep a class in line and business principles to motivate students to engage with their work.
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:
- Preschool (center-based)
- Infant/Toddler (center-based)
- Family Child Care (home-based)
- Home Visitor
Those vying for the credential must meet competency standards in six key areas. These include:
- Establishing and maintaining a safe, healthy learning environment
- Advancing physical and intellectual competence
- Supporting social and emotional development and providing positive guidance
- Establishing positive and productive relationships with families
- Ensuring a well-run, purposeful program that is responsive to participant needs
- Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
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 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.
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.
To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
- Offer at least one degree or certificate in that subject online
- 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:
- In-state tuition, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Accessibility, based on the admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- 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
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar programs that the school offers at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- 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