Tens of thousands of organizations in the United States serve children and adolescents (the Boy and Girl Scouts of America are just one example). The work force affiliated with those organizations is increasingly and exponentially looking for experts in child development. Whether you're seeking to specialize in administration or counseling, the programs listed below will prepare you to establish or accelerate your career in child development and early childhood studies. However, it is important to point out that these programs do not include education specializations. One other thing to note is that the tuition rates listed below reflect the cost of the entire program, start to finish. Our data comes from the university and colleges' websites as well as nationally recognized U.S. News and World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
See our rankings methodology page.
Southern New Hampshire University
At Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), you can earn a Master of Science in Psychology online, with a specialization in child and adolescent development. If you’re looking for strictly a psychology degree, you may want to consider SNHU as they will prepare you to understand cognitive behavioral therapy, social psychology, ethical practices, research methodology, and more. No advance tests (e.g., GRE or GMAT) are required for application and the degree can be completed in as little as fifteen months, making this one of the more efficient degree programs on our list. One thing that’s important to note is that SNHU will not license you, but the program will prepare you for licensure.
But perhaps you’re looking for an administrative or leadership approach to child development. Capella University is a for-profit institution accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Though they are located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, their education is delivered online. Their Master of Science in Psychology degree can be achieved alongside a specialization in child and adolescent development.
Michigan State University
Michigan State University is a major public research university located in Michigan’s capital, East Lansing. Their online Master of Arts in Youth Development and Family Community Services is part of the Great Plains IDEA (Interactive Distance Education Alliance) program—a consortium of accredited universities that offer online learning options. If you’re looking to pursue a doctoral degree after accomplishing your masters, the program at Michigan State may be best suited for you. Their MA is specifically designed to guide students into continued study and research. However, if you decide not to take the research track, the professional track—which also covers all areas of infant, toddler, child, and adolescent study—still prepares you for numerous opportunities in the child development work force .
Tuition: non-resident $23,756 / resident $12,092
University of La Verne
Located in La Verne, California, the University of La Verne is a private, nonprofit institution accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Their Master of Science in Child Development degree can be completed fully online, on campus, or a confluence of both. Admission is competitive, requiring a GPA of at least 3.0 or above in undergraduate studies of early childhood. For those interested in the administrative, leadership, professional, and social service aspects of child development, La Verne equips its students for a variety of careers in those areas.
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
The oldest and largest university in Nebraska, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is a public research institution and the flagship university in the University of Nebraska system. They offer a Masters in Science in Child, Youth, and Family Studies with a specialization in Youth Development that can be completed fully online. Part of the Great Plains IDEA (Interactive Distance Education Alliance) this program prepares its students to develop policies, understand normative pathways, work with families as well as agencies and boards, budget, identify cultural pressures, and more. If you’re constrained by either time or finances, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln also offers a certificate in Youth Development.
Tuition: $19,080 ($6,890 for the certificate)
University of Missouri
Earn a Master of Arts in Youth Development at the University of Missouri (Mizzou) and you’ll learn how to integrate conceptual, theoretical, and practical approaches to youth development. Mizzou is a large research institution located in Columbia, Missouri. Their thirty-six credit hour degree program consists of core courses, electives that focus on either substance use or global perspectives, and an internship. Upon graduating, students will be able to perform a number of skills and understand a breadth of areas relating to childhood studies and development, including but not limited to: the impact of cultural contexts; evaluation skills; problem solving; knowledge of local, regional, state, federal, and global policies on youth; advocation, the history of youth development, and more.
University of Southern Mississippi
Designed for working professionals, the Child and Family Studies Masters program at the University of Southern Mississippi takes two years to complete with each term (fall, spring, and summer) consisting of two courses. Graduates go on to become early childhood educators, intervention specialists, sexual health educators, foster care coordinators, nonprofit program managers, college instructors, family program administrators, and more. If you’re looking for a program with a counseling and psychology emphasis, especially one that includes the family dynamic, then the University of Southern Mississippi may be a good fit for you.
At Walden University, the Masters of Science in Early Childhood Studies degree is proffered by the Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership, an institution accredited by the NCATE (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education). You can choose from four specializations: administration, management, and leadership; early childhood public policy and advocacy; teaching adults in the early childhood field; and teaching and diversity in early childhood education. Furthermore, the curriculum at Walden reflects the high standards and professional guidelines of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).