If you love children, consider turning your passion into a profession with one of the best bachelor's degrees in child development.
In these programs, you'll build expertise on the physical, cognitive, social, emotional, moral, and language development of children. You'll also learn about working with children with special needs and from diverse backgrounds. This knowledge allows you to reach and teach the whole child. You'll become a professional who focuses not just on academics, but on social and emotional development too.
After graduating from these programs, you will have the ability to conduct research, design programs, and provide services that positively impact child development. This can lead to a career in education, public policy, social services, counseling, and more.
What kind of Bachelor's in Child Development degree should you get?
Many child development programs offer concentrations or specializations. If you want to direct a daycare or preschool program, become an educator, or work in social services, there's most likely a concentration for you. If you aren't sure about your career goals, you can pursue a more general child development degree.
Another factor to consider is if you want to attend classes on campus or online. There are benefits to each delivery method. The on-campus programs on this list offer face-to-face interaction and a more traditional college experience.
However, online coursework provides flexibility and convenience. While earning an online degree, you can work at your own pace, on your own time. If online classes appeal to you, check out our list of the Best Online Child Development Degrees.
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How much money do people make with a Bachelor's in Child Development degree?
Your salary will depend on what career you choose to pursue. Below, we'll look at the median salary for several potential child development careers. All salary data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Preschool/Childcare Center Director- $46,890
- Social Worker- $47,980
- Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers- $56,900
- Child Life Specialist- $60,380
These careers are all projected to grow as fast or faster than average in the next 10 years. Social worker jobs, for example, are expected to grow by 16 percent, which is much faster than average.
With a master's degree, you can qualify for higher level positions with higher salaries. Of course, earning your bachelor's degree is a required first step.
What can you do with a Bachelor's degree in Child Development?
A bachelor's degree in Child Development can prepare you to work as a teacher, childcare worker, preschool director, child life specialist, behavioral health specialist, or social worker. You can work in private, public, or even government positions interacting with children. You may also develop community and family programs that benefit child development.
In addition, you can pursue graduate work in human development, psychology, education, or public policy. A bachelor's degree in Child Development can open a wide variety of possibilities.
What are the requirements for a Bachelor's degree in Child Development?
To apply for a child development bachelor's degree program, you'll need a high school diploma or equivalent. Some programs will require a certain GPA or test scores. You may be expected to submit letters of recommendation and a personal statement or essay.
Like other bachelor's degree programs, these programs require at least 120 credit hours. In most cases, students must complete hands-on experience in the field. This can include an internship or practicum, and you may be expected to complete independent research.
What are the best Bachelor's in Child Development degrees?
This guide is a list of the best bachelor's degrees in Child Development. To determine which programs are the best, we evaluate factors including school reputation, tuition, and overall return on investment. The programs on this list will provide high-quality education at reasonable prices, setting you up for career success.
To inform our rankings, we gather data only from trusted sources like:
- Princeton Review
- U.S. News and World Report
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Official college and university websites
If you're seeking a rewarding career in child development, these programs will help you achieve your goals.
Top 10 Best Child Development Degrees
See our rankings methodology page.
Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt is a private research university founded in 1873. Sometimes called “the Harvard of the South,” Vanderbilt is ranked one of the top 15 colleges in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. And according to Princeton Review, Vanderbilt is home to the nation’s happiest students. 12,592 students are enrolled in Vanderbilt’s ten schools. Vandy offers a major in child development.
Vanderbilt’s child development major provides a solid background in the behavioral and social sciences relevant to child development. Students examine research methods and major research findings in the field of child development. They also complete independent research and choose an area of focus or expertise in the field. Courses include:
- Developmental Psychology
- Cognitive Aspects of Human Development
- Social and Personality Development
- Children in Families and Schools
- Ethics for Human Development Professionals
Students who complete their sophomore year with at least a 3.2 GPA are eligible for the Child Development Honors program. Vanderbilt’s child development major is excellent preparation for graduate work or education, psychology, medicine, nursing, and public policy. It can also complement a major in special education, early childhood or elementary education, human and organizational development, or cognitive studies.
Tufts is a private research university in Medford, Massachusetts. Founded in 1852, the university offers a unique combination of liberal arts education and research. Tufts enrolls 11,449 students across four campuses. The highly selective university is ranked among the top 30 in the nation. Students choose from over 90 undergraduate majors, including a major in Child Study and Human Development.
The Child Study and Human Development program prepares students to work with diverse groups of children, adolescents, and families. It equips students with the tools to conduct research on child development and discover better methods to help children and youth. Students benefit from applied experience in a variety of settings and in courses such as:
- Intellectual Development in Children
- Childhood Across Cultures
- Personal-Social Development
- Inquiry and Analysis in Child Study and Human Development
- Development of Language
Students choose from seven concentrations including Child and Family Health, Child and Family Policy, Language and Literacy, Atypical Development, and Early Childhood Education. An applied experience or research experience is required. This program can lead to careers including education, law, public policy, medicine and health, and applied research.
Founded in 1889, Clemson University is South Carolina’s second-largest university. The top-25 public university boasts some of the country’s highest retention rates. Its students have been named some of the nation’s happiest for nearly a decade. Known for its beautiful campus, Clemson sits at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The university offers more than 80 undergraduate majors. One option is a major in Early Childhood Education.
Clemson’s Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education is primarily focused on child development. Students learn how children develop in the early years, including early literacy, scientific, and mathematical development. Through hands-on experiences, students learn to work with diverse populations and cultures. Courses include:
- Family, School, and Community Relationships
- Child Growth and Development
- Educational Psychology
- Concepts of Play and Social Development in Infants and Young Children
- Early Intervention Strategies for Young Children with Special Needs
Program faculty is comprised of recognized experts in early childhood. This program is best suited for students who want to teach preschool through third grade. Students complete four practicums, followed by observation and assessment in a clinical setting.
The University of La Verne is a private, not-for-profit university based in La Verne, California. Founded in 1891, the university has expanded to nine campuses throughout Southern California. La Verne holds multiple accreditations and is considered one of the nation’s top-tier universities by U.S. News and World Report. It enrolls over 8000 traditional and adult learners. ULV offers a BS in Child Development.
The Bachelor of Science in Child Development focuses on child development in relation to the family, school, and community. It integrates theory, research, and practice. Students gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence to effectively work with and assist young children. They take courses such as:
- Child Psychology and Development
- Parenting Theory in Cultural Contexts
- Social Emotional Learning
- Early Childhood Literacy
- Infant/Toddler Development
This program is designed for students planning to work in early childhood education or social services. It’s available at several locations and offers flexible scheduling, including weekend and night classes. Ten-week terms accelerate the program, and small class sizes ensure personal attention.
Based in Oakland, California, Mills College is a liberal arts women’s college. It strives to empower innovative and independent thinkers in every field. Mills emphasizes creative experimentation, student-faculty collaboration, and personalized learning. According to U.S. News and World Report, Mills is one of the West’s top regional universities. It offers a broad range of undergraduate programs, including a BA in Child Development.
In the Bachelor of Arts in Child Development Program, students learn about research, theory, and the issues impacting children and families. Through extensive hands-on experience, they learn to design programs, conduct research, and provide services that positively influence child development. You can enroll in courses like:
- Introduction to Development and Learning in Young Children
- Research Methodology for Observing Children
- Child Language Acquisition
- Social, Emotional, and Moral Development and Learning
- History and Theories of Play in Human Development, Culture, and Education
Students get two semesters of on-the-job training at the Mills College Children’s School, the West Coast’s oldest laboratory school. They also have access to the Center for Play Research, the Language Development Lab, and the Early Childhood and Family Research Lab. Students may choose to perform research off campus and co-author articles with faculty.
Florida International University
A public university in Miami, Florida, Florida International is one of the largest universities in the United States. FIU enrolls 57,000 students. It’s ranked one of the top public universities nationwide by U.S. News and World Report. In addition to having a large student population, FIU offers a large selection of academic programs. Among its 190 degree programs is a BS in Early Childhood Education with a Development track.
FIU’s Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education: Development Track emphasizes learning and development in the early childhood years. Students examine the social/emotional, language, and cognitive development of young children within the context of families and communities. Students take courses including:
- Human Growth Development
- Language and Literacy Development
- Educational Psychology
- Social-Emotional Development
- Cultural and Social Foundations of Education
Students must maintain a 2.5 GPA and complete field experiences within a school. Career opportunities include child life specialist, childcare worker, preschool director, and preschool teacher. Students may also pursue additional coursework in education, psychology, human development, or public policy.
Located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, The University of Alabama excels at more than just football. The public research university was founded in 1831 and is Alabama’s oldest and largest university. It is ranked among the nation’s top public universities and is dedicated to excellence in teaching, research, and service. The university enrolls over 38,000 students and provides 197 degree options. One option is a BS in Child Development.
Alabama’s Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Sciences, Human Development and Family Studies is designed for students planning to work in Head Start agencies. Students gain the skills to guide children through one of the most important developmental stages. They learn to design, implement, and evaluate preschool programs. They study parent/child relationships and the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development of children. Courses include:
- Life Span Human Development
- Infancy and Toddlerhood
- Preschool Development
- Parent and Family Development
- Child Centers and Programs
Applications to this program are accepted year-round. Students may apply for prior learning credit, which counts relevant work experience toward your degree. Those not planning to work for a Head Start agency may pursue a separate degree with a concentration in Early Child Development. The program requires a field placement in a preschool.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI
Michigan State is a public research university in Lansing, Michigan. With an extensive history of excellence, MSU is considered one of the world’s top research universities. Twenty-five of its degree programs are ranked in the top 20 nationally by U.S. News and World Report. More than 50,000 students form a vibrant community with over 900 student organizations. MSU offers 200 plus academic programs, including a BA in Child Development.
Students enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Child Development program gain a strong foundation in early childhood development and family studies. The program is appropriate for students planning to work with children from birth through age eight. It requires experiential learning, an internship, or undergraduate research. You can expect to take courses like:
- Diverse Learners in Multicultural Perspectives
- Child Growth and Development
- Interaction with Children in Groups
- Infant Development and Program Planning
- Assessment of the Young Child
Graduates work in Head Start programs, preschools, elementary schools, and in other child-related fields like health care, administration, and policy. Concentrations are available in Preschool Teaching in an Early Childhood Setting and Elementary Education Teacher Certification. The latter requires admission to the teacher preparation program.
A liberal arts college in Berea, Kentucky, Berea College provides a high-quality education with no tuition. Students also receive affordable study abroad options, work experience, a paid internship, and a laptop that is theirs to keep upon graduation. Berea has 1,600 undergraduate students and offers 32 majors. It consistently appears on U.S. News and World Report’s list of “Colleges That Pay You Back.” Berea offers a BA in Child and Family Studies Child Development.
The Bachelor of Arts in Child and Family Studies with a concentration in Child Development emphasizes developmental theories. Students learn about the social, intellectual, moral, psychological, and physical development of children. They explore individual areas of interest like early childhood education, special needs, or methods of childhood guidance. Courses include:
- Lifespan Human Development
- Family Relations
- Family Resource Management
- The Exceptional Child
- Infancy and Early Childhood
Program graduates are employed in centers for early childhood care and/or education as teachers or directors, with parks and recreation services, with community programs, in social service agencies, and as part of hospital healthcare teams as child life specialists. Others have pursued graduate studies or opened their own childcare centers.
Howard University is a private historically black university in Washington, D.C. The research university was founded in 1867 and is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. 10,000 students are enrolled in more than 120 areas of study. Howard excels in STEM fields, social work, business, and communication sciences. It emphasizes excellent teaching, research opportunities, and service. The university offers a BS in Human Development.
Students enrolled in Howard’s Bachelor of Science in Human Development program study individuals and families from a multidisciplinary perspective. Students select a concentration in infancy, childhood, adolescence, or adult development. Coursework focuses on developmental processes within the context of relationships and environment, particularly in underserved populations. In this program, you would take courses such as:
- Human Development, Family, Culture, and Society
- Growth and Development
- Diverse Youth of Color
- Risk and Resilience in Family and Intimate Relationships
- Prenatal, Infancy, and Early Childhood
Students complete an internship and conduct research in human development. They may choose a minor or select electives that reflect their personal career goals. The program offers an Honors Program and an accelerated five-year dual degree program with a BS and MSW in Human Development.
Western Michigan University
Established in 1903, Western Michigan is a public research university in Kalamazoo, Michigan. U.S. News and World Report ranks WMU among the top 100 universities nationally. The university serves over 23,200 students and prepares them for immediate success. Within three months of graduation, 91 percent of WMU graduates are employed in their field. For those planning to work with children, WMU offers a major in Child and Family Development.
WMU’s major in Child and Family Development prepares students to work with infants, toddlers, preschoolers, school-age children, and their families in varied settings. Students may choose to attend classes on campus, online, or in a combination of both. Courses include:
- Lifespan Development
- Family Resource Management
- Diverse Children, Families, and Communities
- Infant and Toddler Development
- Effective Parenting
WMU’s program is approved by the National Council on Family Relations, and graduates may decide to become Certified Family Life Educators. This certification enhances professional credibility and increases employment opportunities.
The world’s largest Christian university, Grand Canyon University is located in Phoenix, Arizona. The private, rapidly-growing campus recently welcomed a record number of students. Over 19,000 students attend classes on campus, with an additional 60,000 enrolled in online courses. GCU’s degree programs are rigorous, engaging, and student-focused. The BS in Behavioral Health Science is no exception.
GCU’s Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science offers an emphasis in Childhood and Early Adolescent Disorders. Students gain a solid foundation in childhood and adolescent development and behavior, particularly childhood/adolescent disorders. They examine the assessment, diagnosis, intervention, and best practices for behavioral health treatment through courses like:
- Introduction to Counseling Theories
- Introduction to Family Dynamics
- Understanding Trauma
- Childhood and Adolescent Disorders
- Introduction to Childhood and Adolescent Physical and Behavioral Health
Students are prepared to work as behavioral health technicians or specialists in a variety of settings. Graduates also become mental health service technicians, social or community service managers, or case managers. They may work in the field of health service management or in government, public, or private agencies.
Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University is a public university located in Hays, Kansas. The rapidly-growing university enrolls over 15,000 students and has 31 academic departments. After graduation, 95 percent of graduates find placement in graduate school or a career. FHSU is considered the Midwest’s leading forward-thinking, entrepreneurial university. Goal-oriented students choose from a variety of programs, including a Bachelor of General Studies with a concentration in Child Development.
FHSU’s Bachelor of General Studies with a concentration in Child Development is designed for early childcare and daycare providers. It focuses on growth, development, and issues in early childhood. The program also explores effective classrooms, instructional technology, and special education. Students complete courses such as:
- The Young Child
- Diverse Learners
- Human Growth and Development
- Programs, Procedures, and Issues in Special Education
- Children’s Literature
The Bachelor of General Studies is a liberal arts degree intended for students pursuing careers that do not require specific bachelor’s degrees. It provides students with a well-rounded, multidisciplinary education. However, students may select a concentration that aligns with their desired career or a field of interest. The degree also provides solid preparation for graduate school.
Founded in 1890, Post University is a private university in Waterbury, Connecticut. Post is an innovative university offering flexible undergraduate and graduate programs both on campus and online. Class sizes are small, and the university is dedicated to providing an extraordinary level of personal support for students. Courses are taught by experts in their field. You may be interested in Post University’s BS in Child Studies.
The Bachelor of Science in Child Studies prepares students to work with children birth through age eight. Through coursework and hands-on experiences, students will acquire the skills and knowledge to support children developing typically and those with special needs. Courses also cover curriculum, assessment, and strategies that promote healthy development. Courses include:
- Home, School, and Community
- Health, Safety, and Nutrition
- Emergent Literacy
- Learning Theory
- Teaching the Exceptional Learners
This program requires a practicum and capstone field experience. When students enroll, they are immediately assigned a team of personal advisors. Advisors assist with financial aid, building schedules, achieving academic success, and even finding a job after graduation.
Siena Heights University is a Roman Catholic university in Adrian, Michigan. The university was founded in the liberal arts tradition in 1919 and sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. In addition to the main campus, Siena Heights has eight degree completion centers and plentiful online offerings. The university serves 2,700 students and offers about 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. One option is a BA in Child Development.
In the Bachelor of Arts in Child Development program, students choose between two tracks. One is for those interested in working with children in contexts like psychology, social work, clinics, recreation, and human services. The other is for future preschool and early education teachers. Students in both tracks share core courses like:
- Child Growth and Development
- Early Literacy: Birth to 5 Years
- Programs for Young Children
- Research in Child Development
- Seminar in Child Development
Students must earn a C- or better in all required courses and an overall 3.0 in child development major coursework. A practicum in child development is also required. Students must submit daily journal entries/reflections, supervisor formative and summative evaluations, and curriculum resources.
Washington State University
Based in Pullman, Washington, Washington State is a public research university founded in 1890. The civic-minded university aims to provide higher education that is both achievable and affordable. WSU also focuses on creativity, discovery, and innovation. It is one of the top research universities in the United States. Over 30,000 Washington State students choose from more than 250 majors and degree programs, including a BA in Human Development.
WSU’s Bachelor of Arts in Human Development examines the complexity of human development. Students explore physical, cognitive, social, and affective development across a variety of contexts. While in the program, students may opt to complete an Early Childhood Certificate. Courses include:
- Human Development Across the Lifespan
- Human Development Theories
- Family Interactions
- Child Development
- Child Maltreatment
Students must maintain a 2.6 or better in all human development courses. Students working toward an Early Childhood Certificate must complete an early childhood practicum. Graduates are prepared to work with families, children, adolescents, and adults in public, private and government settings.
Southern New Hampshire University
While over 3,000 students attend Southern New Hampshire University on campus, more than 90,000 are enrolled in the university’s online programs. U.S. News and World Report considers the university among the nation’s best and most innovative. A BA in Psychology with a concentration in Child and Adolescent Development is one of more than 200 programs at SNHU.
In the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a concentration in Child and Adolescent Development, students gain an in-depth understanding of development from birth through adolescence. Courses emphasize the cognitive, psychological, social, and physical needs of young people. The highly interactive degree provides opportunities for special research projects and experiential learning. Students take courses such as:
- Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence
- Lifespan Development
- Child Development
- Adolescent Development
- Introduction to Psychology
There is no application fee to apply to this program. SNHU boasts some of the lowest tuition rates in the nation. In addition, U.S. service members and spouses of those on active duty receive a 30 percent discount. With a broad liberal arts focus, this program prepares students for a variety of careers, as well as graduate programs in psychology or social services.
Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University was founded in 1906 and is located in Richmond, Kentucky. EKU began as a small teacher’s college and has expanded to serve more than 14,000 students. The university emphasizes scholarship, service, and excellence in education. Students choose from a diverse range of degree programs, including a BS in Child and Family Studies.
Through the Bachelor of Science in Child and Family Studies, students develop the skills to create, implement, and evaluate interventions that improve the quality of life for children and families. Students may choose to pursue a Child Development concentration and complete a practicum in child development. Courses include:
- Child Development: Conception-8 Years
- Interaction and Guidance
- Introduction to Family Life Programs
- Program Planning for Infants and Toddlers
- Program Planning for Preschool Children
Students complete a supervised practicum in programs serving families and young children. These may include organizations in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. A minimum of 160 hours of field experience is required.
With an enrollment of more than 36,500 students, Texas Tech is a large public university in Lubbock, Texas. It was founded in 1923 and is ranked by both Forbes and PayScale for its high return on investment. TTU also regularly appears in national rankings published by U.S. News and World Report and Princeton Review. Among Texas Tech’s many rigorous and rewarding programs is a BS in Early Childhood.
Texas Tech’s Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood is designed for early childhood teachers. It offers a pre-K through 6th grade teaching certification. The program gives future teachers an understanding of the whole child: social and emotional as well as academic. Students also study brain development and risk factors that impact it, in addition to child behavioral issues and the unmet needs these behaviors represent. You can expect courses such as:
- Behavior Management in General and Special Populations
- Programs and Services
- Development During Childhood
- Child/Adolescent Guidance
- Designing Assessments
Students complete two semesters of lab experience. They plan and facilitate student learning experiences, create effective learning environments, and observe a child’s learning and behavior, analyzing and documenting information to share with the family. In addition, students attend weekly field experience placements in a local school.
National Louis University
National Louis University is one of Chicago’s oldest and most progressive universities. It was founded in 1886 and has campuses in Florida, Illinois, and Poland. Across these campuses, the private nonprofit university enrolls 8,000 students. NLU offers more than 60 degree programs. Students interested in early development and education may pursue a BA in Early Childhood Practice.
The Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Practice is not intended for students who wish to become licensed teachers. Instead, it is for students who want to work in childcare, early childhood social services, or other settings with children. All students complete field work experience in infant/toddler and in pre-K. They complete additional field experiences related to their personal career goals. Students also take courses such as:
- Early Childhood Learning, Growth, and Development
- Planning for Quality Infant/Toddler Programs
- Understanding Infant and Toddler Development
- Professionalism and Ethical Engagement with Children, Families and the Community
- Assistive and Instructional Technology
A “C” or better is required in all major coursework, and students must have a minimum 2.5 GPA by junior year. Students who complete the program are eligible to earn the Early Childhood Level 5 credential awarded by Gateways to Opportunity and the Infant/Toddler credential.