Best Master’s in Child Development Degrees

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You love children. Equip yourself with the skills to be a leader in the Early Childhood field with a Master’s in Child Development.

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Science has proven it—the most important time for human development is childhood. And if you want to work with young children—ensuring that they grow up into healthy, productive adults—you’ll need a foundational, research-based understanding of child development.

Working with young children is not easy.

Whatever professional role you see yourself in —whether in teaching, social services, or administration—a Master’s in Child Development will equip you with the leadership skills and knowledge you need. And for a rewarding career in the Early Childhood field, you’ll need an education that is up to the task.

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Top 10 Master’s in Child Development Degrees

What kind of Child Development degree should you get?

Depending on whether you want to teach or pursue a different career with young children, you’ll have to choose between a Master’s in Child Development specifically or a Master’s in Early Childhood Education (which covers child development with an eye to learning in the classroom).

You may also be trying to decide between a campus-based program and an online one. While both modes of delivery offer distinct advantages, if convenience or flexibility are two of your top priorities you might want to look closely at online options. Online degree programs are both convenient and equally as rigorous as their campus-based counterparts—and they are often more affordable as well.

If you’re interested, check out our ranking of the Best Online Master’s in Child Development Degrees.

How much money do people make with a Child Development degree?

There are a lot of different career possibilities with a graduate degree in Child Development. And that means a broad range in salary possibilities. A rule of thumb in education though, is that a master’s degree is a major asset when it comes to your pay ceiling. Here are a few numbers (as cited by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) for guidelines:

  • Preschool and Childcare Center Director: $45,790 (median)
  • Elementary School Teachers: $55,490 (median)
  • Special Education Teacher (Kinder and Elementary School): up to $90,260

What can you do with a degree in Child Development ?

A master’s degree in Child Development opens the doors to many different careers. Whether you’re interested in education, advocacy, administration, counseling, or program development—you’ll probably find a job that fits you. Child development specialists work in the public and private spheres and at all levels of leadership and influence. A few other jobs you might land in include:

  • Special Education Teachers
  • Parent Educator
  • Early Childhood Education Consultant
  • Social Worker
  • Preschool Director
  • Child Life Specialist

What are the requirements for a degree in Child Development ?

Most master’s degrees in Child Development are building on a foundation of knowledge gained in an undergraduate program—usually in education, child development, or a closely related discipline like social work or counselling. If you’re lacking the right academic background, though—dont worry! Many schools offer prerequisite courses to bring you up to speed on the essentials. You will probably also need to provide GRE scores.

What are the best Master’s in Child Development?

At College Choice we look at a variety of essential factors to rank programs according to both academic excellence and return on investment. First we ensure that all schools on our rankings are regionally accredited—this guarantees that your credits will be recognized by employers and other institutions. Many programs have further accreditations as well—from agencies like the NCATE, CAEP, or NAEYC.

We then compile data from program websites as well as publicly available sources like the National Center for Education Statistics, Payscale, and U.S. News and World Report—in addition to other niche rankings. We believe our score will give you a good idea of the quality of program you will encounter as a student.

We hope this ranking helps you find a great Child Development program!

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. University of Minnesota-Institute of Child Development
    Location

    Minneapolis, MN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located along the banks of the Mississippi in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, the University of Minnesota is a highly ranked national research university. The school offers stellar graduate programs through a number of acclaimed graduate colleges. And UMN’s top-ranking College of Education is home to an Institute of Child Development which is recognized as a premier center for child study and research.

    Program Features

    The University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development offers an M.Ed. / initial licensure in Early Childhood Education. The curriculum focuses on child development theory, research, and developmentally appropriate methodology, preparing graduates to teach students in their early years. With a strong emphasis on individual and diverse learners, you’ll be equipped with a variety of instructional strategies to help students succeed. Courses include:

    • Learning, Cognition, and Assessment
    • Social and Philosophical Foundations of Early Childhood Education
    • Reading Instruction in the Elementary Grades

    Notables

    The University of Minnesota’s M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education is a 57-60 credit program offered as a collaboration between the Institute of Child Development and The Department of Curriculum and Instruction. In addition to required coursework, students gain a strong experiential base through clinical experiences in the Shirley G. Moore Laboratory School and in local urban and suburban public schools.

  2. SUNY at Albany
    Location

    Albany, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Part of the acclaimed State University of New York system (SUNY), SUNY at Albany is a public, nationally-ranked, comprehensive research university. The University boasts highly ranked programs in a number of areas and as well as a very diverse student body. SUNY Albany is also home to a top-ranked School of Education(U.S. News and World Report).

    Program Features

    The University at Albany’s School of Education offers a TEAC-accredited Master of Science in Early Childhood Education. The degree program leads to a New York professional teacher certification in the area of Early Childhood (B-2). The program is designed to foster pedagogical knowledge and teaching skills. And students learn to document and analyze student learning—as well as their own teaching. Courses include:

    • Classroom Literacy Instruction
    • Language Acquisition
    • Assessment in Education

    Notables

    The University at Albany’s M.S. in Early Childhood Education is a 30-credit program comprised of 27 credits of required coursework, one elective, and a final culminating project. This program is available at both the University at Albany’s campus or entirely online. The certification option for this degree is an approved teacher preparation program with the New York State Education Department—it will not, however, provide Literacy Specialist certification.

  3. University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Location

    Birmingham, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in the heart of the biggest city in Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is a public research university and part of the University of Alabama system. Also known as UAB, the school ranks among the top 100 public national universities in the country and is home to a nationally recognized School of Education (U.S. News and World Report).

    Program Features

    UAB’s School of Education offers a Master of Education in Early Childhood Education that prepares students for an advanced career as a preschool, kindergarten, or elementary school teacher. Students gain a strong pedagogical foundation, including child development, developmental reading, primary math methods and classroom management. And course instructors are highly qualified in their fields. Courses include:

    • Readings in Teaching and Learning
    • Childhood Education
    • Critical Pedagogy Advocacy and Collaboration

    Notables

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education is a 30-credit program comprised of required coursework, electives, and a required practicum experience in an ECE classroom. UAB offers Saturday and summer classes to accommodate working students as well as online courses. In order to be admitted to the program you must hold a valid Alabama bachelor’s level professional educator certificate in Early Childhood.

  4. Kennesaw State University - Bagwell College of Education
    Location

    Kennesaw, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in the small city of Kennesaw, Georgia, Kennesaw State University is a large public research university and a member of the University System of Georgia. The school is home to both a vibrant and diverse campus culture and nationally ranked programs. Kennesaw delivers its programs through 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, including the Bagwell College of Education.

    Program Features

    Kennesaw State University’s College of Education offers an NCATE-accredited Master of Education in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. Designed for certified Early Childhood Education teachers, the program will deepen your understanding of the ECE field and improve your practice. Students also earn an additional endorsement or KSU certificate in a number of areas, including:

    • Reading Endorsement
    • ESOL Endorsement
    • Gifted Endorsement
    • Online Teaching Endorsement

    Notables

    Kennesaw State University’s M.Ed. in Elementary and Early Childhood Education is a 36-credit program comprised of required courses, endorsement electives, and a Capstone Course. The program is cohort-based and takes four semesters to complete, beginning in the summer semester and ending the following summer. KSU designed the program with teachers’ busy schedule in mind and is available entirely online.

  5. University of Dayton
    Location

    Dayton, OH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in Dayton, Ohio, the University of Dayton is a private, Catholic, national research university and the second largest private university in Ohio. The school ranks at #124 among national universities – and as one of the top 100 Best Value Schools in the country (U.S. News and World Report). The University of Dayton is also home to a highly ranked School of Education.

    Program Features

    The School of Education and Health Sciences at the University of Dayton offers a unique Master of Science in Transdisciplinary Early Childhood Education. This program brings professionals from a variety of disciplines together to share information and develop expertise that benefits young children. Graduates are qualified for the Early Childhood License, Early Intervention Specialist License, Early Intervention Certificate and/or Pre-K Special Needs Endorsement. Courses include:

    • Introduction to Transdisciplinary Early Childhood
    • Integrated Curriculum for Preschool
    • Developmentally & Individually Appropriate Practice

    Notables

    The University of Dayton’s M.S. in Transdisciplinary Early Childhood Education is a (minimum) 30-credit program comprised of required courses, electives, and an internship in an inclusive early childhood educational setting. The program is available both on campus or online and is delivered in a cohort format. This means that students work through required courses as a group—beginning in the summer term.

  6. University of La Verne
    Location

    La Verne, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Situated on a beautiful campus in the small city of La Verne—just 35 miles from Los Angeles— the University of La Verne is a nationally-ranked private, non-profit university. The school offers professional preparation with a liberal arts grounding. The LaFetra College of Education offers high-quality programs that help teachers develop the skills they need to have a positive impact in the classroom.

    Program Features

    The LaFetra College of Education at La Verne University offers a Master of Science in Child Development that equips child development professionals with the necessary skills to better the lives of children. The curriculum blends theoretical concepts with practical knowledge, including hands-on teaching experiences. Graduates are prepared to assume leadership roles in a variety of positions in the child development field. Courses include:

    • Educational Psychology
    • Methods of Research
    • Human Development

    Notables

    The University of La Verne’s M.S. in Child Development is a 33-credit program comprised of nine credits of core courses, 18 credits in the concentration area, and six credits of graduate seminars and a culminating project. This degree will enable a student to qualify to teach in a California community college. And because courses are offered both on campus and online, students have the option of taking face-to-face courses, online courses, or a combination of the two.

  7. Brenau University
    Location

    Gainesville, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Situated in the city of Gainesville, Georgia, Brenau University is an innovative, private, four-year university with several regional campuses. The school places an emphasis on the integration of professional preparation with a foundational liberal arts education. Brenau University currently ranks at #57 among regional universities in the South and as a “Best Value” school in the region (U.S. News and World Report).

    Program Features

    Brenau University’s College of Education offers an NCATE-accredited Master of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. This is an initial certification program for individuals who have completed an undergraduate degree in any field. The comprehensive curriculum covers pedagogical theory and methods as well as extensive clinical practice to ensure that teachers are job-ready on graduation. Courses include:

    • Introduction to Teacher Education
    • Understanding & Managing Learners
    • Instructional Practices & Assessment

    Notables

    Brenau University’s M.A.T. in Early Childhood Education is a 54-57 credit program (depending on which clinical experience you choose). The curriculum is comprised of seven Professional Development courses, nine Methods and Content courses, and either student teaching or an internship experience. The program is available on campus in Gainesville, Augusta, North Atlanta/Norcross, and South Atlanta/ Fairburn as well as online.

  8. Biola University
    Location

    La Mirada, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located just outside Los Angeles, California, Biola University is a private, evangelical Christian university that ranks at #159 among national universities (U.S. News and World Report). Biola University is one of the leading Christian universities in the country and has a mission to provide biblically centered education through its wide range of innovative degree programs.

    Program Features

    Biola University’s School of Education offers a Master of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in Early Childhood Education for those who wish to work in the public or private system. The concentration  provides a foundation in the developmental, social, academic, cultural, and spiritual needs of young children. Graduates of Biola’s Early Childhood program are eligible to apply for a Child Development Permit from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Courses include:

    • Childhood Development: Birth through Adolescence
    • Early Childhood Curriculum
    • Classroom Management in Early Childhood Settings

    Notables

    Biola University’s M.A. in Teaching, Early Childhood program is a 30-credit program comprised of 14 credits of core courses, 18 credits in the EC concentration, and a capstone project. All students complete a practicum as an essential part of the curriculum, and the entire program can be completed in as few as 18 months. Biola’s Teacher Preparation Program is accredited by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and by the Association of Christian Schools International.

  9. University of South Florida
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1956 in Tampa, Florida, the University of South Florida is a nationally ranked, public research university and a member institution of the State University System of Florida. With a commitment to small class sizes and community engagement, students gain a rigorous, applicable education. USF is home to a highly acclaimed College of Education—currently ranked at #93 nationally (U.S. News and World Report).

    Program Features

    The College of Education at the University of South Florida offers a highly affordable, CAEP-accredited Master of Education in Early Childhood Education. The goal of USF’s Early Childhood curriculum is to develop knowledgeable, responsible, and innovative professionals, committed to creative, dynamic classrooms. The program has a social justice orientation, embracing diversity in all its forms. Courses include:

    • Early Childhood Play and Learning
    • Diversity in Home and School
    • Cognition, Comprehension, and Content Area Reading

    Notables

    The University of South Florida’s M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education is a (minimum) 33-credit program comprised of ECE core courses, courses in a chosen focus area, and a comprehensive exam. This degree is not an initial teacher certification degree but is designed to advance early childhood education practitioners’ knowledge and skills. If you don’t have an academic background in ECE, USF offers pre-requisite courses to prepare you for the program.

  10. Northern Arizona University
    Location

    Flagstaff, AZ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in Flagstaff, AZ, Northern Arizona University is a large public research university. The school prides itself on its many student-centered programs—as well as a commitment to research, public service, and creative endeavors. NAU is also home to a nationally-ranked School of Education that offers collaborative, rigorous programs in a number of areas, including Early Childhood Education.

    Program Features

    Northern Arizona University offers a CAEP-accredited Master of Education in Early Childhood Education which adheres to the standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Students gain the latest in child development theories and developmentally effective teaching and learning techniques. Graduates will be ready for an advanced career working with pre-school and primary-level children. Available emphasis areas are:

    • Early Childhood Teacher
    • Early Childhood Leadership
    • Early Childhood National Board Preparation

    Notables

    Northern Arizona University’s M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education is a 30-credit program  comprised of 12 credits of core courses and 18 credits in your chosen emphasis area. NAU’s program has received national recognition from the NAEYC, guaranteeing a solid grounding in child development. And if you need added flexibility, NAU’s program is available on the Flagstaff and Yuma campuses, as well as completely online (or in a blended format).

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