A Master’s in Child Development is the ideal degree for those who already have experience with teaching or working with children.
A Master’s not only increases salary and career opportunities, but also increases one’s chances of delving into deeper research relating to adolescent issues. In addition, an online degree is perfect for working professionals who may not have the time commitment of a traditional degree.
Many online Master’s can be finished within two years, giving graduates a good time frame to adjust to a new career or higher position within their desired field.
What kind of Child Development degree should you get?
There are many degrees within the field of adolescent care that are not directly titled “Child Development,” so it is important to have clear career goals before choosing a program.
For those that are interested in going into counseling, a psychology degree focusing on childhood behavior and development may be ideal. If you want to go into teaching, degrees with an emphasis on childhood program development are a good option.
In addition, if social work is an ideal career, many schools offer a Master’s in Social Work with specializations in child development. For all of these paths, students should check to see if the program leads into a licensure program to practice within the state he/she wishes to work.
In addition, those who are already working professionals may wish to consider an online program instead of a traditional one that requires daily on-campus visits. Take a look at our ranking of the Top Online Universities to learn more about online education.
How much money do people with a Master’s in Child Development make?
Those with a Master’s can make significantly more than those with only a Bachelor’s. For example, a director of an educational program or private school with a preschool can earn a beginning salary of $60,000 with a potential pay rise of up to $100,000 after many years of experience.
An early childhood special education teacher pays an average of $77,000 which can increase to almost $100,000 throughout the career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we can expect a 7% job growth increase for preschool and childcare center directors and a 6% job growth increase for kindergarten and elementary school teachers between the years of 2014 and 2024.
What can you do with a Child Development degree?
There are a lot of versatility with a degree in Child Development, however many graduates go into a career involving advocacy or education surrounding childhood issues. Popular careers are counseling, teaching, program development, program advisor, social work, etc.
Some people may even be hired into healthcare programs involving childhood health or work in different governmental branches. More specific career paths are available for those who carry a specific license (ie. counseling, teaching, etc.) to practice.
What are the requirements for a Master’s in Child Development?
Many Master’s in Child Development require a Bachelor’s in a relating field such as psychology, education, or another specific degree related to children or family development.
Those with an unrelated Bachelor’s can still obtain this degree, provided that they take a few additional general education courses to gain a foundation in child development theories. No other specific admission tests are required for this major other than the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) that most Master’s programs require.
What are the best Master’s in Child Development?
College Choice has ranked the Best Online Master’s in Child Development degrees within the nation. Data was compiled from the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDs database, Payscale, the U.S. News & World Report, and individual college websites.
Institutional excellence was ranked based on the college’s endowment, reputation, student-to-faculty ratio, graduation rate, etc. Overall student success was ranked based on average amount of financial aid received, expected entering salary upon graduation, etc.
See our rankings methodology page.
University of Southern Mississippi
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $11,916
The University of Southern Mississippi was founded in 1910 and has grown from a small teachers’ college to a leader in academic research. In addition to offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees, the university also has an extensive online education program. According to an AffordableCollegesOnline.org 2015-16 ranking, USM’s online degrees have been recognized among the best in the state of Mississippi.
USM’s fully online Master’s in Child and Family Studies is an interdisciplinary program that is great for students who wish to go to school part-time. Topics include family life education, early childhood development, child development, public health, etc.
- 37-hour non-thesis and thesis options available; two calendar year estimated completion time
- Sample Courses: Family Advocacy, Theories in Childhood Development, Intimate Relationship Development, Adulthood and Aging in the Family System, etc.
- Use of the online system, Canvas, which is used by over 3,000 institutions within the U.S.
Students are able to enter into a variety of careers within academia, human and social services, or child development upon graduation. Some careers that graduates pursue are child life specialist, foster care coordinator, nonprofit manager, etc.
Grand Canyon University
College Choice Score: 98.58
Average Net Price: $21,168
Grand Canyon University is a private Christian university located in Phoenix, Arizona. Through its strong Christian identity and commitment to faith and education, GCU offers Bachelor’s, Master’s, and doctoral degrees both in the traditional classroom setting and online.
GCU’s online MS in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders is geared towards those who wish to pursue a career as a professional counselor. This program will prepare students to serve as advocates for children with behavioral and cognitive health issues.
- 74-credit eight-week program
- Sample Courses: Counseling Theories, Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychopathology and Counseling, Developmental Disabilities, etc.
Students will be exposed to a variety of issues through real-life experiences. Upon graduation, graduates will be prepared to act as a professional counselor in various fields such as in the area of mental health, behavior health, childhood development, etc.
College Choice Score: 98.34
Average Net Price: $16,538
Capella University is a university dedicated to educating working professionals. The university offers two online experiences, either through GuidedPath (self-paced) or FlexPath (class schedule), allowing students to pick which type of format is best for their own goals.
Capella’s online MS in Psychology with a Child and Adolescent Development Specialization prepares graduates to serve as a leader in the areas of mental health, social, and education issues. This program offers flexible learning times as well as different payment options.
- Sample Courses: Child Psychology, Lifespan Development, Human Prenatal Development, etc.
- Strong emphasis on foundational psychology to ensure professional readiness
Capella University has received numerous recognitions. In 2016, the university was a recipient of the Excellence in Assessment Award. In 2015, the school won the 2015 Eduventures Innovation for its commitment to stewarding higher education.
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
College Choice Score: 95.97
Average Net Price: $16,242
The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is among the nation’s most prestigious public research universities and is the flagship university of the University of Minnesota. UMN offers several online undergraduate, graduate, and certificate degree programs that are either fully online, primarily, or partially online.
UMN’s MA in Applied Child and Adolescent Development is a fully online, 32-credit program offered through the College of Education and Human Development.
- Three tracks: Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, Child Life, and Individualized Studies
- Sample Courses: Prevention and Intervention in Early Childhood, Developmental Perspectives on Illness and Injury in Healthcare, Introductory Statistical Methods, etc.
- Child Life graduates are eligible for the Child Life Professional Certification Examination and the Association of Child Life Professionals Eligibility Assessment
Depending on the track, students will have access to different scholarships or internships. For example, there is the Irving B. Harris Foundation diversity scholarship for those studying in the mental health track. For the Child Life track, an internship at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital is offered.
West Virginia University
College Choice Score: 95.50
Average Net Price: $10,814
West Virginia University was established in 1862 as a land-grant university and has since become a leader in innovation, focusing green initiatives. According to the U.S. News & World Report, WVU is ranked among the top public universities for the year of 2017. It was also ranked among the top 1.5% of universities in the world by The Center for World University Rankings.
WVU’s online MA in Educational Psychology with a Child Development and Family Studies Emphasis prepares students to directly enter into the workforce or into a doctorate program upon graduation.
- 33-credit program: core courses, electives, and thesis
- Sample Courses: Statistical Methods, Educational Psychology, Multivariate Methods, etc.
- Plenty of opportunity for research: WVU Child Development Laboratory (nursery school), Program Evaluation and Research Center (PERC), Peer-to-Peer Learning Lab
WVU graduates of this program have entered into wide variety of careers after receiving their degree. For example, some have become employed by community health care agencies, elementary school teachers, or directors in hospitals.
College Choice Score: 95.02
Average Net Price: $8,808
Northcentral University’s mission is to provide education for professionals, mentoring them one-on-one to prepare them to become strong leaders within their community. All courses are at the graduate level and offered entirely online.
NCU’s online MS in Child and Adolescent Psychology trains graduates to become advocates for children, adolescents, and their families.
- 30-credit program; 10 courses; 20-month estimated completion time
- Option of completing a 100-hour internship in the field
- Flexible Start Dates: classes start every Monday
Graduates may enter into careers in the education, government, health, etc. fields in positions where clinical training is not necessary. Some example careers include early education center advocacy, social services administration, or government policy maker.
Purdue University Global
College Choice Score: 94.79
Average Net Price: $17,784
Purdue University Global is an institution of higher learning that offers both campus-based and online programs. Founded by Stanley H. Kaplan in 1938, the university started as a tutoring service and is still part of Kaplan Inc, a company dedicated to preparing students for higher education. Kaplan merged with Purdue University to become Purdue University Global in 2018. Purdue’s mission is to foster learning at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional level.
Purdue University Global’s online MS in Human Services is designed for students who wish to enter into careers that strive for positive change for families and communities.
- Two concentrations: Family and Community Services; Organizational and Social Services
- Sample Courses: Developing and Delivering Family Services, Organizational Nonprofit Management, Internship, etc.
- Three start dates for maximum flexibility
Due to the nation’s rapidly growing senior population, there is an increasing for social services. This degree program is perfect for this growing need, and thus graduates have entered into relevant positions such as a community service manager, development director, or a nonprofit manager.
University of La Verne
College Choice Score: 93.36
Average Net Price: $22,284
The University of La Verne is a private university that was founded in 1891. Valuing improvement and innovation, La Verne is implementing its 2020 Strategic Vision plan, aimed at increasing its educational excellence and opportunities. Its Master of Science in Child Development degree is housed in the LaFetra College of Education, which offers small class sizes and flexible class schedules.
La Verne’s online MS in Child Development is ideal for those who wish to enter into a profession dedicated to increasing the welfare of children.
- 33-credit program
- Sample Courses: Human Development, Assessment in Early Childhood, Cognition and Brain Development, etc.
- Opportunities to gain classroom teaching experience
The LaFetra College of Education is currently partnered with the Fairplex Child Development Center, where students have the opportunity to serve families and children through teaching. This is a great way for students to have a head-start in their career, particularly if they are heading in the education route.
University of South Florida
College Choice Score: 92.89
Average Net Price: $11,398
The University of South Florida is a global research university that was founded in 1965 and has three different institutions: USF, USF St. Petersburg, and USF Sarasota-Manatee. USF is currently ranked among the top 100 best public research institutions according to the U.S. News & World Report. USF Tampa’s graduate programs are also ranked among the best graduate schools in the nation.
USF’s online MS in Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health offers four concentrations and two different tracks to truly direct students into their future career either in the professional or academic world.
- Thesis and Non-Thesis track available
- Concentrations: Developmental Disabilities, Leadership in Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health, Research & Evaluation, and Youth & Behavioral Health
- Sample Courses: Cultural Competency in Children’s Mental Health, Evaluation & Research Methods in Community Health, etc.
USF has several community partners that give students the chance to gain field experience. For students who go the non-thesis track, they will have to complete 60 credits of field experience, or 200 working hours at an agency in the field of behavioral health.
College Choice Score: 92.18
Average Net Price: $18,235
Ashford University is an online university that offers degree programs at associates, Bachelor’s, and Master’s levels. Diversity, affordability, inclusivity, and innovation are just a few of the values Ashford strives to uphold. By integrating the latest technology into their online learning experience, students will have 24/7 access to their learning materials as well as several online resources to pursue their degree on their own time.
Ashford’s online MA in Education with a specialization in Early Childhood Education directs students to become leaders in the nation’s education system. Students will be able to grow professionally by gaining hands-on teaching experience.
- 36-credit program with each class lasting 6 weeks
- Four three-credit Early Childhood Education specialization courses
- Sample Courses: Learning & Assessment for the 21st Century, Meeting Individual Student Needs with Technology, Family & Community Engagement, etc.
Some future careers within the field of education include Dean of Students, policy analyst, program director, etc. Graduates will also be prepared to take the necessary tests to become a licensed teacher within the state they wish to teach.
Southern New Hampshire University
College Choice Score: 91.71
Average Net Price: $34,984
Southern New Hampshire University is a private institution that has over 80,000 online students. An SNHU education puts strong emphasis on technology and professional development. The university has won many national recognitions, such as the 2017 Most Innovative University in the North by the U.S. News & World Report, as well as the 21st Century Distance Learning Award for Excellence in Online Technology by The United States Distance Learning Association.
Program FeaturesSNHU’s MS in Psychology with am emphasis in Child & Adolescent Development Psychology is an in-depth program of foundational psychology with a professional focus on serving children within the field.
- Rolling admission with five graduate terms throughout the year
- Ability to complete degree in as few as 15 months
- Sample Courses: Research Methods, Theories of Personality, Cognitive Neuropsychology, Cognitive Processes, etc.
Throughout this program, students will learn skills such as advocacy, problem-solving, and research methods. Many graduates pursue licensure or doctoral studies upon graduation.
University of Missouri-Columbia
College Choice Score: 91.23
Average Net Price: $16,317
The University of Missouri was established in 1839 as the state’s largest university. Its nickname, Mizzou, is what many students, faculty, and alumni have called the university for generations. Today, Mizzou offers 89 online degree programs and is one of the 60 universities in the nation to be a member of the Association of American Universities.
Mizzou’s MA in Human Development and Family Science with an emphasis in Youth Development is 100 percent fully-online program that focuses on program development surrounding adolescent issues.
- 36-credit program; two to three years estimated completion time
- Sample Courses: Adolescents and Their Families, Youth Professionals as Consumers of Research, Youth Cultures, etc.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a career in Youth Development is expected to have a ten percent employment growth over the coming years. In addition, the median salary reported is $63,530.
University of the Southwest
College Choice Score: 90.76
Average Net Price: $18,063
The University of the Southwest is a private Christian university located in New Mexico. Following a strong Christ-centered education, the university encourages its students to grow in their faith while becoming strong members in their communities. Currently, the USW is ranked as having one of the Top Online Education Programs according to the U.S. News & World Report.
USW’s online MSED in Mental Health Counseling is a licensure program designed for students who wish to become counselors for families and/or children.
- Two degree plans: 48 hours or 60 hours depending on which state the student wishes to be licensed in
- Sample Courses: Abnormal Behavior, Psychopharmacology, Counseling Traumatized Clients, Advanced Counseling Theories and Techniques, etc.
Qualifying students can apply for the Practicum or Internship program in which they complete several hundred hours of work time in a relevant site related to mental health counseling. This is a great opportunity to finding a position upon graduation.
University of Northern Colorado
College Choice Score: 90.52
Average Net Price: $13,065
The University of Northern Colorado opened in 1890 originally as a teacher’s school. It has since grown to a comprehensive university that offers 200 undergraduate and graduate programs both on-campus and online. UNC’s online graduate programs in education is ranked eighth in the nation, and is among the top 50 best four-year colleges in the nation that offer online degrees.
UNC’s MA in Special Education: Early Childhood teaches adults the necessary skills to work with children and their families.
- Ability to complete the degree in as little as two years
- Hybrid courses that are only partially online also available
- Sample Courses: Family/Professional Partnerships, Scientifically Based Literacy Interventions, Learning Environments and Cultural Considerations, etc.
A career in early childhood special education is expected to experience a 32 percent growth from 2010 to 2020 within the state of Colorado. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers with a Master’s earn $8,000 to $10,000 more than those with only a Bachelor’s.
University of Nebraska Online
College Choice Score: 90.05
Average Net Price: $16,462
The University of Nebraska was founded in 1869 and strives to be the nation’s best public university. It offers an extensive online program, with degrees at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and doctoral level. All online courses are interactive, provide real-life experience, and are flexible.
The University of Nebraska’s online MS in Youth Development prepares students to take on the challenges of supporting youth in the community.
- 36-credit program
- Affordable: Less than $600 per credit
- Sample Courses: Youth Policy, Contemporary Youth Issues, Youth in Cultural Contexts, etc.
Students will master a variety of skills, such as policy development, grant writing, problem solving, etc. Graduates will feel confident entering into agencies that serve the local youth population.
Missouri State University-Springfield
College Choice Score: 88.63
Average Net Price: $14,862
Missouri State is a large public university that has four physical campuses. Its main campus is located in Springfield, Missouri. Through Springfield, the college offers many online degree programs and is ranked among the top Online Schools for the year of 2018 according to Best Colleges.
Missouri State’s online Early Childhood and Family Development degree is perfect for those who wish to expand their education at their own pace.
- 32-credit program
- Ability to finish within three semesters at the earliest
- Sample Courses: Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, Children and Families in a Diverse Society, The Educational Role of Play, Family Literacy, etc.
Possible future careers include but are not limited to: child care staff, roles in higher education, government agencies, etc. Graduates will be able to build strong family relationships, advance cultural competence, and demonstrate strong professionalism within the field.
SUNY University at Albany
College Choice Score: 88.39
Average Net Price: $15,114
The University at Albany: State University of New York is a major public research university located in the state’s capital. UAlbany is ranked among the top universities in Forbes’ “America’s Best Public Colleges.” The School of Education, which houses its MS in Early Childhood Education and Childhood Education programs, is nationally recognized as the best graduate schools of education in the nation for the year of 2018 by the U.S. News & World Report.
UAlbany’s offers both an online MS in Early Childhood Education or Childhood Education. Both programs lead to the professional teaching certification in the state of New York.
- 30-credit program
- Topics: literacy development, data-based decision making, family partnerships, social studies, etc.
- Sample Courses:
For those that do not wish to acquire the New York teaching credential, there is another track to receive permanent certification in any area. Students should consider where they wish to teach upon graduation before deciding which path.
Saint Joseph's University
College Choice Score: 86.49
Average Net Price: $36,058
Saint Joseph’s University is a private university that has been providing a strong Jesuit education for the past 160 years. The school was founded in 1851 and is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Saint Joseph’s is currently ranked 11 on the U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges (North) ranking. In addition, its online graduate programs are within the top 100 best programs for the year of 2017.
SJU’s online MS in Education-Special Education combines training and certification to prepare graduates to become leaders as educators.
- 36-credit program; 2-year completion time
- Additional Certifications: Special Education, Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Wilson Reading System
- Sample Courses: Diagnostic Assessment and Progress Monitoring, Culturally Responsive Teaching, School Law and Policy: Special Education Issues, Applied Behavior Analysis, etc.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in special education are expected to reach a six percent growth by the end of the year. Additionally, as many as 6.5 million children grades K-12 receive some type of special education every year. SJU’s MS in Special Education prepares its graduates to take on K-12 special education challenges.
University of North Carolina Greensboro
College Choice Score: 86.26
Average Net Price: $10,403
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is a public liberal arts and research institution. UNCG offers a variety of affordable and flexible online degree programs that are taught by experienced professionals. Currently the university is listed as the second-best value public school in the nation according to the Princeton Review.
UNCG’s online M.Ed. in Birth-Kindergarten Interdisciplinary Studies in Education and Development is operated under the school’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies.
- Concentrations: M.Ed. in Early Childhood Leadership & Program Administration or Early Childhood Leadership & Advanced Teaching Licensure
- Sample Courses: Leadership & Mentoring in Educating Young Children, Infant Development, Collaboration and Consultation in Education, etc.
While the concentration in the licensure program is designed for people who already have an initial license, the non-licensure program is for teachers or other professionals who work closely within the field of childhood education.
College Choice Score: 84.83
Average Net Price: $16,702
Winthrop University is a public institution that was founded in 1886 in South Carolina. Originally a women’s collect, the university has become a comprehensive co-ed campus that offers Bachelor’s, Master’s, and professional degrees. In 2017, Winthrop was among “America’s Best Colleges” according to the U.S. News & World Report.
Winthrop’s Master of Social Work focuses on systems relating to individuals and their families, groups, and communities. The program’s concentration is empowerment practice to influence and advocate for marginalized groups.
- Four Options: traditional 60-credit program, traditional 60-credit weekend program, advanced 39-credit program, and advanced 39-credit weekend program
- Sample Courses: Social Welfare Policy, Leadership and Empowerment Practice, Psychopathology & Empowerment Practice, etc.
The traditional full-time program is for students who are able to complete the program within two years, while the weekend one is geared towards working professionals. The advanced programs are both for those who already have a Bachelor’s in social work.
Michigan State University
College Choice Score: 84.36
Average Net Price: $14,970
Michigan State University is one of the top research universities in the world that was established in 1855 as a land grant institution. The campus is located in East Lansing with over 200 Bachelor’s, graduates, and professional degree programs. MSU has won many international and national recognitions, such as being ranked one of the top 80 universities in the world according to the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings of 2017.
MSU’s online MS in Child Development focuses on behavior, psychological, and biological processes in infants and young children. Students will receive a lot of background educational training as well as hands-on experience.
- Sample course topics: infant development, language and literacy research, intervention and prevention programs, approaches to early education, etc.
- Childhood Development Laboratory available for students to intern as early child educators
The MS in Childhood Development is located in the university’s College of Social Science, which offers plenty of opportunities to do research or pursue a more rigorous scholars program.
Stephen F. Austin State University
College Choice Score: 84.12
Average Net Price: $11,987
Stephen F. Austin State University is a public university located in East Texas in the town of Nacogdoches. The university offers more than 120 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs through its six colleges. In addition, SFA offers several online degrees for those who are unable to commit to traditional on-campus classes.
SFA’s online M.Ed. in Early Childhood is focused on preparing individuals to work with children ages birth through eight years.
- 36-credit program; classes offered in half-term formats in the fall and spring
- Estimated completion time: 2 years
- Topics: research, childhood development theory, classroom experience, teaching theory, etc.
According to Affordable Colleges. SFA’s online M.Ed. in Early Childhood was ranked as one of the most affordable in the nation. This data was based on tuition, average amount of financial aid received, and loan default rates.
Chicago School of Professional Psychology
College Choice Score: 83.89
Average Net Price: $13,050
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) offers classes in various campuses across the nation as well as online. The purpose of the school is to train future practitioners, giving them a variety of clinical training experiences. TCSPP has won numerous accolades and recognition, such as acceptance into the Bouchet Graduate Honor Society and winning the 2010 Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
TCSPP’s online MA in Psychology with a Child and Adolescent Concentration addresses issues in childhood development and behavior.
- 21-credit program; 1-2 years completion time
- Sample Courses: Trauma and Crisis Intervention, Family Systems and Family Therapy, Evidence Based Programs for Children and Adolescents, etc.
- Applied Research Project instead of a thesis
Some topics that will be covered include addictive disorders, treatment of juvenile offenders, and evidence-based programs for youth. Upon completion of the program, graduates will be able to enter into several careers such as counseling, education, mental health care, etc.
Indiana Wesleyan University
College Choice Score: 83.77
Average Net Price: $19,519
Indiana Wesleyan University is a private Christian university whose vision is to serve the world. It was founded in 1920 originally as the Marion Normal Institute. Today, the university integrates its liberal arts education with Christian teachings to train students to become leaders in the global world. In addition, IWU also offers several comprehensive online degrees that are affordable.
IWU’s online Master of Social Work is designed for those who wish to practice social work at the advanced clinical level. This program combines a biblical perspective on social issues with a fundamental education on social work theories.
- Up to 3 years completion time
- Sample Courses: Human Behavior and Social Environment, Mental Health and Psychopathology, Social Welfare and Policy, etc.
Students who participate in this program will have the opportunity to begin a field placement only four months after the program start. A field placement is the first step for receiving full licensure to practice social work.