From Dead Poets’ Society to School of Rock, we all know that teachers can forever alter the course of a life . . . and if you’re reading this, you’re probably inspired to do just that!
It’s not always as easy as it looks, however, and more is expected of teachers than ever before. In fact, whereas having a master’s degree ten years ago was a major achievement, some states actually require their teachers to hold a master’s degree in order to teach in the first place.
Increasingly, teachers are being required to seek out graduate-level training, and one of the best and most convenient ways to do so is through an online master’s degree in child development or related field.
What kind of online master’s in child development degree should you get?
Online graduate education in child development can take many forms. Part of this is due to the fact that graduate education in general is a specialized undertaking, and part of it is due to the fact that education in particular is a highly specialized field.
Some programs specialize in early childhood reading, for instance, while others specialize in youth development and advocacy. You will do well to consider your particular interests before starting your search.
Furthermore, some schools will offer a Master of Arts, others a Master of Science, and others still an undetermined Master’s degree in the areas they happen to specialize in. Some schools have been at the online education process longer than others, and not all are created equal. For more information on online education, see our ranking of Most Affordable Online Masters Programs.
How much money do people make with an online master’s in child development degree?
If you are considering a master’s degree in education, you are in luck! A bachelor’s degree in education is required for most teaching positions, and a master’s degree will help considerably in your applications and really set you apart from the crowd.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for an educator is approximately $55,000. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $36,000, and the highest 10 percent earn nearly $90,000. What you earn will depend largely on your location and also whether you are teaching in a private or public system.
What can you do with an online master’s in child development degree?
If you’re earning a degree in education or child development, you’re prepared to do one thing well: teach students! Within that general task, however, are a number of highly specific skills that often go unnoticed and underappreciated. On any given day, teachers
- teach students how to study and communicate with others
- teach lessons they have planned to an entire class of students or to smaller groups
- grade students’ assignments
- communicate with parents about their child’s progress
- work with students individually to help them overcome specific learning challenges
- prepare students for standardized tests required by the state
What are the requirements for an online master’s in child development degree?
Ordinarily, applicants to graduate programs in education will be required to hold a bachelor’s degree in education or a related discipline.
Some programs will require teaching experience, and some will require prior certification in order to qualify for admission. Do your homework on what each particular school requires and what their particular areas of specialty are.
Once admitted to an online master’s program in child development, you will be required to complete approximately 30 credit hours’ worth of coursework, and some programs will require (or allow) you to complete a thesis or capstone project.
What are the best online master’s in child development degrees?
We’ve compiled a list of the top online master’s in child development degrees with you and your needs in mind. Here’s how we did it.
First, we located the best programs in the country by taking an objective look at the best schools in the country as measured by reputation and return on investment. Then we looked at the bottom line—how much does it cost? We combined these factors to reach our College Choice Score, which determined where each school fits into the big scheme of things.
Our data for this ranking was drawn from a variety of public sources, such as U.S. News & World Report, the National Center for Education Statistics, PayScale.com, and the U.S. Census. The end result is a list of schools that not only represent the best education you can get and a good return on investment but also one that will fit your budget.
See our rankings methodology page.
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Average Net Price: $10,403
UNC Greensboro offers an online Master of Education in Birth-Kindergarten Interdisciplinary Studies in Education and Development. The program is administered by both the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. It seeks to prepare graduates for a wide variety of leadership roles in a number of different contexts, whether that be a traditional classroom-based role or in community efforts. The program specializes in the unique educational needs of young children up to five years of age and their families.
The program offers two areas of concentration: Early Childhood Leadership & Program Administration and Early Childhood Leadership & Advanced Teaching Licensure. Relevant coursework includes
- Introduction to Inclusive Birth–Kindergarten Services
- Inclusive Family-Centered Practices in Early Childhood
- Screening/Assessment in Inclusive Early Childhood Services
- Leadership & Mentoring in Educating Young Children
- Advanced Curriculum in Early Childhood Education
Graduates will be prepared for a range of professional roles, such as early childhood teacher, early interventionist, resource and referral specialist, child care consultant, family advocate, program administrator, and community college instructor. The program is designed for students with a Standard Professional I or initial license seeking, and teachers, directors/administrators, technical assistance providers, and other professionals will benefit from it.
West Virginia University
Average Net Price: $10,814
West Virginia University’s online Master of Arts in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Child Development and Family Studies is designed to prepare students to work with children, adolescents, or families in educational, applied, or other clinical settings. It is also suitable preparation for those interested in pursuing doctoral-level training. Graduates of the program are better prepared to meet the challenges of their work than they would with a bachelor’s degree only.
Students enjoy a measure of flexibility in WVU’s program and benefit from a wide selection of elective courses relevant to their particular interests and career objectives, such as
- Education psychology
- Curriculum and instruction
- Counseling and guidance
- Special education
- Social work
- Public administration
Graduates of WVU’s program have pursued careers as directors of child care programs in corporations, hospitals, and the private sector. Other graduates work as instructors and faculty members at four-year colleges and branch campuses of major universities teaching classes in child/human development and family studies. Still others work in curriculum development, community health care agencies, and traditional classroom settings.
University of South Florida
Average Net Price: $11,398
University of South Florida offers a fully online Master of Science Degree in Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health (MSCABH). It is designed for those seeking to become professionals in public and non-profit agencies and schools that work with diverse children and adolescents experiencing behavioral health challenges and their families. Graduates will be prepared to serve as directors, supervisors, and case managers in mental health, substance abuse, juvenile justice, developmental disabilities, and child welfare agencies, as well as consultants in schools and early education and care programs.
USF’s program will also prepare students interested in pursuing doctoral studies in education. Examples of courses in the program include but are not limited to
- Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health
- Cultural Competency in Children’s Mental Health
- Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Policy
- Evaluation & Research Methods in Community Health
USF’s program offers four areas of concentration, and students can complete their program with a thesis or applied track. The thesis track is designed for those interested in possibly furthering their education beyond a master’s degree or working in a more research-based setting. The applied track offers a field experience component. Both tracks feature overlapping coursework.
University of Southern Mississippi
Average Net Price: $11,916
The University of Southern Mississippi offers an online Master of Science Degree in Child and Family Studies that prepares students to work with families in diverse settings in order to promote quality of life and to serve as an effective advocate for families. The program is ideal for working professionals in educational settings and agencies who struggle to fit traditional classroom learning into their busy schedules
Coursework in the program spans the developmental process and includes:
- Theories in Child and Family Studies
- Advanced Child Development
- Evaluation and Assessment
- Parenting Across the Lifespan
- Family Advocacy
- Advanced Family Theories
- Adolescence and the Family System
- Individual & Family Life Cycle Development
Graduates of Southern Mississippi’s program have pursued careers in a wide variety of roles, including as a certified family life educator, early childhood educator, preschool teacher/director, substance abuse specialist, sexual health educator, foster care coordinator, elementary, middle, and high school educator, nonprofit program manager, family program administrator, child life specialist, college instructor, resource specialist, and developmental play specialist.
Stephen F. Austin State University
Average Net Price: $11,987
Stephen F. Austin State University, located in Nacogdoches, Texas, offers an online master’s degree in early childhood education program through its Department of Elementary Education. The program is designed to meet the specific needs of individuals who work with children ages birth through eight years and to encourage specialized competency in organizing programs for young children and families.
Students will be exposed to in-depth study and research related to a number of relevant issues in the field, including
- child growth and development
- theoretical underpinnings of classroom practice
- development of learning strategems
- sociological and psychological factors influencing behavior in young children.
Students in the program may select a traditional thesis option or take an additional six hours of courses. A minimum of six hours undergraduate work in early childhood courses related to growth, development, and curriculum is required for admission. It has been recognized as a great value in online education, so for students who are watching the bottom line, SFA could be a great choice. The program requires 36 credit hours to complete.
University of Northern Colorado
Average Net Price: $13,065
University of Northern Colorado offers an online master’s in early childhood special education. It is available either online, on campus, or a combination of both, and it is a great choice for working professionals who need to pursue further education without leaving their jobs. Students will develop a range of specialized skills to work with young children and their families. Faculty members are actively involved in teaching and research with local school districts and agencies, and the program encourages extensive field-based learning.
Coursework in the program covers a range of topics relevant to the practice of early childhood education, including but not limited to the following:
- Family/Professional Partnerships
- Typical and Atypical Early Child Development: Application to Early Childhood Special Education
- Scientifically Based Literacy Interventions
- Research, Policy and Advocacy in Early Childhood Special Education
- Learning Environments and Cultural Considerations
- Assessment, IEP Development and Instructional Planning
UNC’s School of Special Education has been designated as a Center of Excellence by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education three times. UNC is also the top-ranked university in the state (and one of the top 10 in the nation) for online graduate programs in education. In addition to the above, students will learn appropriate ways to work with children and their families across a range of abilities and cultural experiences and also how to effectively collaborate with general educators and related services professionals.
University of Colorado at Denver
Average Net Price: $13,751
UC Denver’s online Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education is designed to prepare early childhood professional leaders with the knowledge and skills to meet the needs of young children and their families within a rapidly changing and diverse society. It is offered through the School of Education and Human Development, the largest graduate school of education in Colorado, and has extensive partnerships in urban schools.
The curriculum in the program covers the gamut of standard topics in the field, such as
- Curriculum in Early Childhood Education
- Language and Literacy in Young Children
- Research in Schools
- Basic Statistics
UC Denver’s program boasts multiple accreditations, such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), the Colorado Department of Education Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Graduates of the program will be well prepared to excel in classroom and educational settings, child care programs, early intervention programs (including Head Start and Early Head Start), and family support and home-based programs.
San Diego State University
Average Net Price: $14,344
San Diego State University features an online Master of Science Degree in Child Development, which focuses on child social and emotional development and on contextual child development, for instance, early childhood education programs, schools, families, and communities. Students will be able to further their professional expertise and credentials in areas related to children and families. It is also suitable preparation for students interested in pursuing doctoral-level education.
Coursework in the program prepares students to face as many challenges in their careers as possible through topics such as
- Human development and theories
- Family processes and theories
- Applications for prevention and intervention
- Research methods
- Program development and proposal writing
Additional topics students can expect to cover in their program include early childhood development, prevention, intervention, family processes, risk and resilience, development across the lifespan, parent-child intergenerational relationships, enhancing school readiness and preparing teachers to work with families, socio-emotional and behavior support in educational settings and homes, influences of language and culture, and atypical development. Students conclude their program with a capstone project.
North Dakota State University
Average Net Price: $14,581
North Dakota State, a leader in online education, offers an online Master of Science in Human Development and Family Science with a focus on Youth Development, an emerging field that focuses on promoting the positive development of youth. Professionals put developmental research and theory into practice in structuring and implementing programs and services for adolescents. Graduates will be prepared to work for organizations such as 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, non-profits, faith based groups, community recreation, juvenile justice facilities, middle and high school programs, extension services, and military youth programs.
Coursework in this innovative program is geared toward understanding and encouraging youth, such as
- Foundations of Youth Development
- Community Youth Development
- Adolescents and Their Families
- Contemporary Youth Issues
- Youth in Cultural Contexts
- Youth Professionals as Consumer of Research
- Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation
NDSU’s online Master of Science in Human Development and Family Science: Youth Development is an intentionally collaborative, inter-institutional program offered by the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GPIDEA), a web-based distance education program. The program requires 36 credits to graduate, including a practicum experience. Students can also opt to complete their program with a thesis, and most complete it within two or three years.
Missouri State University-Springfield
Average Net Price: $14,862
Missouri State Springfield’s online Master of Science in Early Childhood and Family Development can lead to a number of opportunities in education, administration, municipal government, and even private business, such as a teacher, director, supervisor, principal, researcher, agent, case manager, consultant, regulator, sales representative, and inspector. It can also serve to prepare students for further education at the doctoral level.
Coursework in Missouri State’s program is comprehensive and will prepare students for a number of possible career outcomes. The program includes courses such as the following:
- Orientation to Early Childhood and Family Development
- Advanced Human Development Studies
- Inquiry in Early Childhood and Family Development
- Advanced Family Studies
- Programming and Policy Issues for Early Childhood Settings
- Children and Families in a Diverse Society
- Educational Research Methodology
- Proposal Development
Missouri State’s program identifies several actionable outcomes for their program, for instance, the ability to describe the characteristics and influences on an individual’s development to create environments that are healthy, respectful, supportive, and challenging; describe the process to build effective family and community relationships; and advance cultural competence to enhance interactions with individuals across settings with an ultimate goal of working toward anti-bias practices on a global level.
Michigan State University
Average Net Price: $14,970
Michigan State offers a number of options for those interested in online graduate work in education. Through the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Social Science, it offers Graduate Certificates in Youth Development and Youth Program Management and Evaluation; a Master of Arts in Family Community Services or Youth Development; a Master of Science in Child Development or Human Development and Family Studies; and a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Development and Family Studies.
The Master of Science in Child Development focuses on the behavioral, psychological, biological and contextual processes that promote positive developmental outcomes in infants and young children. Available courses in the program cover topics such as
- Development across cultures
- Infant development
- Language and literacy research and practices
- Social-emotional development
- Observational methods for home or classroom
- Approaches to early education
- Intervention and prevention programs
Students in MSU’s program will develop professional competence, creative thinking abilities, and the ability to perform and utilize research. Each student’s program is developed within the framework of the area of major interest, taking into consideration his or her professional experience, interests, and educational and career goals. Graduates of the program have worked in college teaching, research, extension, marriage and family therapy, and administration in early childhood education centers.
SUNY University at Albany
Average Net Price: $15,114
SUNY Albany, part of the State University of New York system, offers an online Master of Science in Early Childhood Education that is designed to foster a strategic set of competencies and skills. Graduates are expected to be caring professionals who boast both theoretical and practical knowledge and know how to employ research in their careers. They will receive extensive training in assessments, analysis, pedagogy, and learning acquisition. SUNY graduates are lifelong learners.
Students in the program will receive exhaustive training in all aspects of early childhood education, including
- Literacy development
- Writing instruction
- Data-based decision making
- Critical literacy
Graduates of SUNY Albany’s program are encouraged to be professionally active and critically engaged in their work. Students in the program will benefit from practicum experiences within courses that lead to literacy specialist certificates; focused courses that differentiate between preschool, elementary, middle school, and secondary literacy theory and practice; attention to ensuring that the knowledge, dispositions and proficiencies we expect for professional teachers and specialists are built into every master’s level course.
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Average Net Price: $16,242
The University of Minnesota, one of the great public higher education institutions, offers an online Master of Arts in Child Life that prepares students to draw on development science to address the needs of children and adolescents in advocacy, community, and health care settings. Minnesota’s program is unique in its incorporation of biological and cognitive sciences in addition to psychological and educational emphases. This allows students to be comprehensively prepared for wherever their careers might take them.
The program offers three specialized tracks, in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health; Child Life; and Individualized Studies. Examples of courses include
- Child Life Theory, Practice and Program Development
- Developmental Perspectives on Illness and Injury in Healthcare
- Therapeutic Play for Child Life Practice
- Therapeutic Relationships: Supporting Children in Healthcare
- Childhood Death and Bereavement
Graduates of the program will develop competency to help children cope with the stress and uncertainty of illness, injury, disability, and hospitalization. Successful graduates of the Child Life track will be eligible for the Child Life Professional Certification Examination and the Association of Child Life Professionals Eligibility Assessment. This track helps individuals advance their careers in fields that relate to child development, such as law, juvenile justice, child welfare, education, the arts, advocacy, policymaking, nonprofit management, pediatric nursing, and parent education.
University of Missouri-Columbia
Average Net Price: $16,317
The University of Missouri Columbia offers an online Master of Arts in Human Development and Family Science with an emphasis Youth Development that will appeal to those seeking online graduate work in education. Graduates of this degree will be well equipped to pursue positions with organizations such as 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, cooperative extensions, correctional facilities, faith-based groups, and non-profit organizations.
Students typically take two classes each semester and finish in two to three years. Course work in the program will introduce students to such topics as
- Agency budgeting, fund raising, grant writing and processing
- Conceptual approaches to youth development
- Normative pathways to development
- Policy development for optimal youth outcomes
- Problem-solving with funding sources, boards, agencies, families and other stakeholders
- Youth and family cultural issues
Missouri-Columbia’s program is available entirely online, and courses are offered through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance, which means that students will have access to the resources of not only Missouri-Columbia’s faculty but also those of other member institutions. Courses are offered on a semester schedule, and graduates will be well prepared for pursuits with a variety of organizations and professional endeavors involving youth.
University of Nebraska Online
Average Net Price: $16,462
The University of Nebraska, another of the United States’ great public institutions, offers an online Master of Science in Youth Development. It is the same degree that on-campus students earn. The program prepares graduates to help youth transition into adulthood competently, both emotionally and intellectually, through a strengths-based curriculum. It is one of the few youth development programs in the country despite the growing need for professionals trained in strengths-based approaches.
Coursework in Nebraska’s program prepares students for the many challenges and opportunities they will face as youth workers through classes such as
- Foundations of Youth Development
- Community Youth Development
- Adolescents and Their Families
- Administration and Program Management
- Program Design, Evaluation, & Implementation
- Youth in Cultural Contexts
- Youth Policy
Nebraska’s program seeks to prepare its graduates with specific, targeted competencies necessary for success in youth development, such as the ability to develop policies with a positive effect; apply basic research and evaluation skills; understand normative pathways to development; work with agencies, boards, families and other professionals; gain the necessary skills for budgeting, grant writing, and fund-raising; examine the impact of local, state, federal, and global policies on youth; and identify how youth and family cultural issues affect positive youth outcomes.