Online Child Development Degree Program Options

Apr 21, 2021

Essential Information

Several schools offer fully online degree programs in childhood development at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. These are not teacher licensure programs; however, a bachelor's degree can be a precursor to a teacher education program that does qualify graduates for licensing. In addition to the online coursework, students may be required to complete a certain number of hours of supervised field work in a classroom setting.

In an associate's degree program, students learn about the different areas of child development. They explore how children learn and get information on teaching literacy and other subjects. At the bachelor's degree level, courses cover these basic topics and may also examine family and community relationships and methods of assessing child development. Students in associate's and bachelor's degree programs also take general education courses, such as mathematics, history and biology.

Master's degree programs in child development are aimed at people who have experience working in the field. The programs emphasize research and the development of leadership and administrative skills. Courses may cover ethical issues in psychology, lifespan development and psychological testing.

Associate's Degree in Childhood Development

An associate's degree in childhood development or early childhood education prepares graduates to work with young children as teaching assistants and childcare workers. Students learn about the different areas of child development--such as social, cognitive and emotional growth--that help them foster learning and well-being. Associate's degree programs can be completed entirely over the Internet. However, some programs require students to work in classrooms to gain experience; students may work at educational facilities convenient to them.

Course Topics

Coursework covers the development of children from birth through pre-school. The entire curriculum, which includes general education units, can typically be completed in two years. Core classes cover normal and abnormal development, professional standards, basic psychology, special needs children and health topics. Students access lectures, tests and assignments through the school's website or a designated system; they commonly use discussion boards and e-mail to communicate with instructors and other students.

Child Development

Students taking a childhood development course learn about youth developmental stages and the external factors that impact child development. Topics also cover physical and language growth according to age, along with signs of typical and atypical development.

Early Childhood Education

Students are introduced to the profession of child care and teaching and learn about the types of educational programs available. Students also learn how to create programs that cater to children and families, especially special needs students.

Safety and Nutrition

A course covering the health, nutrition and safety of children discusses standard nutritional guidelines, illnesses and safe environments. Students also learn about state regulations with regard to disease and injury.


This course explores verbal and written skill development for various age groups. Students learn how to select books and media that will teach literacy, plan and implement reading programs, and gauge literacy levels.

Childhood Development Curriculum

Students examine curriculum models and learn to implement strategies. They also learn how to select appropriate work for children and design their own lessons.

Bachelor's Degree in Childhood Development

Students in an online bachelor's degree in childhood development program learn how to work with children from infancy through preschool-age. They also focus on special needs children. Degree programs can be completed entirely online, although supervised classroom experience may be necessary to satisfy graduation requirements.

Program Information and Requirements

Bachelor's degrees in childhood development can be completed entirely over the Internet. They can typically be completed in four years; however, those who are transferring from an associate's degree program can complete them in less time. Those enrolling in an online bachelor's degree need ongoing access to a computer with a reliable connection to the Internet. Students may also need to meet technical requirements, such as the latest browsers and a recent version of Windows.

Course Topics

Baccalaureate programs blend general education and electives with child development courses. Students learn about professional roles in a child's educational, social and emotional growth. They can typically access lectures and assignments online at any time, and use chats, discussion boards and e-mail to interact with instructors and other students. Below are sample courses commonly found in child development programs.

Language Development

Students studying language development in children learn about the typical stages of language acquisition. Additional topics include environmental influences, research in the field and the development of different languages.

Child Development

Lessons differentiate and address social, emotional and cognitive development. Recent research read by students covers cultural dissidence, family relationships, risk factors and outside influences on development.

Family and Community Relationships

This course examines the role of childcare professionals in relation to other people who affect and influence child growth. It explores communication strategies for families and groups. Topics broach common family crises and the supportive roles teachers and counselors play in divorce and abuse situations.

Addressing Special Needs

Students learn to work with special needs children by understanding their unique developmental paths and identifying exceptional cases. This class addresses educational requirements and regulations, along with referrals and intervention strategies.

Child Assessment

Students delve into the techniques used to observe behavior in children and assess development. Additional topics include ethics, data analysis and instructional planning.

Master's Degree in Childhood Development

These master's degree programs prepare graduates for leadership and administrative roles in organizations that support the development of children. Students learn advanced and best practices used in the field. Some programs can be completed entirely over the Web. Technical requirements vary by school, but most students only need access to a computer that can log online.

Course Topics

Courses are geared toward students who have experience working with children in fields such as social services or education. Enrollees not only access coursework online, but also use the same forums to listen to or view lectures and provide their feedback on the material. Sample classes from a master-level child development program are listed below.

Life Span Development

Students examine aspects of human development not just during childhood, but over the course of a lifetime. Topics include aging, health, environmental factors, gender and culture.

Research Methods

Students learn research design and methodologies. Topics explore experimental designs, validity and ethics in research.

Ethics in Psychology

Students learn the moral and ethical issues in the field of psychology. They examine case studies and evaluate the ethical implications.

Tests and Measurements in Psychology

This course describes psychological testing. Lessons discuss the development and delivery of tests as well as the reliability and interpretation of results.


Statistics covers approaches to data analysis as well as the many types of data. Students learn how to design research, understand probability and apply statistical techniques.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for kindergarten and elementary school teachers are expected to grow 4% between 2019 and 2029 ( As of 2020, the median annual salary for preschool teachers (except special education) was $31,930, while elementary school teachers (except special education) earned $60,940 (

Graduates with a master's degree in childhood development (or a master's degree in psychology with a concentration in child development) are prepared for a number of careers in education and social services. Job growth for those working in education administration is expected to grow at an average rate of 4% between 2019 and 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual salary for elementary and secondary school administrators was $98,490 as of 2020 ( The BLS states that job growth for social workers is expected to grow 13% between 2019 and 2098; the median annual salary for child, family and school social workers was $48,430 as of 2020.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates may pursue certification to become a Child Care Professional (CCP) or Child Development Associate (CDA). They may also apple to a 4-year bachelor's degree program in early childhood education, teacher education or a related field. A higher degree is necessary to obtain teaching licensures in most cases, but qualifications and licensure requirements for child care workers vary by state.

Online childhood development degree programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. They can provide foundational education for future careers in childcare, education or research.

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