Complete Guide to a Child Development Degree Online

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: APA
Degree Levels: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $22,405
Avg Salary: $66,335

Students of an online child development degree will learn to monitor the cognitive development of children as they grow older. Child development is a particular branch of developmental psychology that analyzes the psychological, emotional, and perceptional changes within children. This can include many different aspects of behavior, such as problem-solving skills, moral understanding and personality.

Students interested in a career in this field should research credentialing requirements for child development specialists. Students should also ensure that the schools they consider are accredited by the APA. For prospective students and potential employers, accreditation by the American Psychological Association indicates that a college or university is legitimate. For more help choosing an online program in child development, browse our 2017 top colleges ranking list for child development degrees.

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Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Child Development Degrees ( 12)

Online Child Development Degree Overview & Career Information

Degree programs in child development are available at the bachelor's, master's, doctorate, and certificate level. The bachelor's program includes courses in brain and behavior, cognitive psychology, human memory, childhood and adolescent development, and human sexuality. While some choose to continue on for more schooling, graduates at this level can go on to become child advocates, social workers, teachers, and social services managers.

Online child development training can take anywhere from one to eight years, depending on the level of education desired. Prospective educators will learn a variety of hands-on techniques that will help them monitor, teach, and design positive learning environments for children. Most programs require at least one internship in a related field. In addition, educators must gain certification in the state in which they teach. They must also complete additional units each year. While graduates fresh out of high school can find positions in after school programs and assisting, those who choose college first will have many more opportunities to choose from in the child development field. 

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Online Associate Degrees in Child Development

An online associate degree in child development will provide the foundations necessary to understand, interact with, and teach young learners. Typically requiring about two years of schooling, a child development degree is the perfect way to begin a career in the education field. Many become childcare professionals in licensed centers, working as assistant teachers and even lead teachers in some preschool programs. In addition to completing the required background checks and tuberculosis test that are almost always necessary when working with children, a prospective early childhood educator must also have a high school diploma or GED. Some of the coursework that will be taught at this level includes infant and toddler development, family dynamics, nutrition, and safety of young children. Some important traits are beneficial for the child development students to have are patience, creativity, physical stamina, and organizational skills. An associate degree in child development is a solid stepping stone for more advanced degrees.

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Online Bachelor's Degrees in Child Development

An online Bachelor of Arts (BA) in child development provides students with an understanding of the mental and behavioral development of children; it is often used as a stepping stone in the process of earning a master's degree. Applicants must have a high school education, and these programs take four years to complete.

The undergraduate child psychology curriculum contains a broad overview of the major facets of child development. Students study the developmental, behavioral, and learning disorders that can affect children at various stages in their lives, and they learn how a child's social or cultural environment affects his or her development. In addition to a foundation in psychology, bachelor's degree students also take courses in English, history, math, science, foreign languages, and other humanities areas before narrowing their focus during the last two years of the program. Many child psychology programs require students to complete an internship in a setting where they can observe child behavior, such as in a school or day-care setting.

A the bachelor's degree is quite flexible and will prepare student for many different career paths. Graduates may find themselves working in fields such as social work, child psychology, family counseling, and administrative positions within educational institutions; of course, many also go into teaching. Other graduates work as social and human services assistants or go on to earn master's degrees in counseling.

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Online Master's in Child Development

A master's program in child development will prepare students for careers as social workers, case managers, and child advocates as well as school administrators and counselors. Although educators can enter the field as certified teachers with a bachelor’s degree, many educational institutions do require teachers to obtain a master’s degree within five years of their employment. One the advantages of earning a master’s degree is the flexibility, as almost all programs are designed for working teachers and are available in a variety of formats, including fully online. The degree usually takes between two and three years to complete. Students must obtain a bachelor's degree prior to enrolling in a master's program. Coursework often includes learning how to assess behavioral, emotional, and learning difficulties in children as well as identifying which tools can help them improve. Students will also take classes on language development, adolescence, infancy development, care giving techniques, poverty issues, and family dynamics before taking a final comprehensive exam.

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Online Doctoral Degrees in Child Development

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) programs in child development and psychology are intensive, research-based degrees that prepare graduates for a career as a licensed child psychologist or professor. The PhD includes training in psychology research as well as professional practice, while the PsyD focuses more on professional psychology practice. Courses in the programs discuss interviewing patients, assessing their problems, and coming up with treatment plans. Students spend a significant amount of time in a clinical internship working under a licensed psychologist.

Depending on the doctorate program, applicants must have a master's degree, along with previous foundational coursework in psychology and statistics. Prior experience conducting research projects may be just as important as prior education. Students may spend between three and six years completing their degree, with the latter years of the degree focused on conducting a research project and writing a dissertation. Students will defend their thesis conclusion before a panel of professors and/or professionals.

The curriculum of a doctoral program in child psychology and development explores high-level theory, as students are expected to already have a broad knowledge base. The curriculum will introduce students to various approaches used to deal with children in psychology. Many accredited colleges have developed online psychology doctorate degrees so students can study psychological theories and research via online courses. These programs may require short, intensive residencies, in which students come to campus to do clinical practicums and work on research projects. Online students still have to complete a clinical internship, which lasts at least one year; the school helps students set up an appropriate supervised internship in their local community. The most important thing to keep in mind when completing an online doctorate is whether the program is recognized by your state's psychology board. Attending an accredited program is necessary for earning a state psychology license.

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Online Certificates in Child Development

Child psychology certificates provide clinical practitioners with a deeper understanding of child development and behavior. These certificates are graduate programs and typically require four to eight courses. Many programs require that applicants possess a bachelor's or master's degree in counseling or a related area, as well as a counseling license. Other programs are open to social workers, teachers, or noncertified child care professionals. Child psychology certificates geared toward licensed counselors focus on treatment strategies for working with children, adolescents, and their families. These classes discuss topics like family treatment, interviewing skills, and other applied techniques. Other courses explore topics like abnormal child psychology and developmental psychology.

Other certificates discuss child psychology and interventions that are appropriate for professionals without a clinical counseling background. These certificates might touch on topics like child and adolescent trauma, research in child psychology, and support services for young populations. Graduates typically use these certificates to support current careers in counseling or the helping professions. Current counselors and clinical social workers can use the program to shift the focus of their practice to better serve children and adolescents. Professionals in non-profit organizations, public service, child care, or similar settings can use the certificate to deepen their understanding of the motivation and behavior of children in order to better serve them.

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The Importance of Accreditation

While it is important to ensure that a school has earned institutional accreditation from a respected regional or national agency, those interested in career in psychology should also verify programmatic accreditation. In the same way that institutional accreditation reflects the quality of the school, programmatic accreditation ensures that specific postsecondary education programs conform to certain standards of quality, set by the individual agencies tasked with determining such a status. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes the APA as the accrediting authority for schools offering training in psychology. The American Psychological Association (APA) Commission on Accreditation (CoA) endorses programs in professional psychology, clinical psychology, counseling psychology, school psychology, and combined professional-scientific psychology.

Child Development Credentials and Licensure

The Child Development Associate (CDA) credential is a program that can help those interested in working with children gain the necessary experience to become nurturing caregivers. Some states do require CDA certifications, but the knowledge learned while studying for the exam can also be applied toward an associate degree. There are four key components to gaining CDA certification. To begin, students must earn their high school diploma or GED and be at least 18 years old. A considerable amount of experience is also necessary, including 120 hours of approved childcare preparation, with specific focus on child development and learning, professionalism, creating safe learning environments, effective family relationship techniques, and how to observe child behavior. Students also need at least 480 hours of practice in either an educational or childcare-related field. Both the directed instruction and the prior experience must have been within the last five years. Once eligible, potential candidates can order the CDA packet that is precise to their specific area of study. The CDA credential needs to be renewed every three years.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation is another credential available to those working with children. It is designed for those working with kids from birth through eight years old, and it happens to be one of the most respected and thorough accreditation processes. The NAEYC focuses on improving educator resources and early childcare centers across America.

Child Development Careers

Due to the increasing need for early childhood education programs, jobs are exploding in this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, child development careers are expected to increase between 17 and 25 percent over the next 10 years, providing opportunities that pay as much as $76,000 a year. While positions vary, most workers in this field are often on their feet all day, bending and lifting, as well as observing, reading to, and playing with small children. There are many environments to choose from—both public and private schools, day care centers, preschools, and churches. Those who aspire to have a career with children need to be patient, empathetic, and organized.


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