Online Master's Programs in Child Development

The following page provides a wide range of details and information about online child development master's degree programs. Information covered in this guide includes common classes and coursework, skills you gain while pursuing an online master's in child development, how long it may take you to earn your degree, and how to find top programs. We also delve into postgraduate careers, professional certifications, and professional organizations that can help you after you finish your master's in child development online.

Overview of an Online Master's Program in Child Development

Most students who pursue an online master's in child development degree feel a drive to work with children and enjoy helping children develop fundamental life skills. Early childhood education master's programs can help students learn the necessary materials and develop skills to thrive in child development roles.

Common Classes and Coursework

Field Experience

The best online childhood development programs still allow students to gain some experience in the field by matching them with a Head Start center or a preschool in their own local communities. This experience prepares graduates to thrive as assistant or lead teachers, since they gain a better idea of best practices and what to expect.

Cognitive and Biological Development

This course investigates how individuals become unique people throughout their lifespan in terms of their thinking skills. This course investigates how humans perform functions such as problem-solving, hypothesizing, synthesizing, evaluating, and making inferences, and how these skills develop over the course of their lifespans.

Social and Emotional Development

This survey course investigates how individuals become who they are in society, especially during their formative early years. Topics covered include social and biological development throughout an individual's lifespan, the cultural impact on development, the impact of relationships on development, and the effects of public policy.

Research Methods in Child Development

This course introduces students to applied child development research methods, investigating needs in fields such as clinical, general, and developmental psychology. In an ideal world, the research performed in this course addresses public policy and societal needs.

Ethics in Child Development

Given the innocent nature of young children, ethics play a particularly important role in child development. This survey course provides students with information about best practices, dos and don'ts, and other ways to make sure that they do right by the children entrusted to their care.

Skills You Will Gain

Throughout any graduate-level, career-focused program, students inevitably learn skills and competencies that can serve them in both academia and the professional sphere. Below, we spotlight three top skills that students learn during their time in online child development master's programs.

Developmental Psychology

Though most graduates of online child development programs go on to work as Head Start or preschool teachers, they also pick up enough psychological background to consider their studies at the Ph.D. level if they so desire. Students often take courses in social and emotional development, developmental psychology, and cognitive and biological development during their master's programs.


During their field experiences, students learn practical childcare skills, best practices in teaching, and basic childcare skills such as soothing an upset child and elementary first aid.


Almost all students in master's-level child development programs take at least one course in ethics. They learn how to behave ethically in childcare scenarios and how to make sure professionals they oversee also behave ethically.

Average Degree Length

Why Earn a Master's in Child Development Online?

Students who work full time or have children while pursuing a degree may prefer the flexibility and convenience of an online program. Most online child development master's degree programs deliver coursework asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their convenience. Furthermore, online students save on moving and housing costs.

How Long Does it Take to Earn an Online Master's in Child Development? How Many Credits Does it Take?

Most online master's in child development programs require 18-24 months of full-time study or 2-4 years of part-time study to complete. Most graduate-level child development curricula consist of 36-54 credits.

What Factors Impact the Length of an Online Degree?

Whether students enroll part or full time can affect the length of an online degree. Furthermore, whether a program uses a cohort model — in which students complete the same set of courses with the same peer group — can affect completion times. Cohort model programs require more defined coursework timelines to ensure peer groups progress at the same rate.

How to Find a Top Program

Students should seek out certain elements when determining which online master's in child development program fits them the best. Below, we spotlight five specific things to look for when evaluating a graduate-level child development program.

  • Accredited

    All the best child development programs hold both regional and national accreditation. Students should not enroll in programs at schools without regional accreditation, as employers may not recognize these degrees.

  • Field Experience

    The best child development programs allow students to apply what they learn in the classroom at local Head Start centers or preschools. This experience prepares graduates to thrive in teaching roles after they graduate.

  • High Graduation Rates

    If a program does not graduate a high percentage of their students, there is likely an explanation: that program offers lower-quality instruction and support than some of its peers.

  • Support Services for Distance Learners

    In general, programs that offer support services to online students — such as tutoring, a writing center, and tech support — offer higher graduation rates and produce happier, more successful students.

  • High Postgraduate Employment Rates

    An online master's in child development is a career-focused degree, preparing graduates for a specific field. Students should make sure their program can help them get hired in their chosen field.

Child Development Careers After Earning Your Master's

When you earn a master's in child development online, you commit to pursuing a specific field: early childhood care and education. Nevertheless, within that field, you can still pursue several different job titles. The following table provides information about five typical careers that graduates with an online master's in child development can pursue. For each of those five careers, we detail typical median annual wages and general expectations.

Preschool Teacher

Preschool teachers plan lessons and care for students between three and five years old, typically working in private or public schools.

Average Annual Salary: $29,780

Preschool Teacher Assistant

Preschool teachers assistants aid preschool teachers in giving lessons and providing care for students 3-5 years old. They generally work in preschools or childcare centers.

Average Annual Salary: $26,970

Preschool and Childcare Center Director

Preschool and childcare center directors oversee operations and teachers, taking responsibility for the overall direction of the school or center. They also liaise with parents and donors (in the case of private schools).

Average Annual Salary: $47,940

Childcare Worker

Childcare workers often provide in-home care for young children, providing for their basic needs and helping educate them. They often dress, bathe, and feed young children.

Average Annual Salary: $23,240

Head Start Teacher

Head Start teachers perform similar duties to preschool teachers. However, they work in Head Start centers, which are public institutions providing childcare and education for low income families.

Average Annual Salary: $31,068

Additional Certifications for Child Development

Professional certification can help early childhood development professionals distinguish themselves as competent and experienced in the field. Below, we spotlight three of the most common industry certifications, providing information about how to earn them and how they can help your career.

Certified Childcare Professional

Awarded by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation Commission, the Certified Childcare Professional credential is valid for two years. It demonstrates that an educator is pursuing professional development and continuing education in their craft. To earn the credential, candidates must complete a self-paced program that lasts 6-12 months.

Florida Department of Education Early Childhood Professional Certification

The Florida Department of Education awards the Early Childhood Professional Certification to students who complete a 40-hour introductory childcare training course and a five-hour literacy training course. The ECPC credential demonstrates competency in the field and is valid through the Sunshine State, a particularly fertile area for child development professionals.

Childhood Development Associate

Awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition, the Childhood Development Associate (CDA) credential styles itself as the "most widely recognized credential in early childhood education." Over 420,000 professionals have earned the credential at some point. Earning the credential requires competency in certain standard areas and an evaluation from a council representative.

Professional Organizations & Resources for Child Development Students

The following list of professional resources and organizations can help early childhood development students and professionals find networking opportunities, new jobs, and professional development courses.

  • Association for Childhood Education International ACEI brings together educators and advocates around the world in the name of innovation, advocacy, and an exchange of ideas in the early childhood education field.
  • Child Care Aware of America Child Care Aware of America connects approximately 700 different childcare organizations throughout the nation, allowing families to make the best possible decisions for their children.
  • Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children The DEC of the CEC focuses on young children with developmental challenges, providing resources and professional development opportunities for educators.
  • HighScope Educational Research Foundation A nonprofit organization, HighScope creates and disseminates educational resources such as lessons, professional development workshops, and evaluations.
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children The NAEYC advocates for the well-being of children of all ages. The association provides national accreditation standards for early childhood education centers and also provides a wide range of resources for educators.
  • National Child Care Information Center The NCCIC links policy makers, educators, and parents, connecting them with the latest data and information about early childhood education and development.
  • National Head Start Association The NHSA provides resources to Head Start families and educators. The association provides professional development and conducts and disseminates original research, furthering best practices in the field.
  • Pew Pre-K Now Overseen by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Pre-K Now brings together policymakers and advocates to try to ensure that every preK student receives a quality pre-kindergarten education.
  • Reggio Emilia Based in Italy, the Reggio Emilia early childhood education method earns nationwide acclaim for its technique and its result. The method's website provides resources such as curriculum elements and seminars.
  • Zero to Three Named for the ages of the children it serves, Zero to Three advocates for the best possible education and development opportunities for infants and toddlers. The organization provides access to publication and advocacy.
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