The importance of studying childhood development may have only come to light in the recent decades, but parents, teachers, school administrators, child care providers and social scientists alike are realizing its value. If you love working with children and want to help them succeed, this field might be just what you're looking for.
Coursework in childhood development aims to help you learn to accurately observe and assess the development of children, build healthy family and community relationships, communicate with children in a developmentally effective way, design an enriching curriculum for young students and more.
If you're concerned that you might not have the free time or money to enroll in a full-time study plan, many institutions offer online childhood development degrees that may provide schedule and cost flexibility. Hybrid or online degrees for childhood development students often allow you to attend lectures and complete assignments at your own pace, giving you more control over your study plan.
Best Colleges for Child Development Degree Programs
In order to determine the best schools that offer childhood development degrees, we took data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and ran it through our multi-point methodology to come up with an overall score for each institution. Click the button to learn more about how we calculated the rankings, and read on to see which schools made the grade.
The child development degree programs at our No. 1 school come in the form of elementary education and special education programs. As such, they tend to focus more on guiding the development of children in a classroom setting than studying it from an academic perspective.
The basic elementary education curriculum at Sinte Gleska University comes with an option to specialize in the subject area that students wish to teach. The special education program contains upper-division courses in the challenges and opportunities of teaching children with mild, moderate, severe or profound disabilities.
SGU is a Lakota tribal college and includes courses on Lakota language and history with each of the degree programs mentioned here. It took the No. 2 spot among schools on our list for its affordable tuition and has an open admission policy.
This New England institution posted the second-highest graduation rate among schools that made our top ten and had a student-faculty ratio of 14:1, which was more favorable than the 2016 national university average of 16:1. It also ranked No. 1 for the proportion of its 2015 graduates who studied some form of childhood development while in school.
A wide range of education degrees are available at the University of Maine at Farmington, including early childhood education, early childhood special education, elementary education and more. The early childhood education degree, which is likely to be most relevant to the childhood development field, has both certification and non-certification study plans and allows you to focus on the period of either birth to five years or kindergarten through third grade.
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania is one of the best colleges for childhood development degree programs that don't focus their attention on classroom education. The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in psychology with an applied developmental concentration requires courses in developmental psychology and psychology of the family and offers an elective in psychological assessment.
Online degrees for childhood development students are available at this northwestern Pennsylvania school as well, in such subjects as early childhood education, special education, educational psychology, art education and more. Students can also earn a certificate in autism spectrum disorders through online courses. Most of the online childhood development degrees at EU are Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Education (M.Ed.) programs, so you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree first before applying.
Childhood development degree programs at the University of Montana Western primarily take the form of B.S. degrees in elementary and early childhood education. Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees in early childhood education and education studies — for those who want to prepare for a career as a teacher's aide or assistant teacher before committing to a full bachelor's program — are also available.
The open admissions policy at UMW ensures that any student who wishes to enroll there will be equally considered, regardless of their past academic performance or scores on standardized admissions tests. The Dillon, Montana, school also offers courses on weekends and in the evenings, for students who want to attend school on a brick-and-mortar campus but need a flexible schedule in order to fit their degree plan into their busy work and family lives.
The Lake Campus of Wright State University, located in Dayton, Ohio, focuses on flexibility for its students. Not only do they offer degrees and courses that can be completed in the evenings or on weekends, but the 45 percent of students enrolled at least partially in distance education courses gave it the No. 3 spot among the best schools for online childhood development degrees on our list.
Elementary education degrees are the most prominent childhood development study plans at the Lake Campus. The Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.Ed.) degree plan includes sections in educational psychology, literacy and language development methods, positive child guidance and appropriate techniques for managing exceptional children in a classroom setting.
This New Hampshire school was No. 1 on our list when it came to online degrees for childhood development students. More than 81 percent of students at Granite State College took at least some of their classes online in 2015, and the early childhood education degrees available here require only a few on-campus courses over the course of their four-year study plans.
Childhood development students at GSC choose between general education and special education certification tracks. The curriculum of the degree plan is largely the same for each track, they just culminate in different certification tests.
Students earning GSC's online childhood development degrees outside of the state of New Hampshire should check with an advisor to make sure the certification they earn will suffice for teaching jobs in their state.
Bethesda University recorded the top graduation rate among schools that made our top ten, perhaps thanks in part to its commitment to flexibility for students with non-traditional scheduling needs. Weekend and evening classes are available at this small, Christian faith-based California school, and more than 78 percent of the 2015 student body took at least some distance education coursework as part of their degree plans.
The bachelor's degree program in early childhood education at BU requires 57 hours of professional study, including courses in guidance and discipline, early childhood development, theories of play and children's experience of creativity. Non-degree certificates for preschool teachers and administrators can be earned with just 12 or 15 credit hours of study, depending on the specifics of the program you choose.
This Georgia school charged students the third-lowest average amount for tuition and fees in 2015 and rolled more than 54 percent of its 2015 budget back into student services, course development and other instructional and academic support expenses. The selection of childhood development degree programs at Dalton State College include a two-year Associate of Science (A.S.) degree and a full, four-year B.S., both in early childhood education.
The early childhood education bachelor's at Dalton State includes a senior-year internship and an optional English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) endorsement. The associate degree plan draws largely from the same course catalog as the B.S., meaning that those who choose to take the A.S. track first should have no problem transferring their earned credits forward when they're ready to take the next step.
Founded in 1930, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York is the largest institution among our ten best schools for childhood development degree programs, more than doubling the number of degrees awarded by our second-largest college. Its graduation rate was high enough to place third among schools that made our list and no other school in our top ten spent a bigger piece of their budget on instructional expenses.
The B.S.Ed. in childhood education at Brooklyn College consists of 33 credits of pedagogical study alongside a standard general education core and either a second major or a 30-credit liberal arts and sciences concentration. The program qualifies students to receive grade 1-6 teaching certification in the state of New York and prepares them to teach in New York City schools.
Our No. 10 school is another tribal college in South Dakota, this time in the small southwestern town of Kyle. Oglala Lakota College took the No. 1 spot for tuition and fees affordability among schools on our list, charging students an average of less than $2,700 in 2015, and featured a highly agreeable student-faculty ratio of 9:1 the same year.
The childhood development degree programs at OLC consist of Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and an Associate of Arts (A.A.) programs in early childhood education. The bachelor's degree includes a 58-credit teacher education core, larger than many similar programs, and contains courses in child growth and development, family literacy, assessment methods for young children, techniques for infant/toddler education, curriculum development and more. A 15-credit program of Lakota studies is also required.
Child Development Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Earning a degree in childhood development can open up new opportunities for educators, social scientists, childhood caregivers and others. Although some of the careers available to childhood development graduates may not require a full-fledged degree in the discipline, specialized knowledge of the ways in which children grow can provide professionals who work with young minds an extra measure of confidence and capability when doing their jobs.
Career outlook for Childhood Development Majors
Employment projections for positions that employ childhood development graduates can help you better target your education toward gaps in the job market. Here's a quick look at some projections for top childhood development careers.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists||$85,340||110,490||14.7%|
|Special Education Teachers, Preschool||$61,610||23,480||7.7%|
|Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education||$34,410||424,520||7.1%|
|Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education||$62,200||1,410,970||3.3%|
|Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School||$63,110||185,190||2.8%|
Financial aid and scholarships in childhood development
Scholarship and grant options for childhood development students tend to focus on specific geographic or demographic areas, such as Bright Futures Scholarship for Florida residents and the Nancy Bartlett Hitch Student Scholarship for members of the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI). Specific institutions and organizations may offer their own aid programs as well.
Reapplication required for renewal.
Renewable for an additional two years if recipient maintains a minimum 2.5 GPA and financial need.
Award is renewable if recipient maintains a cumulative 2.0 GPA.
Q&A with an expert
What would have been helpful to know about the child development job market when you were looking into your own education?
There are so many possible career paths including clinical-child psychology, school psychology, pediatric psychology, applied behavior analysis, counseling, and education.
What surprised you the most about the value of child development training once you joined the workforce?
The same degree can lead to many possible career paths. For example, I have a colleague with a degree in school psychology, but he functions more like a clinical-child psychologist. Conversely, I have my degree in clinical-child psychology but I function more like a school psychologist for Head Start. Moreover, we're both professors who teach, do research, and write about child development.
What's some advice you might have for a student who wants to make a living studying or applying the principles of child development?
Start getting experience now! Getting experience helps students figure out which path they would like to take, and also increase the likelihood that students are able to get accepted in to the training programs designed for their chosen path.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed August 2017, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed September 12-14, 2017: Discover SGU, Sinte Gleska University, http://www.sintegleska.edu/discover-sgu.html; Undergrad Status Sheets, Sinte Gleska University, http://www.sintegleska.edu/undergrad-status-sheets.html; Early Childhood Education, University of Maine at Farmington, https://www.umf.maine.edu/majors-academics/early-childhood-education/; Psychology, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, http://www.edinboro.edu/academics/schools-and-departments/cshp/departments/psychology/; Counseling, School Psychology and Special Education, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, http://www.edinboro.edu/academics/schools-and-departments/soe/departments/cspe/; School of Graduate Studies and Research, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, http://www.edinboro.edu/academics/schools-and-departments/graduate-studies/index.html; Education, The University of Montana Western, https://www.umwestern.edu/academics/education.html; Program: Early Childhood Education, BSEd, Wright State University, http://catalog.wright.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=6&poid=4072; Early Childhood Education (B.S.), Granite State College, https://www.granite.edu/degree-programs/bachelors-degrees/early-childhood-education/; Online Education Courses, Granite State College, https://www.granite.edu/degree-programs/education/; History and Mission, Bethesda University, http://www.buc.edu/web2/14_history_mission.htm; B.A. in Early Childhood Education, Bethesda University, http://www.buc.edu/web2/33c_ba_in_early_childhood_ed.htm; Preschool Certificate Programs, Bethesda University, http://www.buc.edu/web2/34a_preschool_cer.htm; Associate of Science, Early Childhood Education, Dalton State College, http://catalog.daltonstate.edu/associatedegree/earlyeducation/; Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education with Optional ESOL Endorsement, Dalton State College, http://catalog.daltonstate.edu/schoolofeducation/education/; About, CUNY Brooklyn College, http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/web/about.php; B.A. degree program for childhood education teacher (grades 1-6), CUNY Brooklyn College, http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/courses/acad/program_info.jsp?major=253&div=U&dept_code=30&dept_id=99#253; Degree Offerings, Oglala Lakota College, http://warehouse.olc.edu/local_links/education/docs/index.php?dir=degree_offerings/status_sheets/2014-2015/;
- 21 Liberal Arts Colleges With the Lowest Student-Faculty Ratios, U.S. News and World Report, Jordan Friedman, April 19, 2016, accessed September 14, 2017, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2016-04-19/21-liberal-arts-colleges-with-the-lowest-student-faculty-ratios
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed September 12, 2017: Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm; Special Education Teachers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm;
- Clinical Child Psychology, American Psychological Association, accessed September 12, 2017, http://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/child-clinical.aspx
- Professional organization pages, accessed September 12, 2017: About NAEYC, National Association for the Education of Young Children, http://www.naeyc.org/content/about-naeyc; About Us, National Council on Family Relations, https://www.ncfr.org/about; Membership, National Council on Family Relations, https://www.ncfr.org/membership; About ACSD, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, http://www.ascd.org/about-ascd.aspx; ACSD Membership, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, http://www.ascd.org/memberships.aspx;
- Scholarship pages, accessed September 12, 2017: Nancy Bartlett Hitch Student Scholarship Award, The Free Library, https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Nancy%20Bartlett%20Hitch%20Student%20Scholarship%20Award.-a0180695038; Bright Futures Scholarship, Office of Student Assistance, Florida Department of Education, http://www.floridastudentfinancialaid.org/ssfad/bf/;
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.