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2023 Best Online Child Development Degrees

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 5/29/2023
2023 Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Child Development Badge

An online bachelor's degree in child development seeks to help students understand the mental and physical changes that take place during childhood and adolescence. Students usually take courses on childhood brain development, early education methods, family and social influences, and behavior disorders in childhood and adolescence. Alumni of these bachelor's degree programs may apply to a range of careers, including early childhood teachers, preschool and child care center directors, or administrators for after-school or youth development programs. 

You might also be interested in an early childhood education bachelor's degree if you want to teach very young learners. 

View our methodology for more details about our list or learn more about OnlineU.

2023 Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Child Development Badge
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Online Child Development Bachelor's Degrees You May Be Interested In

2023 Best Online Child Development Degrees

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 California State University - East Bay 99 99 $39,638
# 2 #2 Pacific Oaks College 97 $37,256
# 3 #3 Stephen F. Austin State University 95 $36,350
# 4 #4 Oklahoma State University - Main Campus 92 $35,429
# 5 #5 Washington State University 88 $34,566
# 6 #6 Western Michigan University 73 $32,073
# 7 #7 University of Wisconsin - Stout 66 $31,192
# 8 #8 Colorado State University - Fort Collins 64 $30,953
# 9 #9 South Dakota State University 61 $30,640
# 10 #10 Concordia University - Saint Paul 60 $30,561

#1 California State University - East Bay

  • Salary Score: 99
  • Median Starting Salary: $39,638
  • Locations: Hayward (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

California State University - East Bay (CSUEB) is a public institution with an online Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Human Development degree. This program contains 120 credit hours of coursework and requires students to choose one of five concentrations, with three pertaining to childhood and adolescence. The university features a 73% undergraduate acceptance rate, with 66% of bachelor's candidates eventually earning their degrees.

CSUEB delivers courses through its learning management platform, Blackboard. This BA's faculty teach lessons based on the specialization a student selects: early childhood development, childhood development, or adolescent development. Each concentration has several courses in common, such as Introduction to Human Development and Gender, Race, and Class in Human Development.

#2 Pacific Oaks College

  • Salary Score: 97
  • Median Starting Salary: $37,256
  • Locations: Pasadena (CA) (and 1 other)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The private Pacific Oaks College offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Human Development with two concentrations of interest to students of child development: early childhood education and development and active learning across the lifespan. Each path requires 120 credit hours to finish, which might take full-time students four years. Pacific Oaks is fairly selective, accepting 27% of bachelor's applicants.

The college uses the Canvas digital learning platform to host online courses. The core curriculum is the same for both these degree options, including coursework on developmental psychology and social and cultural influences on learning. The early-childhood concentration features more classes on young learners, including Early Childhood Themes and Lifecycle Issues and Working with Bicultural Children.

#3 Stephen F. Austin State University

  • Salary Score: 95
  • Median Starting Salary: $36,350
  • Locations: Nacogdoches (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) is a public school offering an online Bachelor of Science in Human Sciences degree with a concentration in human development and family studies. This degree program contains 120 credit hours and might take four years for full-time enrollees. SFASU's acceptance rate is 76%, and its undergraduate graduation rate is 50%.

This university uses the Brightspace platform to host online courses. The curriculum covers psychological and educational development across the entire human life cycle, much of which centers on childhood. Relevant courses include Educating Young Children, Infant Development, and Family Communication. Students take a Child Growth and Development Practicum in a preschool setting to give them practical experience working with children.

#4 Oklahoma State University - Main Campus

  • Salary Score: 92
  • Median Starting Salary: $35,429
  • Locations: Stillwater (OK)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The public Oklahoma State University-Main Campus (OSU) features an online, 120-credit Bachelor of Science (BS) in Human Sciences degree with a concentration in early child care and development. This program might last four years with a full-time schedule. The school has a 68% acceptance rate, and 66% of bachelor's degree students complete their degree programs.

OSU's online learners sign in to the Cornerstone learning system to complete coursework. This BS program emphasizes an ethical, thoughtful approach to early childhood education and includes practicum opportunities so students can work directly with young learners in a classroom. Some core classes include Child Development - Birth to 3 and Curriculum Development for Children Ages 4-8.

#5 Washington State University

  • Salary Score: 88
  • Median Starting Salary: $34,566
  • Locations: Pullman (WA)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

Washington State University (WSU) is a public institution offering an online Bachelor of Arts in Human Development degree with concentrations in early childhood education and child and youth development. These 120-credit program options take at least four years to complete with a full-time course load. WSU accepts 80% of bachelor's degree applications, and 65% of those students graduate with a degree.

The university uses the Canvas digital learning platform to deliver online courses. Faculty teach a curriculum divided into an introductory core, advanced core, and concentration electives. Core classes include Human Development Theories and Public Policy and Issues in Human Development. Some specialization courses are Parent-Child Relationships, Child Assessment and Evaluation, and Guidance in Early Childhood Programs.

#6 Western Michigan University

  • Salary Score: 73
  • Median Starting Salary: $32,073
  • Locations: Kalamazoo (MI)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Western Michigan University (WMU), a public institution, offers an online degree completion program for a Bachelor of Science in Family Science and Human Development - Child Development and Services. Designed to prepare students to work with children and their families, the program includes two possible tracks: Child Programming and Administration for those who want to become childcare center directors in Michigan or Child Life Foundations for those who want to work as child life specialists. Online learners enrolled in this program are required to complete a semester-long internship, and they have the option of designing their own culminating learning project known as a WMU Signature Experience.

WMU uses the Elearning platform for its online courses. The school has an 83% acceptance rate and a 56% graduation rate.

#7 University of Wisconsin - Stout

  • Salary Score: 66
  • Median Starting Salary: $31,192
  • Locations: Menomonie (WI)
  • Accreditation: HLC

At the University of Wisconsin - Stout, students can earn an online Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies. The program has been approved by the National Council on Family Relations for providing the learning outcomes and competencies students will need to become certified family life educators. The curriculum is also designed to prepare graduates for work in child and family services. Distance education classes are taught by experienced, award-winning faculty members.

Online students use the Canvas learning system to view course materials and submit assignments. They also have access to distance librarians and academic advisors. This public university accepts 91% of applicants, of which 56% graduate.

#8 Colorado State University - Fort Collins

  • Salary Score: 64
  • Median Starting Salary: $30,953
  • Locations: Fort Collins (CO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Students enrolled in the online Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies program at Colorado State University (CSU) - Fort Collins can select one of several concentrations, including Human Development and Family Studies. The 120-credit hour program helps students develop family services program development, grant writing, and policy-making skills. Graduates may go on to become childcare center directors or certified family life educators.

CSU is a publicly run university that uses the Canvas learning management system. Online students can take advantage of the school's academic, technology, and career resources.The school has a 90% acceptance rate and an 69% graduation rate.

#9 South Dakota State University

  • Salary Score: 61
  • Median Starting Salary: $30,640
  • Locations: Brookings (SD)
  • Accreditation: HLC

South Dakota State University (SDSU), which is a public university, offers an online Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies. The 120-credit hour program takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying family life and the interaction among family members. The curriculum is a mix of classes on human development, human sciences, education, and communication. Overall, the program is designed to prepare students for careers such as social services case worker, youth organization worker, and program director for family services organizations.

At SDSU, distance education students complete assignments and communicate with classmates and instructors through the Desire2Learn platform. The school has an 87% acceptance rate and a 60% graduation rate.

#10 Concordia University - Saint Paul

  • Salary Score: 60
  • Median Starting Salary: $30,561
  • Locations: Saint Paul (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Concordia University - Saint Paul is a private institution affiliated with the Lutheran church. The college offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Child Development, taught from a Christian perspective. Through courses on human development, literacy acquisition, and learning theory, the curriculum prepares graduates to work with pre-K children outside of the classroom setting. The program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and meets National Association for the Education of Young Children standards.

Concordia presents synchronous courses through the Blackboard learning system, but online students are required to complete fieldwork experiences at licensed childcare facilities near their homes. The college is fairly competitive, accepting only 68% of applicants.

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What Can You Expect from a Child Development Degree?

If you’re considering a career in child development, several online bachelor’s degree programs are offered at colleges and universities across the country.

Child development degree programs focus on the behavioral and social sciences and how learning environments can impact a child’s development — for better or worse. Under the umbrella of developmental psychology, child development professionals also study the emotional, developmental, and psychological effects of a child’s environment. Additionally, most online child development degree programs also include observation and research hours so that students may apply what they're learning in class in a real-world professional context. 

It typically takes four years to earn an online bachelor’s degree in child development. However, as with any degree program, the exact amount of time required to complete the degree program varies based on the number of hours taken each term. 

Among the many career paths available to those with a child development degree are childhood education specialist or teacher, childcare director or manager, child welfare specialist, and child life specialist. While many students begin their undergraduate study in child development not knowing exactly what they want to do with the degree upon graduating, thinking strategically on the front end can help align your professional ambitions with your desired career. 

Child Development Classes Online

Undergraduates enrolled in an online child development degree program take a series of core courses and electives to provide them with a well-rounded understanding of child development.

Take a look below to learn about a few core courses:

Introduction to Early Childhood Education

In contrast to a growth and development course, this introductory class is focused on a child’s education from birth to around eight years old. The course lays the groundwork for additional core courses and electives in this field.

Child Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

A popular area of child development, this course focuses on the importance of growing a student’s social and emotional management skills to increase classroom effectiveness and student success. In addition, the course expounds on that idea by teaching students about integrative approaches to learning.

Growth and Development of Children

This course teaches students the process and timeline in which children grow, from birth to adolescence. As an introductory course, it also provides exposure to the field.

Families as Educational Partners

It takes a village to help children grow socially, emotionally, and mentally in an educational environment. While administrators and teachers have a great deal of responsibility to help children grow and develop in the classroom, strong family support outside the school can have a significant impact on child development.

Are you still undecided on your major? Check out the best online programs for similar degrees: early childhood education, psychology, and pediatric nursing.

Careers Requiring a Bachelor’s in Child Development

Several unique career opportunities are available to those holding a bachelor’s degree in child development. While some students begin their professional careers immediately upon graduating, others continue their education by going to graduate school and working toward various professional certification courses (and exams) in child development.

However, below we provide a snapshot of popular career opportunities with a bachelor’s degree in child development:

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Annual Median Salary:  $61,350
Job Growth Rate: 4%

While all kindergarten and elementary school teachers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, professionals employed at public schools must also earn state-specific certification or licensure. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers teach students in core subjects, such as reading and math. Some teachers specialize in particular subjects. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers help students develop an educational foundation for success.

Special Education Teachers

Annual Median Salary:  $61,820
Job Growth Rate: 4%

Special education teachers provide a variety of support to students with disabilities. They work with students needing additional attention and care due to the impact of physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities. While educational requirements vary by state, most states require special education teachers to be certified. Additionally, most states require special education teachers to pass one or more licensure exams.

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

Annual Median Salary:  $47,310
Job Growth Rate: 8%

Preschool and childcare center directors are tasked with a variety of responsibilities. To enter this role, you need a bachelor’s degree and professional experience working in early childhood education. Educational and professional experience requirements vary by provider and state. Most individuals in this position hold certifications. Being a certified Child Development Associate (CDA) is a common requirement. Regarding professional duties, preschool and childcare center directors assist with everything from parent/teacher communication to hiring new employees.

Social and Community Service Managers

Annual Median Salary:  $74,000
Job Growth Rate: 12%

If you’re interested in becoming a social or community service manager, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, and you may be required to have a certain amount of experience. School and community service managers have the opportunity to work for different types of employers. While nearly 26% of school and community service managers work in individual and family services, others are employed in areas including nursing, residential care, local, state and federal government and rehabilitation services, among others.

Benefits of a Child Development Degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree in child development opens the door to many unique career paths. While a bachelor’s degree is required to work in most child development-related occupations — such as teaching, special education, and social and community management —most professionals go on to earn different types of licensure and certification specific to their career niche. Whether state-mandated or purely elective, certification and licensure can bolster an applicant’s resume and show potential employers their commitment to their craft. 

In addition, earning a master’s degree in child development or a related field can further distinguish one candidate from another. If you’re passionate about education and providing kids with the support and care they need to succeed, earning a child development degree may be ideal for you.

FAQs About an Online Child Development Degree

Is Early Childhood Development a Good Career?

If you’re passionate about working with children and feel you can have a meaningful impact on their growth and development, earning a bachelor’s degree is a great place to begin your career endeavors. As a student in a child development undergraduate degree program, you will learn the fundamentals and skills required to be successful in your career.

What Degree Is Best for Early Childhood Education?

At the undergraduate level, a bachelor’s degree program in child development is one of the most common degrees pursued by students wishing to enter the field of child development.

Will I Be Eligible for Financial Aid and Scholarships?

Yes, all college students — whether in person or online — are eligible for different types of financial aid and scholarships. To qualify for financial aid, including student loans, you must submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and complete any state financial aid applications (if applicable). 

In terms of scholarships, you will need to check with your college or university’s financial aid and scholarships office. Additionally, you can explore any private scholarships available online.

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