Best Online Bachelor’s in Child Development

by TBS Staff

Updated September 7, 2022 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

If you have ever wanted to work with young children as an educator, social worker, or advocate, consider pursuing a bachelor's in child development.

When searching for the best online bachelor's in child development degree program, consider whether your career goals require you to specialize as an undergraduate or pursue an advanced degree. A child development bachelor's is more broad than a bachelor's in early childhood education or a bachelor's in early childhood and family studies, focusing on children's emotional, mental, and psychological development.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that child, family, and school social workers will see a 12% employment growth rate from 2019 to 2029 -- much faster than most occupations. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, they will likely grow to help meet the needs of parents and organizations. An online child development bachelor's offers an affordable route to this and other fast-growing occupations that help young children.

Read on for our ranking of the best online bachelor's in child development degrees in the nation.

Top Online Bachelor's in Child Development Degree Programs
#1 Appalachian State University Boone, NC
#2 Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
#3 Point University West Point, GA
#4 Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, MI
#5 Union Institute & University Cincinnati, OH
#6 Fresno Pacific University Fresno, CA

The Best Online Bachelor's in Child Development Degree Programs

  1. Appalachian State University

    Boone, NC



    Founded in 1899, Appalachian serves more than 20,000 students in on-campus, off-campus, and online programs.

    Appalachian's undergraduate bachelor of science in child development focuses on birth to kindergarten and is part of an online program. If students study both regular and special education, they may also move on to graduate education degrees.

    In-person programs are open to transfer students and freshmen straight out of high school, but App State's online programs are transfer only. The child development degree requires a minimum of 30 transfer credit hours.

  2. Concordia University-Saint Paul

    Saint Paul, MN

    CSP was founded in 1893 and serves a small student body of approximately 4,800 students per year.

    CSP's online bachelor of arts in child development required coursework includes courses in psychology, ethics, and special needs. Students must also complete fieldwork at early childhood education or licensed childcare centers.

    Prior to admission, applicants must earn at least 20 credits at an accredited institution (or complete an essay) with a GPA of at least 2.0 out of 4.0.

  3. Point University

    West Point, GA

    Founded in 1937 as Atlanta Christian College, Point received its current name in 2012. The student body numbers approximately 2,200.

    Its online bachelor's in child development focuses on birth to age 8 and covers psychology, family involvement, and educational foundations. Up to 75% of the required courses can be transferred.

    Students may enter directly from high school with a high school transcript or transfer from another college with 12 or more credits and submit only a college transcript.

  4. Central Michigan University

    Mount Pleasant, MI



    Founded in 1892, CMU serves more than 24,000 students at its main campus and online.

    CMU's bachelor's in applied arts, early childhood education and learning, requires both the major focus as well as a minor. The program focuses on child development, educational methods, and assessment. Students must complete a practicum with infants or toddlers.

    Students must earn a high school GPA of 2.0.

  5. Union Institute & University

    Cincinnati, OH

    Union was founded in 1964 and serves more than 1,600 students.

    Union's bachelor's of science in child and adolescent development allows a wide variety of focuses with a small core focused on learning theory, assessment, and learning standards and a series of electives that focus on cultural aspects, special needs, language learners, and age level development. Students may attend full-time or part-time.

    Students may transfer up to 90 credits from another accredited institution. Union is an upper-division institution, so students pursuing a degree must complete lower-division courses before registering.

  6. Fresno Pacific University

    Fresno, CA

    Founded in 1944, FPU serves approximately 4,000 students.

    FPU's bachelor of arts in early childhood development focuses on children from birth through age 8. Students may choose a combination of online and face-to-face education. The program includes requirements in play, social and emotional learning, math, science, physical education, and the arts.

    Students may enter FPU directly from high school with a weighted GPA of 3.1 or higher. ACT and SAT scores are optional. Transfer students must earn a 2.4 GPA for two or more years of college.

Best Online Bachelor's

Online Bachelor's in Child Development Programs Ranking Guidelines

We selected the programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school's reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.

Featured Online School

What Is an Online Bachelor's in Child Development Degree?

An online child development degree produces early childhood teachers, child care workers, and specialized child and family social workers. In this degree, students study stages in the emotional, physical, and psychological development of children through courses in psychology, sociology, and pedagogy.

Students in a child development bachelor's program refine their skills in communication, teaching, and emotional intelligence, giving them the tools to help young children develop healthily. They learn how to identify deficits and strengths in a young child's development and guide that child toward healthy emotional, mental, and physical behavior.

Choosing an Online Program

When choosing an online child development program, there are a number of factors to consider that will influence your educational experience. For instance, it's best to choose a program form a regionally accredited school, to ensure educational quality. From there, you can filter programs based on concentration offerings, cost, faculty, format options, and curricula.

What to Expect From a Child Development Major

Just as a child development degree can lead to varied careers, the curricula of these degrees can also vary. For example, some programs offer concentrations that prepare you for work as a teacher, while others focus more on the skills needed to become a child life specialist.

Master's in Teaching and Education Curriculum

  • Early Childhood Education: Students get a broad overview of strategies and theories used in educating children in early childhood programs. The course usually requires 10-20 observation hours in a pre-approved early childhood learning setting, like a preschool.
  • Physical Well-Being and Motor Development: This course investigates the stages of healthy motor development among young children. Students learn about how children grasp and manipulate objects, maintain balance, and engage in physical activity.
  • Social and Emotional Development: Students explore the socially and emotionally complex stages of children's development. Course topics include friendship, relationships with authority figures, and family relationships.
  • Children's Play and Learning: This course explores aspects of children's play and its relationship with learning. Course materials typically include classic theory from Vtgotsky and Piaget, as well as ideas from contemporary theorists.
  • Language and Literacy: In this course, students study the stages of language acquisition and literacy in young children. Course materials give equal time to social constructivist, maturationist, and emergent literacy theory.
  • Health, Safety, and Nutrition: This course teaches students how to support children's healthy development through proper health practices, safety precautions, and nutritional guidelines in child care and early childhood education environments.

Certificates and Licenses

A bachelor's in child development can lead to professional certificates and licenses, though qualifications vary by role and state. For instance, kindergarten, elementary school, and special education teachers need certification in most states, requiring candidates to complete additional coursework and pass content exams. State reciprocity agreements often allow certifications and licenses to transfer across state lines.

Other certifications, such as the Child Development Associate Credential (CDA) and the Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) certificate, can help graduates gain employment in specialized roles. For instance, the CCLS credential can help child development graduates secure work as child life specialists in a hospital or other healthcare facility.

Unlike teaching jobs, some childhood development roles do not require certifications; only a bachelor's in a relevant field, such as child development, is necessary. However, earning an optional certification can greatly boost your chances of securing a job, as they demonstrate mastery. Certifications have varying requirements for education level and clinical experience hours, and some require you to join a professional organization.

Child Development Careers

Most graduates with a child development degree opt for careers in education, where they work as preschool and elementary school teachers or special education teachers. Others use their child development degree to pursue work as child, family, and school social works or in other childcare-related fields.

Below are the most common careers pursued by child development graduates, along with each career's median annual wage.

Career Annual Mean Wage
Preschool and Daycare Education and child care Administrators $53,690
Preschool Teachers $34,650
Child, Family, and School Social Workers $51,030
Elementary School Teachers $63,930
Kindergarten and Elementary School Special Education Teachers $64,420

Child Development Organizations

Several professional operate in the field of child development, many of them tailored to members in a particular geographic region or area of specialization.

Joining a professional organization can give you access to networking opportunities, discounted continuing education resources, and a sense of community. Here are a few popular child development professional organizations:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Child Development Degree Worth It?

A child development degree can greatly increase your chances of gaining employment in early childhood education and childcare roles, either as a teacher or in more specialized roles.

What Can You Do With an Early Child Development Degree?

An early childhood development degree typically leads to work in early childhood education or child-focused counseling positions, such as child life specialist.

What Is a Child Development Degree vs. an Early Childhood Education Degree?

A child development major explores the physical, emotional, and psychological development of children in greater depth than an early childhood education degree, which focuses more on pedagogy. However, they are similar degrees and cover many of the same topics.

What Are the Different Child Development Degree Types?

Child development degrees can offer different concentrations, helping learners pursue niche careers. Some common specialization options include early childhood education, child development practitioner, and Montessori education.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Early Childhood Development Degree?

It typically takes four years to earn a bachelor's in early childhood development, though accelerated programs can take as little as two years to complete, especially for students who have transfer credits.

Image Credit: mmpile | Getty Images

Learn more, do more.

More topic-relevant resources to expand your knowledge.

Popular with our students.

Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

woman in an office