The Best Online Bachelor's in Child Development

The Best Online Bachelor's in Child Development

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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 Ten Online Bachelor's in Child Development Degree Programs

#1 University of Washington Seattle, WA
#2 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
#3 Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus University Park, PA
#4 Oregon State University Corvallis, OR
#5 Washington State University Pullman, WA
#6 University of Masachusetts Amherst, MA
#7 Colorado State University-Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO
#8 Arizona State University Tempe, AZ
#9 University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie, WI
#10 Concordia University Saint Paul, MN

The Best Online Bachelor's in Child Development Degree Programs

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Oregon State University 

Corvallis, OR Apply Now

About this school

Located in Corvalis, Oregon State offers a BS in human development and family sciences. The online bachelor’s program examines human development in relation to family, community, education, and cultural environments. OSU’s online degree in child development combines practice and theory to prepare students for careers in social justice. The curriculum emphasizes critical thinking, writing, and research skills and equips students to pursue graduate studies in counseling, education, psychology, and social work.

OSU encourages human development students to pursue a minor in public health, psychology, leadership, or sociology. Graduates of OSU's BS in human development program secure positions as youth program specialists, community activity directors, marriage and family coordinators, and childcare coordinators.

All classes are available fully online and are delivered asynchronously; students complete coursework at their convenience. Most students earning their child development degree online from OSU complete the 180 required credits in four years. Online learners follow the same curriculum and learn from the same instructors as on-campus students. Online students have access to success counseling, online tutoring, and library services.


Washington State University 

Pullman, WA Apply Now

About this school

WSU's BA in human development program focuses on how families and individuals are connected to social groups and broader communities. Students learn how to help individuals of all ages handle challenges and develop skills. After earning their child development degree online, WSU graduates work in programs such as Head Start, preschools and childcare centers, and the YMCA.

Many students in the bachelor’s degree in human development program earn certification in gerontology or early childhood education, the latter of which is only available to Washington residents. The curriculum covers child assessment and evaluation, families in poverty, and gerontology, and the program culminates in an integrative capstone project.

All undergraduate students at WSU complete university common requirements; a direct-transfer agreement generally covers these credits. Applicants must have completed 24 college credits with a cumulative GPA of 2.35 or better. Distance learners have 24/7 access to course materials. Online students complete coursework, stream lectures, contribute to class discussions, and access library materials asynchronously.


University of Masachusetts 

Amherst, MA Apply Now

About this school

UMass offers an online BA in children’s learning and development that provides knowledge and skills necessary for careers in childcare, child advocacy, education, family planning, and youth programming. This online degree in child development is designed for students who plan to work with agencies dedicated to serving children and families. Coursework covers multicultural education, behavior management, child psychology, and teaching methods. While this is not a licensure program, UMass offers courses to prepare students for preliminary licensure in Massachusetts.

UMass allows distance learners to develop their own program of study in children’s learning and development. Through the Without Walls format, students can earn up to 100 credits for previous coursework, prior learning, and life or work experience. UMass also awards credit for Montessori training. The BA in children’s learning and development is available asynchronously, with no on-campus requirements.

Applicants must have at least 12 college credits and a GPA of 2.0 or better. Applicants must not hold a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. institution. Residents of Alabama and Arkansas are currently ineligible to apply for this online program. The university offers start dates in September and January.


Colorado State University-Fort Collins 

Fort Collins, CO Apply Now

About this school

CSU’s online BS in human development and family studies prepares students to assist families and individuals during various stages of life. This customizable program provides field experience and internship opportunities. Coursework focuses on the changes people undergo throughout the course of their lives and the influence of communities, families, and societies on human development. The curriculum covers topics such as biology, sociology, and social work to provide students with a multidisciplinary understanding of human development.

Students choose from five concentration options: early childhood professions, leadership and entrepreneurial professions, prevention and intervention sciences, pre-health professions, and human development and family studies. After earning the child development degree online, graduates pursue positions in early childhood services, programming for older adults, community outreach, and adolescent information.

All coursework is available entirely online through Canvas. Distance learners have access to recorded lectures, live on-campus classes, assignments and tests, and peer discussion boards. Students have no set login times, but learners complete several collaborative projects. Online classes are taught by the same faculty as their on-campus counterparts. Colorado residents can complete the program in a hybrid format, with some on-campus classes. Students complete 120 credits, and transfer students can submit previous coursework for approval.


Arizona State University 

Tempe, AZ Apply Now

About this school

ASU offers a BS in family and human development that covers human development throughout the duration of an individual’s lifespan. Students gain an understanding of the development, formation, and dissolution of families. Graduates work in counseling, medicine, law, and social work, and many pursue graduate degrees.

The curriculum covers topics such as marriage and family relationships; the impact of ethnicity, parenting, and work on family interactions; and individual development. Online course materials are delivered asynchronously and are available 24/7. Students complete 120 credit hours over terms lasting seven and a half weeks.

ASU's online degree in child development is available fully online. All applicants must have a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA from high school or college coursework. Freshman applicants must have graduated in the top 25% of their class or have a GPA of 3.0 in all competency courses.


University of Wisconsin-Stout 

Menomonie, WI Apply Now

About this school

UW–Stout offers a fully online BS in human development and family studies program that explores the intricacies of child development and the development of families, communities, and societies. The online child development degree prepares students for careers in human services, including residential treatment programs, group homes, family resource centers, youth summer camps, and childcare facilities.

Many graduates earn master’s degrees in fields such as social work, health and wellness, family science, and counseling. Students are encouraged to double major with a BS in early childhood education. Most students also earn a certification in family life education or social work training.

UW–Stout's online degree in child development is designed for students with an associate degree or its equivalent, who possess a background in childhood or family education. The program is available completely online and can be completed on a part-time or full-time basis. Students who accelerate the program can earn the degree in as few as two years. Distance learners have 24/7 access to course materials, including lectures, notes, and student-led discussion boards. Approximately 90% of graduates are employed in a relevant position or are pursuing a graduate degree in the field.


Concordia University 

Saint Paul, MN Apply Now

About this school

Located in St. Paul, Minnesota, Concordia offers an online BA in child development with a focus on teacher education. Students learn practices appropriate for various stages of children’s development and apply theory to advocacy and leadership experiences within the field. Coursework adheres to the standards for initial professional preparation as specified by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Students learn to define developmentally appropriate practices for children and understand how families serve as primary caregivers, instructors, and models. Students develop a framework for making moral choices while working with young children. Distance learners complete fieldwork in a licensed childcare or childhood learning center, which involves teacher interviews and observation of staff and children.

Students earn Concordia's child development degree online with no on-campus requirements. However, Minnesota residents can pursue the degree in a hybrid format. The program requires 42 credit hours, and each course lasts seven weeks. All course materials, including lectures, notes, and readings, are available online 24/7. Students complete assignments and projects asynchronously, but are required to participate in weekly discussions.


North Dakota State University-Main Campus 

Fargo, ND Apply Now

About this school

Through NDSU’s BS in human development and family science with a concentration in child and adolescent development, students learn how children develop through interaction with society and family. Students can focus on understanding and meeting the needs of older children and adolescents or on promoting child protection and health.

Most graduates of NDSU's online child development degree program pursue careers providing either direct or support service to children and families. Direct service careers include roles as community service workers, parent educators, extension agents, and financial counselors, while support service professionals hold positions as childcare directors, consultants in human development, and child advocates. Many graduates pursue further education in counseling, family development, or family therapy.

Students complete 122 credits, including an internship. All classes are available fully online, and NDSU has no residency requirements for distance learners. Most full-time students graduate in four years; those who complete a summer quarter can graduate in as few as three years. NDSU accepts transfer credit, but students must earn at least 36 credits through the university.


Eastern Kentucky University 

Richmond, KY Apply Now

About this school

Based in Richmond, EKU offers a BS in child and family studies with a concentration in child development that prepares students to become leaders in the human development and family service fields. Students gain skills needed to leave positive and lasting impressions on children from all backgrounds.

Courses cover topics such as interaction and guidance, family involvement, ethics and advocacy, and early childhood observation and assessment. EKU offers certifications in early childhood direction and in infant-toddler care and education. Students can pursue a minor relevant to their interests and career goals. Graduates become public and private preschool teachers, early childhood educators, curriculum specialists, and childcare specialists.

Students complete 120 to 125 credit hours. The bachelor’s program is available fully online, and distance learners have 24/7 access to course materials. All online courses are taught by the same instructors as their on-campus counterparts. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of state residency. Classes are delivered in eight-week terms, with six start dates per year. Freshman applicants must have a cumulative high school GPA of 2.5 or better and must meet required ACT or SAT scores. Transfer applicants must have a minimum 2.0 college GPA.


Hope International University 

Fullerton, CA Apply Now

About this school

Based in Fullerton, California, HIU offers a BS degree in human development with two concentration options. Students who pursue the community mental health and counseling concentration study the theory of counseling, mental health interventions, consultation, and abnormal psychology. Graduates with this concentration work in mental health institutions, employee assistance programs, policymaking settings, and forensic settings. The family studies concentration covers topics relating to the physical, social, and cognitive development of children and young adults. Graduates pursue careers as adoption caseworkers, daycare directors, counselors, elementary school teachers, and child life specialists.

Both concentrations include an academic core of leadership and ethics coursework. HIU's online child development degree requires 120 credits and is available entirely online. Distance learners receive the same personal attention as on-campus students. Online courses utilize real-time interaction with professors, video lectures, and discussion boards. Students complete weekly assignments.

Applicants must submit high school transcripts and must have at least a 2.5 GPA or a GED score higher than 47. Transfer applicants must have a 2.0 GPA.


West Virgina University 

Morgantown, WV Apply Now

About this school

WVU offers a fully online BS in child development and family studies that prepares students to assist in the academic, cognitive, and social development of preschool children. Students learn best practices for working with young children while focusing on leadership and advocacy.

Students earning the child development degree online complete education requirements established by West Virginia’s educational agencies. Students can specialize in child development, which does not lead to certification, or in preschool education-birth-four, which leads to pre-K certification. WVU's curriculum adheres to standards set by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Online classes are delivered asynchronously through Blackboard. Distance learners have 24/7 access to lectures, study materials, assessments, and online counselors and communicate with classmates using chat rooms and discussion boards. Freshman applicants must have a minimum high school GPA of 2.5 or a comparable GED score.


Southern New Hampshire University 

Manchester, NH Apply Now

About this school

SNHU's BA in psychology with a concentration in child and adolescent development teaches students how children develop from birth to adolescence. Students gain experience needed to work with children in settings such as schools and hospitals. SNHU’s online bachelor’s in child psychology provides an in-depth view of the physical, psychological, social, and cognitive needs of young people.

During interactive classes, distance learners participate in class discussions, complete research projects, and engage in experiential learning opportunities. The curriculum includes optional specialized research projects to help students gain professional experience. The bachelor’s degree prepares students for graduate studies in psychology and social sciences.

This private, nonprofit university offers a flexible online format; all lectures, notes, reading materials, assignments, and assessments are accessible 24/7. Online students can enroll on a part-time or full-time basis. Classes are delivered eight-week terms, and SNHU accepts applications prior to each new session. The university allows high-achieving distance learners to join honor societies, including Psi Chi, an international psychology-based community. Transfer students may bring 90 previous credits.


The University of Texas of the Permian Basin 

Odessa, TX Apply Now

About this school

UTPB offers a fully online BA in child and family studies with a concentration in learning and development. This bachelor’s degree completion program is ideal for students who plan to work with families and children. The learning and development concentration focuses on the cognitive, physical, emotional, and social development of young children and explores issues related to families and atypical childhood development.

Many graduates obtain teacher certification or work with Head Start programs. The bachelor’s program facilitates a smooth transition from community colleges, especially for students who have completed Texas Early Childhood Articulate programs. The online child development degree requires 120 credits of coursework in general education, child and family studies, psychology, sociology, and electives.

Students must earn at least 30 credits through UTPB and must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA in all required classes. UTPB awards credit for prior knowledge in courses where proficiency can be measured through examination.


Utah State University 

Logan, UT Apply Now

About this school

USU’s BS in family life studies is available exclusively online. The program prepares students for careers serving children and families. Students learn how family dynamics, economics, consumer issues, and human development affect families and individuals.

Distance learners customize the degree through a capstone practicum. Students can earn the online child development degree on a part-time, full-time, or accelerated schedule. The fully online courses are delivered asynchronously, and students have 24/7 access to all course materials. Utah is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, but students should ensure USU’s online child development degree is authorized in their state of residence.

Online students have access to an academic advisor, the library, the career center, IT assistance, and USU’s Center for Women and Gender. Freshman applicants must have a high school GPA of at least 2.5 or higher and must meet ACT or SAT score requirements. Transfer applicants must have 24 to 60 college credits with a GPA of at least 2.3.


Union Institute & University 

Cincinnati, OH Apply Now

About this school

Union's BS in child and adolescent development program focuses on the emotional, social, affective, cognitive, and physical development of children from infancy to adolescence. Union's online child development major takes a comprehensive approach to working with families and children by preparing students for various career paths. Graduates work in a variety of health, education, and human services settings.

Distance learners have access to a learning community composed of child development professionals. While the majority of coursework is available online, some required credits are only available at Union's Sacramento or LA campuses. Online classes are delivered asynchronously, but students must meet weekly deadlines. Classroom materials, including lectures, notes, and virtual assignments, are accessible 24/7.

Students can complete the program on a part-time, full-time, or accelerated schedule. The online child development degree requires 120 credits of general education requirements, psychology and sociology classes, and elective coursework. Freshman applicants must submit high school transcripts or GED scores and SAT or ACT scores. Transfer applicants can submit up to 90 credits from a four-year institution.


San Diego Christian College 

Santee, CA Apply Now

About this school

Based in Santee, California, SDC is a Christian institution that prepares students for careers in fields such as social services, counseling, and human resources. SDC's online BA in human development provides interpersonal skills to help students become socially impactful members of their communities.

Students earning the child development degree online complete coursework in lifespan development and explore individuals' cognitive, social, spiritual, moral, and personality development. Students can pursue a minor or concentration in an area such as education, leadership, or psychology. Graduates pursue positions such as crisis center staff member, human resources professional, and early childhood center director.

The program is available in fully online and hybrid formats. Courses are delivered in five-week terms, with start dates throughout the year. Most students complete the 123 required credits in four years. Applicants must submit official high school transcripts and, if applicable, college transcripts.


California State University-East Bay 

Hayward, CA Apply Now

About this school

CSUEB offers a fully with three concentration options: adult development and gerontology, women’s development, and early childhood. The curriculum for this online child development degree examines theories of human development and associated social, physical, cultural, and emotional dimensions. Students explore lifespan concepts and developmental issues regarding children, adolescents, adults, and aging populations.

Graduates pursue careers in schools, hospitals, counseling, and family planning. Many graduates earn advanced degrees in public administration, social work, law, and gerontology. This degree completion program is designed for students transferring from a community college or returning to college after a period of academic inactivity.

Distance learners have 24/7 access to course materials. Coursework is delivered asynchronously, but distance learners can pursue the degree in a hybrid format. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and must be in the process of completing or have completed a minimum of 15 college credits with a 2.0 GPA. The program adheres to a quarter system and offers start dates in fall, winter, spring, and summer.


End of list, bravo!

Ranking Methodology
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.

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.

How to Choose Your Major What to Look for in an Online College

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 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:

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

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

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