Best Online Doctorate in Early Childhood Education

A doctorate in child development online opens doorways for many careers that encourage childhood and community development.

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Ph.D. in Child Development

A doctorate in child development online opens doorways for many careers that encourage childhood and community development.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job markets for social workers, preschool directors, and school counselors are growing faster than the national average. With a doctoral degree, you have the theoretical foundation and necessary leadership skills to help children work toward positive emotional growth. You also delve into the biological and psychosocial stressors of childhood and young adulthood.

Featured Online Child Development Doctorate

The Best Online Child Development Doctorate

#1 Best Online Doctorate in Early Childhood Education

Fielding Graduate University

  • Santa Barbara, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The doctor of philosophy in infant and early childhood development program at Fielding Graduate University appeals to doctoral students seeking an online route to their child development degree. At the private university, degree-seekers participate in virtual classrooms to earn a doctorate. Doctoral candidates strengthen their research skills and present in academic conferences.

The online program incorporates doctoral-level coursework. After meeting coursework requirements, doctoral candidates conduct research and defend an original dissertation that contributes to the field. As the highest degree in child development, the doctorate meets requirements for research, academic, and leadership roles.

At the accredited institution, doctoral students qualify for several forms of financial aid. The average graduate tuition rate is $17,292. Reach out to the program to learn more about the application process and start dates.

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Students Enrolled
Institution Type
Percent Online Enrollment
96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Best Online Doctorate

Online Child Development Doctorate Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%

Affordability - 15%

Online Enrollment - 10%

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Choosing a Program

The key to choosing the right program is understanding your own career goals. With so many possible applications for a Ph.D. in child development — such as counseling, education and government advocacy — you need to identify which programs offer courses oriented to your professional objectives. For example, if you want to work one-on-one with students as a school guidance counselor, you should study emotional development through infancy and early childhood. If you want to work as an information analyst that contributes to future government and community initiatives as an education analyst, you should develop your research skills.

Popular concentrations in child development include cognition and emotional evolution, which is particularly relevant to social workers and educators. The infancy and early childhood specialization, which covers birth through age eight, is valuable for preschool and elementary school educators, administrators and counselors. Likewise, the young adult development specialization covers junior high through high school, and it addresses issues related to puberty, mental health and substance abuse.

What Else Can I Expect from an Online Doctorate in Child Development Program?

Child development doctoral programs online offer many courses to tailor your degree to your career objectives. Courses will vary between schools, so evaluate the curriculum for each school to ensure that it develops the skills you need for your future career.

Curriculum for an Online Doctoral Degree in Child Development

Careers with a Doctorate in Child Development

A doctorate in child development online leads to a range of career paths, such as a community as a social worker, an educator or a school administrator.

Social Worker

As a social worker, you are a liaison between families, therapists, foster care, schools and government agencies. You advocate for school and community resources and track individual children’s recovery processes.

Median Salary: $55,350 Projected Job Growth (2022-2032): 7%

Professor of Child Development

With a Ph.D., you can work as a professor who teaches future students about the diversity of social and cultural contexts that impact education and early childhood development. Professors create and deliver course materials while conducting their own research.

Median Salary: $80,840 Projected Job Growth (2022-2032): 8%


As a principal, you manage elementary, junior high or high schools. Duties in this position include discipline administration, instructional management and budget maintenance.

Median Salary: $101,320 Projected Job Growth (2022-2032): 1%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Header Image Credit: SDI Productions | Getty Images

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