Best Online Master’s in Child Development 2021 | TheBestSchools

by TBS Staff

Updated August 16, 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.

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An online master's in child development degree gives you the knowledge, skills, and confidence necessary to play an integral role in organizations committed to meeting children’s needs from infancy through adolescence.

Making a meaningful difference in young people’s lives requires understanding their mental, social, and educational progress in order to help them grow into healthy, productive adults. Pursuing studies in child development enables you to recognize best practices in social services and education to assess effective programming. This degree affords limitless career options, including becoming a special education teacher, a profession the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will grow 8% by 2026.

The Best Online Master's in Child Development Programs

  1. University of South Florida-Main Campus

    Tampa, FL



    A public research university founded in 1956, USF offers an online master of science in child and adolescent behavioral health. Students complete 39 credits for this nonclinical degree and can choose a thesis or applied track.

    Core requirements include child and adolescent behavioral health, creating cultural competence in behavior, and issues and trends in developmental disabilities. All students must pass a comprehensive examination before completing thesis work — or a field experience for the applied track.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. Students do not need to submit standardized test scores.

  2. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

    Minneapolis, MN



    A public university founded in 1851, UMN offers an online master of arts in applied child and adolescent development. Students complete 32 credits and choose from three specialties: infant and early childhood mental health, child life, and individualized studies.

    Required courses include advanced developmental psychology, social and emotional development, cognitive and biological development, and research methods in applied child and adolescent development. From there, students take courses within their concentration choice to complete the degree.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a preferred GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission.

  3. Southern New Hampshire University

    Manchester, NH

    A private university founded in 1932, SNHU offers a master of science in psychology with a concentration in child development. Students take 36 credits in this non-licensure program and choose from three tracks: forensic psychology, child and developmental psychology, and industrial and organizational psychology.

    Required courses include research methods in psychology, measurement and assessment, and ethical practice in psychology. Students take electives or follow the course series for their chosen concentration.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree in psychology or any discipline with completed prerequisite coursework to qualify for admission.

  4. Missouri State University-Springfield

    Springfield, MO



    Founded in 1905, MSU offers an online master of science in child life studies. Students complete an advanced track with 35 credits or a standard track with 44 credits.

    Required courses include child life theory and practice, advanced family studies, and advanced human development studies. From there, students complete electives and then complete a comprehensive examination to complete the degree.

    Advanced track applicants need a bachelor's in child life or certification as a child life specialist to qualify for admission. Standard track students need a bachelor's in any field with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and 100 volunteer hours in the field for eligibility.

  5. University of La Verne

    La Verne, CA

    A private university founded in 1891, La Verne offers an online master of science in child and adolescent development. Students can choose from two tracks: early childhood or adolescence.

    Required courses include educational psychology, methods of research, human development, and academic writing. From there, students complete concentration courses such as infant and toddler development, studies in attachment, motivation in education, or adolescent development. Students complete degree requirements with a final graduate seminar and an internship.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a preferred GPA of 2.5 to qualify for admission. Students do not need to submit standardized test scores.

Best Online Programs

Online Master's in Child Development Programs 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%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

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Featured Online Master's in Child Development Programs

Choosing a Program

Your master's degree in child development online coursework allows you to thoroughly examine child development theory, scientific literature, and relevant research. For example, your classes will explore topics like child and adolescent psychology and lifespan development. You should also expect to engage in research design and analysis. This advanced degree demands a firm grasp of subject matter through discussions, projects, and exams. Many programs also offer opportunities to choose a specialization within the degree. Some options for concentrations include family studies, teaching, or a focus on infancy. This enables you to customize your degree to match your academic and career interests.

Degree requirements depend on individual programs. Moreover, course format can be either fully online or a blend of online and on campus instruction. Carefully, review each available program to determine which best suits your interests and scheduling needs.

Online Master's in Child Development Careers

A master's degree in child development online is the ideal credential if you wish to enter a profession such as a child development specialist, afterschool program director, or childcare center manager. These careers require an ability to communicate effectively with a range of ages and demand a strong commitment to ethical practices.

Preschool and Childcare Center Director

This professional develops programming for children, manages staff, and maintains all budgetary aspects of facility operations. In addition, the director works closely with parents to update them on their child's progress. A master's in child development can better ensure your business management skills in a director position.

Median Salary: $45,790 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 11%

Special Education Teacher

These teachers support the development of young people with emotional, learning, and physical impairments by tailoring instruction to meet their academic needs. They ensure students develop literacy and communication skills, assessing and working with those who have mild disabilities or a more serious condition. Some states require additional teaching certification.

Median Salary: $57,910 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 8%

Social Worker

A social worker identifies community needs and assesses intervention options by reviewing clients' concerns. These clients can include families and children that face challenges like illness, homelessness, and abuse. This expert connects people to resources that can help them improve their circumstances. A master's degree in child development permits you to strengthen your case management and clinical assessment skills.

Median Salary: $46,890 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 15%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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