Child Development Degrees: Associate, Bachelor & Online Class Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in child development? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses and child development degrees.
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Study Child Development: Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

If you enjoy working with children and want to turn your passion for helping others into a career, a degree in child development is a good place to start. Earning an associate's or bachelor's degree is the first step toward a career in the field; however, post-graduate licensing or certification may be required depending on where you live and what career you pursue.

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most careers in child development had an average or faster than average predicted job growth rate from 2010-2020. During this time, the overall job outlook for childcare workers was expected to rise by 20%.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in working in childcare or preschool education People who want to work as kindergarten teachers, direct-service social workers or in management positions within childcare settings
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Childcare worker ($21,000)*
- Preschool teacher ($30,000)*
- Teacher assistant ($25,000)*
- Kindergarten teacher ($52,000 separate licensing required)*
- Social worker ($54,000 separate licensing required)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credit hours in general studies and child development coursework
- Observation time
- Internship
- Roughly 120 credit hours in general studies and child development coursework
- Observation time
- Internship
- Teaching requirement for kindergarten teachers
Prerequisites - High school diploma or equivalent
- Criminal background check
- First aid/CPR certification may be required prior to enrollment
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Criminal background check
- First aid/CPR certification may be required prior to enrollment
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's Degrees in Child Development

Associate's degree programs in child development are designed for students who want to pursue entry-level careers working with children. Obtaining your associate's degree is the first step toward finding employment in childcare and education settings, such as preschools or day cares. As a student enrolled in an associate's-level child development program, you will focus on learning about the physical growth, emotional and behavioral development, and verbal/non-verbal language of infants, toddlers and school-age children. You will also learn how to effectively communicate and educate young children in a way that fosters learning and development. Without continuing your education in the field, it may be difficult to advance your career in child development.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Most jobs in this field have average or faster than average predicted job growth rates, according to the BLS.
  • Holding an associate's degree may give you a competitive edge over applicants who only hold a high school diploma.
  • As of 2013, holding an associate's degree or being enrolled in an associate's program will be required to work in head start centers, according to the BLS.
  • Working in childcare or early childhood education can be personally rewarding.

Cons

  • Careers in this field are fairly low-paying.
  • A degree is not a hard requirement for working in childcare.
  • An associate's degree in childcare may not qualify you for higher positions in this field.

Courses and Requirements

The courses you will take in an associate's-level child development program will provide you with a strong foundation in the basics of early childhood development patterns, teaching techniques and curriculum development for young children. The skills gained in these courses will enable you to create effective lesson plans, choose meaningful activities and interact professionally with children and parents. Some courses you can expect to take in a child development associate's program include:

  • Child nutrition and health
  • Early childhood education
  • Child safety
  • Early childhood development ages 0-3
  • Early childhood development ages 3-5

In addition to coursework, you will be required to complete field observation time in a childcare or early education setting as well as a semester-long internship. Your observation time will give you the ability to observe teaching and care techniques as well as the behavior of young children. During your internship, you will work as a leader or educator under the supervision of a childcare worker or teacher to demonstrate knowledge learned in class and essentially practice working in the field alongside a mentor.

Online Availability

When pursuing your associate's degree in child development, you have the option to do so on campus or online. An online program will offer all of your courses through Internet correspondence while also assisting you in finding a licensed childcare center to conduct your observation time and internship. If you work full-time or have family commitments, an online degree may offer the flexibility you need to earn your degree.

Stand Out With This Degree

Obtaining your Childhood Development Associate credential (CDA) will open up more job opportunities for you in this field. While most programs offer all of the prerequisites for earning this credential, you do not automatically get it after graduation and must apply for it once you have your degree. A CDA is required in some states for working in childcare and early childhood education, while in other states it simply stands out as an extra credential.

Learning about technology as it relates to childcare is also important. Not only can it be used to educate and entertain children, but many daycares are utilizing online streaming so that parents can monitor their children from a remote location.

Bachelor's Degrees in Child Development

Bachelor's degree programs in child development are designed for students who want to work beyond entry-level positions as kindergarten teachers or social workers or in management positions within the childcare industry. A bachelor's degree program will provide you with a more advanced education in child development and give you the knowledge and skills you need to work in a variety of settings. As a student in a bachelor's degree program, you will learn about educational theories, instruction methods and behavior and growth patterns in children. Entry-level positions in daycare or preschools will not require a bachelor's degree, and you will complete with associate's degree holders for jobs in the field.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Higher-paying jobs in the field are available to bachelor's degree holders.
  • A bachelor's degree is a prerequisite if you are interested in teaching in a public or private school, and most programs include licensing.
  • A variety of concentrations are available, enabling you to customize your education.

Cons

  • You may feel locked into teaching with this degree, since it is not a degree that can be used for many other careers. Agencies will occasionally hire social workers with this degree, though a degree in social work is preferable for that career.
  • Teachers often work long hours outside of school and aren't financially compensated for that time.
  • A bachelor's degree may over-qualify you for positions in childcare or working in preschools.

Courses and Requirements

The coursework in a bachelor's-level program is designed primarily for people who plan to pursue careers in either education or childcare administration. During your time in a bachelor's degree program, you will take a diverse set of courses that will provide you with a well-rounded knowledge of early childhood development and education. Some schools offer areas of concentration in infant/toddler development or childcare management. The courses you take will vary based on the school you attend and your area of specialization, but some general courses you can expect to take include:

  • Educational psychology
  • Language development
  • Early literacy
  • Early childhood teaching
  • Math for young children

In addition to coursework, you will complete observation hours and an internship in order to earn your degree. The purpose of the observation is to prepare you for your internship while giving you a chance to apply concepts learned in class to real-world situations. The internship will generally be a student teaching opportunity. Many bachelor's programs include licensing as a part of the degree program, and student teaching is a requirement for earning your license.

Online Availability

Bachelor's-level degree programs in child development are available both on campus and online. The courses offered through online programs are similar to coursework offered on campus, and you will still need to complete observation hours and an internship at a childcare center, preschool or elementary school in order to earn your degree.

Stand Out With This Degree

When conducting your student observation time, try to log your hours in as many different settings as possible. For example, observe in both public and private schools. This will give you the opportunity to try out different work settings and enable you to gain experience working with a more diverse group of children.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. General Studies - Human Services
      • A.S. Early Childhood Education
      • A.S. General Studies - Liberal Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AA in Liberal Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Early Childhood Education
  • Knoxville, TN

    Pellissippi State Technical Community College

  • Wells, ME

    York County Community College

  • Marquette, MI

    Northern Michigan University

  • Altus, OK

    Western Oklahoma State College

  • Parkersburg, WV

    West Virginia University at Parkersburg

  • Ogden, UT

    Weber State University

  • Calais, ME

    Washington County Community College

Featured Schools

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. General Studies - Human Services
  • A.S. Early Childhood Education
  • A.S. General Studies - Liberal Arts

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Southern New Hampshire University

  • AA in Liberal Arts

What is your highest level of education?

Ashford University

  • Associate of Arts - Early Childhood Education

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York County Community College

Western Oklahoma State College

West Virginia University at Parkersburg