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Master's Degree in Child Development

With a master's degree in child development, you can work in the social services, child advocacy or education field. Find out what you'd learn as a graduate student in a child development program, and check whether you can pursue online coursework in this program. Get detailed info about job options and salaries for various positions in the child development field.

What Will I Learn in a Master's-Level Child Development Program?

The master's degree program in child development teaches you how to assess and treat children with behavioral, emotional and learning issues. You will examine the effects of family life, culture and poverty on a child's development. The program combines theory-based research with hands-on practice working with young children.

The program typically takes 2-3 years to finish and usually ends with a final comprehensive examination. You sometimes can choose a concentration within child development ,such as leadership, teaching, family studies or infancy.

Program StructureTheory courses, hands-on experience with children, possible concentration, final comprehensive exam; programs take two to three years to complete
Common CoursesLanguage development, research in child development, adolescence, parenting techniques, infant development
Online OptionsOnline programs in child development are rare, but programs are available in related fields
Possible CareersSchool counselor, mental health counselor, school administrator, case manager, social worker

What's the Curriculum Like?

The program takes a very interdisciplinary approach by examining all facets of child development and learning. Classes cover subjects such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, education and social work. The coursework often involves a great deal of research and reading. Common child development subjects that you might study include:

  • Infant development
  • Effect of culture on development
  • Growth and physical development
  • Societal views of childhood development
  • The adolescent process
  • Language development
  • Parenting techniques
  • Research in child development

Are Online Programs Available?

Online child development programs are rare, but you can enroll in many related programs like child and family studies, early childhood education and human development. To apply, you often need to have professional experience working with children.

The online master's degree program typically takes two years to complete. The program combines independent readings and assignments with online group discussions through video presentations and chat features. Computer technology requirements often include Adobe Acrobat Reader, Flash and Skype.

What Kind of Job Can I Get?

With your master's degree in child development, you can enter a number of advanced positions in psychological services, education, administration and social services. You also can pursue a doctoral degree in child development if you wish to become a postsecondary teacher or researcher.

If you wish to provide mental health assistance, you can become a licensed counselor at a school or child care facility. To receive your license, you will want to look into the specific requirements of your state. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that's school and career counselor positions were predicted to rise 8% from 2019-2029, much faster than the average (www.bls.gov). The BLS stated that mental health counselors made an average annual salary of $46,050 in 2020, while educational, guidance, vocational and school counselors earned an average yearly wage of $62,320.

You can also become an administrator at an elementary school, community center, summer camp or nonprofit organization with your master's degree. The BLS reported that preschool and child care center education administrators earned an average annual salary of $54,940 in 2020, while elementary and secondary school education administrators made $103,010 on average.

If you decide to work in social services, you can find a job as a case manager or social worker for the government or a nonprofit organization. The BLS stated that social worker positions were projected to rise 13% from 2019-2029. According to the BLS, child, family and school social workers earned an average yearly salary of $52,370 in 2020.