Invest in the future by transforming children’s emotional, intellectual, and physical potential. Earn one of the Best Online Master’s Degree in Child Development.

So much of success in life is rooted in our beginnings, specifically the developmental opportunities at a young age. Quality education and counseling in early childhood programs is proven to positively impact long-term holistic health significantly, as supported by studies from the Brookings Institute.

Who do we look to for this life-changing work? Child Development Specialists are advocates for children as they grow, paving the way to better futures for us all.

What is an Online Master’s in Child Development degree?

Child Development specialists provide support in all sectors of education, health, and social services. Their expertise in developmental growth contributes to the way we understand and support children throughout their formative years and into adulthood.

A Master’s Degree in Childhood Development provides the training and tools needed to support children as they grow, every step of the way. Whether providing education or counseling, evaluating physical and cognitive development, or conducting research and managing programs, specialists in Child Development are critical to the successful future of every child.

How much can you earn with an Online Master’s in Child Development degree?

With Child Development specialists critical to many facets of both private and public services, earning potential varies depending on position. Opportunities in the private and medical sectors often result in a higher pay scale, while compensation in public or government services tend to be dependent on funding.

For example, Child, Family, and School Social Workers in community services earn an average of $48,430 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, Child Life Specialists in a clinical setting earn an average of $60,380 per year, according to the same source. Program administrators and experts who gain experience in their fields easily go on to earn higher salaries throughout their careers.

What is required for an Online Master’s in Child Development degree?

Basic requirements for the majority of online Master’s degree programs in Childhood Development include an application, a resume or CV, professional references or letter of recommendation, and a letter of intent. GRE requirements vary, as do course prerequisites.

Some programs require an undergraduate degree of some kind, though others will provide alternative solutions. Of those that do require undergraduate work, some look for a relevant prior degree, such as education, psychology, or child and family studies, while others accept a broader range of experience.

Depending on program focus and career track, you will likely complete between 30 and 50 credit hours. Most programs center around a core set of basic classes, and branch off to provide more focused coursework in a variety of specialities and certifications.

What are the best Online Master’s in Child Development degrees?

Online School Report had identified the top ten Online Master’s in Child Development degrees available in the United States. Read about our methodology for evaluating these programs here.

Below, you’ll find a summary of the components of each degree program, followed by pros and cons for quick reference. You will also find the overall OSR Scores for each of our seven core categories.

  1. University of Southern Mississippi

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $23,452/$25,452
    Acceptance62
    Earnings Potential61
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality94
    Retention90
    Student Satisfaction85
    Reputation100
    Pros
    • Well-suited to part-time schedule
    • Opportunity for hands-on experience in the field
    • In-state tuition for online students, and special funding for military
    Cons
    • GRE scores required for entry
    • Admission only available in the fall
    • Written and time comprehensive exam required for degree
    100%OSR Score

    The 100 percent online MS in Child and Family Studies at the University of Southern Mississippi is designed for professionals and working individuals looking for a flexible school schedule. A total of 15 courses, each between 1-3 credits, is required for a total degree program of 37 credit hours. Thesis and practicum options round out the curriculum. Typical degree completion is two years.

  2. University of Nebraska-Lincoln

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $24,544/$39,664
    Acceptance65
    Earnings Potential80
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention93
    Student Satisfaction76
    Reputation93
    Pros
    • Thesis and non-thesis options available
    • No minimum GPA requirement for acceptance
    • Access to resources from an array of institutions
    Cons
    • Limited selection of specializations available online
    • GRE scores required
    • Written or oral comprehensive exam required for degree completion
    97%OSR Score

    The MS in Child, Youth, and Family Studies at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln is offered through a consortium of regional universities participating in a joint distance learning effort. With a variety of tracks and specializations, the Child Development programs rank among only 9 percent in the nation that are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Requirements are between 30-36 credit hours, with three options for structuring coursework.

  3. University of Missouri-Columbia

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $26,611/$43,330
    Acceptance64
    Earnings Potential86
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention97
    Student Satisfaction78
    Reputation93
    Pros
    • Adjustable schedule and completion timeframe
    • GRE not required for admission
    • Access to resources from a network of universities
    Cons
    • Selection of specialties limited to three
    • Minimum 4 credit hours per semester for financial aid eligibility
    • 3.0 minimum GPA requirement for admission
    97%OSR Score

    The flexible, online graduate program at the University of Missouri offers MA degrees in Youth Development, Gerontology, and Family and Community Services. Each 36-credit hour program requires a core set of classes plus electives and advanced courses in your specialty, along with an internship component. Classes are taught in partnership with regional universities with final degrees awarded by the University of Missouri.

  4. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $27,469/$39,655
    Acceptance77
    Earnings Potential46
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention79
    Student Satisfaction87
    Reputation92
    Pros
    • The only program on this list with a specific Child Life track available
    • Programs designed to jumpstart or advance existing careers
    • Online students qualify for in-state tuition
    Cons
    • Programs do not grant clinical licensure
    • BA and at least one related course required for admission
    • Field and course experience required for Child Life track admission
    97%OSR Score

    The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities offers an MA program with three specialized tracks in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, Child Life, and Individualized Studies. With 15 specialized credit hours per program, plus a selection of core classes and prerequisites, the MA degrees each require a total of 32 credits. Child Life track students will also be required to complete a 600-hour internship in a clinical setting.

  5. University of La Verne

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $60,938/$60,938
    Acceptance77
    Earnings Potential46
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention69
    Student Satisfaction74
    Reputation97
    Pros
    • Fully online, or opportunity to join campus classes
    • Ranked #50 in Best Value Schools by US News & World Report
    • Small, intimate class size
    Cons
    • Online track takes 2-4 additional hours a week
    • Requires minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 in Early Childhood classes
    • Degree program not yet authorized in all states
    96%OSR Score

    In this Master of Science degree in Child Development from the University of La Verne, may choose to combine classes online and on campus. This program requires nine credit hours of core coursework, plus 18 credit hours of additional courses in various concentrations. Students also complete three hours of electives and a graduate seminar, totaling 33 credit hours for degree completion.

  6. University of South Florida-Main Campus

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $21,410/$32,324
    Acceptance87
    Earnings Potential57
    Online Presence16
    Online Program Quality35
    Retention66
    Student Satisfaction81
    Reputation90
    Pros
    • GRE scores only required for thesis track
    • Take non-degree classes to sample program (later applied to degree)
    • Begin in either fall or spring semester
    Cons
    • Comprehensive exam required for degree completion
    • Minimum requirement in GRE scores (for thesis track)
    • BA required for entry, minimum 3.0 GPA
    95%OSR Score

    A fully online MS in Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health is available at the University of South Florida, with four areas of specialization. Specializations in Developmental Disabilities, Leadership in Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health, Research & Evaluation, or Youth & Behavioral Health are all available, with thesis or applied experience tracks. All concentrations require 12 credit hours of core classes, as well as 21 credits per concentration and 6 credits of either thesis or applied experience.

  7. University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $19,622/$34,781
    Acceptance64
    Earnings Potential53
    Online Presence8
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention74
    Student Satisfaction84
    Reputation85
    Pros
    • Evening classes to accommodate working schedules
    • Professors actively involved in field research
    • Program prepares for wide array of career paths
    Cons
    • BA in childhood studies or related field required for admission
    • Teaching license required for Advanced Teaching Licensure track
    • Advanced Teaching Licensure students complete 8 weeks of student teaching
    92%OSR Score

    A Masters of Education in Birth-Kindergarten Interdisciplinary Studies in Education and Development is available from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Fully online, the degree is offered with cooperation from both the School of Education and the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. With a primary focus in Early Childhood Leadership, the program offers concentrations in Program Administration or Advanced Teaching Licensure, both requiring 37 credit hours.

  8. Missouri State University-Springfield

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $21,062/$28,502
    Acceptance75
    Earnings Potential42
    Online Presence16
    Online Program Quality75
    Retention66
    Student Satisfaction74
    Reputation87
    Pros
    • 100% self-paced, low minimum credit requirement per semester
    • Up to 9 transfer credits accepted
    • Opportunity to take electives on campus if desired
    Cons
    • Minimum 3.0 GPA for recent undergraduate work
    • GRE scores required for students below 3.0 GPA
    • Prerequisite classes in field
    92%OSR Score

    Missouri State University offers an MS in Early Childhood and Family Development, completely accessible online and self-paced. In addition to required courses, students choose a third of their classes based on personal preference. A research component and comprehensive evaluation are both required for degree completion. Total credit hours are 32.

  9. Michigan State University

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $28,478/$53,424
    Acceptance67
    Earnings Potential83
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention75
    Student Satisfaction73
    Reputation77
    Pros
    • Teaching input from faculty across multiple universities and expertises
    • Applications accepted three times a year
    • Zero on-campus activity
    Cons
    • Requirements for professional licensure not guaranteed outside of Michigan
    • Apply via your home institution, from which final degree is given
    • Must be a working professional to participate
    90%OSR Score

    A Master of Arts in Family Community Services and a Master of Arts in Youth Development are both offered from Michigan State University. Each program is conducted exclusively online via a collective of cooperating universities and requires a total of 36 credit hours plus a final evaluation. In addition, students may earn a Graduate Certificate in Youth Development or Youth Development Management and Evaluation.

  10. Capella University

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $20,152/$20,152
    Acceptance82
    Earnings Potential58
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality75
    Retention78
    Student Satisfaction74
    Reputation96
    Pros
    • Various tuition payment plans available
    • FlexPath, self-paced scheduling available
    • Transfer credits accepted
    Cons
    • One of the most expensive programs in this list
    • 55 credits required for degree
    • Specialization not accredited by the American Psychological Association
    88%OSR Score

    Students achieve a Child and Adolescent Development Specialization as part of the Master of Science in Psychology program at Capella University. Students complete 55 credit hours in addition to a final project for a degree, and coursework is offered entirely online.