If you have a passion for working with children, you might consider advancing your professional qualifications with a PhD in Child Development.
Whether you want to work with children directly or make a difference through community development, a PhD in Child Development can help you develop expertise in this field.
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Doctoral graduates might go on to work one-on-one with young students or to shape public policy.
Online PhD in Child Development Programs
Much like when earning an online masters in child development, pursuing an online Ph.D. in Child Development can help you develop research and analytical skills and better understand the various areas of child development.
Here are some typical things you may learn from a PhD program in child development:
- Theories about social, intellectual, and emotional development in children
- The cognitive, language, and personal development of children
- Advanced research techniques and the use of statistics in the field
- How to design and implement intervention programs
A PhD in Child Development could help prepare you for a career in an academic setting or an applied research setting. Some graduates go on to become teaching administrators, working with children and teachers directly.
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This type of role could allow you to make an immediate difference in the lives of children by promoting their growth. The more you understand the cognitive and emotional developmental issues children face, the more you can assist both students and teachers.
A doctoral program in this field will cover the issues children face in infancy and early childhood up to age 8. This knowledge is helpful for elementary school workers as well. In this type of program, you might also learn about some of the issues teens and young adults face, like puberty and mental health.
If you prefer the research aspect of the field, a PhD could help you qualify for positions in academia. Some professionals also go on to develop policy for child development programs. Education analysts can use their research and analysis skills to help shape community initiatives and government policies.
Child Development Careers and Salaries
A PhD in Child Development can help open the door to many careers working with children or impacting their development.
Some career paths in this field include teachers, counselors, principals, and training and development managers. A PhD in Child Development can also be beneficial for careers in social work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are median salaries for some of the positions related to child development studies.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Training and Development Managers||$120,130|
|K-12 Principals — Public Schools||$98,870|
|K-12 Principals —Private Schools||$79,780|
|Social and Community Service Managers||$74,000|
|Special Education Teachers||$61,820|
|School and Career Counselors and Advisors||$60,510|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$48,520|
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of these careers are expected to see steady or faster-than-average growth in the next ten years.
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Growing positions include postsecondary teachers (12% job growth), career counselors and advisors (11%), and instructional coordinators (10%).
Child Development Doctorate Curriculum & Courses
Child development doctoral programs cover a variety of topics, ranging from social and emotional development to education finances. Curricula can vary depending on the school, so it may help to look at what each school offers to make sure you can study your preferred subjects.
Here are examples of courses you may find in a child development PhD program:
- Fundamentals of Social and Emotional Development: You can learn about the challenges children face in early development, including social, psychological, and biological influences.
- Risk in Early Childhood Development: You can learn about mental health in children, economic issues like poverty that children may be facing, and coping mechanisms.
- Educational Communication: This course teaches you how to effectively communicate and give constructive feedback in an educational setting.
- Pedagogical Theory: You can learn about the history and evolution of teaching and how to handle the effects of teaching and schools on young children.
- Education Finance and Budgeting: This course teaches you how to conduct a cost-benefit analysis and helps you understand the financial and budget restrictions educational institutions face.
- Developmental Disabilities: This course can help you understand the developmental disabilities children and their families face and how to manage them.
- Cross-Cultural Understanding: This course teaches about how different families operate in different cultures around the world.
- Law, Policy, and Advocacy: You can learn how to research laws and regulations and how to make recommendations to improve the lives of children and their families.
- Family Systems Theory and Functioning: You can learn about the different aspects of family and how they may impact a child’s development.
- Individual Development and Developmental Psychopathology: This course explores how to understand the differences in development across individuals.
In addition, you may be required to complete a dissertation and an internship to complete your degree.
How to Choose an Online PhD in Child Development Program
Here are some key factors you may want to consider when choosing the best online education degree programs offering an online PhD in Child Development:
- Accreditation. It’s strategic to check whether the school you’re considering is accredited by a valid accreditation agency.
- Skills and topics covered. If you want to go into a specific field, like research, you may want to make sure that the topics or specializations you’re most interested in are covered in your prospective program.
- Available resources. You can check to see whether the program you’re considering will provide resources like online databases, mentors, online scholarly journals, and career contacts.
- Technologies. You may want to learn what online tools the program is using and how user-friendly they are. This is especially important in an online program, where all of your lessons and coursework are online.
- Graduate experiences. If you can find graduate experiences of the program, you can see whether graduates managed to find jobs in their desired field with their degree.
- Program reputation. It could be beneficial to see if the program has been around long enough to gain credibility.
It can be helpful to look at and compare multiple programs before picking a school to make sure you pick the program that best fits your interests and goals.
Admission requirements for an online PhD in Child Development program can vary from school to school. Here are some general requirements of many schools:
- Bachelor’s or master’s degree. Schools may want you to have a master’s degree in a relevant child development field.
- GRE or GMAT scores. Not all schools have this requirement, but some still do.
- Letters of recommendation and personal statement. These show your qualifications and personal goals for the program.
- Interview. Some programs will request an in-person or phone interview.
In addition to these requirements, you’ll likely fill out an application, submit transcripts, and pay an application fee.
Child Development PhD Programs Accreditation
Regional accreditation is essential because it shows that your school meets the quality standards set by an accrediting agency. It assures that your school is credible and offers a high-quality education.
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Some employers place more importance on an accredited school and want proof that your degree is from one. It can also help employers determine your eligibility for tuition reimbursement programs. Your school’s accreditation status can impact the transferability of your credits as well. You can see if your school is accredited by visiting the US Department of Education’s website.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
A PhD in Child Development can be costly, but there are financial resources available to help qualifying students.
You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find out if you qualify for federal or state loans, grants, or work-study programs. While student loans need to be paid back, grants and scholarships do not. You may want to start by looking into any scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship opportunities at your school.
You can also look into separate organizations that offer scholarships. Some organizations offer scholarships for specific areas of study or certain groups of people. You can check with your employer, too, to see if your job offers funding for education through tuition reimbursement or professional development and employee training programs.
What Can You Do with a PhD in Child Development?
A PhD in Child Development could open the door to a variety of career paths. For example, some graduates work one-on-one with children and teachers as a principal or counselor.
You might also have the opportunity to pursue a career in research and information analysis, helping to shape future policies in the community. Other potential career paths in this field include social worker, program coordinator, psychologist, education specialist, postsecondary teacher, and training and development manager.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Child Development Online?
It generally takes 3 to 5 years to complete a PhD program. It depends, though, on the school’s credit hour requirements as well as how long it takes a student to finish their dissertation.
A program’s credit hour requirements can vary, with some including over 80 credit hours. Many schools offering a PhD in Child Development also require the completion of a dissertation. If a doctoral program doesn’t require a dissertation, it could potentially be completed in 3 years with full-time study.
What’s the Difference Between a PhD in Child Development vs. Early Childhood Education?
There is some overlap between a child development PhD and an early childhood PhD. Both focus on helping children grow, but there are some key differences between the two.
|PhD in Child Development||PhD in Early Childhood Education|
Child development doctoral programs are generally broader and focus on all aspects of a child’s development through to adulthood.
Is a PhD in Child Development Worth It?
Yes, a PhD in Child Development is worth it for many students. A child development PhD can help you develop expertise when it comes to helping children and improving systems related to education and childcare.
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Some professionals impact lives directly as teachers, principals, or counselors. Others work as instructional coordinators, training and development managers, or education analysts to shape policy and programs. Child development is a necessary field that isn’t going anywhere. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, education, training, and library occupations are expected to see 10% job growth over the next ten years.
Universities Offering Online Doctorate in Child Development Degree Program
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
American College of Education offers an online program for a Doctorate of Education in Child Development. It aims to prepare students for leadership roles pertaining to child development in behavioral professions, education, and government agencies. The program requires the completion of 24 core credits, 22 credits of research courses leading to a dissertation, and 18 credits of courses in the chosen concentration.
The American College of Education is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Ball State University offers an online program for a Doctorate in Child Development. Students have a variety of specializations to choose, including Elementary Education (EDEL), Early Childhood Education (ECYF), and Literacy and Reading Education (EDRD).
The program requires the completion of 91 graduate credits. These include a minimum of 30 credits for the major, a dissertation worth 10 credits, and a minimum of 24 credits in the cognate field.
Ball State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Brenau University offers an online program for a Doctorate in Child Development. Graduates may pursue opportunities as master’s level or career educators, administrators, policy advocates, or other related careers in child development. The program typically takes 3 years to complete. It consists of 54 credit hours divided across core courses, research and dissertation courses, and courses in the chosen concentration.
Brenau University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Capella University offers an online program for a PhD in Developmental Psychology. It is designed to help candidates gain the relevant expertise and knowledge needed to advance in developmental psychology careers.
The program consists of 7 core courses, 9 specialization courses, and 3 doctorate project development seminars for a total of 85 credits. To graduate, students must also complete one final comprehensive exam.
Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Concordia University—Chicago offers a PhD in Leadership with a specialization in Early Childhood Education. It is designed for students hoping to advance in child development careers.
The curriculum aims to develop theoretical and practical knowledge along with integrity and Christian values. It is designed to develop competency and servant leadership skills appropriate for higher education, leadership, administration, policy creation, advocacy, and politics.
Concordia University – Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
East Tennessee State University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Early Childhood Education. The program aims to teach students how to form policies, understand procedures, and make changes with lasting impact.
Offered online and on-campus, the program requires the completion of 69 semester credits of coursework, preliminary oral and written examinations, and a dissertation. The program typically takes between 5 to 7 years to complete.
East Tennessee State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Fielding Graduate University offers a PhD in Infant and Early Childhood Development. This multidisciplinary program offers an emphasis in Mental Health and Developmental Disorders and optional concentrations.
To graduate, students must complete 89 credits, which can typically be done in 3 to 5 years. Graduates of this research-oriented PhD program often pursue careers in education, research, policy and advocacy, and clinical settings.
Fielding Graduate University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Liberty University offers a hybrid program for a PhD in Psychology—Developmental Psychology. The curriculum teaches how to evaluate research and understand human behavior from a biblical perspective.
The program requires the completion of 60 credits that are completed through courses that are each 8 weeks long. Students can typically finish the program in 3 years. Graduates often have career opportunities in educational, research, and corporate settings.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Loyola University’s online PhD in Child Development program is intended for currently practicing school psychologists. The program aims to develop their expertise in assessing and supporting students’ mental health and addressing social inequities in schools. To graduate, students must complete 72 credit hours. They may transfer in up to 36 qualifying credits from other institutions.
Loyola University – Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
New Mexico State University offers an online Curriculum and Instruction PhD program. It includes classes from several different program areas, including Bilingual and TESOL, Critical Pedagogies, Early Childhood Education, and Educational Technologies.
The other program areas included are Language, Literacy, and Culture and Multicultural Education and Critical Pedagogies. The program requires the completion of 66 credits, including the completion of a dissertation. While the program is primarily online, students are required to come to campus one week during each summer session, for a total of 3 on-campus sessions during the program.
NMSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Oakland University offers an Early Childhood Education PhD with an emphasis in Leadership. This online program is designed to help students expand their expertise and professional impact and become leaders that create positive change in their communities. The doctoral program consists of 80 credit hours of coursework, fieldwork, and a 2 year internship. Working adults can attend classes entirely online.
Oakland University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Rutgers University offers a Doctorate in Child Development with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. This interdisciplinary program aims to help students gain advanced knowledge in education and learn how to form policy at local and national levels. To graduate, students must complete 72 credits of coursework and a dissertation in their field of concentration and pass a qualifying exam.
Rutgers is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Saybrook University offers a hybrid online program for a PhD in Clinical Psychology. The program aims to helps students learn practical skills and gain the experience needed to bring about positive change through service and leadership in their professional practice.
The program requires the completion of 105 to 108 credits hours. To graduate, students must complete all degree requirements and the academic coursework mandatory by their chosen state within 5 years.
Saybrook University is accredited by the Senior Commission of Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Texas Woman’s University offers a hybrid program for a PhD in Child Development and Early Education. The curriculum is designed to equip learners with applicable knowledge for professional and academic fields like higher education, research, or leadership.
Both the Child Development and the Early Childhood Education tracks are designed for working adults. Both tracks typically require 48 credit hours post-masters, though individual requirements may vary.
Texas Woman’s University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Alabama—Birmingham offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Early Childhood Education. The program offers three optional concentrations: Curriculum, Early Intervention and Young Children at Risk, and Literacy. This 30 credit program focuses on research and practice while offering doctoral-level early childhood seminars, internships, courses, and experiences.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Students can find a flexible PhD in Education and Human Development in Early Childhood Education program at the University of Colorado—Denver.
CU encourages active, self-paced learning through a combination of on-campus, remote, hybrid, and online courses. To graduate, students must complete 75 credits of courses consisting of core courses and courses specific to an area of concentration. The program can typically be completed in 4 to 6 years.
The University of Colorado – Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The University of Florida offers an online program for a Doctor of Education in Special Education. Students must complete 5 required special education courses, research courses, and coursework in their area of specialization for a total of at least 90 credit hours. Specialization options include Dyslexia, Disability in Society, Early Childhood, and Teacher Leadership and Learning. The program can typically be completed in 4 years.
The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of North Dakota offers a 100% online program for a Doctorate in Education Practice and Leadership. This 3 year EdD program requires 90 credit hours and is designed to help working professionals advance their careers in educational leadership roles. It’s an interdisciplinary hybrid learning program and candidates can select specialization tracks that best suit their individual needs.
UND is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Toledo offers a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction in Special Education that can be earned online. This program is designed for professionals looking to expand their career opportunities in leadership and administrative roles.
To graduate, students must complete advanced coursework, professional seminars, a research dissertation, and highly interactive virtual internships for a total of 60 credits. Students can typically finish the program in 4 to 5 years.
The University of Toledo is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Walden University offers an online program for a PhD in Developmental Psychology. The curriculum aims to help students learn how to apply theories and research to the practice of human developmental psychology.
Students can select the general program or one of seven concentrations. While the program is primarily online, students must attend a 4 day residency to build scholarly and professional connections. Students have up to 8 years to complete the program.
Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Getting Your PhD in Child Development Online
A PhD in Child Development can help you further your professional expertise and qualifications in this rewarding field.
A doctoral degree in child development can help you qualify for a variety of career paths that can make a difference in the lives of children. Depending on your work experience and degree specialization, you might consider a role in education, research, social services, or public policy.
If you’re interested in advancing your career in this growing field, you can start exploring accredited online PhD in Child Development programs today.