2022 Best Online PhD in Child Development [Doctorate Guide]

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If you have a passion for working with children, you might consider advancing your professional qualifications with a PhD in Child Development.

Best Online 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

Teacher getting Child Development PhD online

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

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
Postsecondary Teachers $79,640
Social and Community Service Managers $74,000
Instructional Coordinators $63,740
Special Education Teachers $61,820
School and Career Counselors and Advisors $60,510
Social Workers $50,390
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

Group of people taking Child Development PhD

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

Woman taking PhD in Child Development Program online

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.

Admissions Requirements

Couple preparing requirements for PhD in Child Development

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

University offering Child Development PhD Programs

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

Financial Aid for Child Development PhD

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?

Instructional Coordinator welcoming the class

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
  • Emphasizes cognitive, emotional, and social development of children
  • Focuses on observing children and identifying and solving problems
  • Applicable in variety of fields, such as education, healthcare, and social work
  • Emphasizes the education of young children
  • Focuses on implementing learning and development activities for young children
  • Mainly deals with educational settings

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?

Special Ed Teacher with Child Development PhD teaching two kids

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

American College of Education campus

The American College of Education is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Ball State University

Ball State University campus

Ball State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Brenau University

Brenau University campus

Brenau University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Capella University

Capella University campus

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Concordia University – Chicago

Concordia University Chicago campus

Concordia University – Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University campus

East Tennessee State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Fielding Graduate University

Fielding Graduate University campus

Fielding Graduate University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Loyola University – Chicago

Loyola University Chicago campus

Loyola University – Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University campus

NMSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Oakland University

Oakland University campus

Oakland University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Rutgers University

Rutgers University campus

Rutgers is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Saybrook University

Saybrook University campus

Saybrook University is accredited by the Senior Commission of Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Texas Woman’s University

Texas Womans University campus

Texas Woman’s University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Alabama – Birmingham

University of Alabama Birmingham campus

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Colorado – Denver

University of Colorado Denver campus

The University of Colorado – Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of Florida

University of Florida campus

The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota campus

UND is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Toledo

University of Toledo campus

The University of Toledo is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Walden University

Walden University campus

Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your PhD in Child Development Online

Man pursuing his 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.

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Kelly Smeby
WRITTEN BY
Kelly Smeby
Kelly has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Healthcare Management from Winthrop University. Her interests include research on topics such as healthcare and business. She enjoys writing and sharing informative information to help others.