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Information on Master’s Degree Programs in Child Development

Majors Overview November 20, 2015

Those with an interest in the cognitive, emotional, and cultural development of children should look into master’s degree programs in child development. This article talks about these programs and their education requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Master’s Programs in Child Development

Universities and 4-year colleges typically offer master’s degree programs in child development through their family studies, human development, social work, or education divisions. Education professionals and graduate students enrolled in the programs gain an advanced grasp of the mental, emotional, physical, social, and intellectual development of children. This knowledge may find use in advanced leadership positions in organizations involved in serving the needs of youth and children.

Students enrolled in many 2-year master’s degree programs in child development are required to complete clinical or hands-on practical experience doing supervised work with children. Completion of a project or thesis paper is also typically required where students will explore a particular aspect of development or childcare. State-level licensure is compulsory for many professions, including school counselor and social worker; licensure norms include field experience and a master’s degree.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a baccalaureate degree in psychology, elementary education, counseling, social studies, or a related field. They must also submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, grade point averages, and transcripts.


The program coursework focuses on the principles and theories underlying child psychology and growth. In other courses, students are taught ways of managing and conducting research for a thesis. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Child psychology
•Tests and measurements
•Research methods
•Multicultural issues in child development
•Ethics in psychology
•Child and adolescent development
•Learning theories in psychology
•Lifespan development
•Adolescent Psychology
•Human prenatal development

Career Choices

While program graduates often pursue careers as teachers or school administrators, they may also commonly choose from career options such as:

•Child behavioral psychologist
•Child and adolescent policy advocate
•Social worker
•School counselor
•Child home operator
•Community organizer
•Youth services administrator

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, school and career counseling positions are expected to see a 12% job growth (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2013, guidance, educational, vocational and school counselors brought in an average annual wage of $56,170 (BLS). Over the 2012 – 2022 period, a faster-than-average job growth of 19% has been predicted for school, child and family social work jobs. In May 2013, these workers brought in an average annual wage of $56,160 (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

Program graduates who seek continuing education may pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Child Development program that typically spans 5-7 years. The program involves the completion of a publishable dissertation by students who are often allowed to customize coursework and explore a specific issue or aspect related to child development, in addition to planning research.

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