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What is Child Development?
Child development is an area of study that deals with the development and education of children from an early age. Individuals with degrees in this field are qualified to pursue teaching positions, with higher levels of education allowing for research and development positions.
Child development involves the use of various sciences and methods to best affect the growth and education of children. Empirical evidence and direct observation can be useful tools to assess learning efficacy. For child development researchers, they seek to better understand children and information processing given various stimuli. The end goal of research is to create tools, products, and curriculum that help children grow and learn effectively.
Popular Child Development Theorists
Popular child development theorists include Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Maria Montessori, Mary Ainsworth, Howard Gardner, Sigmund Freud, Arnold Gesell, Erik Ericson, John Watson, B.F. Skinner, Noam Chomsky, and Uri Bronfenbrenner. Each theorist has their own unique view of child development and the reasoning behind behavior and development in the early stages of life. We will take a peek at a popular theorist and their proposed stages of child development.
Jean Piaget’s Stages of Development
Piaget is one of the most popular and influential child development theorists in the last century. He postulated that children pass through four stages in life from infancy through adulthood. Jean Piaget coined the phrase meta-cognition which is the study of how we learn and built his theories around observations of normally developing infants, young teenagers, and adults. A brief overview of the four stages of his developmental theory include:
- Sensorimotor – The sensorimotor phase is a period of development from birth through around two-years of age. This phase is punctuated by experimentation, trial & error, and learning by doing.
- Preoperational – This phase of development lasts around five years during toddlerhood from age two through around seven years of age. This is the phase were development formalizes and children begin to: think symbolically, language advances, memory is evident, imagination is flourishing, and thinking is rooted in intuition.
- Concrete Operational – The concrete operational stage of development is encountered from seven through eleven years of age underscored by more logical reasoning. Children become less ego-centric and are more aware of external stimuli.
- Formal Operational – The final phase of development is from young teen through adulthood where the logical use of symbols is used to represent abstract concepts. Young adults also formalize the scientific method whereby multiple variants are used in tandem, hypotheses are created, and results are projected.
Child Development Complexities
The notion of a linear development path for any child is simply not realistic. Learning happens in spikes, followed by a plateau and rarely ever a smooth linear curve that can be graphed or charted with precision.
The field of child development gets more and more complex with additional variables. Consider the following variables that make child development less formulaic and more of a deep science: cognition, genetics, physical, family, culture, language, environment, education, emotional, social, moral, intellectual, and spiritual factors.
Variation in any one of the aforementioned developmental factors can nominally or significantly affect the development of a child.
How Do I Become a Child Development Specialist?
To enter the child development field as an administrator or teacher, you must understand the following steps. Akin to other professions, you need to invest in your education, add valuable knowledge, and skills to become proficient in your trade.
The following steps outline the process to help you better move confidently towards your goal as a child development specialist.
1. Research Child Development Degrees
To begin your journey in child development, locating an applicable degree is at the forefront. A college degree will be required regardless of your path as a child development specialist, administrator, or teacher. Digital libraries such as MatchCollege help you manually location viable degrees. Alternatively, we have created tools to help you automate your degree search with our proprietary matching portal.
2. Apply to an Accredited College
After creating a short list of colleges offering child development degrees, you will need to complete your school application. Online child development degree programs may be a viable option to help you achieve your goals if you are currently working or prefer the flexibility of learning online.
You application should clearly illustrate your passion for children and all work experience. Including volunteer positions and summer camps helps admissions officers garner a complete picture of how you invest your time. This extra step will help alleviate additional questions and help propel you forward in a competitive academic arena.
3. Attend College & Begin Your Classes
After gaining admissions, you will need to complete orientation and register for child development classes after meeting with a school counselor. Whether you are applying for a certificate in child development, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or graduate degree in child development you will need to remain focused and organized to make the most of the opportunity.
4. Graduate, Exams, Licensure, Certification, & Work
After earning your certificate or degree in child development from an accredited college or university, you will be required by your state of residence to obtain a clear background checks, TB test, and fingerprinting prior to beginning work in a licensed early childhood facility or school setting. Once all state-based tests and requirements are met, you can apply for jobs in a licensed school that fits your teaching style and pedagogy preference.
Top Degrees in Child Development
There are a wide range of degree, certificate, and diploma programs to select from within child development. Before deciding on a program, you should create a list of priorities for you to help guide your educational objectives and career goals including reading our book: Complete Guide to the College Admissions Process.
With the knowledge and tools to make a quality decisions about your future, you will be equipped to launch a career in child development and positively impact a generation of children.
Child Development Certificates Online
An undergraduate certificate program and diploma program in child development are designed to provide you with the essentials of child development. A certificate or CDA will help you gain access to entry-level positions in the field.
Graduate certificates are also available for qualified students to be used as tools for lifelong learners to upskill and expand your professional trajectory. Graduate certificates can be earned in a number of different disciplines of child development from childhood literacy, curriculum & design, preschool, and childhood development to name a few.
Child Development Associate’s Degrees
The online associate’s degree track is a 2-year degree-granting program created to provide students with core child development classes plus general education classes like English, math, philosophy, and psychology to help students process information about the world around them in a more holistic manner.
Core curriculum in child development will typically expose students to classes like the fundamentals of early childhood education, learning theory, portfolio development, classroom management, educational philosophy, principles of education, and childhood psychology studies.
By earning an associates degree, online or in-class, your will be ready to launch a career in a number of work settings such as schools, administrative centers, churches, homeschooling centers, preschools, or tutoring centers in the public or private sectors.
Child Development Bachelor's Degree
Online bachelor’s degree in child development extends the curriculum wider and deeper in a 4-year program. By enrolling in a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) program in child development will have the opportunity to learn about liberal arts curriculum such as English composition, human biology, speech communication, history, math, and physics.
On the other hand, core child development courses will often teach students the intricacies of educational philosophy, educational philosophy, classroom management, childhood psychology, portfolio management, learning theory, principles of education, and exceptional child with the opportunity to perform substantive student teaching under the tutelage of a certified teacher in a public or private school setting.
Child Development Master’s Degree
The track of an online master’s degree in child development can be completed in 1-2 years after all lower level classes are completed. Students enrolled in a master’s degree may enroll in upper-level courses to help better understand early learning research modalities, curricular design, child behavior, classroom supervision, leadership, and a capstone course in child development.
Master’s degree programs in child development are geared to help students prepare for administrative, leadership, and management positions. You may elect to work in a management for a state-agency supporting child development centers or an education director at a preschool, graduates will be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to make an impact in the lives of children of all abilities.
Doctorate Degree in Early Childhood Education
Doctorate degree programs in child development can be a PhD, Educational Specialist (EdS), or Director of Education (EdD) granting degree program. All of these are known as terminal degrees as they are the final type of degree to be conferred within child development with no degrees above.
Online doctorate degrees in child development will take students three to five years to complete after meeting all lower-level requirements and dependent on the number of courses taken at a time and school requirements. Many accredited colleges and universities allow doctoral students to select an area of specialty such as special education, secondary education, educational leadership, curriculum & instruction, elementary education, early learning, or middle-grades.
Each track is typically culminated with a substantive dissertation where students invest a large portion of time to prepare, organize, write, and defend an original research document in child development.
Child Development Requirements
A child development degree offers individuals the opportunity to study and work with children from birth until adolescence. Child development asks that an individual be able to identify developmental issues and intervene, work well with children and understand how social and familial background can affect a child's development.
Degrees are available starting at the associate level, with higher level degrees opening up more career opportunities. Individuals studying child development will work closely with children, and as such must learn the proper methods for dealing with them Qualities such as patience, understanding, and compassion are highly sought after among child development graduates. Those pursuing a child development major will take courses in:
- Infancy and Adolescents
- Developmental & Child Psychology
- Early Childhood Education
Individuals looking for child development schools will usually find programs available at a community college, vocational college, trade school, or a private career institution. Each will offer various degrees and certificates based on demand and internal resources.
Individuals looking to obtain higher level degrees will have to apply to a four year institution with a child development program. It is important to note that the program at a four year institution may have another name, and thus research will be important to find the right school.
Employment in Child Development
Graduates with an associate's degree can begin working as a teacher, in daycare, at churches, or private schools. Those with higher level degrees can pursue work in public education institutions, research and social work, or in more commercial fields such as toy development and marketing.
Child development requires individuals to understand the motivations and behaviors of children. As there is no lack of need for child specialists, the opportunities for child development specialists are expected to be high.
Child development is an expansive field, filled with options for graduates. Research positions will have higher level degree holders conducting studies and observing behaviors of children. Such positions are more limited in their availability, due to the limited amount of funding and positions open. Individuals pursuing graduate level degrees for the purposes of research and development should be able to find work due to the limited competition.
Child Development Careers
The average income of a child development degree holder varies wildly based on career choice, education and specialization. Positions in research and development will typically be more lucrative than other positions. Salaries can average between $36,000 to $66,000 dollars per year according to the BLS.
Outlook in child development reveal jobs growing above the national average. With an expected lift of 7% in this industry, over 84,000 new jobs will be created in childcare over the next decade. States employing the most child development majors include California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
Child Development Resources
For individuals looking to work with children in a different capacity consider a child care degree, family and community services degree or a family systems degree. Both the NACD (National Association for Childhood Development) and the Association for Early Learning Leaders (AELL) provide students and working professionals with tools, resources, and opportunities for professional growth. Organizations such as these can help connect you with other professionals and add credibility to a resume for both new and seasoned individuals.