With an increased focus on high-quality teachers -- and an ever-present need for qualified instructors -- it's imperative to find educators who understand how children learn.
Degree programs in education and child development help prepare future educators for these important jobs by teaching them how to work with toddlers, preschoolers, and children in elementary school and above. These programs typically explore:
- Child development theory
- Strategies for building a course curriculum
- How to create the best learning environment for children
- How to properly assess student progress
- How to develop engaging classroom activities
Overview of Child Development Programs
Students enrolled in child development degree programs learn how to work with children in a variety of settings, such as public and private schools, social service agencies and community organizations. Program studies typically include an in-depth look at:
- Early childhood development - Students examine how young children develop emotionally, cognitively, socially and physically. Courses in this area cover developmental milestones and strategies for teaching children at each stage, attachment theories, and what behaviors to expect from kids as they develop. In addition, students may explore health and safety challenges associated with caring for young children.
- Adolescent development - This field looks at the unique educational needs of teenagers by focusing on how this age group learns and develops. Class topics include theories related to the social, emotional, moral, cognitive and physical development of adolescents. Additionally, students may look at how gender, ethnicity, peer groups and socioeconomic levels can influence the way teens learn and develop.
- Educational assessments - Courses on this topic explore how assessments can be used to monitor academic progress and address students' needs based on the results. Studies may include the types of assessments available to educators, how to evaluate which assessment is right for a given situation, the best practices for administering assessments, and interpreting the results of assessments and making decisions based on them.
In addition to studying core subjects, students enrolled in child development degree programs may be required to choose an area of specialization, such as preschool, adolescents or infant/toddler development.
Career Outlook for Child Development Professionals
There are a number of possible career paths available to those who earn a degree in child development. Graduates might pursue work as:
- Preschool or childcare center directors - These professionals oversee the day-to-day operations of childcare organizations, and are generally required to earn at least an associate's degree in addition to any necessary licenses and certifications. Their job duties may include recruiting, hiring, training, and supervising childcare workers and preschool teachers; assessing students' progress and reporting the findings to parents; developing educational programs; creating budgets for a childcare facility; and ensuring that conflicts involving staff are resolved. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects demand for these professionals to grow 17 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022.
- Childcare workers - Childcare workers are responsible for ensuring that children's basic needs are taken care of when they're at a childcare facility. This job may entail bathing and feeding children, changing diapers, helping toddlers develop basic skills, and organizing play time. According to the BLS, employment of childcare workers is expected to increase 14 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022. Employers generally require that childcare workers possess at least a high school diploma and earn the proper certification.
Additional career options include educational assistant, nanny, assistant teacher, childcare administrator or Head Start teacher. Training and licensure requirements may vary by employer and state. Of course, the main qualification for any profession in this field is a love of children.
"Childcare Workers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2014-15 Edition), http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Personal-Care-and-Service/Childcare-workers.htm
"Preschool and Childcare Center Directors," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2014-15 Edition), http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/preschool-and-childcare-center-directors.htm