Online Master’s in Child & Adolescent Development

The field of child and adolescent development pertains to the stages of maturation that occur from birth to young adulthood. Those who work within this field support children and teens through their development, often engaging with the families and institutions that impact the life of a given patient. Those who pursue an online child development master's degree include recent graduates from an online child development program or those who have earned a bachelor's degree in human development.

At the master's level, students take a more in-depth look at developmental stages and explore how culture, society, family, and school all affect the development of children and teens. In class, graduate students will be introduced to a good deal of psychological and developmental theory; eventually, they will be expected to apply the theory they've learned in practical terms, clinical observation, and other areas. Master's students will select a specialized area of study — intervention and mental health issues, for example — and build a research plan for their thesis or final research project.

Why a Master's Degree?

In this field, a master’s degree opens doors to many occupations (and higher salaries) not available to students who only earn an undergraduate degree. This is especially true with students who combine academic focuses within the program. For instance, it is common for graduate students to earn a teaching license, degree in social work or counseling certificate while they are also working toward their master’s in child and adolescent development. In a child and adolescent development program to study toward teaching license, degree in social work, or counseling.

At the same time, continuing education into a doctorate program may prove unnecessary if, for example, the student wants to work as a mental health counselor specializing in child and adolescent development. In this case, completion of the master’s degree and state issue licensure are sufficient.

Inside a Child & Adolescent Development Master's Degree Program

The master’s program alone usually takes 2 years to complete, though this may vary for students whose specializations require course work outside of the department. Typical graduate-level classes are child psychology, adolescent psychology, ethics and multicultural issues in psychology, and research methods in child development. Students will most often need to pass comprehensive exams and/or complete a master thesis, fulfill clinical hour requirements, or complete a supervised research apprenticeship.

What's Next for Child & Adolescent Development Master's Degree Holders?

Graduates from the program are qualified to teach at community colleges, work as child life specialists, youth program directors, or intervention advocates. Again, if the participant has also completed a license in social work or counseling, in addition to their master’s, they may work as child, family or school social workers or counselors. In 2014, the median salary for child social workers was $45,500, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) , and special education teachers was $55,980 annually. The same source reports that the average wage for school psychologists was $74,030.

Once students have completed their child development degree online program, they can go on to earn certifications like state-issued counseling licenses for mental health, social work, or teaching. Students may want to transition into the medical field while continuing to work with the childhood and adolescent population. Still others will move directly into a doctorate program in order to go into research, child psychology, or similar occupations.