Associate’s degree in child development programs

HomeTeaching and educationAssociate’s degree in child development

Associate’s degree in child development

An associate’s degree in child development can help you gain entry level career options, such as becoming a childcare worker or teaching assistant. This 2-year program will introduce developmental domains and teach you how to apply this knowledge to a work environment. It will also enhance your understanding of certain behaviors and developmental needs. Earning an associate’s degree in child development can help you stand out when applying for these careers, or be a stepping stone towards a future bachelor’s degree.

What do I need to apply?

To be considered for an associate’s program in child development, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. If you are applying directly for a 4-year university program, then you may find that some schools will require standardized test scores or prerequisite courses. At the community college level, you submit an online application directly to the school of your choice, and you typically receive notice of whether you are accepted within 24 to 48 hours.

Online vs. on campus

Given the current health pandemic, online courses have increased in availability and popularity. Online courses are great for students who are self-sufficient and have good time management skills. They allow you to study from home, and give you more flexibility. On-campus courses are more social and can be an easy option for you to develop a network of peers and friends. You will also have access to the facilities and resources on campus. On-campus classes also mean that you can have your questions answered directly, and avoid the frustrating wait that can come with emailing questions. The courses that are offered online or in-person depends on your institution, and not all courses that are offered in-person are offered online.

Possible courses

As a full-time student, an associate’s degree in child development will take approximately 2 years to complete. You will also need to pass general education which can include courses, like math, science, and social/behavioral science.

Introduction to child development

A human development course will introduce you to the developmental domains, the scientists who paved the way, and the research that shaped the way we look at teaching, parenting, and understanding children from conception to adulthood.

Child, family, and community

This course will prepare students to collaborate on a child’s future with parents, families, and community. This can be important if a child needs extra help or services and the family is unaware of the problem or the availability of services. A child’s success is increased when the people in the child’s life communicate and work together.

Infant and toddler development

This course focuses on children under the age of 3, and covers the important developmental milestones that generally take place in this life phase. This is the time that children learn about the world, learn how to communicate with others, and develop the ability to regulate their emotions.

Health, safety, and nutrition

When working in an early care program, you will be providing children with healthy snacks and meals. An understanding of nutritional needs is imperative when promoting a healthy environment. You will also learn about illnesses and preventative measures for health and safety.

Creative experiences in children

This course will teach you about developmentally appropriate creative projects and the benefits of artistic expression in children. Art is a great way for children to develop motor skills, social skills, and enhance their imaginative thinking. You will learn how to facilitate and create art projects that benefit your student’s development.

Observing children’s behavior

In this course students learn how to observe, listen, record, and assess a child’s behavior. This is important because by documenting a child’s progress, teachers can support their needs, strengths, and weaknesses.

Career Options

Children learn essential academic and life skills as a preschooler. A preschool teacher helps children prepare for kindergarten. The teacher is responsible for creating developmentally appropriate lessons which can be taught to the children as a group or individually. An important part of a teacher’s job is communicating with parents about their child’s developmental progress or needs. Preschool teachers need to have a minimum of an associate’s degree in child development to be considered for the position, but typically a bachelor’s degree is preferred.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a preschool teacher is $31,930.

A childcare worker can work in a daycare center or as a private at-home care provider such as a nanny. Childcare workers are in charge of watching children before and/or after school, or when parents are unavailable. They enforce routines, oversee play, and facilitate a playful environment where children can grow and learn. As a nanny, you may be asked to prepare meals, help with homework, or assist with light housework. This will depend on the family you work for and the hours you work.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a child care worker in 2020 was $25,460.

To be a teaching assistant at a public school, you first need to earn an associate’s degree. Teaching assistants work with licensed teachers to help prepare work for lessons, gather materials, give additional instruction, and classroom management. Prior to applying for a teaching assistant position, check whether your state requires that you apply for, and pass, a certification or licensure exam.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for teaching assistants was $28,900 in May 2020.

Associate level certificates

Infant and Toddler Certificate

This program prepares teachers to work with infants and toddlers by providing them with the necessary knowledge and skills. You will learn to design a developmentally appropriate curriculum, and apply developmental theory to practice. Students require a minimum of a 2.5 grade point average in their corresponding courses to apply. Depending on the program it can take 6 months to a year to complete.

Early Education Certificate

This certificate states that a student has met a set of requirements and is qualified to teach children in an early education setting. This shows you have an understanding of classroom behavior/management, and knowledge of developmental changes. Depending on the program, earning a certificate could take between 6 months to 2 years.

How much will this cost?

The cost of a 2-year associate’s degree program is roughly $3,347 a year according to a College Board statistic. This covers the cost of tuition and fees. This does not cover the cost of books which can add about $1,200 per year. Some books can cost as much as $200. According to US News, students should expect to pay between $5,000 and $16,000 for an online associate’s degree.

Financial aid

The cost of college can be daunting, but there are financial aid opportunities available. Federal Student Aid (FASFA) can be applied for at all levels of education. FASFA determines your eligibility based on your, or your families, financial information. Before the age of 24, you will need to use your parent’s financial information even if you do not live with them. After this, FASFA considers the applicant independent and they can apply with their own financial information.

It is a free to apply, and if you qualify, the money can be used on tuition, fees, books, or other school-related expenses. This can make higher level education an accessible and feasible option for those who are deterred because of cost.

Continuing your education

If you have already finished your associate’s degree, and you are thinking about continuing your education, there are options available that expand career opportunities. Many students go on to pursue undergraduate degrees in child development, English as a second language, early childhood education, special education, or school counseling.


If you want to transfer your credits to a 4-year university program, then your community college needs to be accredited. The good news is that most community colleges, especially state-funded colleges, are accredited. Therefore, your community college credits will likely transfer to other institutions. If you are unsure if your university is accredited, check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation for more information.

Head Start

Head Start is a nationwide government early education program. It is a program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides early care, education, health, and parent involvement services to low-income children and families. Here resources, career options, leadership opportunities, and research can be found.

Council for Professional Recognition

The Council for Professional Recognition is a national organization that recognizes and credentials professional early childhood educators and caregivers. For 45 years the Council has provided resources and information on credential programs, especially at the associate’s level.


HighScope is an independent organization that provides professional learning workshops, curriculum materials, and evaluation instruments for children, families, and communities. They provide educators with current research to ensure high quality education continues to be provided to children.