The 10 Best Online Associate in Child Development Degrees in 2022

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With over 47.6 million children zero to 11 years old in the United States, the demand for individuals with an online associate in child development degrees will be robust in the coming years! With a degree in early childhood development and/or education, you can be instrumental in the optimum physical, emotional, and cognitive development among children. 

From birth until eight years old, children experience several phases of development including learning to walk and talk, play and learn and behave. Child development professionals devote their careers to the research of these phases of development and their impact on children, as well as the best ways to promote their health and wellness. 

Quick Summarization
The best online associate degree programs in Child Development and Early Childhood Education are excellent pathways toward fulfilling careers in these disciplines. These programs provide quality online higher education for both traditional and non-traditional students including working adults and current practitioners seeking career advancement. 

The associate degree in early childhood education particularly opens up careers as early childhood educators in a wide range of learning environments. The associate in child development degree has its fair share of merits, too, including career opportunities in research, education, psychology, and social work.


The quality of education and training that Child Development professionals get cannot be overstated! In dealing with or educating children in their most sensitive phase, practitioners must have learned the basics of the discipline and thoroughly understand how to shape them into upright individuals who recognize and utilize their skills to contribute to society.

And because choosing the right Associate in Child Development degree is crucial, we present our list of the best options for you. The online programs and colleges on our list stand out because they each take pride in these features:

  • 100% online or partially online coursework and classes, so that learners have the option to schedule their classes at their convenience,
  • Delivers outstanding curricula that expose students to the introductory and fundamental concepts surrounding Child Development, focusing on the latest theories, applications, and ethical practices in the evolving field,
  • Features Transfer Path agreement programs with colleges for every Associate in Child Development graduate’s easy transition to a four-year bachelor’s degree,
  • Employs Child Development experts as instructors known for their expertise in and contribution to the field,
  • A Learning Management System that ensures a well-rounded learning experience for each online student, coupled with technical support and access to online resources,
  • Provides eligible online Associate in Child Development students tuition discount and financial aid options,
  • Earned proper accreditation, proving high standards of Child Development instruction,
  • Well-regarded in communities and industries that utilize the principles of Child Development as a discipline.

Check out our Methodology page for more information.

10 Most Popular Online Associate in Child Development Degree Programs

online associates in child development

Purdue University Global 

Purdue Global University

The Associate of Applied Science (AAS) – Early Childhood Development degree program prepares students for fulfilling work in a wide range of early childhood settings. Learners in the online associate degree program are well-advised to put in at least 15 hours of study time per week. The 10-week term makes it more convenient for students to complete the degree program in two years of full-time study. 

The 90-credit (60-semester credits) associate degree online program also has an early childhood education emphasis with courses in early childhood curriculum planning and introduction to early childhood education. Furthermore, the courses focus on building inclusive classrooms and ensuring the overall health and nutrition of children. 

The associate degree online in child development program prepares learners for the challenges of working with diverse populations of children and their families. Students also learn to apply theory into practice while earning their online associate degree in early childhood development. 

Prospective students may earn credits for prior coursework from community colleges, life and work experiences, and military experience. Students can apply for financial aid. Graduates may apply their online associate degree in early childhood development toward a bachelor’s degree program. 

West Virginia University at Parkersburg

West Virginia University at Parkersburg

Applicants to the Associate of Applied Science in Child Development degree program can request for transfer of credits from their Child Development Associate (CDA), Apprenticeship for Child Development Specialist (ACDS), and EDGE Credit credentials. This is a ladderized child development program with an online certificate, associate and bachelor’s degree programs, and the undergraduate degrees are both applied science degrees. 

The 60-credit online associate program has an early childhood education-focused curriculum that covers the tools and techniques used in the assessments of children ages birth through five years. Students gain the know-how in effective child development principles and practices essential in creating positive learning environments, too. 

Graduates work in a wide range of settings, from child care centers to healthcare facilities, and with young children in the development of their physical, emotional, and cognitive skills. Many also work as early childhood education practitioners in Head Start organizations, as well as birth-to-three specialists and home-based service providers. 

All students in the child development program can apply for financial aid while also being eligible for the in-state tuition rate. 

Point University 

Point University

The entirely online Associate of Arts in Child Development degree program allows students flexibility in their program of study, particularly in their course load. Full-time students can complete the 60-credit program in two years. 

Students who want to earn the online associate degree in child development must complete the academic requirements of general education, and core, and elective courses. These include early childhood education teaching principles and practices, as well as child development, educational psychology, and humanities. 

Graduates of the child development program can plan appropriate activities and create environments based on children’s ages. Their skill sets also include sensitivity to the diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds of children and their families. Graduates are eligible for the Education Teacher Certificate, too. 

Prospective students to the online associate degree program must have at least a 2.0 GPA on their high school transcripts. All students in the child development online program are subject to the same tuition rate, but online students also receive a nearly 40% discount on on-campus tuition. 

South Texas College 

South Texas College

The online Associate of Applied Science Child Development/Early Childhood degree program appeals to future leaders in the profession! With the right academic foundation, graduates have the opportunity to establish successful careers in the diverse field of child development. Graduates work with diverse populations of children and their families, too, from infants to preschoolers as well as neurotypical and neurodivergent children. 

Graduates who earned a degree in early childhood development from STC become productive professionals with influential contributions to the field. Their excellence in child care and family services is a testament to the outstanding quality of education and hands-on training at STC. 

Students earn 60 credit hours in their pursuit of a degree in early childhood development. The courses focus on both the early childhood education and child development disciplines, particularly on their close relationship. Aside from the didactic courses, students also prepare for the CDA. 

Foothill College 

Foothill College

The Associate of Arts in Child Development degree program at Foothill is a transfer degree, meaning its credits can be transferred to Elementary Teacher Education AA-T and others. Students not only learn about child development and its appropriate interventions but also prepare for jobs as early childhood educators. 

In fact, the curriculum in the child development program meets the professional requirements for early childhood programs and their corresponding jobs! Graduates have the opportunity to pursue higher education and careers in other fields, such as social work, human development, and child psychology. 

Students in the 90-unit online program complete core courses including child growth and development from prenatal to adolescence. The degree in early childhood development will be awarded only after completion of a practicum student teaching period. 

Liberty University 

Liberty University

The 100% online Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education program at Liberty has 8-week courses that make it more convenient for working students to keep up with their online education. The 60-credit hour early childhood education program has an average 1.5-year time-to-completion, which can be made shorter with up to 75% transfer credits. 

Students gain the know-how for success as early childhood educators with courses in the fundamentals of early childhood education, educational philosophy, and wellness among children. 

Note that the associate degree in early childhood education doesn’t result in eligibility for licensure. The early childhood education online program offers military benefits, such as $250/credit hour tuition. 

Liberty offers eight start dates throughout the year, meaning it is among the most accessible early childhood education online programs. Prospective students must check out the admission requirements including high school transcripts. 

The associate degree in early childhood education program has National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accreditation. Liberty itself is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

University of Cincinnati Online

University of Cincinnati – Online

The Associate of Applied Science or AAS in Early Childhood Care & Education at UC prepares learners for careers in early childhood settings including public and private schools. There’s an emphasis on diversity and inclusion in learning environments including the roles of families in the success of early childhood education. 

The two-year degree in early childhood education program is accepted in a wide range of workplaces, too, from a Head Start program to child care centers. While the courses result in students learning about early childhood education principles and practices, the degree doesn’t qualify graduates for teacher licensure. But students can earn a degree in early childhood education either full-time or part-time. 

The early childhood education online program provides admission-to-graduation support including Student Success Coordinators. All students also receive a 24% discount on instructional fees in addition to eligibility for other financial aid. 

Students can choose from three sub-plans in the early childhood education online program – preschool, infant and toddler, and administration. 

Graduates meet the requirements for the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential while also earning a degree in early childhood education. The early childhood education online program has an internship requirement. 

Ohio State University Online 

Ohio State University

OSU’s Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Development and Education degree program is an excellent pathway for aspiring early childhood educators. Courses in the early childhood education online program include child development, family development, and management of behavior. 

The degree leads to Ohio’s Associate Licensure in Pre-Kindergarten Education, meaning graduates of the early childhood education program can teach in preschool and childcare programs. Graduates can also apply all their earned credits toward a bachelor’s degree in human development and family science. 

Students must comply with the academic requirements of the 60-credit program before being awarded the associate degree in early childhood education. Financial aid from scholarships and military benefits are available. 

Indiana Wesleyan University 

Indiana Wesleyan University

The online Associate of Science (AS) in Early Childhood Education program IndWes prepares learners to work in learning environments for children from birth until third grade. Students gain professional know-how of child growth and development alongside best practices in classroom management. 

Students who already have the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential can skip the first five classes in the online early childhood education program. The 60-credit early childhood education online program includes core courses in educator preparation including preschool and primary grade experiences. The degree in early childhood education is granted upon completion of a service-learning capstone course, too. 

Aspiring early childhood educators without a valid teaching license must submit to a criminal history background check to be admitted to the online early childhood education program. 

Penn Foster Career College 

Penn Foster Career College 

Penn Foster’s online Early Childhood Education associate degree program enables students to establish successful careers as early childhood educators and other occupations. This is a four-semester program with a 63-credit curriculum, and it’s considered among the best for its exceptional academic quality. 

The early childhood education program covers the fundamentals of education at the preschool level. The courses include a curriculum for early childhood education, guidance in early childhood education, and working with children with special needs. 

Students in the online early childhood education program gain hands-on experience through a 300-hour field experience. Graduates are then well-prepared for entry-level jobs as teachers’ aides, preschool teachers, and child care workers with their well-rounded online early childhood education. 

What Are the Similarities and Differences Between Child Development and Early Childhood Education? 

Child development refers to the area of study that tracks the physical, psychological, and cognitive growth among children. Its professional practitioners also study the impact of families and communities on child development as well as build awareness through appropriate educational programs.

Their work also involves the creation, implementation, and evaluation of prevention and intervention programs for children with special needs and extraordinary talents. 

Early childhood education has a more specific focus – the development of learning knowledge and skills among children during their pre-elementary grades. Its professional practitioners can be found in various learning environments, too, such as public and private schools, childcare centers, and church nursery schools, even in private homes. 

From the above-mentioned definitions, we can conclude a few similarities between child development and early childhood education as areas of study. 

Similarities Between Disciplines 

Professionals in the fields of child development and early childhood education work toward a better understanding of the growth and development of children. Their shared goals also include provisioning children with safe and secure environments for learning that will promote their optimum development toward adolescence. Their occupations are also concerned with offering essential resources for children and families with disorders, diseases, and disabilities. 

Differences Between Disciplines 

While experts in childhood development and early childhood education share the same overall goals, there are several key differences revealed upon closer inspection. First, child development has a broader coverage than early childhood education.

The former examines children’s growth from birth while the latter is more focused on providing children with the best possible learning environments, usually starting in nursery or preschool. 

Second, early childhood education emphasizes student engagement in various learning and development activities. Child development practitioners extend beyond these parameters by identifying and solving issues among children. 

Third, the result of the differences in roles and responsibilities is the range of workplaces where child development and early childhood professionals can establish careers. Individuals with early childhood education associate degrees mainly work in school and childcare settings. Child development practitioners can work in a wider range of settings, from childcare to healthcare facilities. 

Prospective students seeking either a degree in early childhood education or child development must carefully consider these similarities and differences before making their choice. Their choice will have an impact on the trajectory of their professional careers. 

What Can You Expect from an Online Associate in Child Development Program?   

With a minimum of 60 credit hours, a typical online associate degree in a child development program has a two-year average time to completion. Both the number of credits and duration represent half of a typical bachelor’s degree program. Most associate degree programs allow for the transfer of credits to a full undergraduate degree. 

The ideal candidates for early childhood education online programs are individuals with a passion for teaching children and contributing to their growth and development. 

Admission Requirements 

Most early childhood education associate programs have easy-to-meet admission requirements. These include a high school diploma with official high school transcripts or a GED equivalent, an application form, and an admission essay. 

Credits from CLEP and DANTES exams, among others, are usually accepted. This means shortening your stay in the early childhood education or child development online program chosen. 

Curriculum and Courses  

While the course sequence and descriptions vary between early childhood education associate degree programs, there are common online courses, too. Keep in mind that academic quality is a foremost consideration in your school search, and said quality can be concluded from the curriculum. 

Early Childhood Behavior Management

The course covers classroom management strategies based on age-relevant learning. Students also learn to become role models in positive behavior in early childhood education settings. 

Child Growth and Development

Students learn the best practices in holistic child development including physical, social, and cognitive skills. The course also focuses on the phases of child development from birth to adolescence. 

Special Topics in Child Development 

Early childhood educators and child development practitioners must also be well-versed in dealing with exceptional children using assistive and automated technology. 

Curriculum and Instruction

Aspiring early childhood educators must learn developmentally appropriate practices in teaching children in various learning environments. The course may cover curriculum planning and instruction implementation. 

Family, School, and Community

Child development programs take a closer look at the relationships between children and their environment including their families, communities, and school. Interpersonal skills in dealing with diverse populations are developed here, too. 

Many online associates in child development and early childhood education programs have an educator preparation component, usually through teaching practicums. Aspiring early childhood educators gain hands-on experience in this way. 

Online Learning 

Online students in child development and early childhood education degree programs use automated technology alongside traditional learning methods. 

Learning Management System

Online child development and early childhood education programs use one of several LMS in accessing their coursework, interacting with professors and peers, and conducting other learning activities. Examples include Blackboard and Canvas. 

Course Materials

Both traditional and digital course materials are used in online child development and early childhood education programs. Most materials can be accessed 24/7 and courses can be asynchronous. 

Individual Assignments and Group Projects

Online education has equally rigorous academic standards as its on-campus counterparts. Students are expected to meet deadlines for individual assignments and group projects and meet minimum grade requirements for their online courses. 

Learners in child development and early childhood education degree programs should think twice about cheating and other forms of circumventing assessments. Proctored exams are among the technologies used to prevent cheating. 

Cost of Attendance 

Online associates in child development and early childhood education programs are fairly affordable, particularly in community colleges. While the per credit hour rates vary widely, most online programs have financial aid options for online students.

Level of Difficulty 

Don’t dismiss an online degree as being easy-peasy because its time and energy commitments can be just as challenging! Earning your child development or early childhood education degree isn’t particularly difficult but you must still put in the work. 

While there are no uber-challenging STEM courses, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration skills are just as crucial in student success. Be prepared for writing lesson plans and other documents that can take up your time, too. 

Child Development and Early Childhood Education Careers and Salaries 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has confirmed that the career opportunities for individuals with child development or early childhood education degrees are aplenty! Employment of preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school teachers has a robust projected growth rate between 7% and 18% (2020-2030). Employers include public and private schools, Head Start programs, and child care centers. 

Childcare Workers ($27,490/year

Childcare workers ensure that children are safe and secure while in their care, as well as address their developmental needs. 

Teacher Assistants ($29,360/year)

An associate degree is a must for teacher assistants in public schools while private schools may have different requirements. Their main duties include assisting licensed teachers and ensuring effective classroom management. 

Social and Human Service Assistants ($37,610/year

An associate degree in child development or early childhood education can also lead to jobs in human services agencies. Social and human service assistants provide a wide range of client services like coordination of benefits. 

Preschool Teachers ($30,210/year

Early childhood educators can be employed in either public or private schools but their main duties are similar. Teaching basic skills, monitoring for signs of learning and development issues, and keeping records of children’s progress are common.  

Family Resource Advocates ($49,592/year

Families may require assistance in finding proper education and childcare services for their children or need financial assistance for these services. Family resource advocates are the professionals for the job. 

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Frequently Asked Questions 

What is an associate in child development or an early childhood education degree? 

Both online degrees are excellent preparation for aspiring and current practitioners in the child development and early childhood education disciplines. But keep in mind that each discipline has a specific focus that differentiates one from the other. 

Note, too, that an associate in applied science degree tends to have a direct-to-employment application while the associate in arts and the associate in science are transfer degrees. 

Is an associate degree in child development or early childhood education worth it? 

Yes, it is! With numerous career opportunities in child care, school, and healthcare settings, an associate degree in either discipline will pay for itself. Plus, you can transfer most, if not all, credits earned from the associate degree into a bachelor’s degree for career advancement purposes. 

Does an online associate degree have value in the job marketplace? 

Yes, it does! The stigma surrounding online degrees has been largely eliminated. Plus, your diploma will likely not show the word “online”. 

Are there professional organizations for aspiring child development and early childhood education students to join? 

Yes, there are plenty of professional organizations that present exceptional networking opportunities for online students. Examples include the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Childhood Education International (CEI), and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). Networking is of crucial importance in establishing a successful career because of the referrals for jobs, continuing education, and industry events. 

What are the ways to advance your career? 

While an online associate degree in child development or early childhood education will open doors of opportunities, you should think ahead in terms of career advancement. Seek teacher licensure and certifications, attend conferences and workshops, and stay abreast of industry developments.  

Key Takeaways 

  • Establish a solid foundation for your successful career with an online associate in child development or early childhood education.
  • Career opportunities abound in the present and well into the future, but you should also think about career advancement with higher education. 

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Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor