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Degree Courses in Child Development

A career in child development can be a very rewarding and enriching career path, an opportunity to work with teachers and students and help children overcome intellectual, social, physical and emotional challenges. Child development careers are most suitable for individuals who are interested in providing care for children or teaching; child development workers may work in a school setting or be a part of a home school program where they take care of children in a family home. Career opportunities may also lead to managing a childcare center or creating curriculum for special needs students.

Why Pursue a Child Development Career?

Individuals who have a strong interest in helping children overcome educational and social challenges are good candidates for a child development career. The field involves a thorough understanding of child psychology, sociology and communication, and degrees are typically granted through a college or university's health and human services department. Professionals typically work with preschool children, toddlers, and infants to ensure that they are learning and growing to their fullest potential. They help create a positive learning environment for children and help them overcome any developmental or learning disabilities in the process.

Skills Needed for a Successful Child Development Career

Child development professionals need to have certain skills and personality traits in order to be successful in the field. These include:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Ability to work in a high-stress environment
  • Positive guidance skills
  • Nurturing abilities
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work as a team and independently
  • Strong leadership skills
  • Ability to take initiative
  • Flexibility
  • Creativity

Child Development Degree Programs

A degree provides students with a thorough understanding about child psychology and social development, along with practical knowledge and skills for nurturing, teaching and working with children in a group activity setting. Child development degree programs may include an internship or work-study component where students work as a teacher's assistant or teacher's aide in a school setting. A course program may also include simulation learning components where students role play with teachers and students, develop course and learning curriculum and learn how to engage children in conversations and classes.

Research labs are another valuable learning component of many degree programs. These offer students a chance to take on an observation, participation or research role where they learn firsthand how children are interacting or socializing in their 'natural' setting, and then draw conclusions from their research.

Class Requirements

Child development course programs may be offered at both an undergraduate or graduate level, and typically cover concepts including the cognitive, psychological, behavioral and social changes that a child goes through in each stage of their young lives. A degree program is typically comprised of the following courses:

  • Personal-Social Development
  • Parent-Child Relationships
  • The Educational Process
  • Developmental Crises
  • Gifted Children and Educational Challenges
  • Positive Youth Development
  • Applied Elementary Curriculum
  • American Sign Language
  • Development of Thought and Language
  • Applied Aspects of Physiological Development

Where to Obtain a Child Development Degree

Degree programs are typically offered through a health and humanities department of a college or university, but some programs are available through private research colleges and educational centers. Students interested in completing a degree can choose to take courses towards an Associate Degree, Bachelor's Degree or Master's Degree at several colleges and universities throughout the country. Online child development course programs are also available for students who may need a flexible schedule or for those who only want to take courses on a part-time basis.

Employment Outlook for Child Development Careers

Students who complete a child development degree may pursue work as a child care worker, teacher, teacher's aid or researcher. Some states require child care providers to be licensed and earn the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, and some employers prefer to hire candidates who have the Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) designation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for child care workers were $17,630 in May 2006, and the majority worked in residential care facilities or elementary and secondary schools. Professionals who pursue a career as a director of a child care center or enter the research field earn significantly higher salaries overall. Job options may include self-employment by offering child care services for a fee. Employment is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all other occupations through 2016.

Related occupations include:

  • Teacher Assistants
  • Preschool Teachers
  • Elementary and Middle School Teachers
  • Special Education Teachers

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