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10 Best Careers in Child Development and Why You Should Pursue One

Sep 27, 2022

Do you love working with kids? A career in child development gives you the opportunity to work with children of all ages and understand their emotional, mental, and physical development. Child development is a growing field with a handful of job opportunities focused on education, clinical care, research, or training. Keep reading to learn about the 10 best career paths in child development today.

1. Preschool/Kindergarten Teacher

A preschool teacher works with young children on developing language, motor, and social skills in preparation for entering kindergarten. Most preschool teachers are expected to have at least an associate degree. Currently, the median income for preschool teachers in the U.S. is $30,210 per year, with the top 10% earning more than $58,530 and the bottom 10% earning less than $22,840. 

Kindergarten teachers help prepare children to transition from preschool to elementary school. They focus on developing a child’s reading and writing skills. To become a kindergarten teacher, a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field is required. The average salary for most kindergarten teachers in the U.S. is $60,900 per year, with the top 10% earning more than $98,440 and the bottom 10% earning less than $38,390. 

2. Youth Sports Coach

A youth sports coach helps teach children the fundamentals of a variety of sports and the value of teamwork. They spend most of their time planning practices, scheduling games, maintaining sports equipment, and ensuring safety for athletes. The requirements for youth sports coaches vary widely, with most having prior athletic experience and a bachelor’s degree. The median income for coaches at the elementary, middle, or high school level in the U.S. is $37,850 per year.

3. Librarian

Librarians are a great resource for introducing children and their caregivers to books based on their age group and reading level. Much of their time is spent organizing events at their local branch, developing outreach opportunities for the community, and guiding the circulation decisions for the branch’s offerings of children’s and young adult literature. Librarians are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree, with most having a master’s degree in library science or a related field. Currently, the average salary for librarians in the U.S. is $61,190 per year, with the top 10% earning more than $97,870 and the bottom 10% earning less than $37,300.

4. Social Worker

Social workers protect vulnerable children through various methods of intervention. They assess the needs of a child, create goals for improvement, and seek out resources such as counseling services, financial support, or caregiver education to support those goals. Most social workers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW), and clinical social workers need a master’s in social work (MSW) and practicum experience. As of May 2021, the median salary for social workers in the U.S. was $50,390 per year.

5. Speech-Language Pathologist

A speech-language pathologist treats various speech impediments and language comprehension difficulties in children and adults. They spend most of their days working to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive communication, and swallowing disorders. A master’s degree is required in order to become a speech-language pathologist, and most states require pathologists to be licensed. Currently, the median income for a speech-language pathologist in the U.S. is $70,060 per year, with the top 10% earning more than $125,560 and the bottom 10% earning less than $51,310.

6. Camp Director

A camp director oversees operations for day or overnight camps. They work collaboratively with camp counselors to plan and facilitate programs, manage a budget, monitor supplies, modify activities for campers as needed, and promote their camp to prospective families and sponsors. Most camp director positions require at least a bachelor’s degree and prior experience working in recreation management. As of May 2021, the median income for recreation workers, including camp directors, was $29,680 per year.

7. Child Psychologist

Child psychologists diagnose and treat children with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. They create treatment plans, provide therapy sessions, and document patient progress. To become a psychologist, a doctoral degree, clinical internship, and licensure are typically required. The average yearly income in the U.S. for psychologists is $81,040, with the top 10% earning more than $133,890 and the bottom 10% earning less than $47,850.

8. Nanny

A nanny is employed to help a family with the daily duties of childcare. Many nannies are also expected to help foster a child’s overall development with play dates, educational experiences, and so on. While states do not regulate educational requirements for nannies, most families prefer at least an associate degree in child development and certifications such as CPR and first aid, water safety, or infant care. A nanny can work part-time or full-time, and some families require a live-in nanny who may travel with the family to care for the child. Currently, the median annual salary for nannies in the U.S. is $40,262.

9. Child Life Specialist

A child life specialist helps children and families cope with illness, hospitalization, and disabilities through play, education, preparation, and activities designed to express emotions and fears. Child life specialists are highly trained professionals in human development and psychology, and their position requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree along with an extensive clinical internship. The median annual salary for a child life specialist in the U.S. is $60,840.

10. Early Childhood Education Consultant

Early childhood education consultants are responsible for ensuring that educational institutions are meeting the developmental needs of young children. They spend their time evaluating the effectiveness of a program or curriculum, observing current needs, and recommending resources and tools to address those needs. Most early childhood education consultants are expected to have a master’s or doctoral degree in education, child development, or public policy. The average annual salary for education consultants in the U.S. is $63,384.  

Benefits of a Career in Childhood Development

There are many intrinsic benefits to a career in childhood development. If you love working with children and fostering healthy, supportive environments for them to thrive, then you’ll also appreciate the following:

  • A career that’s in high demand
  • A field of study that’s constantly evolving
  • A youthful, active, and exciting daily schedule
  • A challenging and enriching environment
  • The joy of helping children thrive
  • The appreciation of parents and families

What Skills Are Required for a Career in Childhood Development?

A career in childhood development requires a variety of professional and interpersonal skills, most importantly: 

  • Communication
  • Observation
  • Instruction
  • Research
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Organization
  • Patience
  • Problem-solving
  • Compassion and empathy

Workplaces That Offer Careers in Childhood Development

Individuals who work in childhood development have many workplace options which deepen their skills and expertise. Each of the following environments depends on childhood development professionals at all levels.

  • Schools: Private and public schools at both the elementary and secondary level hire teachers, counselors, specialists, instructional coordinators, and administrators.
  • Daycares/Childcare Centers: Childcare facilities rely on the work of teachers, assistants, therapists, and administrators.
  • Religious Organizations: Many religious organizations offer daycare and early education services to community members and employ childhood development professionals. 
  • Individual/Family Services: Individual and family services, such as public welfare, adoption centers, counseling, and community shelters, rely on a network of social workers, counselors, psychologists, advocates, and administrators.
  • Nontraditional Education Centers: Nontraditional education centers, such as military bases and youth detention centers, employ teachers, specialists, psychologists, correctional officers, and administrators.

Start Your Career in Childhood Development with WGU

Interested in a career that supports and encourages the development of young children? Then check out WGU’s options in early childhood education. Whether you’re looking to begin your career in education or to further your expertise, WGU’s degrees provide the knowledge you need to step confidently into the classroom, clinical work, research, or training.

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