cal state la masters in child development

Last Updated on March 5, 2022

Master of Arts in Child Development 

Cal State L.A.’s Department of Child and Family Studies offers a Master of Arts degree in Child Development. This degree prepares individuals to understand the relationship between theory, research, and practice and to apply this knowledge to issues in the field of human development. Students are trained to think and write critically about human development by identifying and solving real-world problems, advocating for individuals and families, and disseminating knowledge. The Department seeks to improve the quality of life for individuals at all levels of development within diverse environments.

Master of Arts in Child Development

Admissions Overview

New students are admitted to the program once per year, in the Fall, with the application deadline in Spring as follows: 

Priority Deadline: February 15, 2022
General Deadline: March 15, 2022

Applicants must submit an online application to the University: For more information, you can visit the Graduate Admissions Website ( or call (323)-343-3901.  

On the Cal State Apply website, select the Cal State LA campus and the MA program in Child Development. Complete all “quadrants” of the application, including the supplemental department application. The supplemental application will require the following: 

  • 2 letters of recommendation: the applicant will supply the contact information for the recommenders, and the Cal State Apply system will request the letters directly from the recommenders. 
  • Personal Statement (500-700 words) 
  • Professional philosophy (150-200 words) 
  • Diversity statement (150-200 words) 

Program Details

University eCatalog

The Master of Arts degree in Child Development strengthens professional competence and prepares individuals for various leadership positions as child development specialists.

Characteristics of Degree:

Interdisciplinary faculty
Developmental theories
Social, cognitive, and language development
Risk and resiliency
Research methods and statistics
Opportunity to overlap with teaching credential requirements or other certificate programs

Education Style Related to the Degree:

Small, seminar-style classes
Intimate learning environment
Supplement classes with electives for an individual career path
Individual fieldwork
The option of Comprehensive Exam, Thesis, or Culminating project.

Career Pathways Related to the Degree:

Child Development Specialist
Preschool Teacher and/or Administrator
Child Life Specialist
Parent and Community Educator
Non-Profit Organization
Community College Instructor
Preparation for Doctoral Study

Program Learning Outcomes:

Students will integrate their understanding of advanced concepts and theories related to human development through exams, writing assignments, and oral presentations.
Students will implement their advanced knowledge of specific developmental concepts related to their individual career goals within professional settings.
Students will demonstrate quantitative reasoning by formulating and conducting research showing sensitivity to ethical standards and diversity. 
Students will articulate advanced concepts and promote awareness of the needs of today’s diverse children and families to stakeholders at the local, state, and national levels.

cal state la early childhood education

Early Childhood

When developmental delays are severe at an early age, a disability can be easily detected. However, identifying a disability for children under the age of 5 can be rather difficult when the condition is mild to moderate. Every child grows at a different pace. Some children show slow development in speech, while others are slow in gross-motor development, such as crawling and walking. Therefore, the diagnosis of disabilities must be done by licensed medical doctors or special professionals. The diagnostic assessment and determination of disabilities are provided by Regional Center (RC) and school districts. Translation in a different language may be requested if English is not the native language spoken. One can also hire a licensed translator.

Special education is required by law in the U.S. Public schools work with local hospitals and Regional Centers to identify children with disabilities and those at risk for disabilities and to provide the education necessary. Unlike preschool programs where special education is provided only to those with disabilities, early childhood special education can also cover potentially high risk children who may develop disabilities later in their development. The key factors for developing disabilities in high risk children are premature and/or underweight infants, teenage pregnancy, health of mother during pregnancy, and various family environmental issues. All of these factors above are considered when determining an early intervention program. Therefore, when developmental delays are observed even without significant disabilities, it can be very helpful for a child if immediate contact is made with Regional Center and/or school district for an evaluation in order to receive early intervention services.
Need for early childhood special education programs:

  • Early intervention and special education can provide a critical phase in development and the foundation for transitioning to academic programs in kindergarten.
  • It can prevent or reduce potential disabilities developing among high risk children by providing education programs/activities as well as clinical therapies custom-tailored to the individual child.
  • Family support programs educate parents for better understanding and acceptance of their special child and how to stimulate further his/her development.
  • Reduces number of special children with disabilities in the institutes, increases the potential employment among disabled adults, and minimizes the cost of special education for special children at an older age.

Early childhood special education provides 3 different services in general:

  • Family centered model
  • Clinic centered model
  • Family and Clinic centered model

A Family centered model is typical for kids between 0 and 2 years old. A special therapist or interventionist will assist each family and guide parents in providing special education services. This may include play therapy or stimulating program/activities for the child’s development

A Clinic centered model provides early education at a center or clinic with other 3~5 year olds. Typically, parents will take their children to the clinic or center and receives special education services along with other parents and their children. Depending on the needs and condition of the child, a licensed interventionist and/or therapist may come to the family home or a mix between family and clinic centered models can be considered.

Recently, causes of disabilities have been increasingly attributed to unstable emotions and environments, rather than heredity and/or known diseases. In these cases, the relationship between parents and special needs children can play a greater role in their development. Considering the recent increase in the diagnosis of autism, appropriate early childhood education centered around the development of social and communication skills can minimize the impact of disabilities when children move into academic programs and adulthood.

Therefore, early childhood special education does not focus on differentiating typical and special needs children. It rather emphasizes stimulating communication and tries to provide ample social experiences which maximize development and helps to prevent disabilities at early ages. Since the mother plays a vital role in the early development of children between 0 and 3, she must in effect become a great teacher for her special needs child and learn proper special education and parenting skills. Parents need to proactively educate themselves to learn about their children’s needs and to practice and follow through on what they’ve learned.

Graduates of the program take on various teaching and leadership roles in the field of early education within the greater Los Angeles community, including:

  • Classroom teachers in pre-kindergarten, transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, and the primary grades
  • Site supervisors/principals of children’s centers in local school districts
  • Directors of Head Start centers
  • Community college instructors
  • Service coordinators and supervisors in community-based organizations that support young children and their families
  • Early education experts and advocates for young children and their families

Program Outcomes

The program is designed to enable students to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the role of children’s self-initiated and self-structured activities in their learning and development
  2. Improve their ability to plan developmentally and culturally appropriate curriculum to address the developmental range and diverse characteristics of young children (birth to age 8)
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of critical issues and trends in the field of early childhood education
  4. Demonstrate personal research skills and apply theoretical and research knowledge to practice in early childhood settings
  5. Engage in reflective inquiry and demonstrate professional self-knowledge
  6. Increase their ability to work with linguistically and culturally diverse children and families
  7. Demonstrate their ability to work collaboratively with peers/colleagues to achieve goals for children and families
  8. Increase their capacity to assume leadership roles in schools or programs serving young children and their families

Student Voices

What students say about the program:

Ana Ardon

My experiences in the Early Childhood Education Master Program have been very rewarding in the professional and personal levels. At the professional level, this program has expanded my views and knowledge about teaching and working with young children. The program curriculum has allowed me to develop a deep and better understanding of young children, their socio-emotional-physical-educational needs, the best practices, and how best to support them. I believe the program has prepared me to be a better teacher and to become an advocate for young children. At the personal level, this program has given me the unique opportunity to meet and develop friendships with great people who care a lot about education and young children. All of them are enthusiastic, intelligent, creative and ready to give support. 

  • ​The program allowed me to develop as a professional. I was able to use much of the research information and apply it to my teaching.
  • Extraordinary instructors who perform with professionalism and are knowledgeable, flexible, patient and understanding.
  • The best thing about the program is the community of classmates and professors formed during the program which allowed us to share experiences and knowledge and learn from each other.
  • It is a fun program to be in. I like my classmates and professors. It helps me to know that what I am doing is something special.

cal state la child development requirements

Student-Athletes Set For Graduation Ceremonies - Cal State LA Athletics

Requirements for the Major (81-83 units)

Option I, the General Option, requires 48 units in the Child Development Core and 9 units of Required Courses.  Students select an additional 24-26 units from a menu of courses that provide preparation for specific career pathways. Option I requires a total of 120 units for completion, which includes 81-83 units in the major and 48 units of General Education coursework (39 units in lower division course work and 9 units in upper division course work); because some major courses overlap with general education requirements, students may also need 0 to 12 free elective units. If students use courses in the major to satisfy General Education requirements, they should consult with an advisor to determine the number of free elective units they will need to satisfy the 120 unit requirement.

graduation requirement

Graduation Application Deadlines

  • Spring Semester Preceding October 15
  • Summer Term Preceding February 1
  • Fall Semester Preceding March 1
  • Winter Intersession Preceding September 1

Please review your CAAR report (Academic Requirements report) in your GET account to ensure you are on track for spring graduation. To apply for graduation, you must meet the following criteria:

  1. Earned at least 135 quarter units or 90-semester units                      
  2. Will earn a minimum grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.000 in each of the following:
  • All college work attempted (includes transfer work)          
  • All courses attempted at Cal State LA             
  • All general education courses             
  • All courses required for major(s)                     
  1. On track to complete all graduation requirements by end of declared term

Review and complete the Graduation Application available at  before attending a workshop. Registration appointments will only be assigned to continuing students (i.e. If you apply for Spring graduation, you will not receive a Fall registration appointment.) If you need to change your graduation term, please complete a Request to Change Graduation Term form and submit it directly with the Graduation Office.

* You must apply for the term in which you will finish all your requirements. Do not apply with the intention of taking more classes after you graduate on stage.

Important Commencement Information

Graduation means that you have completed all of your degree requirements and have been awarded the degree – this process should not be confused with attending the Commencement Ceremonies. Formal Commencement Ceremonies occur once a year at the end of the Spring Semester.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and Commencement

Given the restrictions in place because of COVID-19, Cal State LA plans to schedule Commencement 2020, and 2021 for a later time when we can gather safely and in accordance with public health orders. We will determine the date and the parameters of the event based on the guidance of public health officials. For more information, please visit the Commencement webpage.

  • Review and complete the Graduation Application  before attending a workshop.
  • Registration appointments will only be assigned to continuing students (i.e. If you apply for Spring graduation, you will not receive a Fall registration appointment.)
  • If you need to change your graduation term, please complete a Request to Change Graduation Term form and submit it directly with the Graduation Office.

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