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Best Online Degrees in: Youth Development

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Youth Development

Value
University of Wyoming (UW) wins the award for best value in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development. PayScale shows that in-state graduates from UW see an average return on investment (ROI) of 8.3%, and 9.8% for in-state graduates receiving financial aid. Out-of-state graduates see an average ROI of 7.1%, and 8.0% for out-of-state graduates receiving financial aid. This makes this school a good value for those seeking a degree in child development.

Flexibility
Ashford University wins the award for most flexible school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development. Ashford has been given an A+ rating for their flexibility by students on College Prowler and CliffsNotes. Ashford’s online students are given deadlines for each assignment, and are free to work on them whenever they like, allowing them to earn their degrees around their schedules. Students can also complete their assignments from just about anywhere through Ashford’s mobile apps.

Career Support
Ashford University is receiving the award for best career support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development. Their Career Services will consult with each student or alumni to learn what they’re looking for, and then help them write and critique their resume and cover letter, prepare for an interview, and search for a job. They also provide videos that students can watch to learn about the services available to them and get career advice.

Financial Support
The award for best financial support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development goes to Concordia University-St. Paul. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 100% of beginning full-time undergraduate students enrolled here receive financial aid through grants or scholarships. NCES shows that 79% of these students are also receiving student loan aid.

Technology Support
Ashford University wins the award for best technology support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development. They regularly update their online learning environment to make is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and to incorporate the latest technology in online education. Ashford has also developed mobile apps for tablets and smartphones that students can download. Ashford’s tech support has been ranked No. 9 in the nation by students on College Prowler for tech support as well.

Disability Support
Ashford University wins the award for best disability support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development. Their Office of Student Access and Wellness will work with each student to determine their needs and work to accommodate those needs in whatever way they can. They offer assistive software, tutoring, advising, community referrals, and allow extra time for completing assignments and exams for those with physical or learning disabilities.

Library and Research Support
The award for best library and research support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development goes to Walden University. Their online library contains more than 100,000 e-books, 50,000 full-text journals, 1.5 million dissertations, and 90 databases. Students can use the tutorials and webinars provided by the school to familiarize themselves with the virtual library and contact the library staff to answer questions and get research advice. Walden’s Center for Research Support allows students to access sample projects that will help them plan their research, provides guidelines for conducting research in an online program, and offers an academic review of completed work.

Learning Support
The award for the best learning support in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development goes to Ashford University. Their virtual classrooms are designed to allow students to access their assignments, review their instructor’s guidance, and find the information they need with ease. Students are also able to interact with and get support from other students in the class and their instructor through the discussion forums. Academic advisors and library services are also available to assist students.

Faculty Credentials
Ellis University is receiving the award for best faculty credentials in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development. Ellis enforces strict guidelines to ensure each faculty member is fully qualified and competent, with the skills needed to instruct in an online learning environment. All of the faculty members at Ellis have a master’s degree, and many have a Ph.D. The faculty is monitored through regular peer and student assessments to make sure they meet the standards of the university.

Faculty Accessibility
The award for best faculty accessibility in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development goes to Ashford University. Instructors can be contacted through discussion forums in Ashford’s virtual classroom, where students and faculty can interact, ask questions, and exchange ideas. Faculty also provide their email addresses, phone numbers, and the best time to reach them so students can contact them directly with any questions or concerns.

Alumni Engagement
The award for best alumni engagement in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development goes to Walden University. Their alumni association holds regular events, provides an alumni directory, and provide avenues for alumni in the same town, company, or industry to connect with one another. Alumni are also given the opportunity to encourage and inspire future and current Walden students, and take advantage of the university’s career services.

Prior Learning Options
Ashford University wins the award for best prior learning options in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development. Students who have earning credits from an accredited college or university may be able to transfer them and use them toward their child development degree. Students are able to earn credits by completing the College Level Examination Program, or earn credits based on their military training, professional training, and experience.

New Online Student Orientation
The award for best new student orientation in a school offering an online bachelor’s degree in youth development goes to Walden University. Their Student Readiness Orientation allows new students to gain hands-on experience in Walden’s online learning environment. This ensures each student is familiar with the online learning process and virtual classroom tools before they begin to focus on their major. Student Support Team members are available to offer guidance and assistance along the way.

Explore a Bachelor’s Degree in Youth Development

If you want a degree that prepares you to mentor and motivate children and teens, or develop programming and coordinate professional services for youth, then you may want to consider an online degree in youth development. Many programs in youth development are designed to prepare students for careers in nonprofit or government youth and human services organizations, and offer youth development as a concentration in a broader human services or social work degree program. Other programs are designed to help students launch careers in youth recreation, while a few offered by religious colleges and universities are set up to train students for youth ministry. Either way, such programs are designed to produce youth workers who are capable of helping young people become healthy, productive leaders in their communities.

Most bachelor’s degree programs in youth development are designed to be completed in four years, provided the program follows a traditional semester format and the student attends the program full-time. Some students may be able to complete the program more quickly if they have prior credits to transfer in to the program from academic work completed at other schools or dual credit work completed in high school. Program length varies from school to school.

Class Curriculum

The curriculum in a youth development degree program is arranged to provide ample instruction in promoting positive and healthy youth attitudes and behaviors, including strategies for reaching out to at-risk youth. Instruction is interdisciplinary, and encompasses aspects of sociology, health studies, human services, education, psychology, and recreation. Students also examine various special issues in youth development, including drug and alcohol education and sexuality education. Students may take the following major courses:

  • Childhood and Adolescent Development. In this course, students learn how children and teens develop physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially from birth through young adulthood. Students look at the major theories in child development and their applications in working with youth.
  • Design and Implementation of Youth Programs. This course introduces students to youth program development, including how to design programs that meet an organization’s established goals, whether that be youth education and leadership training, youth fitness and recreation, or after-school activities. The course also entails implementation methods and evaluation strategies that measure the programs’ effectiveness.
  • Families in Society. In this course, students explore the structure and function of families in U.S. society, public perceptions of family, and the impact of family on society. Students examine recent research into changing definitions and contexts of family life. Special issues discussed might include divorce, the effect of poverty on families, and how children’s behaviors, attitudes, and morals are shaped by their family unit.

Youth development majors are often required to participate in structured field work that accompanies their course work, and may even have an entire semester-long course devoted to an internship. These are valuable opportunities to learn hands-on skills in working with youth, and allow students to connect classroom theory with real-world practice. Field work and internships take place at approved youth development agencies, youth recreation organizations, or the youth services departments of agencies with a broader human services focus. Interns are supervised and evaluated on their performance for college credit.

Building a Career

Students with a degree in youth development may pursue a wide range of careers working with youth. A few nonprofit organizations that hire youth development workers include the YMCA, 4-H, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and the Boys and Girls Club, although many other youth-focused nonprofits operate solely on a local level and do not have a national presence. A sampling of job titles found on online job boards included youth development professional, youth development program assistant/associate, program director, program aide, youth development specialist, and camp counselors.

Salaries for youth development workers are difficult to nail down because they work in such a wide variety of capacities and industries. Community and social services occupations, many of which entail working with youth, reported a median yearly salary of $39,880 as of May 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Recreation workers, many of whom plan and organize activities for youth, reported a median yearly salary of $22,260, the BLS noted. Average salaries for youth pastors were $32,852, according to online compensation site PayScale.com. Salaries vary based on how much experience you have, where you live, your level of responsibility, the size of the organization you work for, and other factors.

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