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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Developmental Studies

Explore a Master’s Degree in Developmental Studies

A master’s degree in developmental studies, more commonly called developmental education, helps equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to work with college-level learners who need remedial education before they can reach their full academic potential. Some programs in developmental studies go by the name adult and continuing education, and focus on training people to teach adult learners. This is a significant role because an increasing number of adult learners are returning to school to earn a degree, and it may have been many years since they’ve seen a math problem or had to write a paper. This means many need additional support to succeed in college. Developmental education programs train education leaders who are well-equipped to work with struggling learners in university, community college, and nonprofit or community-based settings.

Master’s degree programs in developmental studies can be completed in one and half to two years of full-time study, although program length differs depending on the university. Online programs allow students to access their courses from their computers at a time of day that works best with their schedule. While some programs are delivered 100% online, some are hybrid or blended programs that require a student’s presence on campus from time to time for face-to-face classes.

Class Curriculum

Curricula for a master’s program in developmental education emphasizes best practices for working with struggling college learners, and illuminates the complex factors than necessitate remedial learning. Students may pursue a generalist education, or specialize in a particular area, such as reading, English, mathematics, counseling, or administration. While required courses differ significantly from program to program, a few courses you may see in a developmental education program might include:

  • Introduction to Adult Education. In this foundational course, students learn about the field of adult education and the unique characteristics of adult learners. Students learn the essential organizational structures in which adult education programs operate and their primary goals. Emphasis is on relevant issues and trends in adult education.
  • Adult Development and Learning Theories. This advanced course exposes students to the most significant theories and research in adult and developmental education, including emerging research. Students will learn to critically examine research articles in adult education, write about the implications of that research, and identify key areas where research is lacking.
  • Teaching and Learning in Developmental Education. In this course, students learn research-based techniques and strategies for teaching developmental education classes. Students learn how to approach a diverse group of learners, as well as appropriate pedagogies and methods of assessing and evaluating developmental learners. Practicum experiences in real-world developmental education environments may be incorporated.

Assignments and projects in a developmental education master’s program emphasize writing, research, teaching, and curriculum or program design. Students may be asked to design appropriate curriculum for a developmental education program, examine case studies and write about how to handle real-world challenges in the world of developmental education, and demonstrate their knowledge of educational technology relevant to adult and developmental education. The program may conclude with the completion of a thesis and/or an internship in a developmental education setting.

Building a Career

Many graduates of master’s degree programs in developmental education go on to become postsecondary teachers or program directors of developmental education departments in community colleges or vocational colleges. Others may find work in governmental, nonprofit, and community organizations dedicated to helping adults get the education they need to enter the job market. Still others may use their master’s as a stepping stone into doctoral study in preparation for careers in university teaching and research in developmental education. A sampling of job titles might include literacy/GED instructor, military instructor, community educator, director of a learning center, or student adviser.

In 2010, postsecondary teachers reported median yearly wages of $62,050, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects that jobs for postsecondary teachers will grow by 17% between 2010 and 2020, which is about as fast as other occupations. However, salaries and job availability may vary depending on the city and state you live in, your level of experience, and the size of the institution you work for.

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