Our graduates are leaders who serve children and families in every capacity. They head social service agencies, advocacy organizations, museums, hospital programs, and parent support initiatives. They are principals, Golden Apple Award-winning teachers, program directors, social workers, therapists, and researchers. They teach at every level from preschool to graduate school.

These are just a few examples of alumni leading efforts to improve early education, care, and childhood experiences.

  • Louise Beem, cofounder, DuPage Children’s Museum, and founder, early childhood care and education program at College of DuPage
  • Carol Brunson Day, president, National Association
    for Early Childhood Education
  • Leon Denton, manager of Head Start, Salvation Army Child Care Program
  • Chipo Dyanda, deputy vice chancellor, University of Zimbabwe
  • Toby Herr, founder and director of Project Match,
    a community-based employment program that recently won a MacArthur
    Award for Creative and Effective Institutions
  • Molly McGrath Tierny, director of Baltimore City Department of Social Services

Academic programs

The amazing physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development that takes place in the first eight years sets the foundation for success in learning and life. That’s why all Erikson programs instill a deep, interdisciplinary knowledge of all aspects of that growth. Our students focus on how family, culture, and community shape development — and how their own culture influences relationships with the children they serve. They learn to continually reflect on their interactions, making them more effective practitioners.

Programs offered

Master’s degrees

Certificate programs

Ph.D. in Child Development

  • (in collaboration with Loyola University Chicago)

See program accreditation information

Students by the numbers

In fall 2013, Erikson enrolled approximately 210 master’s degree students, 15 doctoral students, and 50 certificate students. Together, they present the following profile:

  • Women: 96%
  • Students of color: 33%
  • Average age: 31
  • Age range: 22–64
  • States represented: 32
  • Countries represented (outside U.S.): 7

Professional development

Erikson’s broadest impact is through professional development opportunities. Each year nearly 2,000 early childhood professionals sharpen their skills and enhance their effectiveness in courses, workshops, seminars, and customized on-site staff development offered throughout the greater metropolitan Chicago area. These research-based learning opportunities focus on the following:

  • teaching and learning
  • early intervention
  • leadership and supervision
  • infancy


Our professors are recognized scholars and respected voices for children. Our faculty includes advisers to the U.S. Department of Education, a Fulbright senior scholar, award-winning researchers, pioneers of the infant mental health movement in Illinois, and more.

While actively teaching courses, they also bring their expertise to community through dozens of projects and community partnerships that support and enhance early childhood programs. These projects generate new knowledge and provide students with opportunities for hands-on experience in different areas of the field.

See experts guide


These scholars study important questions that shape the care and education of children. Some topics include:

  • early childhood assessment tools and methods
  • after-school program effectiveness
  • Early Head Start effectiveness
  • preparing teachers to meet the needs of culturally, economically, and racially diverse students
  • vocabulary acquisition among second-language learners
  • impact of teachers’ math knowledge and language on children’s learning
  • literacy development, particularly among urban students
  • technology training for early childhood teachers
  • parent support and efficacy
  • parent-child psychotherapy
  • effectiveness of services to families of children with special needs
  • impact of excessive crying on infants’ development

The Herr Research Center for Children and Social Policy conducts original research and disseminates knowledge that informs, guides, and supports effective early childhood policy in the Great Lakes region.

Community engagement

Putting knowledge about child development to work in the community is a vital part of Erikson’s mission. We do this through an ever-growing variety of projects and partnerships. A few are listed here:

Center for Children and Families

A multidisciplinary team provides comprehensive, family-centered assessment and treatment for children birth to age eight with behavioral, social-emotional, learning, and developmental issues.

Early Math Collaborative

The Early Math Collaborative helps preschool and early elementary teachers bring effective early math instruction into their classrooms.

Early Childhood Project with Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

DCFS contracts with Erikson to manage its Early Childhood Unit, which includes 19 early childhood specialists based at Erikson who work statewide to determine what services are needed to address the developmental concerns of children ages birth through five who are in the care of, or who are being closely monitored by, the child welfare system.

Herr Research Center for Children and Social Policy

Unique in its regional approach, the Herr Research Center for Children & Social Policy brings together perspectives from policy and research to promote the well-being of young children from birth to age eight and their families.

New Schools Project

This project brings Erikson’s early childhood expertise directly into pre-kindergarten through third grade classrooms in the Chicago Public Schools. Consultants partner with schools to establish positive learning environments so children experience school success.

See more research and community projects

See experts guide

Services for children and families

Erikson’s Center for Children and Families provides comprehensive, family-centered assessment and treatment for children birth to age eight with behavioral, social-emotional, learning, and developmental issues.

Erikson’s Fussy Baby Network provides telephone support and home visits for parents struggling to cope with an infant that cries inconsolably. The network also features Spanish-language support and services to parents in immigrant communities.