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PhD Child Development candidates studying together in a classroom.

PhD in Child Development

Prepare to be immersed in a range of applied child development research. The application opens in Fall 2024.

Talk to an Advisor  Request Info

Learn more about the PhD in Child Development from Amanda Moreno, PhD, PhD Program DIrector
Video: Erikson Institute’s PhD in Child Development.


Advance Yourself In Leadership and Career Roles

Study how factors such as culture, social class, and social relationships influence human development from infancy through early and middle childhood. Among others, PhD Child Development graduates can consider careers in research, applied child development research, program design and evaluation, college teaching, program administration, and policy analysis.

This PhD Child Development program is offered every two years by Erikson in conjunction with Loyola University Chicago, and the PhD is conferred by Loyola. The program has both full-time (4 years) and flex-time (6 years) options.

Erikson’s PhD in Child Development Builds Your Expertise

Start in the Fall, in odd years, and earn your Doctorate in Child Development on campus. The next program will start in Fall 2025. Application will open in Fall 2024.


42-48 Credit Hours


4-6 Year Average Program Length

Full- and Flex-Time Options

$1,157 Credit Hour

Start in the Fall of odd-numbered years

Why Erikson

Earn Your Doctorate in Child Development in a Unique Program Made For You 

Deepen your expertise with one of the only applied research PhD child development programs.

Advanced Career Skills

Extend the range of roles and careers you can consider.

Internship Experience

Participate in two semesters of required doctoral internship; one in research and one in assistant teaching at a master’s level college course.

Final Dissertation

Guided by a committee of faculty members, you’ll execute a substantial original piece of research to advance knowledge in the field of child development. It will require a public oral defense.

Small classes

Small, Personal Classes

Be seen and heard working closely with your professors and peers.

Reflective practice

Self-Reflective Supervision Seminars

Learn resilience and healthy professional practices from experienced practitioners.

Child-focused Research and Teaching Internships

PhD Child Development candidates are required to complete two semesters of an internship supervised by your Erikson advisor. At least one semester must be a research internship.

Research Internship (3 semester hours)

You’ll work with an Erikson faculty member, research scientist, or associate, or on a research project at another institution.

Teaching Internship (3 semester hours)

You will teach or assist in teaching a master’s-level college course in child development or related topic.

Smiling woman applying for financial aid.


Look Into Erikson’s Robust Financial Support & Scholarship Options

With dozens of scholarships and financial aid opportunities, our team is here to help you make your graduate education more affordable.

Flex-time students are not eligible for assistantships and the associated full scholarship to Erikson classes, but they are still eligible for standard scholarship opportunities and financial aid packages. Flex-time students can earn up to 45% off their Erikson total tuition costs by stacking Leadership and Affordability scholarships.

Financial Aid Options  Tuition and Fees


Concentrating student sitting on the floor working on university research.

Application will open Fall 2024 for a Fall 2025 term start

You’ll need to submit one application to Erikson. Accepted students are then admitted concurrently to Erikson and Loyola University Chicago. GRE not required.

The advantages of the Erikson-Loyola partnership include a broader exposure to faculty and courses, support from a larger institution while maintaining the community feel of a smaller program, and additional options for student engagement and networking.


Hear from Our Alum

Headshot of Bilge Cerezci, MS 2009, PhD 2016, Erikson Institute alumnus.
Bilge Cerezci
MS 2009, PhD 2016
“ What made me most marketable during my job search was the knowledge I’d gained in the classroom combined with the applied research I’d done with Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative. Just a month after earning my PhD, I accepted a tenure-track position at St. John’s University. ”
Social worker with young children drawing together.

Career Services

Erikson Institute Supports You Every Step of the Way

Our Career Services team is there for you in both the preparation and search for a job.

  • Career counseling and workshops
  • Annual job fair and networking events
  • Interview prep and resume reviews
  • Career placement program
  • Student and graduate resume book

With hundreds of partnerships and robust networks of alumni and field experts, the Career Services team is here to help you put your education into practice.

Meet our Career Specialists

Build Your Professional Network

Headshot of Tonya Bibbs, PhD 2014, Erikson Institute alumnus.
Tonya Bibbs
PhD 2014
“ So much of the work being done on children of color is about deviance or risk — how children are not fitting some particular model. I really wanted to look at normative development. ”
Headshot of Sabrina Mendes, PhD candidate.
Sabrina Mendez
PhD Candidate
“ There are so many different cultures that make up the American experience, and Erikson’s focus on diversity reflects that. We all learn from each other’s experience. ”
Headshot of Amanda Moreno, PhD Program Director.
Amanda Moreno
PhD Program Director
“ We take applied developmental research seriously. Our doctoral program is focused on how scholarship can be used to make a meaningful difference in the lives of children and their families. ”

Careers Opportunities With a Doctorate In Child Development

95% of our PhD Child Development graduates from the last ten years hold current positions as higher education faculty, researchers, or program directors in child and family-focused organizations.


Our graduates have built careers in:

  • Applied child development research
  • Program design and evaluation
  • College teaching
  • Program administration
  • Policy analysis

Our graduates are employed by:

  • Chapin Hall, University of Chicago
  • National Institute for Early Education Research
  • Early Learning Coalition of Orange County, Fla.
  • University of Colorado Denver
  • DePaul University
  • James Bell Associates

Explore a Few of the Child Development PhD Program Courses

Check out a few examples of the courses you’ll take in our Child Development PhD program.

In addition to your Erikson courses, you’ll take three Loyola courses in research design and statistics, and two additional elective Loyola courses.

See all PhD Child Development Courses

Children at Risk
This course examines the concept of risk and how it impacts child development.
Learning and Teaching: Linking Theory and Research to Practice
This course examines these issues through investigating and analyzing exemplary models of recent and influential theory and research.
Designing, Developing, and Evaluating Early Childhood Intervention Programs
This course examines the variety of early childhood supports and interventions that have evolved to serve low income children and their families.

Erikson Professors are Leaders in the Field

Gain expert perspectives working closely with leaders in the field.

Erikson’s Child Development PhD program faculty members are nationally recognized. With specific research interests and decades of experience, each of our faculty enriches your academic experience, connecting you to new networks and the latest data.

Meet the Program Faculty

Child Development PhD Program FAQs

Find answers to the biggest questions students ask about the PhD program.

Required degree: A Master’s degree in a related field to child development (education, social work, or psychology) from a regionally accredited school.

If you have your bachelor’s degree and would like to apply for doctoral study at Erikson, you can apply under a special combined Master of Science in Child Development (MSCD)/Ph.D. track, which guarantees admission to the doctoral program with maintenance of an A- average in the MSCD program. In addition, students who complete their MSCD at Erikson will receive automatic credit transfer. Students interested in this option should contact Dr. Amanda Moreno and review the MSCD application process.

International students must demonstrate English language proficiency.

  • Research paper or academic writing sample
  • Two short essays in response to questions
  • A third short essay if you select the flex-time track
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Academic transcripts from colleges/universities where you completed 30 or more credit hours. Please note: Unofficial transcripts may be uploaded into the application system for application review. Official transcripts will be required following admission.
  • Select applicants will be invited for required interviews after initial application review.

At a minimum, you will take 12 required credits (4 courses) at Loyola, which will primarily be your research methods and statistics classes. Other than that, your coursework, mentoring, and project work will take place largely at Erikson. However, you are still entitled to the same resources as other Loyola graduate students, and many of our doctoral students do take advantage of these benefits, included but not limited to use of their library and meeting spaces, scholarship and training opportunities (e.g., grant-writing workshops), Graduate Student Association membership and events, and Loyola faculty on dissertation committees.

This degree does not lead to licensure. For clinical licensure, please review our MSW program.

We are not a clinical psychology program and do not seek accreditation from the American Psychological Association.

Every effort is made to match full-time students with an appropriate (up to) 20-hr./week assistantship which provides a stipend of $25,000 per year and comes with a full scholarship to Erikson classes (the credit hours taken at Loyola are self-paid).

Due to their existing work commitments, flex-time students are not eligible for assistantships and the associated full scholarship to Erikson classes, but they are still eligible for standard scholarship opportunities and financial aid packages.

Admitted students will be aware of their funding package prior to being required to accept or decline.

Full-time students are not permitted to maintain external full-time employment. Instead, most are matched with an Erikson-based 20 hr/week assistantship.

Applicants who are situated in a field-related full-time job that they wish to maintain (e.g., principal, center director, non-profit leader, school counselor, etc.) are now eligible for the “flex-time” track. This option allows us to meet the demands of working professionals who want to obtain their PhD, while working in positions that may be connected in advantageous ways to their doctoral studies.

The staff in our Field Education and Career Services Office will work with you to prepare you for seeking positions while you’re enrolled at Erikson and upon graduating from the program. You’ll receive feedback on your resume and cover letters, and we also maintain a job board on our campus portal where employers list part-time and full-time positions for which they’re hiring.

The Career Services team also plans an annual social work, early education, and child development job fair for Erikson students and alumni. In concert with the job fair, you can submit your resume to be included in an annual Resume Book that we distribute to organizations and managers who are interested in hiring Erikson students and alumni.

Erikson students live in a wide range of neighborhoods in Chicago and in the suburbs. We do not offer campus housing. While we can’t make specific recommendations about where you should live, we encourage you to find a neighborhood that suits your style, taste, and budget. To help you in your housing search, we work closely with StudentSpace, a free apartment-finding service that specializes in helping graduate students find housing in Chicago.

Because of Erikson’s small size, you’ll have access to a wide range of both informal and formal student support services. These include:

  • The Field Education and Career Services team will help you identify and apply for your internship placement. Erikson has hundreds of pre-approved internship sites, so you don’t have to worry about finding a placement site on your own.
  • Advising about your financial aid options, including personal financial education, is coordinated through the Financial Aid Office.
  • Academic advising is facilitated through your faculty advisor and program director.
  • The Academic Success Center provides services to help you with the academic reading and writing expectations of your program. The Center also sponsors discussion groups for selected master’s program courses.
  • The Director of Disability Services provides advising and support for students with disabilities and students who need accommodations for their academic work.
  • WorkLifeMatters is a confidential student assistance program offered to all Erikson students through Guardian and Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH). You have unlimited access to consult with a professional counselor via telephone. Face-to-face counseling sessions are available, if needed, with an IBH network provider — and up to eight sessions are free of charge as part of WorkLifeMatters.
  • Validated parking at a reduced rate is provided to Erikson students in three nearby parking garages. You will also have access to deeply discounted public transportation through the CTA U-Pass program.