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PhD Infant and Early Childhood Development

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PhD in Infant and Early Childhood Development

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Julie Sealy

"Fielding has incredible faculty who have a wealth of academic expertise and who nurture not only the academic competencies of their students, but also their social and emotional well-being."

-Julie Sealy, PhD, Alumna
The PhD in Infant and Early Childhood Development is a multidisciplinary doctoral program in mental health and developmental disorders such as autism spectrum, sensory integration, ADHD, and mood disorder.

Who is it For?

Designed for working professionals looking to broaden their knowledge and understanding of infant and childhood development. Students use their newly gained skills to influence change in several core disciplines, including:
(Parenthetical percentages are the increase in employment projections between 2012 - 2020 as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).)
  • Childcare work (14%)
  • Health education and community health work (21%)
  • Mental health counseling and marriage and family therapy (29%)
  • Occupational therapy (29%)
  • Physical therapy (36%)

  • Preschool and Childcare Center Directing (17%)
  • Psychology (12%)
  • Social work (19%)
  • Special education teaching (6%)
  • Speech-language pathology (19%)

What Does It Offer?

Designed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan*, the program offers a unique link between various disciplines within a relationship-based developmental framework. Also used is a common language across disciplinary boundaries so that students can deepen their understanding of each of the disciplines.
* Dr. Stanley Greenspan designed the Developmental, Individual Differences, and Relationship-based approach, including the proven Floortime intervention technique, to address topics of behaviors, diagnosis, interaction, and treatment in early child development."

What Do You Study?

Students study multiple factors affecting an infant’s and family’s well-being within a multidisciplinary framework including mental health, education, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language development, and the neurosciences. The faculty teaches typical and atypical infant and family development using a curriculum that includes physiological, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, social, and cross-cultural perspectives.

Program Requirements

At Fielding, you can earn your PhD in Infant and Early Childhood Development within 4-6 years by completing the following requirements:

New Student Orientation (NSO)

Newly accepted students are required to attend a new student orientation. This multi-day orientation is the only residency requirement. NSOs are held in various locations throughout the United States. At the NSO, you will work closely with faculty to assess your academic readiness, identify your research and personal skills, and familiarize yourself with Fielding’s learning model.

Learning Plan

In collaboration with faculty, you will develop a learning plan that weaves your academic accomplishments with your personal, professional, and academic goals. This learning plan becomes a living document that you and your faculty review regularly. Your individualized learning plan becomes your personal map as you explore the best ways to reach your dissertation destination.

Academic Coursework

The doctoral curriculum brings together knowledge from all the disciplines that contributes to your understanding of early childhood mental health, developmental disorders, and parental and family socio-emotional functioning. Coursework focuses on the way different facets of development, including normative and disordered patterns, relate to one another and can be understood as part of an integrated, dynamic developmental framework.

Intervention Courses

Intervention Courses are coordinated with the academic curriculum, allowing you to apply concepts acquired through courses and receive feedback from faculty who have relevant research expertise.


This doctoral program requires the completion of a dissertation. We encourage students to focus on infancy and early childhood mental health and/or developmental disabilities. With approval, students may investigate a research topic with children of other ages.

Residency Requirements

In our distance learning environment, the New Student Orientation (NSO) is the only required in-person session. However, students are strongly encouraged to attend regional cluster meetings, national sessions, and regional research intensives (RRIs). National sessions and other meetings are typically held in contracted external school/university or hotel locations, as published in the University Academic Calendar.

Students who attend our face-to-face meetings find the collaboration, support, and interactions with faculty and peers helpful in moving them forward through the program more rapidly.
The average PhD student spends 20 hours per week on their doctoral studies in order to progress through the program in a satisfactory and timely manner.

Delivery Method

Our learning model incorporates a deep understanding of the principles of adult learning. It is designed to accommodate the needs and learning styles of active professionals.

Customize Your Learning Plan

Our approach incorporates academic rigor, research, and critical thinking with online learning tools and face-to-face interaction. Every step in the PhD program provides you with the background, understanding, and ideas you need to shape your dissertation. With faculty guidance, you develop a custom learning plan to study your unique interests. Through project-based learning and action research you learn how to help solve real-world problems using doctoral-level competencies.

Engage in Facilitated Independent Study

You are encouraged to exercise initiative in proposing a program of study and selecting a combination of study strategies that work best for you. Faculty members integrate leading-edge technology to facilitate and assess your learning, and provide support as you build an e-portfolio for career advancement.

Build on Your Existing Knowledge and Experience

While you must demonstrate competence in all specified components of the curriculum, you build on existing strengths and gain exposure to less familiar areas. You are encouraged to participate in communities of practice where you can apply what you learn in a real-world setting.

Collaborate with Faculty

Our strong mentorship model encourages collegial learning. You collaborate with faculty who advise, mentor, and evaluate your work based on doctoral-level standards. They are active partners in your success.

Work How and When it’s Best for You

You pursue your degree in ways that best fit with your career and family responsibilities. Our online network allows a wide range of formal and informal learning activities including seminars, discussion forums, library services, and communication tools. Face-to-face options include:
  • Cluster Meetings - Regional groups meet to collaborate, share work and ideas, and build community within the program. The activities vary and can include guest lecturers and seminars. A virtual cluster serves students who live too far from a regional cluster to attend on a regular basis.
  • Regional Research Intensives - Weekend sessions scheduled several times per year provide students with the opportunity to gain increased knowledge regarding research design and process.
  • National Sessions - Every summer, the community meets for a week-long session designed to move students forward in their learning plan and dissertation research. Sessions also enhance networking opportunities. Students, alumni, and faculty attend workshops, hold dissertation committee meetings, and participate in a variety of informal learning activities.

Tuition and Fees


$24,285/year or $8,095/trimester term
Tuition is reduced by 30% once a student reaches the stage of advancement to doctoral candidacy. The degree is designed to take four-six years to complete.  This tuition rate is established for the Fall 2015, Spring 2016 and Summer 2016 terms.

Required Fees

Application Fee: $75
Attend an Information Session to learn more about the program and receive an application fee waiver.

Other Costs to Consider

You will likely need to purchase books, supplies, and computer software during your time as a student. This expense varies depending on the status of your current computer, the accessibility and stature of local libraries, and your personal needs. We estimate that the average student spends $1,500/year for this category

You are required to attend the New Student Orientation at the beginning of your first term. You are also encouraged to attend the National Session each year, and most students choose to do so. Your costs for attending session will include the session registration fee, transportation, accommodations, and meals. Also, you may choose to travel to other face-to-face events, such as cluster meetings, regional research intensives, meetings with faculty, or to other locations to support your scholarly work. This expense varies depending on location, number of events attended, and personal travel preferences. We estimate that the average student spends $3,300/year on transportation for academic purposes.

Additional Considerations for Calculating Financial Aid

The Financial Aid Office provides an annual cost of education (or cost of attendance) budget for each of the financial aid eligible academic programs.  This budget is used to calculate need eligibility for certain federal student aid and scholarship funds.  The budget also provides a cap for maximum allowable aid.
In addition to the costs listed above, the budget includes standard estimates of $1,700/month for room/board, and $150/month for personal expenses. Federal loan origination fees are also budgeted per regulation. Significant cost increases due to individual circumstances, such as disabilities, dependent care, or computer purchase may be considered on an individual basis. *All tuition and fees of Fielding Graduate University are subject to change. See the Tuition, Fee Changes and Guarantees Policy for further details.

Goals & Objectives

The purpose of the program is to prepare professionals for academic and clinical careers in infant and early childhood development with an emphasis on infant mental health and developmental disabilities. Students in the Infant and Early Childhood Development PhD program are expected to graduate with the following skills and abilities:
  • Development of a "multidisciplinary language" to assess, prevent, and intervene on challenges of families with infants and young children with typical and atypical development
  • Ability to assess and treat children by using multiple lenses of different disciplines
  • Ability to train other professionals to help individual children and their families that emphasizes individual differences
  • Integration of the core principles of mental health, education, speech and language, occupational therapy, and neuroscience in order to address problems at multi-systems levels including the micro-system, meso-system, exo-system, and macro-system
  • Utilization of an assessment and treatment model that addresses development, individual differences, and relationships
  • Awareness of the importance of cultural differences in the areas of assessment, prevention, and treatment

Click to Watch

Jeffrey J. Guenzel, MA, LPC Chief Executive Officer, ICDL
"This PhD program is endorsed by the Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning (ICDL)."
-Jeffrey J. Guenzel, MA, LPC
Chief Executive Officer, ICDL

Click to Read

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