2019 Best Online Colleges for Early Childhood Education Degrees

Quick Facts
Accreditation: CAEP and NAEYC
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $22,666
Avg Salary: $55,449

This guide to online early childhood education degrees includes information about accredited associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral and certificate programs. Online early childhood education degrees cover an interdisciplinary array of topics to prepare graduates to work with children, usually those from infancy to age eight. In addition to the comprehensive list of available degrees, we provide a list of the best online colleges offering early childhood education degrees, ranked based on tuition costs and alumni salaries reported by PayScale.

Obtaining an early childhood education degree online with programmatic accreditation is highly recommended and may be required by your state teaching board. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredit early childhood education programs.

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Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Early Childhood Education Degrees (185)

Partner School
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Full List Accreditation Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
Full List (187)
Albany State University SACS COC $16,136 Add Review
45 Programs, 2 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Associate of Science in Teacher Education - Early Childhood Education
  • Masters in Early Childhood Education
Alvernia University MSCHE $33,640 Add Review
19 Programs, 1 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Certification in Education (PreK-8 and 7-12)
American Public University System HLC $6,880 71% (146 reviews)
417 Programs, 2 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Care and Education
  • Certificate in Infant and Toddler Care
Appalachian State University SACS COC $22,109 100% (4 reviews)
47 Programs, 1 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Bachelor of Science in Child Development: Birth-Kindergarten
Arcadia University MSCHE $42,330 Add Review
8 Programs, 1 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Graduate Certificate in Infant Toddler Mental Health
Arizona State University HLC $15,691 - $27,372 69% (83 reviews)
223 Programs, 3 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • BAE in Educational Studies - Early Childhood Education
  • Grad Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction: Early Childhood Education
Arkansas State University HLC $14,778 50% (4 reviews)
61 Programs, 3 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Bachelor of General Studies - Pre-School Education/Childhood Services
  • MS in Early Childhood Services
  • MS in Education in Early Childhood Education
Ashford University WASC WSCUC $10,632 - $13,400 67% (644 reviews)
213 Programs, 10 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • AA/Early Childhood Education
  • BA/Early Childhood Development - Differentiated Instruction
  • BA/Early Childhood Education
  • BA/Early Childhood Education - Infant and Toddler Care Specialization
Auburn University SACS COC $29,640 100% (2 reviews)
129 Programs, 3 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • M.Ed. in Early Childhood/Elementary Special Education
  • M.Ed. in Early Childhood/Elementary Special Education (Alternative Degree)
  • M.S. in Early Childhood/Elementary Special Education
Auburn University at Montgomery SACS COC $17,140 Add Review
35 Programs, 2 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Educational Specialist in Early Childhood Education
  • Traditional Master's in Early Childhood Education
Augustana University - SD HLC $31,960 Add Review
9 Programs, 1 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Master of Arts in Special Education - Early Childhood
Ball State University HLC $25,942 100% (4 reviews)
160 Programs, 7 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education - Early Childhood Special Education
  • Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Administration
  • Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Education, Master Teacher
  • License in Early Childhood Special Education
Biola University WASC WSCUC $38,448 Add Review
32 Programs, 8 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Child Development Permit - Assistant Teacher
  • Child Development Permit - Associate Teacher
  • Child Development Permit - Master Teacher
  • Child Development Permit - School-Age Emphasis
Bluefield College SACS COC $24,800 100% (1 review)
28 Programs, 4 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education (Non-Licensure)
  • Master of Arts in Education - Music Education: Instrumental Grades PreK-12
  • Master of Arts in Education - Music Education: Vocal/Choral Grades PreK-12
  • Master of Arts in Education - Visual Arts PreK-12
Boise State University NWCCU $22,642 100% (1 review)
49 Programs, 3 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Special Education
  • Master of Education in Early and Special Education
  • Master of Teaching in Early Childhood Intervention
Brenau University SACS COC $28,510 Add Review
95 Programs, 4 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Associate of Arts in Liberal Studies - Early Childhood Education
  • Bachelor of Science in Education - Early Childhood Education
  • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
  • Master of Education - Early Childhood Education
California Baptist University WASC WSCUC $32,256 80% (5 reviews)
52 Programs, 3 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • BA: Early Childhood Studies
  • MSEd: Specialization in Early Childhood Studies
  • MSEd: Specialization in Transitional Kindergarten
California State University-Fullerton WASC WSCUC $18,730 100% (2 reviews)
38 Programs, 2 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • MS in Education in Special Education - Early Childhood Special Education (Project Option)
  • MS in Education in Special Education - Early Childhood Special Education (Thesis Option)
California University of Pennsylvania MSCHE $15,326 80% (15 reviews)
105 Programs, 6 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Certificate in Administrative Program for Principals Certification (K-12)
  • Certificate in Early Childhood Education PreK - 4
  • Master of Education - Early Childhood Education plus Certificate
  • Master of Education - Special Education - Dual Pre-K-4/K-8 Certification
Campbellsville University SACS COC $25,400 50% (2 reviews)
64 Programs, 3 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Master of Arts in Education - Teacher Leader - Interdisciplinary Early Childhood
  • Master of Arts in School Improvement - Rank I: Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education
  • Master of Education in Montessori Teacher Education
Canisius College MSCHE $36,454 100% (2 reviews)
25 Programs, 1 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Master in Literacy Education - Literacy Certification, Birth - Grade 6
Capella University HLC $14,250 65% (581 reviews)
232 Programs, 2 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • MS - Early Childhood Education
  • MS Ed - Early Childhood Education Studies
Carlow University MSCHE $28,596 Add Review
31 Programs, 1 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Master of Education with PA Certification in Special Education (Pre-K-8)
Central Methodist University HLC $5,760 - $23,770 100% (1 review)
35 Programs, 4 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Associate of Arts in Education - Early Childhood Education
  • Associate of Science in Child Development
  • Bachelor of Science in Child Development
  • Bachelor of Science in Education - Early Childhood Education
Central Michigan University HLC $23,670 67% (3 reviews)
102 Programs, 2 in Early Childhood Education (view all)
  • Bachelor of Applied Arts in Early Childhood Development and Learning
  • Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Development and Learning
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2019 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Degrees

Early Childhood Education-Top Online Colleges-2019-Badge

The 22 online colleges on this list offer the most affordable, highest-earning bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education. 20 of these schools boast an annual tuition of $15,000 or less. Graduates of the top ranked school, Kansas State University, earn a median salary of $81,100 after earning their Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education, offered for just $14,742 per year. Western Carolina University, ranked #19 on the list overall, offers the most affordable costs, with an annual tuition of only $5,670.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about SR Education Group.

Rank School Annual Tuition Median Salary
#1 #1 $14,742 $81,100
#2 #2 $14,280 $81,000
#3 #3 $10,395 $73,300
#4 #4 $12,245 $69,600
#5 #5 $12,270 $65,200
#6 #6 $11,091 $62,400
#7 #7 $8,993 $58,900
#8 #8 $9,262 $57,300
#9 #9 $11,400 $57,000
#10 #10 $12,567 $55,800
#11 #11 $11,700 $55,200
#12 #12 $11,880 $54,600
#13 #13 $11,760 $54,300
#14 #14 $11,532 $53,600
#15 #15 $11,100 $52,600
#16 #16 $20,073 $53,500
#17 #17 $14,070 $52,400
#18 #18 $12,927 $51,600
#19 #19 $5,670 $50,500
#20 #20 $12,660 $51,000
#21 #21 $16,650 $51,400
#22 #22 $10,920 $50,200
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo. Updated 2018.
  • Annual Tuition: $14,742
  • Median Salary: $81,100
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Kansas State University's Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education can be taken entirely online by interested distance learners. This degree can be completed in 120 credit hours and each credit costs $491.40, making this an affordable option for many students. Their program has been approved by the Kansas State Department of Education and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

  • Annual Tuition: $14,280
  • Median Salary: $81,000
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Colorado State University-Fort Collins offers a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies - Early Childhood Professions that can be taken online. This program admits 25-30 students per year, making their teacher to student ratio lower than many other schools. Students enrolled in this program can take courses such as Risk and Resilience Across the Lifespan, Administration of Early Childhood Program, Special Needs in Early Childhood, Lifespan Intervention and Prevention Science, and Child Exceptionality and Psychopathology, among many other courses. 

  • Annual Tuition: $10,395
  • Median Salary: $73,300
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The University of Washington-Seattle offers online students a Bachelor of Arts in Early Care & Education. Courses in this major include Positive Behavioral Support in Early Childhood, Engaging Interactions & Environments, Child Observation & Assessment, Language & Literacy in the Preschool, and Young Children's Mathematics & Science. There is a service-learning component to this program, which allows students to gain real-world experience and help out their communities. Applications for this program open on December 17th and are accepted through July 1st.

  • Annual Tuition: $12,245
  • Median Salary: $69,600
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Wayland Baptist University, a Christian college that is located in Plainview, Texas, offers an online Bachelor of Applied Science in Early Childhood Development. This is a 36-semester hour major and 18 of these hours must come from upper-level credit hours. There is also a professional development component to this program, which requires 24 semester hours, and an experiential professional development component, which requires 12 semester hours in order for students to graduate. Tuition per credit hour is $395.

  • Annual Tuition: $12,270
  • Median Salary: $65,200
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Eastern Kentucky University offers distance learners a Bachelor of Science in Child and Family Studies that can be taken entirely online. In order to be admitted into this program, students must have completed 45 credit hours with a 2.75 GPA. There are three options for this degree: child development, interdisciplinary early childhood education (IECE), and family studies, allowing students to focus on an area that interests them. In order to graduate, students must complete a total of 125 credit hours.

  • Annual Tuition: $11,091
  • Median Salary: $62,400
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The University of Missouri offers an online Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Sciences - Early Childhood Education in a Mobile Society. Students in this program can take courses such as Child Guidance and Classroom Environments, Development of Curriculum for Children Ages Birth to 3, Assessing Young Children and their Environments, and Diversity in the Lives of Young Children and Families. This degree can be completed in 120 credit hours, and the cost per online credit hour is $369.70.

  • Annual Tuition: $8,993
  • Median Salary: $58,900
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Florida International University's Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education can be taken completely online. Students must earn a total of 120 credits in order to graduate from this program and credits are currently priced at $212.71 for in-state students and $299.77 for out-of-state students. Courses in the program include Teaching Students with Exceptionalities in Inclusive Settings, Assessment, Evaluation, and Diagnosis of the Young Child, Integrated Math and Science in Early Childhood, and Play and Development of Social Competence.

  • Annual Tuition: $9,262
  • Median Salary: $57,300
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The University of North Carolina at Greensboro offers a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies that can be taken online. UNC Greensboro's online courses are priced lower than their traditional courses. Currently, online courses are priced at $149.39 per credit for in-state students, $$661.52 per credit for out-of-state students (online students who live in NC but are not permanent residents of NC), and $298.78 per credit for students outside of North Carolina (online students who do not live in NC; most students living outside of NC receive this rate). The program offers two concentrations: birth through kindergarten online teacher licensure, and early care and education online, allowing students to focus their studies on their specific career goals.

  • Annual Tuition: $11,400
  • Median Salary: $57,000
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Texas Tech University, located in Lubbock, offers an online Bachelor of Science in Early Child Care. Students enrolled in this program can take courses such as Development of Curriculum for Children Ages Birth to 3, Understanding and Adapting for Developmental Differences, Assessing Young Children and their Environments to Enhance Development, and Diversity in the Lives of Young Children and Families. In order to graduate, students must complete a minimum of 120 credit hours from the university's required curriculum.

  • Annual Tuition: $12,567
  • Median Salary: $55,800
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Jackson State University's Bachelor of Science in Child Care and Family Education is currently delivered completely online. Enrolled students in this program can choose from courses like Physical Education in the Elementary School, Exceptional Children and Youth in the Schools, Language Arts in Elementary School, and Parent, Child, and Teacher Interactions. Graduates from this program have gone on to careers as Head Start Professionals, Teacher's Aides, Childcare Administrators, and Child Care Center Instructors. 

  • Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • Median Salary: $55,200
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The University of Massachusetts-Amherst has two online undergraduate degrees in early childhood education: a Bachelor of Arts in Children's Learning and Development and a Bachelor of Arts in Early Care and Education. These are degree completion programs that require applicants to have a minimum of 12 college credits and a 2.0 cumulative GPA (former Umass Amherst students are exempt from this requirement). These degrees are part of the school’s University Without Walls (UWW) program and tuition for this program ranges from $390-$525 per credit for courses, depending on the department. Credits may be awarded for prior work and life experience.

  • Annual Tuition: $11,880
  • Median Salary: $54,600
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West Virginia University offers three online bachelor's degrees in early childhood education: a Bachelor of Science in Child Development and Family Studies, Bachelor of Science in Child Development and Family Studies - Preschool Education Birth-4 (Pre-K Certification), and a Regents Bachelor of Arts - Child Development. To graduate from these programs, students must complete a total of 120 credit hours, with 41-43 credits coming from general education, 31 credits from child development, 20 credits of additional required courses, 20-22 credits of electives, and nine credits of internship/field experience in child development.

  • Annual Tuition: $11,760
  • Median Salary: $54,300
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The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee offers an online Bachelor of Science in Community Engagement and Education. Within this degree, there are five concentrations: alternative education, child care, child and family services, community based organizations: policy and leadership, community leadership, and youth work. In order to graduate with this degree, students must have completed 75 credit hours of core courses, 18 credits of track requirement courses, and 12-42 credits of general education requirements, depending on the student's education level.

  • Annual Tuition: $11,532
  • Median Salary: $53,600
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Wilmington University, located in New Castle, Delaware, offers online learners a Bachelor of Science in Education Studies - Early Childhood Education degree. Required education courses for this major include Family, Community, and School Partnerships, Early Care Education Internship, Development and Implementation of IEPs, Learning Differences and Assessment of Exceptional Children, and Learner Development and Early Literacy. In order to graduate, students must complete a total of 122 credit hours from general education, fine arts, social and behavioral science, and education courses. 

  • Annual Tuition: $11,100
  • Median Salary: $52,600
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Eastern Illinois University is currently offering a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies - Child Care Education Option that can be taken online. This program is an Associate’s to Bachelor’s program and requires applicants to have completed an associate degree with a focus on child development/education or a related field. The 60 credit hour program is designed for non-traditional students who have to plan their courses around their work schedules and other responsibilities. Courses in this major include Adults in Transition, Critical Thinking and the Adult Learner, Family Stress and Resilience, Working with Families of Children Identified as Exceptional, and Parent Child Study and Community Involvement.

  • Annual Tuition: $20,073
  • Median Salary: $53,500
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The University of Toledo, founded in 1872, offers an online bachelor’s degree in early childhood education that might interest a wide array of distance learners. In order to be admitted to this program, students must already have an associate's degree in early childhood education from an accredited university, with a minimum GPA of at least 2.7.  Applicants also must be currently working for a minimum of 20 hours a week at an early care and education program. This is a non-licensure program that will not allow for teaching positions in public schools.

  • Annual Tuition: $14,070
  • Median Salary: $52,400
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Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana is offering a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education to interested online students. To graduate from this program, students must complete a total of 48 early childhood and special education courses and 70 core curriculum courses, totaling 118 credits. Some classes in this degree include Assessment of Young Children with Exceptional Needs, Literature for Young Children, Infant Toddler Curriculum and Environment, and Promoting Pro-social Behavior in Young Children: Guidance and Cultural Factors. 

  • Annual Tuition: $12,927
  • Median Salary: $51,600
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Central Michigan University, established in Mount Pleasant in 1892, is currently offering two undergraduate degrees in early childhood education: a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Early Childhood Development and Learning and a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Development and Learning. These degrees require that students complete a total of 124 credit hours, and each credit hour costs $417. Students in these programs can take courses such as Guidance for Young Children, Best Practices in Early Childhood Settings, Early Childhood Program Administration and Leadership, and Early Childhood Special Education.

  • Annual Tuition: $5,670
  • Median Salary: $50,500
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Western Carolina University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Birth-Kindergarten with concentrations in professional education or early childhood. The professional education concentration is geared toward students who are interested in teaching in public schools because it leads to licensure. Students in this program are required to complete an internship. The early childhood concentration is geared toward those who wish to work with children outside of the public school and classroom settings. The programs share core courses that contain knowledge that will be useful to all early childhood professionals.

  • Annual Tuition: $12,660
  • Median Salary: $51,000
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The University of Nebraska at Kearney has two degree programs for distance learners interested in early childhood education: a Bachelor of Arts in Education - Early Childhood Inclusive and a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood and Family Advocacy. Courses in these degree programs include Instructional Technology and Preservice Teacher, Management and Assessment in Preschool/Elementary Classrooms, Foundations of Early Childhood Education, and Methods of Inclusive Education Birth through Age 3. In order to graduate, students must complete a total of 120 credit hours. 

  • Annual Tuition: $16,650
  • Median Salary: $51,400
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National University in San Diego, California offers 5 degrees in early childhood education: a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Development with a California Preliminary Multiple Subject Teaching Credential (California Only), a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education, a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education - Early Childhood Administration, a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education - Infant and Toddler, and a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education - Teacher Education. The university offers year-round enrollment, allowing students to apply at any time that is convenient for them. They are also a yellow ribbon school and offer a tuition discount to military members and their dependents.

  • Annual Tuition: $10,920
  • Median Salary: $50,200
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The University of Alabama, located in Tuscaloosa, offers interested distance learners a Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Studies, Early Childhood Education. Online students enrolled in this program can take classes such as Administrative Child Centers & Programs, Elementary Statistical Methods, Early Childhood Education Internship, and Educational Statistics, among other courses. In order to be eligible for many of the university's internship opportunities, students must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 on a 3.0 scale.

Online Early Childhood Education Degree Overview & Career Information

An online associate degree or undergraduate certificate in early childhood education can prepare graduates to earn respected professional credentials, such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. The core of these programs is made up of classes that discuss the cognitive and physical changes that children undergo in their earliest years. Courses cover childhood nutrition, communication, and teaching children with special needs, as well as general education classes in college math, English, and natural science.

The online bachelor’s degree in early childhood development is one way to begin a career in education as a Head Start teacher or preschool teacher in a public school setting. These degree programs discuss the skills needed for instructing young children in a variety of subjects, such as language arts, creative arts, and math and science. The length of the bachelor’s program also affords students the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time in the classroom, observing students and experienced teachers and practicing teaching skills.

An online master’s in early childhood education is an excellent way for those experienced in the field to gain the credentials necessary to enter positions in public policy, administrate early childhood education programs, or open their own schools for young children. Master’s programs may prepare graduates to earn a teaching credential in one or several early childhood education areas; this credential is necessary to teach in some public school systems.

Undergraduate programs in early childhood education may require experience working with children, a high school diploma, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Graduate programs may be entry-level, or they may require a bachelor’s degree in a relevant area with a minimum GPA, as well as standardized test scores and letters of recommendation. Most early childhood education programs require applicants to pass a background test and have necessary immunizations.

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Online Associate Degrees in Early Childhood Education

Associate degree programs in early childhood education train students to teach and care for infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children. Applicants to these programs typically must possess a high school diploma and pass entrance exams and a criminal background check. Associate degree programs last two years, and students must complete about 60 semester credit hours to graduate.

A typical early childhood education degree program at the associate level includes courses in early child development, childhood health and nutrition, child safety, teaching and curriculum building, childhood literacy and math development, and assessing the educational progress of children. Students in some programs may be able to specialize in a specific field of child care, such as family relations or special needs education. Most programs also include classes in English, the humanities, math, science, computers, and psychology. Some schools require students to complete a capstone project prior to graduation. Internships at local preschools may also be available for students.

Most students pursue associate degrees to become either preschool teachers or non-teaching child care workers. Though it is possible in some states to find work in these fields with only a high school diploma or certificate, those who wish to work as preschool teachers at a Head Start organization must possess an associate degree.

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Online Bachelor's Degrees in Early Childhood Education

The bachelor’s program in early childhood education prepares graduates to teach and nurture children from birth through age 8. These degrees typically take four years to complete and require about 120 credit hours of work. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED certificate, as well as a clear criminal background check.

The coursework in the early childhood education bachelor’s program discusses the social and behavioral science concepts, education theory, and teaching strategies necessary to be an effective instructor of young children. Courses in topics like principles of early childhood development, educational psychology, and teaching exceptional children discuss the cognitive and social growth of young children. Classes in teaching methodology cover the instructional skills necessary for teaching math, science, language arts, health, and physical education. Teaching practicums place students in an actual classroom setting, where they practice teaching under the guidance of an experienced instructor.

Graduates of the early childhood education bachelor’s degree go on to teach in preschools, Head Start programs, and elementary schools. Depending on the program, students may need to seek out an additional credential after graduation to teach in a public school setting. Other graduates can work as special education teachers for young children. Others go on to work in child care and day care settings.

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Online Master's in Early Childhood Education

The online master’s degree program in early childhood education provides graduates with the theoretical and practical skills needed to instruct and nurture young children, usually those between the ages of 0 and 8. These two to three-year degrees are available through education departments in a variety of colleges and universities; students complete hands-on practicum and ten to 20 courses. Applicants to these programs need an accredited bachelor’s degree, a clear background check, and a demonstrated desire to work with children. Some Master of Education (MEd) programs require applicants to have a teaching credential and teaching experience.

The early childhood education master’s program curriculum trains students in the psychology, early childhood development, and instructional topics necessary to work effectively with young children. Master of Arts (MA) programs are for those new to the field, and cover topics like administration in teaching, working with parents, and cognitive development. Students also complete a hands-on teaching practicum. MEd programs in early childhood education are for early childhood teachers who have some experience teaching but would like to improve their leadership skills and gain understanding in a particular instructional area, such as bilingual instruction or curriculum development.

Most master’s degree programs in early childhood education are designed to prepare graduates to instruct preschool and elementary school children in public and private institutions. New teachers can use the MA to meet licensure requirements, while current teachers can use the MEd program to become advanced teachers, administrators, or curriculum developers.

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Online Doctoral Degrees in Early Childhood Education

An online doctoral degree in early childhood education prepares those already working in education to advance their career by preparing them for jobs in research, university teaching, counseling, consultancy, advocacy, and other advanced or specialized positions. Doctoral degrees are offered by universities; prospective candidates should look for institutions with the faculty and resources that will best serve their research interests. There are two kinds of doctoral degrees available: a Doctorate of Education and a PhD in Education. The Doctorate of Education is geared towards professionals looking to research solutions to real world issues in order to fill top leadership positions in education administration, organization, and policy. A PhD in Education is for academics looking to publish work in education research and teach in higher education.

Depending on the program, students take a total of 30-60 graduate credits to fulfill their course requirements. Ultimately, graduation is contingent on finishing and defending original research in a doctoral dissertation. Examples of class titles for this type of degree include child development in the critical early years, evaluating and supporting early childhood programs, leading the future of education, and research theory, design, and methods. In order to be admitted to one of these programs, an applicant will need to have a master's degree and submit a resume detailing relevant work experience. Letters of recommendation and test scores for exams such as the GRE are also common requirements. The length of time it takes to complete a doctorate will vary, but students should plan on spending at least three years on their studies. Tuition will also be dependent on the institution a student attends, but costs will likely reach at least $15,000 a year.

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Online Certificates in Early Childhood Education

An online certificate program in early childhood education trains students in the communication, human development, and instructional skills necessary to work in preschools and other child care settings. These programs are typically available through community colleges, technical schools, university extension programs and a variety of online institutions. Early childhood education certificates can be completed in one year and require four to ten courses. Applicants need a high school diploma and a clear background check.

The coursework in the early childhood education certificate gives those with little experience working with children the ability to understand the child’s point of view and development. Students learn instructional techniques, such as use of games, creative assignments, and role playing, through classes in teaching young children and curriculum development for early childhood. Classes in cultural diversity and guidance provide students with a framework for assisting children from a variety of backgrounds. Other courses discuss safety and nutrition, literacy, and infant and toddler care giving. Practicum classes put students in a child care environment in order to apply the child care and instructional techniques learned in the classroom.

Depending on the student’s background, an early childhood education certificate can be used to enter roles as an assistant teacher or caregiver in preschools and day care settings. Some certificates can be used to meet the educational requirements for professional certifications that are available through groups like the National Childcare Association. Graduates with child care experience and an entrepreneurial spirit could use the program to expand their knowledge and start their own child care business.

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Common Online Courses in Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education programs prepare graduates for roles in the child care and child education professions. Upon graduating, you will have an understanding of developmentally appropriate practices, as well as techniques for behavior guidance and classroom management. You will also know how to plan and implement curricula and establish and maintain a safe environment. The following classes are often included in an ECE degree program:

  • Child Development: Child development courses are essential for any early childhood education professional, as they help students become familiar with the ways in which children learn, process thoughts and emotions, and deal with challenges.
  • Culturally Responsive Teaching in Multicultural and Multilingual Settings: Students learn about the necessity of being culturally sensitive to children of varying backgrounds.
  • Early Childhood Reading and Literacy Instruction: This class focuses on strategies for teaching young children of varying ability levels how to read.
  • Exceptional Children in the Early Childhood Setting: This course teaches students ways to challenge intellectually advanced children while also integrating them with the rest of the classroom.
  • Family Engagement: This course helps future educators and caregivers learn how to work with parents to help children reach their full potential.
  • Health and Safety: Students learn how to talk to young children about the importance of being healthy and maintaining a safe learning environment.
  • Special Education: Special education courses focus on the best ways to engage children who have special needs, developmental delays, or learning disabilities.
  • Standards-Based Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment: This course prepares future teachers to develop lesson plans as part of broader curricula and assess the lesson's' strengths and weaknesses.
  • The Early Childhood Learning Environment: Students learn how to create an environment where children can feel comfortable and reach their full learning potential.
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Accreditation for Online Early Childhood Education Degrees

Accreditation is granted to schools and degree programs that meet the standards established by independent, authoritative agencies. These agencies provide comprehensive evaluations in order to verify the quality of the curricula being offered, the qualifications of the faculty members, and the availability of research programs and student resources. Accrediting agencies should be recognized by the US Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Choosing an accredited degree program can help students feel confident in their education and help them meet eligibility requirements to transfer credits to other schools or apply for federal financial aid. It's always best to verify the precise accreditation requirements necessary for your future education and career plans with the proper regulation boards in your state.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) sets the national standard for higher education programs for early childhood degrees. NAEYC's Commission on Early Childhood Associate Degree Programs accredits associate degree programs, and NAEYC works with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (a consolidation of the former National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council) to accredit baccalaureate and graduate programs.

To learn more about accreditation, please visit Guide to Online Schools' accreditation hub.

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Certification & Licensure for Early Childhood Education

Prospective early childhood educators and caregivers will need to abide by their state’s legal requirements before they can seek employment. Each state has its own rules and regulations for individuals who wish to teach or care for young children. Some may simply require a high school diploma and experience, while other states require a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject.

Professional certification for early childhood educators and caregivers is a wise investment for those who wish to advance in their career, and it may also be a requirement for employment in some settings. Earning a recognized certificate lets families and employers know that you are competent, knowledgeable, and dedicated to the profession. One of the most popular forms of professional certification for this field is the Child Development Associate Credential (CDA), which is offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. The CDA is available for professionals who work in preschool or infant and toddler settings, or provide family child care or home visits. Students can earn this designation by completing a certain number of hours of professional education and work experience.

Another professional agency that issues certification for early childhood educators is the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. This organization issues the Certified Childcare Professional credential to those who have a high school diploma and work experience in this field, and who have enrolled in continuing education courses. Several options for continuing education can be pursued via distance education; students can enroll in formal classes or seminars to receive credit hours.

Students who plan to teach in public preschools must fulfill state licensure requirements, which can vary widely. Most US states require public preschool instructors to pass a national examination, as well as procure continuing education units. Some of these areas require instructors to complete a teacher training program; those who have majored in early childhood education development can usually skip this requirement. Prospective preschool educators should verify their individual state's requirements prior to enrolling in a degree or certificate program.

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Early Childhood Education Career Paths

A career in early childhood education can be very rewarding, as educators play an important role in the lives of children at a time when they are learning so much and discovering who they are. The term “early childhood education” is quite broad, and it encompasses a variety of careers and education levels. The following list represents some of the career opportunities available for graduates of ECE programs:

  • Caregiver: Caregivers work with young children in a wide range of public and private day care settings. Their main responsibilities are to provide supervision and a safe place for children to play, learn, and socialize while they are away from home. Sometimes caregivers work with parents and provide collaborative care, while others act as the primary caregiver without parent involvement.
  • Teacher: Teaching is a common career choice for graduates of early childhood education programs. Preschool and kindergarten teachers provide developmentally appropriate activities and exercises to help young children learn about academic subjects and the world around them. Additional courses, such as child development or communications, be beneficial to your role in the classroom. In addition to a degree, teachers also need to obtain a state teaching license.
  • Teaching Assistant: Many people begin their career in early childhood education as a teaching assistant. Teaching assistants work under the guidance of teachers and provide valuable support for individual students or small groups of students who need extra encouragement, tutoring, or supervision. Teaching assistants who do not yet have a bachelor's degree can gain valuable classroom experience before committing to a four-year degree.
  • Program Director: Program directors have the flexibility of working in schools or in private child care or education settings. Many programs that offer childhood development and learning opportunities exist outside of the school system; the programs often specialize in one subject or age range and can be tailored to children with special needs.

References

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