Today, early childhood education is one of the more prevalent policy issues in the U.S. Across the U.S., numerous states (like CA, TX and FL) are passing bills to ensure funding quality education opportunities for children. Due to renewed investment in early childhood education, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics believe job prospects in this field are projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
Unlike other subjects such as child development or elementary education, early childhood education generally refers to the formal and informal teaching of children up to the age of 8. With this age bracket, teachers and caregivers focus on learning through play instead of traditional instruction.
An online early childhood education degree program can teach about developmental milestones, educational theory and strategies and best practices for the classroom. Graduates of an online early childhood education teaching degree may work as preschool teachers, child care workers, child care center administrators, teaching assistants and more. (For those with degrees in other subjects and who are looking to enter the field, you may need to earn teaching credentials.)
Early childhood educators set our youngest children up for success by teaching them how to become lifelong learners and find success in school. This page offers information on the top early childhood education colleges and programs, coursework you can expect and the career outlook for the field.
To help inform your college selection process, we've developed the following list of the top early childhood education colleges for earning your undergraduate or graduate online degree. We've done our homework to uncover distinctive features present at each online college, including what you can expect out of the learning experience and what resources are available to support online students. Additionally, we've provided detailed information on specific undergraduate and graduate programs in early childhood education.
Visit our methodologies page to learn more about how we use official data to evaluate schools.
Early Childhood Education at Liberty University
A.A. in Early Childhood Education
B.S. in Early Childhood Education
Undergraduate Certificate in Preschool
Early Childhood Education at Pitt Community College
A.A.S. Degree in Early Childhood Education
Early Childhood Education: Birth through Kindergarten Licensure Track
Early Childhood Education: Early Education Non - Teaching Administration Track
Diploma in Early Childhood Education
Certificates in Early Childhood Education
About Craven Community College
Early Childhood Education at Craven Community College
A.A.S.in Early Childhood Education
Early Childhood Education at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute
Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education
Certificates in Early Childhood Education
Diploma in Early Childhood Education
Early Childhood Education at Vance Granville Community College
Associate in Early Childhood Education
About Shoreline Community College
Early Childhood Education at Shoreline Community College
Certificate of Proficiency in State Early Childhood Education
Certificates of Completion in State Early Childhood Education
Certificate of Completion in Child Advocacy Studies
Early Childhood Education at Rasmussen College - Minnesota
Early Childhood Education at Pima Community College
Early Childhood Assistant Educator Certificate
Early Childhood Education at Central New Mexico Community College
Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Multicultural Education - Birth - 3 rd Grade Teacher Concentration
Early Childhood Education at Ivy Tech Community College
Associate of Applied Science
Early Childhood Education at Concordia University
M.A.in Education with an Emphasis in Early Childhood Education
Early Childhood Education at Liberty University
Master of Education(M.Ed.) in Curriculum & amp;Instruction: Early Childhood Education
Graduate Certificate in Preschool
Early Childhood Education at University of West Alabama
Early Childhood Education at Concordia University - Chicago
Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education
M.A.in Early Childhood Special Education
Early Childhood Education at Georgia Southern University
M.Ed.in Elementary Education(Grades P - 5)
Early Childhood Education at Northwestern State University of Louisiana
M.A.T.in Early Childhood Education,Grades PK - 3
M.Ed.in Early Childhood Education
Early Childhood Education at Arkansas State University - Main Campus
M.S.E.in Early Childhood Education
Early Childhood Education at Prescott College
M.Ed.Early Childhood Education
M.Ed.Early Childhood Special Education
Early Childhood Education at Columbus State University
Master of Arts in Teaching(M.A.T.) Early Childhood Education
Specialist in Education(Ed.S.) Early Childhood Education
M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
Early Childhood Education Emporia State University
M.S. - Early Childhood Unified
Early Childhood Unified Licensure Programs
What can you expect from your online early childhood education degree program? This section aims to answer that question by providing details about common courses and skills gained at each degree level.
In general, however, these online early childhood education teaching degree programs are designed to foster important skills for working in this field, including an understanding of curriculum design and instruction for small children, knowledge about regulations and safety measures, cooperation and teamwork, foundations in psychology as it pertains to child development and interpersonal and communications skills. It's likely you'd be required to gain field experience in a classroom or child care program setting. Keep reading to learn more.
How Long Does an Early Childhood Education Bachelor's Degree Online Take?
The standard length is 120-180 credit hours, which usually can be completed in four years or, in an accelerated online program, as little as 18 months, depending on the program.
What are the Requirements to Start an Early Childhood Education Bachelor's Degree Online
Though you should certainly have an interest in working with children, prior experience in the field typically isn't required. Check with your desired program about admissions requirements. Note that some online degree programs are degree-completion programs, so you must have a prescribed number of credit hours under your belt before applying.Why Earn a Early Childhood Education Bachelor's Degree Online?
You'll need this degree if you want to be a licensed teacher or administrator, or if you plan to pursue a graduate degree program in the field in order to pursue a leadership role. (Note: Not all bachelor's programs offer licensure, so if teaching is in your future plans, seek a degree program that offers this.)
Though every school's curriculum is unique, students can expect to see shared characteristics in terms of course progression. For the first year or two, or up to about 40 credit hours (depending on the length of the program), in your online early childhood education degree you focus on foundational courses, such as composition, literature, math, science and psychology.
You can then begin taking core courses for the major in year two or three, delving into subjects such as child development, introduction to early childhood education, early childhood growth and development or methods of teaching.
Usually, the last two years or so of your early childhood education bachelor's degree online program can be spent in courses required for your major. In your last year, you can expect to be required to complete at least a semester's worth of field experience. For programs providing teacher licensure, you can expect to work as a student teacher, under the supervision of a licensed teacher and faculty advisor.
A master's online early childhood education degree program enables students to deepen their existing knowledge of early childhood education, honing their skills in course and curriculum development, conducting research in the field, addressing special youth populations and strengthening relationships between schools and families or the community.
How Long Does an Online Master's Degree Program in Early Childhood Education Take?
Typically, a master's program involves 30-40 credit hours, or about one to two years, with those offering teacher licensure generally taking longer.
What are the Requirements to Start an Online Master's Degree Program in Early Childhood Education?
Usually, unless you find a dual bachelor's/master's degree program in this subject, a master's degree program can require that applicants already possess their bachelor's degrees from accredited institutions, and in some cases initial teacher certification may be a requirement. Typically, schools have minimum undergraduate GPA requirements as well.
Why Earn a Master's in Early Childhood Education?
If you wish to specialize in a specific area of early childhood education, such as curriculum and instruction or special education, a master's degree is a great way to do that. Also, if you wish to teach future teachers or hold a leadership role, a master's degree is a good idea.
Because of the relatively short period of time to complete a master's online early childhood education teaching degree program, the pacing moves quickly to focus on areas of special interest inherent in the program. For example, the first half of the program is likely to cover more general topics such as standards-based curriculum and instruction, classroom management strategies or research methodologies. Then the second half usually incorporates courses aligning with specializations, such as special education or administration.
Your final course usually can be a quarter- or semester-long practicum in which you conduct directed study in a research area in an early childhood education setting, such as a child care center or Head Start program. You may be asked to submit a formal research thesis, project or portfolio.
How Long Does an Online Early Childhood Education Teaching Degree Certificate Take?
Depending on the program, it may take only 18-45 credit hours to complete an undergraduate certificate in early childhood education, or about six months to a year. However, certificate programs that include teacher licensure or the CDA Credential may take up to 120 credit hours, or up to four years.
Requirements to Start an Online Certificate in Early Childhood Education?
Usually, an undergraduate certificate is an entry-level credential, so prior teaching or child care experience is not required, though the individual school may have GPA requirements for admission.
Why Earn a Certificate in Early Childhood Education?
If you wish to work in a child care or preschool setting, or in a child-centered program such as Head Start, a certificate in early childhood education provides a solid foundation in the field.
An online early childhood education teaching degree program is usually fairly general at the undergraduate level, with courses covering the fundamentals of early childhood learning and development, the principles of education or classroom management strategies — particularly in the first half of the program. As students progress, courses become more focused on specific areas of education, such as assessment and evaluation or curriculum development.
If your program emphasizes CDA credential preparation, which is required in some states, you can expect to prepare a professional portfolio and take the credentialing exam. A program offering teacher certification may require field or student teaching experience. This certificate also may be good preparation for a degree program, as the credit hours generally can be applied to a degree program.
Graduating with an online early childhood education teaching degree doesn't necessarily legally qualify you to teach. You can earn a teacher certification, particularly if you wish to work as a public school teacher in grades K-3. Note that an early childhood education certificate, which is an educational program, is not the same thing as a teaching certification — similar to how a medical degree program does not immediately license you to practice medicine.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, teacher certifications are granted by state departments of education after you've earned a required amount of education and professional experience and passed an exam. No one certification program is accepted in all states, so check with your state's education department about its requirements.
You cannot become a credentialed teacher strictly through online work. Earning a teacher credential requires professional experience in a classroom, child care center, Head Start program or other early childhood education workplace, and that requires your actual presence. However, many programs, particularly those delivered online, allow students to select their current workplaces (if you already work for such an employer) or other facilities close to home in which to gain this experience. Often, the student is allowed to select a work site that is approved by the school or program and the state's board of education.
Every state determines its own requirements for working as a teacher. For example, some have specific credit-hour requirements for education, whereas others do not.
To help you get a sense of the differences among states, we've rounded up the credentialing requirements for becoming a preschool teacher in three states:
Anyone who wishes to earn teacher licensure/certification is likely to encounter the Praxis, a set of standardized tests that measure the knowledge and skills of teacher candidates. Developed by the Educational Testing Service, Praxis tests come in three varieties:
Although most states include Praxis exams among their requirements for earning teaching certification, some states allow you to take their own state-specific exams in lieu of the Praxis. Consult the Praxis website for details about Praxis requirements in your state.
Alternative teacher certification is a means for addressing teacher shortages by creating expedited pathways to teacher certification. According to the National Education Association, every state in the nation and the District of Columbia offers some form of alternative route to teacher certification. Here are a few examples from around the country:
Check your state's department of education requirements to learn whether alternative routes are available where you live.
As with any other field, jobs in the public sector are highly regulated whereas jobs in the private sector are self-governed. Preschools are no different. As the BLS indicates, teachers at public preschools must follow state requirements, but this isn't the case with private preschools, which may have their own requirements for candidates' educational and professional backgrounds. Instead, employers at private facilities may prefer to identify like-minded candidates or those whom they find particularly inspiring, rather than prioritizing certifications.
For example, Montessori schools often hire preschool teachers who have previous experience and/or have earned an early childhood education bachelor's degree online but who do not have teacher certifications.
However, be aware that if there is potential that you'll want to move into a state-funded school or program, it may be helpful to go ahead and earn your teaching certificate.
Upon completing your education, you'll turn your attention to entering the early education workforce. Early childhood educators most often work in school settings, especially preschools and elementary schools. They can also work in daycare facilities, Head Start programs, state-supported camps or child care programs and home-based child care. The common thread in each of these potential positions is that they care for and teach children from birth to age 8.
Two primary factors are driving the growing demand for preschools and teachers to fill them:
This section provides a glimpse into the job of preschool teacher.
Preschool teachers are our first teachers. They help the youngest students, generally ages 3 to 5, learn what it is like to be in school, and build learning habits that can last a lifetime. These educators are responsible for creating theme-based lessons and units to structure their classrooms, made from the best practices for working with the littlest students. To measure their progress and that of their students, they must also practice assessment and evaluation. A day might include anything from teaching lessons on colors to organizing games, supporting social and emotional development, keeping records of children's progress and much more.
Every state and employer is different, of course, but according to the BLS, a preschool teacher generally needs to have earned at least an associate degree. Those who wish to teach in Head Start program centers or public preschools can earn early childhood education bachelor's degrees online or a related field. Such a program should cover the development, instruction and assessment of young children.
Of course, as we explained above, most states also have some additional requirement for teacher certification at the early childhood level, which usually involves exams and a certain amount of supervised field experience, so you can check with your state's department of education to find out what it requires for those who want to teach preschool. Teaching at private preschools usually does not require teacher certification.
Note that some states and employers may also require candidates to have the CDA credential, which must be renewed every three years.
Joining a professional association in the field of early childhood education may present opportunities for networking, professional development, continuing education and more as you embark on a career in the field. Here's a sampling of associations to consider.