Online Master’s Degrees in Early Childhood Education

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Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education

Getting an online master’s degree in early childhood education can open the door to a more satisfying job in education, and one that pays a higher salary than a bachelor’s degree. Teachers with this degree typically specialize in instructing children from infancy to third grade, but a master’s degree can also allow you to become the director of a preschool or childcare program, a special needs teacher and more. Find out the best programs for an online master’s in early childhood education, what you’ll learn and how much you’ll make with an advanced degree.

The most worthwhile online master’s degrees in early childhood education prepare teachers, social workers and psychologists for understanding, assessing and implementing childhood education through infancy to age eight. All the data in the following rankings were garnered from the Department of Education, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, as well as the university’s own published materials. All schools included in this list are fully accredited.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Program?

The time it takes to complete an online master’s in early childhood development will depend on the program taken and the number of credit hours required. Most programs range from 30-36 credit hours, but some programs or specializations may require additional credits. Typically, this type of program can be completed in two years if attended full-time.

Students can expect to acquire the following skills from an online master’s degree in early childhood education:

  • An insight into the history and theory of childhood education
  • A deeper understanding of child development
  • A greater general knowledge of early childhood learning
  • The ability to create curricula for young learners
  • The ability to assess and improve student outcomes

Students will also be able to gain hands-on experience through a directed practicum in a real-life early childhood learning environment.

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What common courses are offered in a master’s in Early Childhood Education program?

Although courses will vary depending on the online program, many colleges follow similar curriculum. Common courses include:

Early Childhood Development
This course introduces students to the cognitive,social and emotional development of children from infancy to age six. During this course, students often spend time with kindergarten children, observing their social interactions.

Infant and Toddler Assessment and Intervention Course
This course focuses on curriculum and assessment models for educators of early learners and young students. Students will explore strategies for effective teaching as they review the developmental learning stages and determine if children are experiencing learning or developmental difficulties.

Language Development
Students examine methods for teaching young children how to spell and pronounce as well as introducing vocabulary. By observing classroom behavior, students learn how young children acquire language and compare it to the linguistic abilities of older children. Students also learn how to develop lesson plans to teach young children how to read and write.

Role of the Parents
Participants in this class learn the importance of communicating with the parents or guardians of their future students. Students learn ways in which parents can help make learning fun through familial interactions. They will also learn how to encourage parents to get involved in the classroom.

Preschool and Kindergarten Student Teaching Course
Student teachers get an opportunity to practice their newly acquired skills in a real-life classroom. Under the direction of an experienced teacher, students practice teaching and assessing children of different ability levels.

Play in Early Childhood Education
This course introduces the complex relationship between play and learning for young children from infancy to age eight. The theory underlying this course is that children learn while they are actively engaged with the world around them. Students learn strategies for facilitating play opportunities in preschool and primary curricula.

Issues and Advocacy in Early Childhood Education
This course presents an overview of past, present and future issues related to children’s advocacy. The subject is addressed in terms of philosophical approaches and the application of theory. Students will become familiar with advocacy for children and families at the state and national levels.

What exams or projects should I expect?

The culmination of the online master’s degree in early childhood learning will depend on where the course is taken and how many credit hours are required to graduate. Students may be required to complete one or more of the following exams or projects:

Capstone Project
Students will be advised on this type of culminating project by their faculty advisor. The aim of the capstone project is to demonstrate knowledge acquired through coursework as well as professional experiences in the classroom.

Exam
Students may be required to take an online comprehensive exam. If this is the case, the exam will be taken in one sitting. Typically, the exam will cover six to ten topic areas from the master’s degree in early childhood learning. Students will be expected to answer ten questions from each topic.

Practicum
An early childhood education practicum is a form of work experience that is part of the foundation of training in education. It involves supervision by an experienced teacher. Online master’s in early childhood education programs typically have one or more requirements for a practicum. These can range from short-term assignments to longer-term internships.

What specializations are available in a master’s in Early Childhood Education program?

Many online colleges offer specialized courses as part of a master’s degree in early childhood education. Here are some of the available options:

Administration Management and Leadership
This specialization gives students the skills to start or manage an early childcare center or a development program. It provides the skills needed to develop child-centered programs that inspire positive learning experiences for young children.

Teaching Diversity in Early Childhood Education
This specialization aims to deepen students’ understanding of how diversity can impact early childhood development and learning. In addition to studying specific special needs, students examine the impact of violence, trauma and stress. They also learn practical strategies to help improve young children’s developmental and learning outcomes.

Early Childhood Public Policy and Advocacy
This specialization focuses on the complex infrastructure of early childhood policy from the perspectives of local, state, national and international levels. Students learn how policies are formed, how they relate to current politics and how funds are allocated.

Teaching Adults in the Early Childhood Field
Students explore the main theories of adult motivation and learning in preparation for a career as a higher education teacher, a parent educator, community trainer or child development trainer. How Much Can I Make with a Career in Ear

What Can I do with a Master’s in Early Childhood Education Degree?

Obtaining a master’s degree in early childhood education can open the doors to a number of promising careers. Some potential careers include:

Childcare or Preschool Director
A master’s degree in early childhood education with a specialization in administration management and leadership allows graduates to take on the role of an administrator or director of a childcare facility or a preschool. Childcare or preschool directors have the responsibility of managing the facility, maintaining budgets, enforcing policies and completing reports. They are also responsible for hiring, training and evaluating staff.

Elementary Teacher
Many elementary teachers improve their marketability and their teaching by completing a master’s in early childhood education. This degree enables them to broaden their range of instructional strategies and assessment and evaluation techniques.

Postsecondary Teacher
Master’s degrees in early childhood learning that are focused on research enable graduates to participate in educational research and teach education and child development courses at the postsecondary level. Postsecondary teachers plan and deliver lessons, evaluate student performance and help students along their career path.

Early Childhood Special Education Teacher
As well as a master’s degree in early childhood education and general experience teaching, this position also requires specialized training and experience including music and art instruction designed for special education students.

Students pursuing a master’s degree in early childhood education may find it beneficial to join one or more of the following professional organizations:

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

This non-profit organization represents more than 150,000 teachers and other education professionals internationally. Member benefits include a subscription to Educational Leadership magazine and numerous educational opportunities.

Association of American Educators

This is a national non-union organization that provides advocacy and professional development opportunities for teachers.

National Education Association

This association has over 3.2 million members. It provides legal support and insurance for educators at all levels.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Early Childhood Education?

CAREERLOWEST 10% EARNED ANNUALLYMEDIAN ANNUAL SALARYHIGHEST 10% EARNED ANNUALLYJOB GROWTH 2016-2026
Preschool and Childcare DirectorsLess than $29,980$46,890More than $85,240+11%
Elementary TeacherLess than $37,340$57,160More than $92,770+7%
Postsecondary TeacherLess than $39,040$76,000More than $170,160+15%
Early Childhood Special Education TeacherLess than $38,66058,600More than $95,320+8%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

As can be seen in the table above, while careers in elementary school teaching and early childhood education are growing at an average pace, other careers which require a master’s degree in early childhood education, such as child, family and school social worker and postsecondary school teacher are expanding much faster than average.

It’s also important to note that those with a master’s degree in early childhood education will likely make more per year than those with just a bachelor’s. According to data provided by the Center on Education and the Workforce, those with a bachelor’s degree earn a median salary of $39,000 while those with a graduate degree earn $53,000.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs

Colleges offering an M.A. in early childhood education may be accredited by one of a number of bodies including the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on CollegesInternational Dyslexia AssociationCouncil for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.

Students who have attained their master’s degree in early childhood education will need to review their state’s requirement for acquiring their official teaching credential. The Council for Professional Recognition offers the Childhood Development Associate (CDA), which is a credential ensuring that teachers meet all the requirements for early childhood learning education. The Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation offers national certification.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Early Childhood Education Degree

It is possible for students to get funding for this type of online degree from government, private or non-profit organizations throughout the United States, such as:

  • Federal Financial Aid
    Applying for financial aid for an online course is generally the same as applying for funding for an on-campus course. Students may fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and the college will determine eligibility for the award.
  • State-Sponsored Scholarships
    Many states also offer scholarships to encourage residents to enroll in early childhood development programs. For example, Massachusetts offers the Early Childhood Educators Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships of up to $9,000 to Massachusetts residents who are currently employed in the field of early childhood education and enroll in a degree program in early childhood education.
  • Educator Discounts
    Some colleges and universities will offer discounts to students enrolled in their programs who are also currently educators. For example, George Mason University offers a 15 percent tuition discount for educators working in preK-12 schools in Virginia enrolled in any of their College of Education and Human Development graduate programs.

Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education



See Our Rankings Methodology
  1. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Liberty University is a private nonprofit institution serving over 110,000 students worldwide. At this school, you can earn a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Early Childhood Education entirely online. In this program, you will learn how to plan and implement a compelling curriculum for young students. Your training at this Christian university will be based on biblical educational principles and values, but you will not have to take any religion courses. Each student completes a capstone project for which you will have 2 dedicated courses to prepare. The advanced education core consists of foundational education training, including Learning Theory, Understanding Educational Research and Assessment, Foundations of Exceptionality and Elementary Curriculum and Methods. The concentration in early childhood education consists of 12 credit hours or 4 courses. You will explore current issues in the field and learn ways to develop the most effective learning materials and environments for your future students. Incoming students should already hold a state-approved teaching license in elementary education and must have a 3.0 GPA or above from any accredited colleges previously attended. Incoming students may transfer up to 15 credits toward their degree. You do not have to take the GRE or MAT for admission to Liberty. Military personnel, retired service members, veterans and their spouses may be eligible for a significant tuition discount and added course schedule flexibility. Depending on transfer credits, this 36-credit hour degree can be completed in as few as 2 years by taking 9 credits a semester, not including summers.

  2. University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Location

    Birmingham, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Graduate students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham can earn a Master of Education in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Education or a combination of both Elementary and Early Childhood education. UAB also offers an alternative master's degree option for those students who have a bachelor's degree but no teaching certificate or experience. The alternative program requires 49-58 credit hours while the traditional master's degrees in any of the 3 concentrations require 31-34. In addition to being accepted by the Graduate School, traditional master's degree seekers must hold a valid Alabama bachelor-level professional educator certificate. Incoming students must have 2.75 GPA or higher. Students must also pass the Praxis Subject and Core skills exams of the Alabama Educator Certification Assessment Program. Online learners applying for the alternative master's degree do not need to complete the GRE or MAT for admission. Those seeking a traditional master's degree, however, must submit their standardized test scores with their applications. This master's degree can be completed entirely online or in a hybrid format. For distance learning, students use the Canvas system to access their synchronous courses. Graduate students at UAB have the chance to work with several education-based research centers housed in the School of Education, including the Center for Educational Accountability, Center for Urban Education, Maryann Manning Family Literacy Center, Community Counseling Clinic and the UAB Regional In-Service Center. Each center offers unique training and professional development seminars to meet the research needs of their diverse student body. Whatever your teaching specialty, UAB has a well-rounded curriculum and extra on-campus and online resources to help you prepare for or advance your teaching career.

  3. University of Mobile
    Location

    Mobile, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Mobile is a 4-year private institution affiliated with the Baptist church. Distance learners at UM can earn an Alternative Master of Arts in Education with a concentration in early childhood education or elementary education. This is a hybrid program wherein students must take courses both online and on-campus. As an alternative master's degree program, it is designed for graduate students with bachelor's degrees but those without a background in education or a teaching certificate. As a Baptist school, course content is taught with a Biblical worldview. The 27-semester hour core curriculum consists of foundational education courses geared toward working with young learners, including Classroom Management, Advanced Education Psychology, Curriculum and Teaching in the Elementary School and Evaluation of Teaching and Learning. The concentrations each require 15 semester hours, and include courses that focus on diagnostic and prescriptive teaching, math and science for children and developmental reading. You will also need to complete hands-on practicum experiences in the classroom and a full semester of student teaching. Students may begin courses at the start of the fall, spring or summer semesters. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree from a regionally or nationally accredited institution with a 2.75 GPA or higher. You must submit 2 copies of all official transcripts and already have completed 12 semester hours of English, social sciences, mathematics and science coursework. For full admission to the School of Education's master's degree program, you must pass a fingerprint/background check, earn passing scores on all sections of the Praxis I and II and purchase the graduate teacher education handbook during your first semester. Hybrid students have access to a personal success coach to help them get the most out of their degree program and adequately prepare for their career.

  4. Missouri State University
    Location

    Springfield, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At Missouri State University, online learners can earn an online Master of Science in Education in Early Childhood Special Education with concentrations in early childhood education or special education. MSU students who graduate with this degree bolster their resume and may advance their position at their current place of employment. Students who entered the program directly after their undergraduate program enter the job market in search of positions as early intervention specialists and early childhood special education teachers in public school settings. Other students may be prepared for teaching work at public or private facilities including medical centers, private practices and one-on-one, in-home education. For this accelerated master's degree program, incoming undergraduate applicants must be in their junior year with a 3.0 GPA or higher and be granted admission to the Teacher Education program. Students pursuing the concentration early childhood education must have already completed CFD 260, the course known as Observing, Assessing, and Implementing Activities for Young Children. Those interested in the special education concentration should take SPE 345, Educational Evaluation of Exceptional Students, and SPE 346, Educational Evaluation of Exceptional Students Lab, prior to applying for this specialized program. Applications should include a letter of intent that outlines career goals and professional experiences, 2 letters of recommendation and proof of completion of any required prerequisite courses. No more than 6 credits may be transferred toward this 39-credit degree. Applicants must also submit official transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Your GPA is considered alongside your standardized test scores but you must have at least a 2.50 GPA to be considered for admission. The education department offers distance learners a variety of support services including the Education Advisement Center, student organizations and a website with up-to-date teaching and research opportunities.

  5. Ball State University
    Location

    Muncie, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Ball State University is a public research institution that offers an online Master of Arts in Education in Elementary Education. This program is a good fit for those who already possess a teaching degree and are working in the field, as the master's degree helps current professionals advance their careers and take on leadership positions. Online students in this program choose from concentrations in early childhood education, elementary education or leading and literacy instruction. Students can choose a further specialized focus beyond the overarching concentration. Ball State students pursue these focus areas in topics such as autism, computer education for teachers gifted and talented education (high ability), human development and learning, middle school education, response and intervention or English as a new language. Both the wider concentrations and the specialty foci each require 15 credits of coursework for the total 30 credits required for graduation. When you complete the master's degree, you are eligible to apply for a certificate for the focus area you studied in the program. Prospective students should have a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university with at least a 2.75 GPA. The GRE is not required for admission. Students may begin courses at any of the 3 starting points per year. The graduate school must receive all required application materials at least a week before the start of your first academic term. At Ball State, online learners have access to nearly all of the university's support services including academic advising services, peer mentoring, academic support and career planning services and technology support.

  6. Troy University
    Location

    Troy, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Troy University offers an online Master of Science in Early Childhood Education that is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation or CAEP. This program is designed for students who would like to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to engage young children in learning experiences. By enrolling in the Master of Science in Early Childhood Education program at Troy University, students can learn how to create age-specific and dynamic learning environments. This program involves 36 credit hours and a variety of courses, including Educational Technology in the Curriculum, the Master Teacher and Psychological Foundations of Education. For admission consideration, prospective students are required to have a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 3.0 and submit GRE scores. In addition, they must hold a valid certification in early childhood education in preschool through 3rd grade. Graduate requirements include an overall minimum GPA of 3.0, the completion of a research requirement with a letter grade B or better, successful completion of the comprehensive exam and no more than 2 grades below a B. Master of Science in Early Childhood Education graduates can be found working with young children in public or private schools, Head Start centers, childcare centers, family services centers or even government agencies.

  7. Northern Arizona University
    Location

    Flagstaff, AZ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Northern Arizona University offers a 30-credit Master of Education in Early Childhood Education that can be completed online. It's nationally recognized by the National Association for Education for Young Children (NAEYC) and was created for working teachers who hope to enhance their skills to better serve preschool and primary-level children. To be eligible for the Master of Education in Early Childhood Education, students must hold a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.0 and submit their official transcripts. Students enrolled in this program may choose from 3 concentration areas: Early Childhood Continuing Professional, Early Childhood Leadership and Early Childhood National Board Certification Teacher (NBCT) Preparation. While the Early Childhood Continuing Professional track is intended to further teaching knowledge and skills with courses like Parental Involvement in Education, the Early Childhood Leadership concentration helps augment leadership traits through courses in special education, educational psychology and educational leadership. Students who opt for the NBCT concentration prepare for an advanced teaching credential known as the National Board Certification. Regardless of which concentration students select, they will be required to take core courses, such as Early Childhood Curriculum, Selected Topics in Early Childhood Education and Development of Children's Logical Concepts. In order to graduate with a Master of Education in Early Childhood Education, students must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 and complete all program requirements within 6 consecutive years. After graduation, many students have a deeper understanding of how to teach preschool and primary-level children as well as how they learn. Graduates go on to pursue careers as preschool teachers, curriculum specialists or childcare administrators.

  8. University of Nebraska at Kearney
    Location

    Kearney, NE

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At the University of Nebraska at Kearney, students may earn an online Master of Arts in Education in Curriculum and Instruction: Early Childhood Education degree. Admissions requirements include an undergraduate degree and either GRE test scores or a professional biography. This program was designed to prepare current teachers with the best practice knowledge they need to develop and evaluate a curriculum that maximizes student learning. The early childhood education concentration allows students to focus on strategies for teaching children in the 0 to 8 age range. This 36-credit program includes a variety of core courses, such as Education Research, Philosophy of Education, Overview of Assistive Technology and Technology Tools for Teachers. Principles of Early Childhood Education, Issues and Trends in Early Childhood Education and Early Communication, and Language and Literacy are several examples of the concentration courses students must take. There is also a required practicum where students participate in supervised teaching and are asked to develop an instructional project, which involves collecting and analyzing P-12 student learning data. Since the Master of Arts in Education in Curriculum and Instruction doesn't lead to certification, it is a student's responsibility to consult their State Department of Education for certification requirements. Prior to graduating, students are required to successfully complete a comprehensive exam or project that consists of a program examination and project, a departmental examination and the College of Education Survey of Desired Outcomes. Most students graduate with their degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2.5 to 3 years.

  9. Western Illinois University
    Location

    Macomb, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Western Illinois University offers a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction for practicing teachers who teach from pre-kindergarten through the middle grades. This online degree program was designed to enhance the professional expertise of teachers while also preparing them to pursue leadership positions within their schools and districts. To become admitted into the Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction program, students are required to hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.75 and a valid teaching license. Those who enroll in this program may choose from 1 of 6 specializations, including literacy education, elementary curriculum, early childhood education, math education, science education and social studies educations. While all specializations discuss recent trends and research as well as assessment and differentiation, each specialization focuses on a different component of the early childhood, elementary and middle school curriculum. This degree requires 30 credit hours, which include core components, an area of specialization, 2 electives and a capstone experience. The capstone experience is a research writing course that requires students to select an appropriate research topic, investigate it and present it in a detailed paper. Since the Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction is intended for teachers who are already licensed, completion of this program doesn't lead to licensure, teacher certification or any endorsement. Students seeking licensure are required to complete an undergraduate degree in elementary education. Although students have 6 years to complete the Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction, it is recommended that they take one course in the fall semester, one course in the spring semester and two courses in the summer term.

  10. Southwestern Assemblies of God University
    Location

    Waxahachie, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Southwestern Assemblies of God University offers an online Master of Education in Early Childhood and Elementary Education , which covers topics in research literature and technology as well as applied curriculum for differentiated learning instruction. This degree was created to teach students how to learn and implement instruction and assessments that are developmentally appropriate in the early childhood and elementary education environment. Students who enroll in the master's program can develop the skills necessary to create and evaluate positive and productive classroom environments while also designing lesson plans to cater to students of diverse cultures. For admission into this degree program, students must hold a bachelor's degree and complete 3 prerequisites: Developmental Psychology, Theories and Principles of Learning and Foundations of Literacy Instruction. In this 36-credit program, there are professional, core and resource area components that involve courses such as Differentiated Learning Strategies, Principles and Practices of Early Childhood Education and Advanced Strategies in Reading. Students who enroll in the spring 2018 Master of Education in Early Childhood and Elementary Education qualify for a 15% grant, which awards $750 per semester and is renewable over the lifespan of their degree. After graduating with this degree, students will have the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully complete state educator certification requirements. Southwestern Assemblies of God University offers a certification officer who can guide students through the certification process. Many graduates of this degree can be found working as teachers in a preschool, kindergarten or elementary school setting or as counselors, administrators or principals in schools.

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