Online Master’ Programs In Early Childhood Education

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Graduates with a 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.

Top 10 Online Master’ Programs In Early Childhood Education

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Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education


  • METHODOLOGY

    Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education 2018-2019

    Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our 2018 college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factorsData Sources:

    Eligibility Criteria:

    • Each college must be accredited
    • Each college must be a not-for-profit institution
    • Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
    • Each college must have at least one online program 1
    • Each college must have a maximum four-year tuition of $25,000 or a maximum two-year tuition of $5,000

    Ranking Factors:

    • Affordability
    • Quality
    • Flexibility
    • Program

    Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.

    1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.

    2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.Notes:

    • A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
    • Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.


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.

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.

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