Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education 2021

by TBS Staff

Updated September 14, 2022 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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If you enjoy working with young children, you may want to consider a career in early childhood education. Early childhood educators work in elementary schools, preschools, and daycare centers. They teach young children essential skills like communication, reading, and basic math. Early childhood educators also guide children’s emotional and intellectual development. Early childhood educators can serve as important positive role models for their pupils.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that preschool teaching positions will grow by 10% between 2016 and 2026. As such, prospective students considering an early childhood education associate degree can expect to find ample career opportunities after graduation.

The Best Online Associate Programs for Early Childhood Education

  1. Trinity Valley Community College

    Athens, TX



    Founded in 1946, TVCC provides educational opportunities across disciplines both on-campus and online.

    TVCC offers an online associate of applied science in early childhood development. Courses include educating young children, wellness of the young child, and children with special needs. In their last term, students take a practicum course to gain hands-on experience as a child care provider.

    Graduates may begin work in a child care setting or pursue a bachelor of applied arts and sciences at partner universities.

    Applicants must take the Texas Success Initiative assessment prior to beginning the program.

  2. Gulf Coast State College

    Panama City, FL



    GCSC provides affordable bachelor and associate degree programs to students, with more than 80 areas of study available.

    GCSC offers an online associate of science in early childhood education that prepares students to work with children from birth to five years of age. The curriculum includes required courses for the Florida Childcare Professional Credential (FCCPC).

    Courses cover topics such as child development, leadership and management of childcare programs, and creative expression for young children.

    Students must obtain a Level 2 background clearance from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement prior to beginning classroom observations.

  3. Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

    Fennimore, WI



    Southwest Tech offers nine online associate degrees in a range of fields and industries.

    The associate degree in early childhood education prepares students for careers in a variety of childcare settings. The curriculum covers infant and toddler development, guiding child behavior, and STEM for early childhood. Students also complete practicums throughout the program to provide hands-on experience.

    Prior to beginning classes, students must meet immunization and background check requirements, and well as hold a current Basic Life Support CPR certification, which may be completed partially online.

  4. Coastal Pines Technical College

    Waycross, GA



    CPTC supports workforce development and adult learning through associate degrees and diplomas offered both on-campus and online.

    CPTC offers an associate of applied science in early childhood education. The curriculum covers child growth and development, creative activities for children, and guidance and classroom management.

    Most courses, including general education courses, take place online. Students must also complete in-person practicums to earn their degree.

    Students may qualify for free tuition under the HOPE Career Grant.

  5. Renton Technical College

    Renton, WA



    RTC boasts a diverse student body across its many career training and degree programs in seven key areas of study.

    RTC offers an associate of applied science in early childhood education in online and hybrid formats. Courses include language literacy and development, culture and diversity, and lifespan psychology. Students also complete four practicums to provide real-world experience with children.

    Students may opt to complete the transfer track, which prepares them for further study in a bachelor's degree program. The standard AAS degree requires 90 quarter credits, while the transfer option requires 95-110 quarter credits.

  6. Dawson Community College

    Glendive, MT



    Founded in 1940, DCC offers a range of associate degrees with transfer or workforce preparation options.

    DCC's associate of applied science in early childhood education may be completed fully online. Courses include observation and assessment, positive child guidance, and leadership and professionalism. Students also complete general education courses.

    In addition to online coursework, students must complete supervised practicum experiences in an approved childcare setting.

    To graduate, students must maintain a 2.0 GPA throughout the program.

  7. Chaminade University of Honolulu

    Honolulu, HI

    The only Catholic university in Hawaii, Chaminade educates students through more than 25 graduate and undergraduate programs.

    Chaminade offers an online associate of science in early childhood education that prepares students to work with children aged 2.5 to 8 years old. Courses include music, art, and creative movement; health and family issues; and child development. Students also complete a fieldwork practicum.

    To graduate, students must complete 60 credits with a 2.0 GPA.

    Students also have the opportunity to complete a Montessori Certificate to enhance their education.

  8. South Texas College

    McAllen, TX



    Founded in 1993, South Texas now teaches more than 28,000 students across 127 degree programs.

    South Texas offers an online associate of applied science in child development and early childhood. Courses cover child growth and development, emergent literacy, and children with special needs. Students complete three field-based capstones focusing on infants and toddlers, preschool students, and administration.

    The curriculum qualifies interested students to sit for the Child Development Associate (CDA) assessment.

  9. Central New Mexico Community College

    Albuquerque, NM



    As the largest community college in New Mexico, CNM offers more than 200 associate degrees and training programs across numerous disciplines.

    CNM's associate of arts in early childhood multicultural education includes three concentrations: birth - 3rd-grade teacher, infant family studies, and early childhood program administration. Courses include curriculum development, assessment of children, and health, safety, and nutrition.

    Most classes are typically available online, but the program does not guarantee online availability. Students must also complete supervised practicums to gain experience working with children.

  10. Eastern Wyoming College

    Torrington, WY



    Established in 1948, EWC now teaches nearly 2,000 credit-earning students and nearly 6,000 more in non-credit activities.

    EWC offers an associate of arts in education - early childhood through distance learning. In the first two semesters, students build a foundation in general education courses and the basics of early childhood education and child development. Then, students take courses such as observation and guidance of young children and curriculum planning and development.

    Students also complete lab components in early childhood settings. Graduates may enter the workforce right away or pursue further training.

Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Featured Early Childhood Education Programs

Choosing an Online Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Program

Take your time when selecting where to earn an early childhood education associate degree online to make sure you find the right program. Many options exist -- with a little patience and research, you can find a school that matches your specific needs. If cost represents a primary factor in your decision, you may want to start your search with public, in-state programs. These typically offer the most affordable tuition rates. However, some distance programs offer the same tuition rate to all online students, regardless of residency status. The list below describes a few other factors worth considering when looking at associate programs.

Accreditation for Online Early Childhood Education Associate Degrees

All the best schools participate in a voluntary evaluation process to demonstrate program quality; this process is called accreditation. Colleges often consider accreditation when determining whether they will accept transfer credits, and employers may expect job applicants to hold a degree from an accredited institution. When exploring online programs, you can look for institutional and programmatic accreditation. Institutions may hold regional or national accreditation. Both the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education coordinate accreditation, recognize accrediting bodies, and maintain lists of accredited schools.

Regional accreditation is typically viewed as more rigorous and prestigious than national accreditation, and regionally-accredited institutions often only accept transfer credits from other regional institutions.

In addition to institutional accreditation, programs can hold specialized accreditation to demonstrate that they meet standards in the field. Early childhood education programs may hold accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, while teacher preparation programs may hold Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation accreditation.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education?

Associate degrees typically require students to complete about 60 credits and take two years of full-time study. Online programs frequently offer flexible options that allow learners to progress at their own pace, and part-time learners may take 3-4 years to complete their degree. However, part-time options do enable students to continue working more easily while attending school.

Additionally, learners who can transfer in credits, test out of requirements, and/or take accelerated classes can complete their degrees in less than two years. The time it takes to complete an early childhood education associate degree online can impact the overall cost of a program. Most schools raise their tuition rates each year, and students who take larger course loads may gain access to lower per-credit tuition rates.

Courses in an Online Early Childhood Education Associate Program

Introduction to Early Childhood Education

This course introduces the theoretical and historical foundations of early childhood education. Topics include national, professional, and ethical standards; state regulations; career options; and program types. Students explore methods that can be used to create safe, appropriate, and responsive environments and activities for young children.

Child Development

This course explores the physical, social-emotional, and cognitive changes that occur in the first five years of life. Students learn to identify the skills young children typically acquire during this time and ways to support growth and optimize developmental outcomes.

Health and Wellness

This course emphasizes the health-related aspects of child development and age-appropriate behavior management techniques. Future caregivers learn to identify potential challenges children in their care may face. They also develop strategies to provide appropriate care, communicate with families, and promote wellness.

Exceptional Children

In this course, students explore ways to work with parents and other professionals to care for children with special needs, including those with physical/cognitive disabilities and gifted/talented children. Topics include methods for modifying the physical environment to ensure inclusion and strategies for adapting activities and instruction.

Language and Literacy

This course provides an overview of normal language development in young children. Students explore strategies to facilitate language development, identify appropriate children’s literature and its purpose, and present literature to young children in engaging ways.

Educational Paths for Early Childhood Education Degrees

After earning an online associate degree in early childhood education, you may decide to continue your education by earning a bachelor’s degree. Some schools require their employees to hold at least a bachelor’s degree, especially if they want to teach kindergarten or higher grades. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree can also pursue some leadership positions, increasing their salary potential and allowing workers to gain access to benefits like employer-paid healthcare. The three degrees below represent potential educational pathways aspiring teachers can follow.

Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education

The upper-level courses in a bachelor’s in early childhood education program go into greater depth than associate-level courses. These programs may prepare you to earn teacher licensure in your home state, qualifying you to work in a public elementary school.

Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education with a Montessori Education Concentration

The Montessori method revolutionized the education of young children by focusing on a child’s natural curiosity and emotional development. Montessori teachers receive specialized training during their teacher education programs, qualifying them for both traditional and Montessori classroom settings.

Bachelor’s in Physical Education

A child’s physical development proves just as important as their intellectual and emotional development. Physical education programs may satisfy the requirements for teacher licensure in your home state, opening the door to more career opportunities and a higher salary.

Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Career Information

Associate degree holders can find rewarding positions teaching and caring for young children in public and private preschools, elementary schools, and Head Start programs. They may also provide much-needed childcare to working parents through daycare providers and recreational centers. These teachers and care providers offer nurturing, professional supervision and instruction to children ages five and under. Professionals who go on to complete a bachelor’s degree may qualify for higher-paying jobs in the field. The list below describes career options often pursued by graduates of associate programs.

Preschool Teachers

Preschool Teachers work with children under the age of five in childcare centers and public and private preschools, helping young learners acquire the basic academic and social skills needed for elementary school. This position typically requires an associate degree.

Childcare Worker

Childcare Workers care for young children not yet in school. They may also provide after-school care in private homes, schools, and childcare centers. While this position may not require an associate degree, some employers prefer to hire degree holders.

Preschool Director

Preschool Directors manage the daily operations of childcare centers and preschools, including hiring teachers, dealing with admissions, and communicating with parents. This position requires at least an associate degree, although employers may prefer candidates with a bachelor’s.

Teacher Assistant

Schools typically require applicants to hold an associate degree or some college experience to assist classroom teachers. Teacher Assistants give students additional instruction or personal attention as needed, supervise children and ensure their safety, and help teachers prepare materials and deliver lessons.

Elementary School Teacher

Elementary School Teachers typically hold a bachelor’s degree; in public schools, they also need to obtain state licensure. An associate degree may serve as an important first step toward qualification as an elementary school teacher.

Source: PayScale

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