Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Programs
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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
Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Programs Ranking Guidelines
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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.
- Program Cost: Tuition and fees vary depending on the school and program, as do the number of credits required to graduate and the transfer credits allowed. Online courses may or may not cost the same as on-campus courses. Make sure to compare the per-credit costs for each program that interests you.
- Transfer Policies: If you wish to transfer credits into your associate program or ensure that your degree will transfer to a bachelor’s program at another institution, it is important to look into each school’s transfer policies. Most schools limit the number of transfer credits they accept. Additionally, many two-year colleges boast articulation agreements with four-year colleges, ensuring smooth transfer of associate degree credits.
- School Size and Type: Class size and the student-to-teacher ratio can vary widely according to the type of school you attend. For example, large universities may rely on larger classes taught by graduate students, while smaller schools may offer smaller class sizes with greater individual attention. Look into the average class sizes of online courses to ensure you will receive the classroom experience you need.
- Program Length: Online programs frequently offer flexible delivery options, including part-time, full-time, and accelerated formats. Most associate degrees take full-time learners two years to complete.
- On-Campus Requirements: Some online programs do require occasional on-campus meetings, such as orientations or weekend residencies. Make sure that you can travel to campus as needed or select a program that does not require any on-campus commitments.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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.
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