Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Holland Webb, MA
by
Updated March 11, 2024
Edited by
Getting an online associate degree in early childhood education teaches you child psychology, educational theory, and instructional methodologies.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Do you need the professional credibility an online associate degree in early childhood education can provide? Discover more about earning this degree.

Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Overview

Early childhood educators help shape the next generation of global citizens. These professionals may work in childcare centers, preschools, after-school programs, kindergartens, or other facilities where children live, play, or study.

While some careers in this field require only a high school education, more lucrative professions often demand postsecondary degrees. An online associate degree in early childhood education can launch your career with children or prepare you to advance to a leadership role.

This degree equips students with in-market skills such as differentiated instruction and behavior management strategies. Students also learn child psychology, educational theory, and instructional methodologies.

After graduating with this degree, you can transfer into a bachelor’s program in early childhood administration or another major. You might also pursue professional certifications in the field.

Choosing an Online Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Program

Take your time when selecting where to earn an online associate degree in early childhood education 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 is 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.

  • check-circleProgram 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.
  • check-circleTransfer 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 college have agreements with four-year colleges, ensuring smooth transfer of associate degree credits.
  • check-circleSchool 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.
  • check-circleProgram 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.
  • check-circleOn-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.

The Best Online Associate Programs for Early Childhood Education

#1 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Gulf Coast State College

  • Location-markerPanama City, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$1,750
  • Out-of-state$7,064
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled4,797
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment46%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

  • Location-markerFennimore, WI
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,095
  • Out-of-state$6,143
  • Retention Rate71%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled2,640
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment26%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Renton Technical College

  • Location-markerRenton, WA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,688
  • Out-of-state$4,137
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled3,755
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment21%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Chaminade University of Honolulu

  • Location-markerHonolulu, HI
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$26,020
  • Out-of-state$26,020
  • Retention Rate86%
  • Acceptance Rate95%
  • Students Enrolled2,167
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment55%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Eastern Wyoming College

  • Location-markerTorrington, WY
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$2,970
  • Out-of-state$8,910
  • Retention Rate57%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled1,538
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment28%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Kennebec Valley Community College

  • Location-markerFairfield, ME
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$2,820
  • Out-of-state$5,640
  • Retention Rate63%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled2,406
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment40%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Northeast Community College

  • Location-markerNorfolk, NE
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$2,970
  • Out-of-state$4,170
  • Retention Rate68%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled5,258
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment39%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Concordia University St. Paul

  • Location-markerSaint Paul, MN
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$22,800
  • Out-of-state$22,800
  • Retention Rate64%
  • Acceptance Rate98%
  • Students Enrolled5,137
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment59%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Georgia Military College

  • Location-markerMilledgeville, GA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$6,165
  • Out-of-state$6,165
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled8,766
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment45%
  • AccreditationYes
#10 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Liberty University

  • Location-markerLynchburg, VA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$15,417
  • Out-of-state$15,417
  • Retention Rate81%
  • Acceptance Rate51%
  • Students Enrolled85,586
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment92%
  • AccreditationYes
#11 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

St. Petersburg College

  • Location-markerClearwater, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$1,943
  • Out-of-state$7,774
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled28,853
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment59%
  • AccreditationYes
#12 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Spokane Falls Community College

  • Location-markerSpokane, WA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$2,875
  • Out-of-state$3,680
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled5,023
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment51%
  • AccreditationYes
#13 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Minnesota State College Southeast

  • Location-markerWinona, MN
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,020
  • Out-of-state$5,020
  • Retention Rate58%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled1,930
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment56%
  • AccreditationYes
#14 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Chippewa Valley Technical College

  • Location-markerEau Claire, WI
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,095
  • Out-of-state$6,143
  • Retention Rate59%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled7,924
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment25%
  • AccreditationYes
#15 Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education

Tallahassee Community College

  • Location-markerTallahassee, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$2,002
  • Out-of-state$7,982
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled11,683
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment45%
  • AccreditationYes

Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Programs Ranking Guidelines

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

Rankings Methodology

Featured Early Childhood Education Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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Accreditation for Online Early Childhood Education Associate Degrees

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.

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.

Courses in an Online Early Childhood Education Associate Program

Early Childhood Education Careers and Outlook

Many early childhood education majors may see themselves teaching preschool, leading a daycare, or serving as a teacher’s assistant in a kindergarten classroom. An associate degree may be the ticket to qualifying for one or more of these jobs.

In fact, early childhood education can get you started in a variety of careers. However, the selection of careers listed in the table below offers a representative sample of what you can expect from this major after graduation.

Early Childhood Education Careers and Salaries
Early Childhood Education CareerMedian Annual Wage (2023)
Preschool Teachers$35,330
Teacher Assistants$30,920
Childcare Worker$28,520
Recreation Worker$31,680
Social and Human Service Assistants$38,520
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Like many professional fields, early childhood education typically rewards advanced degrees with higher salaries.

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 rare 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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Early Childhood Education Associate Degrees

What is the best degree for Early Childhood Education?

The best early childhood degree depends on your career goals. An associate degree qualifies you to teach preschool or serve as a teacher’s assistant. If you want to teach elementary education, however, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in the field. Professionals who plan to serve as principals, counselors, or instructional leaders may need a master’s degree or higher.

How long does it take to get a degree in Early Childhood Education?

An associate degree in early childhood education typically takes two years. A bachelor’s degree usually requires four years although students with AP, CLEP, early college, or other transfer credits may finish in less time. An online associate degree in early childhood education, if largely asynchronous, could be a program you complete in less than two years depending on your other obligations.

Is an associate degree in Early Childhood Education worth it?

The average two-year public institution charges $4,000 for tuition and fees per year according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. In August 2023, according to Payscale, people with an associate degree in early childhood education earned an average of $14.05 per hour. Is that return on investment worth it to achieve your personal and professional goals?

What is the difference between a CDA and an associate degree?

A Child Development Associate (CDA) credential and an associate degree in early childhood education are both educational pathways, but they differ in terms of their scope, depth, and purpose. A CDA requires specific educational and professional experience, which each state determines separately. An associate degree requires two years of academic coursework in general education and the major field.