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An online associate degree in elementary education prepares you to work with children 10 and under in a variety of settings, including preschools and elementary schools, childcare centers, and after-school programs. Additionally, credits earned in an online associate degree seamlessly transfer into a bachelor’s program, opening up further career opportunities.

Job prospects in the field of early and elementary education are excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 10% rise in employment for preschool teachers between 2016 and 2026.

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Online Associate in Elementary Education Degree Program Ranking Guidelines: We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The motto of is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

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If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!


The Best Online Associate in Elementary Education Degree Programs

Shoreline Community College View School Profile Shoreline, WA Shoreline is regionally accredited from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Located about 10 miles north of Seattle, Washington, Shoreline serves more than 12,000 full-time and part-time students, offering affordable education in both academic and professional fields. The school's associate in elementary education functions as a transfer degree and fulfills the first half of credit requirements for a bachelor's in education. Shoreline maintains articulation agreements with several colleges around Washington, including the University of Washington, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University. Degree candidates can save thousands of dollars in tuition by completing their lower division credits at Shoreline and then transferring to a university to complete their undergraduate studies.

Shoreline's associate of arts, direct transfer degree requires a total of 90 credits, and students can fulfill all course requirements entirely online. All general transfer degrees require the same composition of credits: 20 in general education, 15 in humanities, 15 in natural sciences, 15 in social sciences, and 25 in general electives. While the other components form a foundation in the liberal arts and sciences, the general elective section enables students to complete some introductory education courses, including child growth and development; introduction to education; child, family, and community; and introduction to inclusive education.

Students planning to transfer to a specific institution should contact their chosen school to determine any unique undergraduate credit requirements or education major requirements. For example, some schools require a foreign language component that candidates may complete at Shoreline.

Northeast Community College View School Profile Norfolk, NE NECC is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Home to more than 7,000 students, NECC operates several campus locations in Nebraska along with a distance learning program that serves online learners of all backgrounds. The school's online associate degree in elementary education builds general knowledge in education theory and practices while preparing students to transfer to a four-year college. NECC maintains transfer arrangements with several colleges both in Nebraska and outside the state.

The associate of arts in education requires a minimum of 60 credits and includes 26-27 credits of core courses, including 30 credits of general education courses, and 3-4 credits of elective courses. The general education component builds knowledge in areas including history, social sciences, written communication, and natural sciences. The program's core focuses on introductory topics in education, with courses including family and community relationships, child and adolescent psychology, and children's literature.

Along with academic courses, degree candidates will also complete two practicum courses in elementary education and physical education. These courses give students the opportunity to participate in classroom observation and assistance under the supervision of a professional educator. Online learners typically complete a practicum experience at a school near their home. Candidates will also complete one elective course that develops specialized knowledge in education. The course options include children with exceptionalities, geometry for elementary teachers, elementary French, and elementary Spanish.

Hagerstown Community College View School Profile Hagerstown, MD HCC is regionally accredited from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Based in Hagerstown, Maryland, HCC offers an associate of arts in teaching in elementary education/generic special education preK-12 that prepares candidates to transfer to a four-year institution in Maryland. HCC maintains active transfer agreements with most bachelor's programs in the state. Before transferring, all candidates must hold at least a 2.75 GPA, submit a professional portfolio demonstrating coursework, and present a passing score on a basic skills test, such as the SAT, ACT, GRE or PRAXIS I. All students can take advantage of HCC's Learning Support Center, which provides academic tutoring and other services to both new and returning college students. The center also offers online tutoring for distance learners that enables students to ask writing questions or submit writing assignments for feedback.

This 60-credit associate degree in elementary education typically takes two years to complete, with all courses available online. HCC splits its curriculum almost evenly between general education requirements and education program requirements. Students complete 32 general credits that cover topics such as English, social sciences, mathematics, and physical sciences.

The additional 28 required credits introduce major topics in education and unique courses such as processes and acquisition of reading; educational psychology; and developmental psychology. Students can also perform up to 45 hours of fieldwork in an educational setting, a valuable opportunity to build professional experience under the supervision of skilled teachers and other educators.

Cowley County Community College View School Profile Arkansas City, KS Cowley is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Serving more than 4,500 students from its main campus in Arkansas City, Kansas, Cowley also operates several satellite locations and a large online program. The school's associate of arts in elementary education fulfills the first half of the bachelor's degree and emphasizes best pedagogical practices and curriculum construction. Cowley holds transfer agreements with many Kansas colleges and leads seamlessly into programs at Fort Hays State University, Wichita State University, the University of Kansas, and several other institutions. Academic advisors work with students to determine the best course selections based on potential transfer schools.

The degree requires a total of 65 credits, divided between 39 credits of general education and 26 credits of pathway electives. The general education core builds fundamental knowledge in composition and communication, humanities, social sciences, laboratory sciences, and computer literacy. Cowley often suggests certain electives for education majors; for instance, general psychology and principles of sociology may be suggested to fulfill social science requirements.

The 26 credits for the pathway electives focus on general teaching skills with courses including children and adolescent literature, elementary art methods, and human growth and development. Candidates will also complete a three-credit introduction to teaching field experience, which requires 25 hours of fieldwork in an approved education setting. The field experience gives students a practical perspective on elementary education, encouraging participants to apply class learning to professional practice.

Northwest Mississippi Community College View School Profile Senatobia, MS NWCC is regionally accredited from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Based in the northern Mississippi town of Senatobia, NWCC operates multiple satellite campuses and an online program to serve thousands of students around the region. The college's associate of arts in elementary education builds fundamental academic and pedagogical skills, preparing students to transfer and complete their coursework at a four-year college. This flexible online program serves the needs of working students and allows them to maintain full-time employment during their studies. NWCC also hosts an assortment of online resources for distance students, including library services and academic counseling.

The associate degree in elementary education requires 62 total credits and develops general knowledge in topics including composition, geography, and education practices. Students select from three concentrations depending on teaching interests: English, math, or natural sciences. The English and math concentrations require 12 credits, while the science concentration requires 16 credits.

Each concentration track offers several elective options to fulfill course requirements. For example, students in the English concentration can choose from courses in American literature, British literature, and world literature. All courses use a fully online, asynchronous format that enables distance learners to complete their work at any time of the day. However, while courses do not require set login times, candidates must still complete weekly assignments with scheduled deadlines. With full-time study, most candidates complete the associate program in two years.

Pima Community College View School Profile Tucson, AZ PCC is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Based in Tucson, Arizona, PCC ranks as one of the largest community college systems in the country, serving more than 75,000 credit and non-credit students annually. The college operates six campus locations around Pima County, along with several education centers and a sizeable distance education program.

Students in the associate of arts in elementary education program complete a total of 60 credits, including six credits of composition, six credits of education core courses, and 48 credits of required support courses. The education core consists of two courses: introduction to education and relationships in classroom settings. Support courses build foundational knowledge in a variety of topics, such as history, science, and mathematics for elementary school teachers. Unique among most community colleges, PCC requires elementary education students to complete a three-credit course in national and state constitutions and 16 credits of foreign language courses. This associate program serves as a transfer degree and prepares students for a bachelor's in elementary education.

For students interested in entering the workforce immediately upon graduation, PCC offers an associate of applied science in early childhood studies, which prepares graduates to serve as teacher's aids. The program features a practical curriculum that includes courses, such as supervision and administration of early childhood programs, child growth and development, and positive child guidance. Degree candidates in this track can select a focus in either early childhood education or childhood development, both of which require 12 credits.

Arkansas Northeastern College View School Profile Blytheville, AR ANC is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Based in northeastern Arkansas city of Blytheville, ANC offers professional education to thousands of students and boasts some of the lowest tuition in the state. For aspiring educators on the path to teacher certification, the college's associate of science in childhood education with a focus in elementary education (K-6) develops a general liberal arts background and specialized knowledge in teaching practices. Online learners receive an assortment of support services from ANC, such as academic advising, career counseling, and tutoring. Academic advisors assist with course selections and degree planning, while career counselors help students identify job and internship opportunities outside of school.

The online associate degree in elementary education requires a total of 65 credits, divided between the program core and required education courses. The 48-credit program core includes topics in composition, communication, physical sciences, history, and arts, fulfilling most undergraduate general education requirements. The 24-credit education section builds knowledge in pedagogy and child development through courses such as child growth and learning, math for teachers, and survey of exceptional children.

ANC's associate program funnels into the teacher education bachelor's program at Arkansas State University. Transfer candidates must possess a minimum overall GPA of 2.7 and demonstrate passing scores in reading, writing, and math on the Praxis core exam. Students can also transfer to any of Arkansas' other four-year institutions, though credit requirements may differ.

College of Southern Nevada View School Profile Las Vegas, NV

Serving more than 34,000 students throughout the Las Vegas area and Clark County, CSN also hosts a major distance education program that offers more than 1,000 online courses annually. Distance learners receive significant support from the college in the form of online library services, free online tutoring, academic advising, and career services. The school's associate degree in elementary education synthesizes major perspectives on educational psychology in the context of teaching, learning, and school systems.

Candidates learn to instruct diverse student bodies and make appropriate use of technology tools in the classroom for both individual and group instruction. The curriculum also examines the philosophical, historical, and legal foundations for American education practices, encouraging students to place their own teaching philosophy in a wider context of educational theory and practice. Students complete 60-64 credits at CSN before transferring to a four-year elementary education program.

The lower division curriculum includes 35 credits of general education requirements, developing basic knowledge in English composition, analytical reasoning, natural science, humanities, and related topics. An additional 25 credits cover specialized topics in education, such as Nevada school law, valuing cultural diversity, and preparing teachers to use technology. Students also complete a one-credit elective with recommended options that include beginning chemistry laboratory or physical geography laboratory. Most students complete the program with four semesters of full-time study, though CSN also offers part-time enrollment options.

Community College of Aurora View School Profile Aurora, CO CCA is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Based outside of Denver, Colorado, CCA ranks as one of the largest community colleges in the state, serving over 10,000 students annually through campus and online courses. The school's substantial online offerings include an associate of arts in elementary education, which is a transfer program that prepares graduates to complete their studies at a four-year college. Most CCA courses use a standard asynchronous, fully online format with weekly due dates for assignments. CCA also offers some courses in a unique self-paced format that enables students to complete assignments on their own schedule.

The associate in elementary education includes 35 credits of general education requirements, six credits of education requirements, and 19 credits of electives. The general education section builds fundamental knowledge in five areas: English and communication, mathematics, natural and physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and humanities. The education requirements section features just two courses: introduction to education and child development.

Students also select elective courses based on the four-year institution they plan to attend, and CCA advisors work with degree candidates to determine which elective courses best match transfer requirements. CCA maintains articulation agreements with most of the major public colleges in Colorado, including University of Colorado at Denver, University of Colorado at Boulder, and University of Northern Colorado.

Front Range Community College View School Profile Westminster, CO FRCC is regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Serving more than 30,000 students across several campuses and through a massive online program, FRCC is the largest community college in Colorado and the state's biggest producer of transfer students. FRCC's associate of arts in elementary education prepares future teachers to earn their bachelor's degree at many of Colorado's top baccalaureate institutions. This fully online associate degree requires 60 credits, split between 41 required credits and 19 elective credits. Required courses develop skills in arts and humanities, history, social sciences, and natural sciences, along with two education courses: introduction to education and child development.

Students complete elective credits based on transfer requirements for their school of choice. FRCC offers a list of acceptable transfer credits for many state schools, making it easy for students to select courses. For example, candidates who plan to transfer to Western State Colorado University can select elective courses in English, political science, history, and art.

Online learners at FRCC gain access to a variety of support services, including online advising and online tutoring. The Online Learning Office assists with technical problems and connects students to other resources. The school offers academic support through its Online Writing Lab, which enables students to receive feedback on their writing from experienced tutors. FRCC also hosts in-person tutoring at all of its campus locations. For math courses, students have access to tutoring support though Pearson's MyMathLab, another fully online tutoring service.

Choosing an Online Associate in Elementary Education Program

Online associate degrees in elementary education include general education requirements in subjects such as math, science, literature, and history. These courses not only fulfill undergraduate degree requirements, they also give elementary teachers the basic subject matter knowledge needed to create lessons and activities for young children. Also, elementary education programs typically require introductory courses in professional education and educational psychology. These courses help teachers understand their role in the classroom and how young children learn and behave, given their developmental stage.

Associate in elementary education programs differ in the electives and concentrations they offer. Electives such as health and physical education, art, music, theater, and technology prepare future teachers to integrate these subjects into their everyday work with young children or begin to specialize in teaching these particular subjects. Similarly, courses in special education or diversity prepare teachers to work with students from varied backgrounds and sometimes with special needs, while also introducing them to a field they may choose to specialize in someday.

Online associate in elementary education programs may require hands-on field experience. Those not already working in an educational setting may be placed in a school to complete a practicum. Other programs may require students to complete a portfolio or capstone project that demonstrates an ability to apply classroom learning to practical situations.

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Associate in Elementary Education Program?

Online associate degrees in elementary education require general education courses plus coursework in education, psychology, technology, diversity, and special subjects including art, music, theater, and physical education. Specific course requirements vary by school. See sample courses below.

Curriculum for an Online Associate in Elementary Education Program

  • Introduction to American Education:
    This foundational course introduces the history and structure of the U.S. educational system. Participants explore the changing role of schools and teachers in American society, educational reform movements, and popular educational theories and practices. This course helps participants explore teaching as a career option.
  • Child Psychology:
    This psychology course introduces the study of human development over the lifespan, with particular emphasis on childhood. Participants learn relevant psychological theories and how they apply to child development, learning, and behavior. This course explains cognitive and social developmental milestones so teachers can recognize these changes in their students.
  • Children’s Literature:
    Books and stories play an essential role in early childhood education. This course introduces participants to trends, authors, and genres in literature for young children. Participants learn strategies for selecting appropriate literature and also presentation techniques and strategies that work best with children.
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Careers with an Online Associate in Elementary Education Degree

An online associate degree in elementary education prepares you to care for and teach young children in a variety of settings. With this degree, you can work as a teacher’s aide in an elementary school, or as a preschool teacher or childcare worker. Associate degree holders also transfer into four-year bachelor’s programs.

  1. Preschool Teacher:
    These teachers care for children age five and under in public and private schools and childcare centers. They teach basic academic and social skills, develop age-appropriate routines, and inform caregivers about development. Most preschools require teachers to hold at least an associate degree, while some prefer a bachelor’s.
    • Median Annual Salary: $28,990
    • Projected Growth Rate: 10%
  2. Teacher Assistant:
    These classroom aides assist elementary teachers with daily activities and give students individual attention as needed. They help teachers by reinforcing lessons and routines, creating or setting up materials needed for lessons, keeping records, and supervising students as they move to different locations within the school.
    • Median Annual Salary: $26,260
    • Projected Growth Rate: 8%
  3. Childcare Worker:
    Childcare workers care for children who have not yet entered school in childcare or daycare facilities, private homes, or even in their own homes. They ensure that children’s basic needs are met and supervise activities such as eating, sleeping, and playing. Educational requirements for this position vary by employer and state.
    • Median Annual Salary: $22,290
    • Projected Growth Rate: 7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Educational Paths for Online Elementary Education Associate Programs

Many who complete an associate degree in elementary education eventually transfer into bachelor’s programs because they hope to become teachers. While you can work as a teacher’s aide with only an associate degree, all states require certified teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree. With an average annual salary of $56,900, elementary school teachers earn twice as much as teacher’s aides.

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