The Best Online Doctorate in Early Childhood Education Programs

by Thomas Broderick, TBS Staff Writers
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Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education

Experienced educators and administrators can advance their career by earning an online doctorate in early childhood education. Learners can enroll in a Ph.D. or Ed.D. program in the field. Each degree requires advanced coursework and a dissertation. Typical admission requirements include a master's degree, relevant professional experience, and a recommendation letter. Some programs also require an interview.

Career opportunities for graduates with a doctorate in early childhood education include postsecondary teacher, district superintendent, and school principal. University advisors help degree-seekers develop a career plan. This article discusses the benefits of attending early childhood education programs online. The following sections also cover typical course requirements, tuition costs, and salary potential for graduates.

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Questions About Early Childhood Education

What kind of jobs can you get with an early childhood education degree?

High-paying careers for professionals with a doctorate in early childhood education include college president, chief learning officer, and school superintendent.

How long does it take to get a doctorate in early childhood education?

Program length varies by school and student. Full-time learners can complete some programs in four years. Part-time students may need up to eight years to earn their online doctorate in early childhood education.

What's the difference between a Ph.D. and an Ed.D in early childhood education?

Both degrees feature similar academic requirements. Ph.D. programs prepare learners for careers in academia. Professionals with an Ed.D. often work as school and district administrators.

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Why Get a Doctorate in Early Childhood Education?

Earning an online doctorate in early childhood education can qualify graduates for well-paying positions. Additionally, doctoral degree-seekers contribute to the education field by writing a dissertation. Graduates can explore many education careers, but many doctorate-holders become postsecondary teachers, who train the next generation of educators.

Many educators and administrators continue working while completing early childhood education programs online. Many online programs feature asynchronous curricula, which allow learners to complete coursework before or after work. However, some programs require in-person components, such as on-campus seminars.

How Much Does an Early Childhood Education Degree Cost?

A typical online doctorate in early childhood education costs more per credit than the best online bachelor's programs. According to the Education Data Initiative, a doctoral degree cost an average of $114,300 in 2021. Ed.D. programs cost an average of $111,900, and the cost of a Ph.D. averaged $98,800. However, tuition costs vary by school, and some institutions charge well above average.

Students pursuing a doctorate in early childhood education can reduce out-of-pocket expenses by applying for financial aid. Some public and private schools offer doctoral grants to degree-seekers with financial need. Other schools award funding to learners who excelled in their bachelor's or master's program. Students can also submit the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for federal financial aid, including federal grants.

Additional Online Student Fees

Some schools charge additional fees for learners pursuing an online doctorate in early childhood education. Distance learners may pay fees covering online course delivery and digital resources. Online students should also budget for transportation costs to complete in-person requirements, such campus visits and onsite research.

Aspiring education administrators should budget for state licensure fees. Licensed educators must meet education and examination requirements to add an administrator endorsement. Fees vary by state. As of May 2022, California educators pay $50 to modify their license.

How Much Do Early Childhood Education Majors Make?

Ph.D.-holders in the field often work as postsecondary teachers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that postsecondary education teachers earn a median salary of $63,910 per year. On the other hand, postsecondary teachers in all fields earn a median annual salary of $79,640. Top-paying states for postsecondary education teachers include Alaska, New York, and Utah.

Graduates with an Ed.D. can become elementary, middle, and high school principals. According to BLS data, these administrators earn a median $98,420 annual salary. Principals at public schools earn a median salary approximately $19,000 higher than the median for private school principals. Education administrators in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey earn the highest average salaries.

Doctorate in Early Childhood Education Programs

Both Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs feature rigorous curricula. However, academic expectations vary. Learners in Ph.D. programs often take classes in the development of early learning, paradigms of early education and curriculum design, and curriculum investigation. Learners pursuing a Ph.D. perform original research leading to a dissertation.

During the following classes, students in Ph.D. programs analyze the latest early childhood education research. Learners use this knowledge to select a dissertation research topic. Curriculum requirements vary by program.

Licensure for Teaching

Public school administrators must meet licensure requirements, which vary by state. In Tennessee, education administrators must possess a valid in-state teaching license, a master's degree, and three years of teaching experience. Candidates must also pass the Praxis II School Leaders Licensure Assessment. As of May 2022, this exam costs $425.

Professionals meeting these requirements request that their dean send a recommendation letter to the state board. Other application materials include test scores and official undergraduate and graduate transcripts. After meeting all requirements, individuals receive the instructional leadership license - beginning.

Tennessee administrators can earn the instructional leadership license - professional after gaining at least three years of work experience. Candidates must also complete professional development classes, which may require fees. The Tennessee State Board of Education does not charge a fee to amend or upgrade a license.

The Best Online Doctorate in Early Childhood Education Programs

  1. Fielding Graduate University

    Santa Barbara, CA

    Founded in 1974, Fielding offers an online doctor of philosophy in infant and early childhood development in collaboration with Profectum, an autism resource foundation.

    Students participate in live, synchronous online courses such as infant and early childhood mental health, language development, and family systems theory and functioning. Students can choose from seven optional concentration areas, including sustainability leadership, evidence-based coaching, and creative longevity and wisdom.

    Applicants must hold either a bachelor's or master's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. Students do not need to submit standardized test scores.

    Fielding Graduate University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).

  2. University of Alabama at Birmingham

    Birmingham, AL

    Founded in 1831, UAB offers an online doctor of philosophy in early childhood education. Students can specialize in three areas: curriculum, early intervention and young children at risk, and literacy.

    Required courses include advanced developmental theory, children and safety, and advanced early childhood curriculum. Learners take approved electives for their concentration area and complete a series of research courses.

    Applicants must hold a master's degree in early childhood education or related field with a minimum GPA of 3.25 to qualify for admission. Students must also possess three years of relevant work experience and a 50th percentile GMAT or GRE score.

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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