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An online master's degree in early childhood education prepares learners for careers in child development and teaching. Graduates can teach in preschools, direct childcare facilities, oversee community programs, or open new daycares. They also develop the skills to encourage family interaction, build self-esteem in children, and determine when children have special needs.

An early childhood education master's can also help those with undergraduate degrees in other disciplines enter the education field. For instance, some programs may prepare students for teaching licensure or certification for elementary classrooms. Candidates can also work as postsecondary educators who teach early childhood education courses or, after gaining teaching experience, become instructional coordinators for early childhood environments.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of preschool teachers and instructional coordinators to increase by 10% and 11%, respectively, through 2026. Additionally, an advanced degree in education can increase average lifetime earnings. According to the World Education Services, master's-holders in education average $2.26 million over their lifetime, while bachelor's-holders only average $1.798.

This page examines outlines some possible careers in the field, common program traits for education master's programs, relevant accreditation, and professional organizations.

The Most Affordable Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree Programs

Affordable Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree Program Ranking Guidelines:
The online early childhood education programs listed below were selected based on the quality of the program, types of online classes for early childhood education, faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school's reputation for effectively providing quality online degree programs.

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%

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

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The Most Affordable Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree Programs

University of Michigan-Flint View School Profile Flint, MI University of Michigan-Flint is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

This urban campus offers a dynamic learning environment with more than 75 student organizations and many opportunities to give back to the surrounding community. The university provides a supportive learning environment with a 13-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio and a strong alumni network.

The university's graduate school offers a master's in early childhood education and elementary education with a focus in mathematics. Degree candidates can learn to give young children the building blocks for a lifetime of learning in mathematics, including numeracy, counting, patterns, and spatial relationships.

Courses include early childhood mathematics; mathematics and formative assessment; promoting equity through classroom discussion; and curriculum and leadership in mathematics instruction. In the final term, each candidate can complete a capstone course that allows them to bring their skills together and complete a project.

The UM-Flint program blends online and in-person learning. During the summer sessions, candidates can take intensive on-campus courses that require them to attend courses in-person every day for a week or two. During the school year, learners can complete much of their coursework online and attend on-campus courses on Saturdays.

Degree candidates can enter the UM-Flint program as part of a small cohort. They take all of their courses with the same classmates, which allows them to build strong professional networks. Students then take 2.5 years to complete the program.

Applicants should hold bachelor's degrees from regionally accredited universities with GPAs of at least 3.0. They must also complete at least two years of teaching experience.

The University of Texas at El Paso View School Profile El Paso, TX University of Texas at El Paso is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

This R1 university educates about 25,000 learners, 80% of whom are Hispanic. Students choose from among dozens of undergraduate programs and master's degrees. The school celebrates the cultural diversity of the surrounding area, and about 4% of the students are Mexican citizens.

The school's master's in early childhood education online requires each candidate to complete 36 credits. The curriculum includes classes in child development in diverse educational contexts, children's literature, development of literacy skills, and scholarly writing for educators. Candidates who take full-time courses can graduate in about two years. Students can graduate with master's degrees in curriculum and instruction with concentrations in early childhood education.

Degree candidates can complete all of their schoolwork online, making this school an excellent option for working teachers who need flexibility in their schedules. Most of the school's online courses follow asynchronous schedules, but a few classes may require candidates to log on at specified times during the week. The curriculum does not include a thesis or capstone course. While many graduates continue to work in schools, others find employment in social work agencies, children's entertainment companies, and pediatric medical offices.

Each applicant should submit official transcripts that show graduation from a bachelor's program at an accredited university. The school also asks for letters of recommendation, which should come from academic or professional contacts. Some candidates need to submit GRE or GMAT results, as well.

University of North Carolina at Greensboro View School Profile Greensboro, NC University of North Carolina at Greensboro is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

This university opened its doors in 1891 to 223 students. These learners took classes in just three subjects: pedagogy, commerce, and domestic science. Today, UNCG is the academic home to approximately 20,000 students and 2,800 faculty members. Degree candidates can choose from among about 100 areas of study.

Its master's in early childhood education online degree covers interdisciplinary studies for human development from birth to kindergarten. Degree candidates can choose between concentrations in early childhood program administration and advanced teaching licensure. Both focus areas require each enrollee to earn 37 credits. A student who takes summer courses can complete their degree in two years, with no more than two courses per term.

Coursework includes courses in family centered practices in early childhood, advanced curriculum in early education, mentoring young children, methods of educational research, and internship in inclusive early childhood education. While candidates can take most of the courses online, they must earn internship hours in person.

Elective courses include subjects such as principles of parenting, cross-cultural perspectives on child development, contemporary issues in early childhood education, and administration of early care. The final course that students complete is a capstone class. Graduates can work as inclusion specialists, early childhood directors, early interventionists, or family advocates.

Applicants should hold bachelor's degrees in early childhood education or a related subject from accredited universities. They should also submit transcripts that prove GPAs of at least 3.0. Those who choose the advanced licensure concentration must hold active initial teaching licenses.

New Mexico State University View School Profile Las Cruces, NM New Mexico State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

This multicultural university welcomes students from 49 states and 89 other countries across its five campuses. With outreach centers in every county in New Mexico, NMSU earns the Carnegie Community Engagement classification. The school plans to expand rapidly and earn the R1 research university designation by 2025.

A student looking to earn a master's in early childhood education can choose the school's master's in education with an early childhood education concentration. The program includes 33 credits and takes about two years to complete. Degree candidates can complete all of the coursework online and asynchronously, so there are no set meeting times to work their schedules around.

NMSU divides the curriculum into two sections: a curriculum and instruction core and an early childhood education concentration. The curriculum and instruction core courses include topics such as multicultural education, research in curriculum and pedagogy, and action research projects. Students can take early childhood education courses in the bilingual preschool child, leadership and advocacy in early childhood, and working parents with young children.

Applicants should hold bachelor's degrees with GPAs of at least 3.0, which they confirm with unofficial transcripts. Candidates must also have at least one year of experience in early childhood education. The school uses a broad interpretation of early childhood education for this requirement, so applicants with at least one year of experience with young children in almost any capacity may qualify. The university accepts applicable transfer credits, but degree candidates must earn half of their required credits at NMSU.

Arizona State University - Skysong View School Profile Scottsdale, AZ Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

In 1886, decades before Arizona became an official state, ASU opened under the name Territorial Normal School. As the first institution of higher education in the area, the school educated just 33 students. Today, the university includes six campuses across the state with nearly 100,000 learners, as well as a robust online learning system.

ASU's master's in early childhood education online program is a degree in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in early childhood education. Each student can take 10 classes for a total of 30 credits. The accelerated schedule means that each class takes fewer than eight weeks to complete. Candidates who take two courses at a time can graduate in about a year and a half.

Learners can complete all coursework online. However, they must complete practicums in their local communities. The curriculum includes courses in emergent literacy; mathematics in early childhood; and foundations in diversity, human development, and the young child. Those without teaching certifications can add 15 credits to their programs and earn this credential, as well. While the school meets the standard for licensure in Arizona, degree candidates from other states should check with their state boards regarding teaching licensure standards.

Applicants must hold bachelor's or master's degrees from regionally accredited universities. They should have 3.0 GPAs in either the last 60 hours of a bachelor's degree or all credits in a previous master's program. Each candidate must also submit three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and personal statements.

Stephen F. Austin State University View School Profile Nacogdoches, TX Stephen F. Austin State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

SFA is a completely independent university that opened in 1923. Today, the school hosts about 13,000 students who choose from more than 120 areas of study. While the university continues to grow, it retains the intimacy and charm of a small school. On average, each class has about 27 students, which allows learners to get to know their classmates well.

The university offers a master's in early childhood education online with no in-person requirements. Instead of providing a set degree curriculum, SFA personalizes this master's degree to each student. When learners are admitted to the program, they sit with academic advisors to create a plan of study based on their career goals, previous learning, and individual needs. Each degree candidate must earn 36 credits with a GPA of at least 3.0 to graduate.

SFA welcomes graduate applicants with bachelor's degrees from regionally accredited universities and students in their final years of such programs. Candidates may also enroll in the university's Overlap program if they have at least 95 undergraduate credits. This program allows them to earn their bachelor's and master's degrees.

Each candidate should hold a GPA of at least 2.5 on all undergraduate coursework and 2.8 on the most recent 60 credits. Some candidates must submit GRE or GMAT results, as well as letters of recommendation. The university suggests that graduate applicants contact the program's coordinator to learn more about admission requirements.

University of Colorado Denver View School Profile Denver, CO University of Colorado Denver is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Since its founding in 1912, CU Denver has innovated and changed to meet student needs. In 1996, the school offered its first online course. Today, the school offers more than 50 degrees and certificates for distance education students. Each online program features faculty with industry expertise and asynchronous courses that learners can complete on their own schedules.

CU Denver's online master's in early childhood education features a cohort model that allows learners to get to know their classmates. Cohorts begin each fall, but the school makes admissions decisions on a rolling basis. Degree candidates can choose between online or hybrid options, as well as full-time or part-time enrollment, and take 2-3 years to complete the program.

The core curriculum includes 30 credits, with courses such as curriculum in early childhood education and literacy in young children. Students can add a certificate in early childhood literacy or take additional classes to earn their early childhood special education specialist licenses. The maximum number of credits with these options is 42. Many degree candidates complete internships or practicums in their communities. However, students can opt for capstone courses instead.

CU Denver provides several scholarships exclusively for early childhood education students. For example, the school's Early Childhood Education Scholarship Fund provides up to $10,000 per year for two students. The Daniels Boundless Opportunities Scholarship awards $2,000 per year, and the William Goodwin Scholarship covers $500 per semester.

Texas A & M University-Commerce View School Profile Commerce, TX Texas A&M University-Commerce is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

TAMUC offers the educational benefits of a large university system with some advantages of smaller colleges. For example, students can choose from about 100 areas of study, access a robust financial aid system, and earn diplomas from a well-respected university. Learners also enjoy small class sizes and professors that act as mentors.

The school's department of curriculum and instruction offers a master's in early childhood education with three unique options: master of education (M.Ed.), master of science (MS), and master of arts (MA). Each option includes at least 36 hours in the curriculum, including core courses in math, science, and social studies curriculum; literacy development in the early years; classroom management for teachers; and child development.

M.Ed. candidates can then earn six graduate credits in any area other than early childhood education. These students must already hold teaching licenses. Learners on the MS track can take courses that allow them to earn their teaching licenses. An MA candidate must earn 12 foreign language credits and six credits from thesis work. After they complete all of their coursework, all candidates must take the school's comprehensive exam, which takes place completely online. The test consists of 50 multiple-choice questions, and students must answer 70% correct to pass.

Each applicant for this program must meet one of the following requirements: hold an active teaching license, pass the TExEs pedagogy exam, or gain satisfactory scores on the GRE. All candidates should also hold bachelor's degrees with GPAs of at least 2.75.

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point View School Profile Stevens Point, WI University of Wisconsin Stevens Point is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

UWSP earns its spot among the top public universities in the region with benefits such as small class sizes, well-trained faculty, and a multicultural student body. On average, only 28 students enroll in each course. Furthermore, more of the professors for undergraduate programs hold doctorates than at any other school in the UW system. Learners come from 40 states and 35 countries to study at UWSP.

The school offers a personalized, fully online master's in early childhood education. Students work with staff to design a program that helps them meet their career goals. Learners can choose between licenses in early childhood education or early childhood special education. Degree candidates take several required classes, including curriculum and methods for young children; mastering mental health for teachers; and engagement, excellence, and equity. Students then choose the rest of their courses based on their needs and class availability.

UWSP welcomes all applicants who demonstrate an interest in education and hold bachelor's degrees. While many students in this program already hold teaching licenses, some do not. Applicants do not need to submit test scores to earn consideration. Instead, they only need to send an application fee, the online form, and their official transcripts.

Students unsure of whether a master's degree is right for them can enroll at UWSP as special status graduates. These learners can try a few courses before deciding if graduate learning fits in their lives.

Murray State University View School Profile Murray, KY Murray State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Murray State is a public university in Kentucky that opened in 1922. Nearly 9,500 students come from 45 states and 45 foreign countries to learn from highly qualified staff. The university earns several exciting credentials, including a "Top Tier" ranking from U.S. News & World Report for 28 years running.

The university offers an interdisciplinary master's in early childhood education online that leads to certification. Students can take most of the coursework online, including classes on early childhood special education and childhood development. However, students must also complete in-person field experience hours at daycare centers, preschools, or kindergarten classrooms.

Each degree candidate must spend at least 200 hours working with children in these facilities to fulfill the requirements. Murray State offers opportunities to complete these requirements in Madisonville, Hopkinsville, Henderson, and Paducah. However, students can get their field experiences in local facilities, as well.

Students can enroll in one of three tracks, depending on their backgrounds. Learners with bachelor's degrees in interdisciplinary early childhood education complete a 30-hour track that allows them to increase their teacher rank in Kentucky and earn continuing education hours. The other two tracks require each candidate to complete 33 hours. One helps students with other teaching certifications move into early childhood. The other is for candidates with no previous teaching certifications.

Applicants must hold bachelor's degrees with GPAs of at least 2.25 for conditional admission. Some candidates must also submit GRE scores.

Northwestern State University of Louisiana View School Profile Natchitoches, LA Northwestern State University of Louisiana is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

The school that eventually became NSU started offering classes in the old Bullard Mansion in Natchitoches in 1884. Soon after, the school expanded to a two-year college to train teachers. In 1921, the school started offering four-year degrees. Today, the school represents the longest-running site for higher education in Louisiana. NSU has expanded to several satellite campuses throughout the state, as well.

The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education both approve NSU's master's in early childhood education. Each candidate can take 12 courses, including in curriculum development for school improvement; advanced childhood development; appropriate practices for early childhood development and diversity; positive relationships with children, families, and communities; and action research for school improvement. A student who does not want to take the research course can choose to complete a thesis instead.

All courses in the NSU program take place online through asynchronous learning. Students watch lectures each week according to their schedules, then complete coursework weekly. Many NSU courses include access to e-books with tuition. Degree candidates that take only online courses pay the same tuition rates, regardless of their location.

Candidates must hold active teaching licenses and submit proof with their applications. They must also send official transcripts and two letters of recommendation. The NSU graduate school requires candidates to submit GRE scores, as well.

Portland State University View School Profile Portland, OR Portland State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

PSU is proud to be the most affordable public research university in the Beaver State. The school serves more than 27,000 learners who attend PSU and learn from top-tier faculty. U.S. News & World Report named PSU one of the most innovative universities in the country, and some of that innovation is evident in its online degree offerings.

Graduate students can choose between MA and MS programs in inclusive early childhood education. These master's in early childhood education programs take place entirely online and require degree candidates to earn 45 quarter-credits. The departments of curriculum and instruction come together with special education to create the curriculum for these programs.

Learners can also choose from three concentrations: early childhood special education, constructivism in early childhood, and infant/toddler mental health. Core courses for all concentrations include foundations in early childhood and inclusive education, issues in early childhood and inclusive education, and child development in early childhood and inclusive education. All candidates also propose and complete action research projects.

The school's college of education was the first educator preparation program on the west coast to earn accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. The master's degree earns approval from both the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Division for Early Childhood.

Western Kentucky University View School Profile Bowling Green, KY Western Kentucky University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

WKU's campus sits atop a hill overlooking Bowling Green, Kentucky. Students, known as Hilltoppers, can choose from 100 undergraduate majors and 104 graduate programs. In all areas of study, Hilltoppers represent academic success. WKU is one of the top producers of Fulbright Scholars and welcomes learners with many other prestigious awards.

The university offers an online MAE in early childhood education for teacher leaders. This master's in early childhood education welcomes current teachers with bachelor's degrees and GPAs of at least 2.75. Applicants who meet these qualifications do not need to submit standardized test scores. Candidates who do not meet the GPA requirement may qualify with GAP or GRE scores.

Each enrollee can earn 18 hours in core courses that teach them skills that apply to all levels and types of early childhood education. They can also earn 18 credits in their desired areas of specialization. Through these electives, candidates can learn about development in certain ages, working with special needs children, and working within communities.

While students can complete about 80% of the coursework online, WKU does require some on-campus work. Prospective learners who live outside of the surrounding areas can contact the school to see if a distance learning plan may work. Teachers who currently work in prek-12 education in Kentucky pay a discounted rate on tuition. Furthermore, about 90% of students who applied for financial aid receive an award.

University of North Dakota View School Profile Grand Forks, ND University of North Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

UND started serving North Dakota before the area officially became a distinct state. Today, the 550-acre campus serves just under 14,000 students. The school boasts an average class size of just 24 students, tuition rates that are 13% lower than comparable schools in the area, and more than 225 academic programs.

The university's master's in early childhood education earns accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation and follows all the guidelines established by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Each candidate must pass 32 credit hours to earn this degree, which typically takes at least two years. Students may add a national director credential for early childhood administrators through the university's partnership with the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership.

Degree candidates can complete the majority of classwork online through asynchronous learning. This allows them to log on anytime during the week that fits their schedules. However, each student must complete a 60-hour practicum, as well. UND works with learners to find approved childcare providers in their communities for these hours. Teachers who already work in early childhood education can complete this requirement in their classrooms.

No matter where learners live, they can enjoy low, in-state tuition rates through the online program. Courses in this program include play in development and early childhood education, language development and cognition in children, and curricular foundations in early childhood education.

Jacksonville State University View School Profile Jacksonville, AL Jacksonville State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Since it opened in 1883, JSU has grown to a student population of just under 8,500. Learners can participate in 95 academic programs, 40 of which offer online options. JSU students excel in the classroom and on the field. The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs recognizes JSU as one of the top producers of Fulbright Scholars. Furthermore, the university is the only school in Division I or II to hold national titles in football, baseball, and men's basketball.

JSU offers several graduate options in education, including a master's in early childhood education. This program uses the school's fifth-year master's teaching certificate program, which helps students with existing teacher certifications in P-3 or P-5 education. Graduates qualify for the master's level P-3 teaching certification in Alabama.

The curriculum includes 34-37 credit hours, depending on each student's background. Students without experience in special education must take a course in the survey of exceptional children and youth. All degree candidates take classes in research in education, individualization of education for young children, behavior and development in early childhood, and enhancing learning through children's literature. While much of the coursework takes place online, students must complete in-person practicums.

Applicants should submit official transcripts and proof of their bachelor's-level teaching certification in early education. They should also agree to a background check, which candidates must pass to earn admission. Finally, each candidate must submit three references.

University of South Alabama View School Profile Mobile, AL University of South Alabama is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

This relatively new university opened in 1963. Today, the campus spans 1,200 acres in Mobile, Alabama. USA's approximately 15,000 students enroll in about 100 academic programs. Learners here can enjoy a low student-to-faculty ratio and support their 17 Division I sports teams.

USA offers a master's in early childhood education for the professional who already holds a class B professional early childhood certificate. Each student can earn 30 credits from courses such as elementary school curriculum, organizational patterns and curriculum in early childhood education, multicultural experiences in schools, and educational research and evaluation. After graduation, candidates qualify for class A certificates. Enrollees in this program qualify for a scholarship that covers 20% of tuition costs.

Applicants should submit official transcripts that show they hold bachelor's degrees from accredited institutions with GPAs of at least 2.75. They should also hold class B licenses in the same areas in which they want to earn Class A licenses. USA also grants provisional admission to learners with GPAs between 2.5 and 2.75 if they have adequate GRE or MAT scores.

Online classes at USA use asynchronous and synchronous learning, and learners have 24/7 access to their class materials. In asynchronous courses, degree candidates can watch lectures and complete their assignments whenever it fits their weekly schedules. USA is proud to offer cutting-edge meeting technology for synchronous courses, which allows students to learn from lively discussions with classmates.

Ball State University View School Profile Muncie, IN Ball State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

In 1918, the Indiana State Normal School Eastern Division opened to educate teachers in the area. By 1965, that school grew into Ball State University, named after the gentlemen who donated the property in the early days. Today, the school educates more than 20,000 learners in seven academic colleges.

Ball State continues to honor its roots in teacher education with excellent undergraduate and graduate teaching programs. One such example is the school's completely online master's in special education. Degree candidates can choose from several licensure options, including early childhood education. Students may also choose from among several certificate focus areas, including autism and applied behavioral analysis.

This master's in early childhood education requires each candidate to earn at least 30 credits, but they can earn more to qualify for additional certificates. The core program does not qualify candidates to earn their initial teaching licenses. Students who do not hold such licenses can earn them with additional hours in the program.

All online courses at Ball State use asynchronous learning. This structure allows students to complete their coursework on their own schedules, so long as they meet deadlines. Candidates never have to visit campus, but they are welcome to attend graduation in person. Ball State supports online students through several online resources, including library services, technology help, tutoring, and a writing center. Learners may also attend writing workshops, access the school's resume builder, and meet with career coaches online.

University of Northern Iowa View School Profile Cedar Falls, IA University of Northern Iowa is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

In 1876, Iowa State Normal School opened in a building that had once housed orphans from the Civil War. The new school aimed to train teachers in the Cedar Falls area. Today, that school is the University of Northern Iowa. It is home to 90 academic majors, 17 Division I sports teams, and more than 300 student organizations. Even with the school's growth, it stayed true to its teaching roots with Iowa's top teacher certification program.

Its master's in early childhood education utilizes the cohort model, which allows degree candidates to build lasting connections with their classmates. Students can take two courses per semester for six consecutive terms, including summers, allowing them to graduate in two years.

Courses in this program include issues and trends in early childhood curriculum, assessment in early childhood education, foundations of instructional psychology, and educational research. Some rotating seminars cover different trending issues in education, which change for each cohort. Degree candidates take both synchronous and asynchronous courses throughout the program. UNI designed the curriculum for candidates with existing licenses, but students can take additional courses to qualify for initial licensure.

Applicants should hold bachelor's degrees from accredited universities with GPAs of 3.0 or higher to earn consideration for unconditional admission. UNI considers candidates with GPAs between 2.75 and 2.99 for provisional admission. The university does not require candidates to submit standardized exam scores.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln View School Profile Lincoln, NE University of Nebraska Lincoln is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

In 1869, UNL began as a land grant university to spread knowledge and education throughout society. Even in the beginning, UNL accepted students of all races, genders, and backgrounds. The university now educates more than 25,000 students and continues to live up to its founding ideals.

UNL offers a master's in special education with a specialization in early childhood education. This master's in early childhood education includes three options. The first curriculum choice includes a required thesis project and an optional minor. The second option does not have a thesis, but students must choose two minors. Option three does not feature minors or theses.

Each applicant must submit GRE results, a personal statement regarding their professional goals, a resume, and three letters of recommendation. Candidates do not need to hold active teaching licenses to apply to UNL, but the program does not lead to certification. Students who are not teachers can take additional courses to earn their post-bachelor's teaching certificates.

Online learners can access several services along their educational journey. For example, the free tutoring service helps undergraduate and graduate students alike. Degree candidates can also submit their essays to the writing center and receive feedback and advice on their writing. Students with disabilities of any kind can access help, as well. Depending on their needs, learners may access accommodations such as extra time on tests. Students can also chat with counselors to help with their emotional needs.

University of Mississippi View School Profile University, MS University of Mississippi is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Ole Miss serves as the Magnolia State's flagship university and its largest university, enrolling more than 24,000 students. Carnegie also classifies the school as an R-1 research university. Learners can study in the school's 15 academic divisions.

The university's school of education offers a master's in early childhood education that requires 30 credits. Students who take two classes per semester, including summers, can graduate in two years. The coursework takes place entirely online with asynchronous classes. Degree candidates can watch recorded lectures and complete their homework on their own schedules. Students who do not yet have pre-K teaching licenses can earn them through this program, as well.

Candidates with and without teaching certificates can qualify for this program. Applicants should hold bachelor's degrees with GPAs of at least 3.0 on the final 60 hours of undergraduate work. The degrees must be in education or a closely related field. Each applicant must also meet one of the school's standardized test requirements, which includes passing the Praxis II Content Field exam or earning competitive scores on the GRE.

Ole Miss provides online learners with a wealth of resources. Prospective students can take a quiz to see if they are ready for online learning. Students can use specialized proctoring software to take exams, which keeps them from having to attend in-person exams. Student disabilities services can help candidates gain the resources they need to take courses.

University of Northern Colorado View School Profile Greeley, CO University of Northern Colorado is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

This university boasts a 17-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and a beautiful campus near the Rocky Mountains. More than 13,000 UNC students enroll in 100 undergraduate and 120 graduate academic programs. UNC is proud to offer a multicultural campus, with 38% of its enrollees as first-generation students.

UNC offers a master's in education with an emphasis on early childhood special education. Learners can complete this program through online, on-campus, or hybrid courses. Each degree candidate must earn at least 36 credits for this master's in early childhood education. However, learners who do not hold teaching licenses must take more courses.

Core courses in the curriculum include assessment and planning in early childhood special education; research, policy, and advocacy in early childhood special education; and typical and atypical development.

Applicants must hold bachelor's degrees with GPAs of at least 3.0. Each candidate should also submit personal statements regarding their educational philosophy, as well as a copy of their teaching license, if applicable.

UNC started offering distance education in 1902 through correspondence. This experience helped the school become one of the first universities to offer online education. UNC continues to innovate every step of the way to make education more flexible, convenient, and accessible for all learners. UNC online courses take place asynchronously with no set meeting times. The school even offers some self-paced courses with no deadlines. All online classes abide by Quality Matters standards.

Albany State University View School Profile Albany, GA Albany State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

ASU opened as Albany Bible and Manual Training Institution in 1903. The school admitted African American students and became a public-supported college by 1917. It soon expanded to teach subjects like agriculture, teaching, and industry. Today, the university educates approximately 3,000 students across 50 academic programs.

The university's master's in early childhood education requires each candidate to earn 36 credits. The curriculum seeks to empower teachers to become masters of their craft and feel prepared to take on administrative roles. Some courses focus on integrating technology in the classroom, while other courses cover behavioral problems. Graduates can earn certification in T-5 education.

Online learners can access several helpful resources, including an online writing center for essay review. Before classes begin, they can attend online orientations to help them start their new educational journeys. Smarthinking is the school's online tutoring service. Degree candidates can access this resource 24/7 for no additional charge by using their school email addresses. Students rarely need technical help, but GaVIEW is there to assist anyone who encounters difficulties with the online learning system.

Applicants must hold undergraduate degrees in early childhood education from accredited universities. Candidates must also submit results from either the GRE or MAT exams. In some cases, the school will accept candidates with other educational backgrounds. However, they must take some undergraduate courses in early childhood education before enrolling in the master's programs.

Eastern Kentucky University View School Profile Richmond, KY Eastern Kentucky University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

EKU started training teachers as Eastern Kentucky State Normal School in 1906. In 1935, the college offered four-year undergraduate degrees and a master's degree in teaching. Thirty-one years later, the institution officially became EKU and started offering degrees in other areas of study. While the university now educates more than 15,000 students in many subjects, the school has never lost sight of its history in education.

Its master's in education now includes several specializations, including special education in interdisciplinary early childhood education. This master's in early childhood education includes a 30-hour curriculum with 100% online courses. Students can take courses through eight-week terms, which allows them to earn their degrees quickly. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation both approve the university's curriculum. Graduates often find work as preschool coordinators, Head Start administrators, and teacher leaders.

Each degree candidate meets with advisors to devise personalized degree plans. Then, learners take asynchronous online courses that allow them to complete their work on their own time, so long as they meet deadlines. Students who hold Kentucky teaching licenses can qualify for additional credentials. Learners from other states must contact their education departments to see if the program helps them qualify for any credentials. Out-of-state students pay the same low tuition rate as their Kentucky-based classmates in this online program. Active military personnel can receive a significant discount on tuition.

Texas A & M University-Kingsville View School Profile Kingsville, TX Texas A&M University - Kingsville is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

In 1925, South Texas State Teachers College opened as a normal school for teacher training. Just four years after opening, the school started offering degrees in additional subjects. The school went through several iterations to officially become Texas A&M University - Kingsville in 1993. Its rich history makes it the oldest continually operating higher education institution in the Texas region.

The university offers a master's in early childhood education online degree that requires each candidate to earn 36 credits. The program includes 18 core credits, six credits from research courses, and 12 credits from resource area electives. The core courses include subjects such as emergent literacy, creative activities, and math in early childhood. Elective options include instructional technology and school administration. Degree candidates can learn about the different types of early childhood education curriculum models, including Waldorf, Head Start, Constructivist, and Montessori.

Online learners can use the Blackboard learning system to complete coursework asynchronously. They can engage in discussions with other students, watch recorded lessons, take tests, and turn in coursework through this comprehensive system. Texas A&M University - Kingsville offers resources for online students, allowing them to take part in mental health screenings, schedule wellness appointments, and complete substance use checkups without leaving their homes.

Applicants must hold bachelor's degrees with GPAs of 2.8 or higher. Candidates can submit official transcripts and scores from the GRE or MAT. Candidates must also consent to background checks before beginning the program.

Northern Arizona University View School Profile Flagstaff, AZ Northern Arizona University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

NAU opened in 1899 with just 23 students, two faculty members, and two copies of the dictionary. When the first class graduated in 1901, four women earned teaching credentials. The school grew throughout the depression and world wars to become a full-fledged university in 1966. Today, the university serves more than 31,000 students through hundreds of degree and certificate programs.

Like some of the first NAU students, today's learners can complete programs that help them become excellent teachers. The school's master's in early childhood education online degree includes emphasis areas in teaching, leadership, multiage education, and national certification. Degree candidates must earn at least 30 credits, which include online classes and in-person field experiences. Students can complete their internships and practicums in their home communities. The National Association for the Education of Young Children approves the NAU curriculum.

Core courses include subjects such as early childhood curriculum, development of children's logical concepts, and international education. Depending on the emphasis areas they choose, students can take elective courses in subjects such as parental involvement in early education, leadership skills, and philosophy of education. After graduation, some students are eligible for national certification. However, these candidates must already hold teaching licenses in their jurisdiction and complete at least three years of teaching.

Applicants should first earn bachelor's degrees from regionally accredited universities with GPAs of 3.0 or higher. Candidates must also submit permission for background checks and proof of applicable teaching licenses.

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The Advantages of an Early Childhood Education Education

The type of career you can pursue in early childhood education depends — in part — on the kind of degree you hold. For instance, candidates with an associate degree can qualify as preschool teachers, while bachelor's-holders may obtain positions as preschool directors or social and community service managers. The BLS projects positive growth through 2026 for preschool teachers, preschool directors, and social and community service managers.

Individuals who earn an early childhood education master's degree online receive in-depth field knowledge that helps them stand out among competition. These degrees can increase the odds of employment for bachelor's-level positions, particularly with managerial or leadership opportunities. A master's degree may also qualify graduates to teach early childhood education courses at certain colleges or universities; however, most schools require a doctorate for these positions.

Candidates interested in early childhood education careers can review the following sections for information on career tasks and long-term salary expectations.

Average Salary by Degree Level

Degree Level Average Salary
Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education $35,000
Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education $44,000
Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education $47,000

Source: PayScale

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Early Childhood Education Degree Salary Information

Online master's degrees in early childhood education explore child development and help learners build teaching, research, and communication skills for real-world practice. These traits prepare candidates to work in preschools, childcares, and other organizations that cater to children. However, careers in these settings may vary. For example, graduates can open their own childcare centers or work as directors and teachers at established organizations. Advanced knowledge in early childhood education can also lead to advising and teaching positions where graduates guide others on related concepts.

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors
These directors ensure preschools and childcare centers follow state standards. Candidates determine organizational policies, choose employees, offer training for current workers, manage budgets, and communicate with parents about student needs. These positions typically require a bachelor's degree; however, a master's verifies advanced field knowledge for managerial positions.
Preschool Teachers
Preschool teachers prepare children for kindergarten by teaching early concepts like counting and color recognition. These educators must plan activities that encourage safety and social development, as well as observe children for indications of learning disabilities. While schools may only require an associate degree for these positions, candidates with a master's boast a more in-depth understanding of early education for higher employment chances.
Educational Specialists
Educational specialists make suggestions on curricula and instructional techniques to improve learning in school systems. Candidates may also train school faculty on innovative learning strategies. These specialists often need a teaching credential and experience. An early childhood education master's indicates expertise for advising schools on early grade levels.
Postsecondary Teachers
These educators teach courses in their discipline at colleges and universities. Responsibilities include building syllabi, delivering lectures, and providing feedback on assignments. Teachers may also write scholarly articles for publication and help learners choose future classes. For these positions, candidates may need at least a master's degree in the teaching field.
Social and Community Service Managers
Social and community service managers identify and build programs for public needs, evaluate existing programs, and suggest strategies to increase impact. They may also promote programs to community members. Companies may require a master's for these positions, and earning a master of early childhood education online prepares learners to build programs that assist young children.

Salary by Experience Level for Early Childhood Education Careers

Careers Entry Level
(0-12 Months)
Early Career
(1-4 Years)
(5-9 Years)
(10-19 Years)
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors $38,226 $39,253 $40,671 $43,938
Preschool Teachers $30,078 $31,924 $32,309 $32,213
Educational Specialists $41,109 $44,366 $50,400 $55,610
Postsecondary Teachers $60,080 $60,228 $70,349 $86,627
Social and Community Services Managers $39,833 $43,452 $49,527 $57,351

Source: PayScale

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Choosing an Online Early Childhood Education Degree Program

Students interested in earning an early childhood education master's degree online should consider which program elements are most important to them. For instance, candidates who need cheaper tuition should focus on local schools, as out-of-state tuition typically exceeds in-state tuition. In-state options also let learners complete on-campus requirements more easily, with fewer travel expenses. However, it's important to note that some out-of-state schools, especially private colleges, offer in-state or discounted tuition to all online learners, regardless of residency. Reviewing the exact details of each program is key.

Degree seekers should also note prospective colleges' program lengths, student-to-faculty ratios, transfer policies, and concentrations. Since distance education opens so many educational possibilities, students can afford to be selective about their prospective schools and ensure that they match most or all of their criteria.

  • Program Cost: Candidates should review each program's tuition, fees, and other costs to determine which option best complements their budgets. In general, public schools charge lower tuition than private schools, and in-state students often pay lower tuition than out-of-state learners. However, these details vary by institution.
  • Transfer Policies: Transfer agreements between colleges and universities can reduce the time to graduation by allowing learners to apply previously completed coursework to their degree. Institutions may insist that learners complete a high percentage of coursework at the degree-awarding school, which can lower transfer credit use. Students with extensive transfer work should consider determine which schools will accept most of their previous credits.
  • School Size and Type: Smaller schools may offer a more interactive learning environment since classes include fewer students. The type of school can also influence learning, since private schools may incorporate unique philosophies into curricula. Universities may also offer different schools of learning that impact program options.
  • Program Length: Time frames for master's programs vary, with some schools providing accelerated paths for faster graduation. Other programs require higher credit numbers, which can postpone graduation. Students should compare these factors to their schedules. For instance, a candidate can choose a faster-paced program to qualify for an upcoming promotion, while learners without time restraints can study at a slower pace.
  • On-Campus Requirements: Programs may include on-campus elements such as labs, seminars, and courses. These elements occur with different frequency, depending on the school. For instance, learners may attend one on-campus orientation or complete half of program courses on campus. Students should only consider these programs if the distance and frequency fits their schedules and budgets.

Accreditation for Online Early Childhood Education Degrees

When considering options for an online master's degrees in early childhood education, students should pay special attention to a school's accreditation. A school's accreditation signals that it offers quality programs that meet rigorous criteria. Additionally, government aid may only extend to applicants at accredited schools, which means candidates may need to pay out-of-pocket to attend unaccredited schools. Unaccredited degrees may also hold little professional or academic value, which could prevent learners from earning careers or pursuing higher degrees.

While they do not offer accreditation themselves, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the accreditation process. Each of these organizations review and recognize accrediting agencies, which then hold the authority to review and approve schools.

National accreditation is often granted to trade or vocational programs. Conversely, regional accreditation is usually considered more prestigious and is reserved for public and private four-year institutions. Students who attend regionally accredited schools can typically transfer credits more efficiently, and can be assured of receiving a quality education. Regional accreditation is overseen by six different regional agencies.

Programmatic accreditation indicates approval for a specific program or department in a particular field. Students pursuing a master of early childhood education online should look for programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Schools may also list the Teacher Education Accreditation Council or the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, both of which have become part of CAEP in recent years.

To determine if a program holds accreditation, candidates can search databases provided by CHEA or the ED.

Early Childhood Education Concentrations

Concentrations can provide experiences, knowledge, and skills for specific professions in the field. For example, a management-related focus can prepare learners for administrative positions, while a special education specialization can lead to a career in special education. Candidates should consider all possible concentrations — as well as their professional goals — before selecting an online master's degree in early childhood education.

  • Dual Language:
    These concentrations address second language development and literacy in early childhood. Candidates explore teaching strategies for encouraging language use and cultural diversity among children.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Graduates can work in dual language preschools or elementary schools, but may need teaching certification. Candidates can also assist with dual language programs or camps.
  • Administration Management:
    Students build management and leadership skills related to financing, hiring, and designing curricula for child-centered establishments. Degree seekers learn to foster learning environments that promote social and mental growth in children.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Concentrations prepare for administrator, director, or owner positions in childcares, preschools, and other early childhood organizations.
  • Special Education:
    These specializations address assessment and teaching strategies for special needs children. Programs may also explore policy building for special education classrooms. These programs typically require a practicum and emphasize field research.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: These courses allow certified candidates to teach in special education. Graduates can also pursue careers in advocacy and policy-making.
  • Early Childhood Policy:
    This focus relates to policy-making and research. Candidates may explore current pedagogy and international policy. Coursework may also examine modern issues in education and train learners to identify areas for improvement. These programs build problem-solving skills and prioritize educational theory.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Candidates may obtain administrative positions in education or work as advocates for improved education.
  • STEAM:
    These programs explore early childhood teaching strategies for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics courses. Candidates use creative concepts such as design and presentation in order to explore these subjects. Technical explorations may include robotics and mathematical problem-solving.
    • Careers this concentration prepares for: Graduates with certifications can teach STEAM-related courses. Candidates may also work as instructional coordinators or program designers focusing on these disciplines.

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

Early childhood education master's programs typically require 30-48 credits, which full-time students can complete in under two years of study. However, there are several factors that can influence the time it takes to complete your degree. For example, the program's structure, the number of required credits, and the student's personal or professional responsibilities can all impact the timeline for completion.

Additionally, shorter learning terms can quicken graduation by allowing more classes in a year. Specifically, some online degrees may include six-week classes instead of standard fall, spring, and summer terms. Colleges may also offer accelerated pathways that allow learners to pursue a combined bachelor's and master's. This format can allow learners to complete the graduate degree with only one additional year of study.

Candidates can also graduate faster by enrolling in more classes per term. However, this decision can increase semesterly expenses if schools charge per-credit tuition. Alternately, students can study part-time for a slower learning pace. With yearly tuition increases and semester fees, though, this decision can increase overall program costs. Degree seekers who need to choose their learning pace should avoid cohort programs where learners complete courses in groups.

Courses in an Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Program

  • Foundations of Education
    These classes explore educational practices and theories throughout history. Candidates examine current issues that relate to globalization, technology, ethics, and legal concerns. Learners also hone their research skills. Students learn to encourage positive social, mental, and emotional growth in young children. Courses may review early childhood education or specialize on child development.
  • iterature for Early Childhood Education
    Students examine early literacy concepts such as phonics and vocabulary. These courses may address second language acquisition and popular books or themes for early childhood classes. Students may review modern research, trends, and teaching techniques for different learning needs. These courses can prepare learners for teaching and reading specialist careers.
  • Student Teaching
    To earn a master of early childhood education online, learners may need to demonstrate teaching proficiency in classrooms. In particular, degree seekers plan and deliver lesson plans and assess classroom performances. These experiences require supervision and may occur in specific settings, such as K-3 or special education classrooms.
  • Child Growth and Development
    This course examines children's physical and social development, with a focus on milestones in early childhood. Learners may also explore variations of typical development for special needs environments. These classes involve theory, research, and observation and address ways to encourage positive development in culturally diverse settings.
  • Play as a Learning Tool
    Students learn the positive impacts of play in early childhood education, based on current research and theory. Specifically, courses may cover physical, cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of incorporating play into curricula. This exploration addresses the educator's responsibility in guiding educational play.
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Paying for Your Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree Program

Paying for an online master's degree in early childhood education is an important consideration when choosing the right college. Fortunately, students can explore many options to help cover the cost of graduate school. First, students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to apply for financial aid from the federal government. The government offers student loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs. Many teachers qualify for student loan forgiveness after making timely payments and working at certain schools for a number of years.

Scholarships for Accounting Students

Bright Futures Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: Bright Horizons offers this program to future teachers throughout the United States. Applicants must be enrolled full time in an accredited program that focuses on the education of children ages six or younger. Applicants must submit writing samples and evidence of early education field-based experiences.
Amount: $250-$1,000's "Inspire Our Future" Scholarship

Who Can Apply: offers this scholarship to current and future teachers pursuing an accredited undergraduate or graduate-level education degree. Students need a minimum 3.5 GPA and must submit a 500- to 700-word essay. Awardees can use the scholarship to pay for education and related expenses.
Amount: $500

PDK Educational Foundation Prospective Educator Scholarship

Who Can Apply: These scholarships are available to high school seniors and undergraduate students pursuing a career in education. Applicants must be members of Educators Rising, Phi Delta Kappa, or Pi Lambda Theta. Applicants must submit a personal statement and a recommendation letter.
Amount: $500-$5,000

Montessori Teacher Education Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The American Montessori Society (AMS) awards these scholarships to aspiring Montessori teachers who are accepted or in the process of being accepted to an AMS-affiliated teacher education program. The selection process is based on financial need, an essay, and three recommendation letters.
Amount: Varies

Applegate-Jackson-Parks Future Teacher Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Offered through the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, this scholarship is available to both undergraduate and graduate students studying education and who plan to pursue a teaching license. This merit-based scholarship requires applicants to write a 500-word essay demonstrating an understanding of compulsory and voluntary unionism.
Amount: $1,000

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