Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education

by TBS Staff
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Masters in Early Childhood Education Online

Graduates with an online master's in early childhood education dedicate their careers to working with children from birth to age eight. Early childhood education is a growing field; the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that preschool director positions will increase 11% by 2026. Earning a master's degree prepares graduates for advanced roles in the field. For example, teachers who complete a master's in early childhood education qualify for director positions as well as lead teacher roles.

With specializations including early childhood administration and early childhood special education, prospective students can customize the degree around their interests. An online early childhood education degree benefits working educators who need a flexible, accessible degree option.

Choosing an Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Program

Early childhood educators can benefit from the advanced coursework in an early childhood education master's degree online program. An ECE degree online prepares graduates for careers as lead preschool teachers, preschool directors, and childcare center directors. When choosing between online master's in early childhood education programs, prospective students must evaluate the program's strengths, requirements, and specializations.

Most master's programs in early childhood education provide core courses in assessing young children's learning, play-based learning, and leadership in early childhood education. However, the requirements and specializations vary widely. Some programs require a capstone experience, while others allow students to choose between writing a thesis or completing additional coursework.

Some online ECE degrees also offer concentration options. Some master's in early childhood education online programs focus on administrative training, which appeals to educators considering director-level positions. Other programs offer specializations in special education and inclusive education. While some programs provide a set curriculum, others let students customize the degree with electives.

By researching early childhood education degree online programs, educators can find one that fits their interests and career goals. Graduates apply the knowledge gained in a master's program throughout their careers in early childhood education.

Featured Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Degrees

Best Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Programs

  1. University of North Dakota
    Location

    Grand Forks, ND

    Tuition

    $15374

    Founded in 1883, the University of North Dakota currently plays host to more than 13,600 students across over 225 offered academic programs.

    UND's completely online master of science in early childhood education requires 32 credits for completion and typically takes about two years to finish required coursework. Application deadlines consist of priority and final dates of June 1 and August 1 for fall, November 1 and December 1 for spring, and April 1 and May 1 for summer. Admission requirements include official transcripts, statement of goals, GRE scores, and three academic or professional recommendations.

  2. Arkansas State University-Main Campus
    Location

    Jonesboro, AR

    Tuition

    $13459

    Arkansas State currently serves over 14,000 students with an average class size of 29 students.

    A State's College of Education and Behavioral Science offers a completely online master of science in early childhood education requiring 30 credits for completion at a total cost of $9,510. Students can achieve coursework completion in as little as 12 months. Prospective students must hold a valid teaching license and submit official transcripts with minimum 3.0 GPA. Students with a minimum 2.5 GPA in undergraduate studies may qualify for conditional admission.

  3. West Chester University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    West Chester, PA

    Tuition

    $19091

    WCUPA offers over 180 academic programs across seven schools and colleges. Current enrollment approaches 20,000 students.

    The College of Education and Social Work offers a completely online master of education in early childhood education with the choice of two tracks: accomplished teachers track and program administrators track. Curriculum consists of both synchronous and asynchronous course formats.

    Students can apply for spring start by submitting official transcripts, statement of professional goals, letters of recommendation, GRE or GMAT scores, and resume.

  4. Biola University
    Location

    La Mirada, CA

    Founded in 1908, the Christ-centered private school serves over 6,000 students annually across on campus, online, and distance course offerings.

    The School of Education provides a completely online master of arts in education program with available concentration in early childhood. Students will complete either a curriculum research project or thesis during a completion of studies capstone. Prospective students must submit official transcripts proving bachelor degree with minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA, GRE scores, certificate of clearance, and preliminary credential as part of the application process.

  5. University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
    Location

    Denver, CO

    Tuition

    $14477

    Established in 1912, UC Denver currently hosts more than 15,000 students across eight schools and colleges.

    The School of Education and Human Development provides a completely online master of arts in early childhood education requiring 30 credits for completion. With rolling admission and fully online, on campus, and hybrid formats, the program caters to working professionals.

    Application requirements include official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, resume, and written statement. Those pursuing endorsement must submit proof of teaching license or special services license.

  6. Stephen F Austin State University
    Location

    Nacogdoches, TX

    Tuition

    $11759

    Chartered by the Texas legislature in 1923, SFASU has grown to support nearly 13,000 students with an 18-to-one faculty ratio.

    The fully online master of education in early childhood education program offered through the Department of Education Studies requires 36 hours for completion. Students must complete the curriculum with a minimum 2.5 GPA in order to graduate.

    Admission requirements include a bachelor degree with minimum 2.5 GPA, GRE or GMAT scores, letters of recommendation, and personal statement essay.

  7. University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Location

    Birmingham, AL

    Tuition

    $16636

    UAB currently serves over 22,000 students across 55 offered bachelor programs, 66 master programs, and 38 doctoral programs.

    The master of arts in education in early childhood education requires 33 credits for completion and consists of a curriculum of blended online and traditional courses, fully online courses, flexible summer and Saturday classes, and learning communities and practicums.

    Admission requirements include a bachelor degree in education, current class B certification in early childhood education, official transcripts, and 290 GRE score or 388 MAT score.

  8. Northwestern College
    Location

    Orange City, IA

    Founded in 1882, the Reformed Christian institution offers more than 135 academic programs and currently serves over 1,500 students.

    The fully online master of education in early childhood requires 33 credits over five to six semesters for completion. Curriculum consists of 18 credits of core coursework and 15 credits of early childhood emphasis. Students can add an endorsement for seven additional credits.

    Prospective students must submit official transcripts proving bachelor degree with minimum 3.0 GPA and copy of teaching license as part of the admission process.

  9. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Founded in 1971, the private Christian school hosts more than 100,000 students annually, including over 30,000 military students.

    The completely online master of education in early childhood education provided by the School of Education requires 36 credits for completion. Students can transfer up to half of the required credits into the program.

    Admission requirements include online application and fee, official collegiate transcripts, proof of initial teaching license in elementary education, and proof of english proficiency.

  10. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
    Location

    Natchitoches, LA

    Tuition

    $10448

    Three historic pillars still stand from the original Bullard Mansion, home to the school during its establishment in 1884.

    NSULA's online master of education in early childhood education, offered through the ENSU Global Campus, provides students with an approved curriculum through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for the advancement in educational studies completely online. Coursework includes education courses and a practicum experience.

    Admission requirements include current teaching license, official transcripts, and two letters of recommendation.

Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Programs 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.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, 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 AcademicInfluence.com, 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%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

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

We thank you for your readership and trust.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Program?

With so many options for students who wish to earn their early childhood education degree online, prospective students must consider the variations between programs. Some may require a practicum or field experience, while others may not. In some states, an online early childhood education degree may meet the qualifications for a teacher's license. Because each program is different, prospective students should closely research their top choices.

The Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Early Childhood Education Prepares For

The Council for Professional Recognition provides this credential for candidates who meet the professional requirements, including experience working with children from birth to age five. The credential requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, and an online early childhood education degree meets the qualifications. The National Early Childhood Education Accreditation agency offers a certification as a child care professional for candidates with childcare experience at a licensed childcare provider. While the credential does not require a master's, graduates with an online master's in early childhood education meet the qualifications. Several states use the certification for director-level positions.

Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Careers

Graduates who have earned an early childhood education degree online can pursue several career paths, working with children from birth to age eight. Some prefer to stay in the classroom as preschool teachers, childcare workers or early childhood special education teachers, while others move into administration. In certain states, preschool directors must meet educational requirements, such as earning an advanced degree.

$28,990 10% Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers care for children before they enter kindergarten, teaching language, motor, and social skills. They work in both public and private schools, including in Head Start programs. Although entry-level positions only require an associate degree, an online early childhood education master's degree often qualifies candidates for lead positions.

$46,890 11% Preschool Director

Preschool directors and childcare center directors supervise staff, design programs, and oversee daily activities. While a bachelor's degree meets the entry-level requirements, some states require additional education. Students can fulfill these requirements by earning a master's in early childhood education online.

$58,980 8% Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students with learning, mental, physical, and emotional disabilities. Some focus on early childhood special education, working with children from birth to age eight. Earning an early childhood education degree online with a focus in special education prepares graduates for careers in special education.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Degrees

Accreditation provides critical information about an educator preparation program and an institution of higher learning. As a voluntary process, accreditation stands for both academic excellence and a commitment to improve. Regional accreditation is the most popular institutional form, and unlike national accreditation, regional accreditation meets the qualifications for federal financial aid and transfer credits. In addition to institutional accreditation, many educator preparation programs, including master's in early childhood education online programs, hold specialized accreditation.

Recent changes in educator accreditation can confuse prospective students. In 2013, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) merged to create the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Today, CAEP is the gold standard in educator accreditation, but because of the accreditation cycle, many programs still technically hold NCATE or TEAC accreditation. These institutions will receive CAEP accreditation after undergoing their next successful accreditation process.

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