Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education 2021

| TBS Staff


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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.

Best Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Programs

University of North Dakota true View School Profile $$$ Grand Forks, ND 55% 48% 49% The University of North Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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.

Arkansas State University-Main Campus true View School Profile $$ Jonesboro, AR 48% 51% 56% Arkansas State University Main Campus is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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.

West Chester University of Pennsylvania true View School Profile $$$ West Chester, PA 75% 62% 19% West Chester University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

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.

Biola University true View School Profile La Mirada, CA 73% 59% 33% Biola University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and Universities Commission (WSCUC).

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.

University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus true View School Profile $$ Denver, CO 48% 31% 28% The University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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.

Stephen F Austin State University View School Profile $$ Nacogdoches, TX 48% 57% 40% Stephen F Austin State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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.

University of Alabama at Birmingham View School Profile $$$ Birmingham, AL 58% 51% 58% The University of Alabama at Birmingham is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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.

Northwestern College View School Profile Orange City, IA 69% 61% 39% Northwestern College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

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.

Liberty University View School Profile Lynchburg, VA 50% 60% 90% Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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.

Northwestern State University of Louisiana View School Profile $$ Natchitoches, LA 45% 63% 81% Northwestern State University of Louisiana is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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.

University of Dayton View School Profile Dayton, OH 79% 48% 9% The University of Dayton is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

The University of Dayton first opened its doors in 1850 as St. Mary's School for Boys. Today, the Catholic institution serves over 11,500 students annually.

The completely online master of science in education in early childhood leadership and advocacy program requires 29-32 credits for completion, depending on the focus area chosen. Students can choose between early childhood leadership and early childhood advocacy.

Admission requirements include official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, personal statement or resume, and either 2.75 minimum GPA or GRE/GMAT scores.

University of South Alabama View School Profile $$ Mobile, AL 44% 55% 48% The University of South Alabama is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

South Alabama currently hosts more than 14,000 students across over 100 offered programs of study.

The Leadership and Teacher Education Department offers a fully online master of education in early childhood education program requiring 30 credits for completion. Curriculum builds on previous academic achievements for those holding a Class B Professional Early Childhood Certificate.

Prospective students must hold a bachelor degree from an accredited institution and submit official transcripts showing minimum 2.5 GPA, proof of Class B Professional Early Childhood Certificate, and personal statement.

University of Houston-Clear Lake View School Profile $$ Houston, TX 35% 38% The University of Houston Clear Lake is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

UHCL opened its doors in 1974 and has since grown to support more than 9,100 students annually. The institution currently offers more than 90 degree programs across four colleges.

The completely online master of science in early childhood education program teaches how to more actively engage children up to 8 years of age. Students can complete the 36 credit program in as little as three semesters.

Admission requirements include official transcripts showing bachelor degree completion and official GMAT, GRE, or MAT scores.

Concordia University-Nebraska View School Profile Seward, NE 63% 49% 33% Concordia University Nebraska is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Ranked 17 in top value school in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report, CUNE follows deep Lutheran traditions over more than 100 offered undergraduate and graduate programs.

Concordia's fully online master of education in early childhood education program requires 36 credits for completion at a cost of $425 per credit. Students can complete the traditional program in as little as 24 months or choose a fast track option and complete studies in as little as 20 months.

Graduate admissions requires students to submit an online application, official transcripts, letter of intent, and resume.

Northern Arizona University View School Profile $$ Flagstaff, AZ 52% 45% 43% Northern Arizona University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1899, NAU has grown to support 95 undergraduate programs and 76 graduate programs across nine schools and colleges.

NAU Online's master of education in early childhood education requires 30 units for completion. Students must choose one of four offered areas of emphasis: early childhood teacher, early childhood leadership, early childhood multiage, or early childhood national board preparation.

Admission requirements include official transcripts showing bachelor degree completion with minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and personal statement.

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania View School Profile $$$ Edinboro, PA 45% 72% 36% Edinboro University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

With more than 100 offered academic programs, Edinboro stands as northwestern Pennsylvania region's largest and most comprehensive institution of higher education.

EU's online master of education in early childhood education degree requires 30 credits for completion. Students can complete required coursework in as little as 18 months with summer learning. A week long summer residency requirement can take place at a local school for distance learners.

The program accepts rolling admissions. Prospective students must submit official transcripts and complete and online application.

Portland State University View School Profile $$ Portland, OR 49% 42% 33% Portland State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Portland State currently hosts more than 26,000 students across 211 offered programs of study.

The CAEP-accredited, fully online master's in early childhood: inclusive education program requires 45 credits for completion. Curriculum focuses on inclusive education for young children and their families.

The institution offers rolling admissions. To apply, prospective students will submit official transcripts showing minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, proof of one or more years of work or volunteer experience in early childhood or practicum experience through a college program or the ability to complete volunteer and/or work experience during studies.

Boise State University View School Profile $$ Boise, ID 46% 36% 37% Boise State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Designated a doctoral research institution with high research activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, Boise State serves over 26,000 students across 200 areas of study.

The fully online master of education in early and special education program, designed to enhance professional development in early childhood intervention and special education, includes core requirements and content area requirements totaling 34 credits.

Prospective students must submit official transcripts proving bachelor degree completion, latter of application, and two letters of recommendation.

Albany State University View School Profile $$ Albany, GA 19% 65% 50% Albany State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Deemed an access institution, Albany State University promotes student success for all by welcoming students from varying levels of academic preparation.

Albany State's master of education in early childhood education requires 36 credits for completion. Students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA with no individual course grade below a "B" in area C of the program in order to sit for a culmination of studies comprehensive exam as part of graduation requirements.

Admission requirements include an undergraduate degree in early childhood education, clear renewable state of GA teaching certificate in discipline, three letters of recommendation, writing sample, and College of Education disposition statement.

Champlain College View School Profile Burlington, VT 64% 54% 52% Champlain College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

Founded in 1878, the small, nonprofit institution currently offers more than 90 areas of study and boasts a 12-to-one student-to-faculty ratio.

The completely online master of education in early childhood education program requires 30 credits for completion. Students can choose between three offered specializations: special education, teaching, and administration.

Students can apply to three of the five terms per year in September, January, or May by submitting official transcripts proving bachelor degree completion, resume, statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and availability for personal interview.

Concordia University-Saint Paul View School Profile Saint Paul, MN 59% 60% 65% Concordia University Saint Paul is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Located in St. Paul, Minnesota, the private, Christ-centered institution offers more than 80 areas of study and supports more than 5,000 undergraduate, graduate, and online students.

CSP's completely online master of arts in education with early childhood education emphasis degree requires 30 credits for completion. Coursework highlights include family systems for educators, curriculum and education in early childhood education, and methods, advocacy, and leadership in early childhood education. To apply, students will submit official transcripts and personal statement.

University of West Alabama View School Profile $$ Livingston, AL 31% 69% 72% The University of West Alabama is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Chartered in 1835 as a church-related female academy, UWA currently houses more than 90 fields of study across five schools and a graduate college.

The fully online master of education in early childhood development program requires 34 credits for completion with a typical completion window of one year. Curriculum topics include planning, technology, and psychology.

Prospective students will complete and online application through the School of Graduate Studies and must meet fit their admission criteria, including fingerprints/verification of background clearance. Additionally, students will submit official transcripts directly to the program.

Concordia University-Chicago View School Profile River Forest, IL 49% 69% 66% Concordia University Chicago is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

The private, liberal arts institution was founded in 1864 as Addison Lutheran Teachers Seminary. Today, more than 6,000 students attend annually.

CU Chicago's online master of arts in early childhood development degree requires 30 credits for completion with a typically completion timeframe of 12 to 24 months. The program does not lead to licensure.

Admission requirements include an objective statement, official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, two years of professional experience with early childhood development, and prerequisite coursework completion.

Troy University View School Profile $$ Troy, AL 43% 63% 52% Troy University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

An act of the Alabama Legislature established Troy State Normal School in 1887. Now Troy University, the institution offers more than 260 programs of study across five colleges.

Troy's online master of science in early childhood education requires 36 credits for completion, consisting of 18 credits of required core courses, 15 credits of teaching field courses, and a three-credit required capstone. At least nine credits of teaching field courses must be at the 6000 level.

Prospective students must complete an online application and submit official transcripts, GRE or GMAT scores, and a letter of recommendation.

Mercy College View School Profile Dobbs Ferry, NY 44% 56% 41% Mercy College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Over 9,500 students attend Mercy at locations in Dobbs Ferry, Manhattan, Bronx, and online. The institution offers more than 40 degree programs completely online.

The master of science in early childhood education: birth to grade 2 program offered through the School of Education requires 39 credits for completion. Students can choose to combine curriculum to pursue a dual certificate in childhood education or students with disabilities.

To apply, students will complete an online application and submit official transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statement, resume, test scores, and any additional transcripts from other colleges or universities.

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.

Featured Online Schools

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.

What Else 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

  • Assessment in early childhood education: Assessment classes focus on developmentally appropriate assessment strategies for working with young children. Classes on assessment help educators working in daycare, childcare, or preschool settings hone tools for evaluating the growth and development of learners.
  • Documenting children's learning: Classes on documenting children's learning help educators document individual and group learning experiences. These courses emphasize collaborating on learning as well as reflecting on children's group learning and may incorporate field observation. Early childhood educators at all levels regularly use these skills.
  • Play in early childhood education: Play holds an important place in early childhood learning. Courses on play examine stages of play, theories behind play-based learning, and research on play as a pedagogical tool. The class may incorporate cultural differences in play as well as the educator's role in facilitating play. This course benefits both classroom educators and program designers.

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.

Featured Online Schools

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.

Professional Organizations for Early Childhood Education

Graduates who have earned an early childhood education degree online can benefit from professional organizations, which connect early childhood educators across the country. Many organizations provide networking opportunities, continuing education programs, and annual conferences. Most also offer career services and a job board. By using professional organizations, early childhood educators build their career and advance their professional opportunities. Students earning an online early childhood education degree can enroll while in school to start building their professional network.

NAEYC accredits early learning programs and provides training, webinars, and conferences for early childhood educators. ACEI supports the education of all children, with a focus on birth to early adolescence. Members receive resources on educational practice as well as awards and scholarships. A nonprofit organization committed to Head Start, NHSA advocates for over 200,000 early childhood educators working in Head Start programs. The association provides professional resources for its members.

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