Master's in Early Childhood Education Online

Early childhood educators teach fundamental academic content and crucial social skills to children. Those who specialize in teaching kindergarten through second grade use a combination of play and structured lessons to impart basic math and literacy skills. Educators who work with younger children support students' physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development through structured, play-oriented activities and environments. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, early childhood educators make a median annual salary of $28,990, although earnings vary considerably according to job title, location, and place of employment. With a projected job growth rate of 10%, demand for early childhood educators is higher than the national average.

Early childhood educators make a median annual salary of $28,990, although earnings vary considerably according to job title, location, and place of employment. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Much like elementary educators, early childhood educators are employed in a variety of settings. Individuals who earn an early childhood education degree online work at private daycares, nursery schools, private schools, public schools, and childcare facilities affiliated with companies or college campuses. Others obtain advanced roles, including as preschool directors or public policy coordinators.

Those who wish to teach young children in a Christian setting enjoy numerous career options. Graduates often take instructional positions in private Christian schools, teach early childhood education at Christian universities, and work with faith-based nonprofit groups to help children in need. Earning a master's in early childhood education online also paves the way for doctoral studies. Required for most postsecondary teaching positions, a doctorate in education opens up additional career possibilities in policy and research.

Earning a master's in early childhood education online is an ideal option for individuals who desire an affordable, flexible alternative to traditional on-campus programs. Students can work from the comfort of home, and often at their own pace. Distance education is especially convenient for working professionals and students who must balance their studies with personal, church, and work obligations. In addition, an online degree is also economical, allowing learners to avoid costs associated with campus life, including transportation, housing, and facility fees.

Distance education is especially convenient for working professionals and students who must balance their studies with personal, church, and work obligations.

Distance education also presents dynamic opportunities to integrate faith into web-based study. For example, many programs offer benefits like online spiritual counselors, livestream worship services, and student groups and discussion forums that allow students to connect over live chat and message boards.

With the exception of physical location, online learning typically mirrors the on-campus experience. Most online master's of early childhood education curricula are identical to their on-campus equivalents and feature the same assignments and participation requirements. Many graduate programs allow distance learners to complete teaching practicums or field experience at schools in their home states. A few programs; however, may require a brief residency experience to help build rapport between students and faculty.

Should You Get Your Master's in Early Childhood Education Online?

The time needed to earn a master's degree in early childhood education online varies by curriculum, student obligations, and school. Typically, the average 30-credit program requires at least a one-year commitment. Part-time students may take longer to finish their degree, while accelerated programs often require less time for completion.

Early childhood education master's degree online programs tend to have open, year-round application policies, with three to four semester start dates, usually in the fall, winter, and spring. Plan to apply to a minimum of four or five programs. It's a good idea to choose three "safety" schools which are likely to accept you, and one or two programs that are "reach" schools, institutions with challenging admissions policies.

When deciding which schools to apply to, you should consider the following:

  • Option to enroll either part- or full-time
  • Accreditation status
  • Initial certification preparation for new teachers
  • Areas of specialization
  • Online course format and pacing
  • Residency requirements
  • Practicum location options

In addition to online research, make a list of any remaining questions you may have about a program and contact an admissions counselor before applying.

Prerequisites

Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor's degree is always required to enroll in a master's program; however, the degree does not necessarily need to be a bachelor's degree in early childhood education. Many schools will accept an accredited bachelor's degree in other areas.
Minimum GPA
Many master's degree programs require a minimum cumulative undergraduate 3.0 GPA. Some may accept lower GPAs under certain conditions.

Admission Materials

Application
Most online applications can be completed in an hour or less. Sites usually allow students to save their work and log back in after gathering the necessary information.
Transcripts
Applicants are expected to submit official copies of their undergraduate transcripts, and graduate transcripts when applicable. Copies can be acquired through your previous school for a small fee.
Recommendations
The average online master's program requires at least two recommendations from previous supervisors or undergraduate faculty members. To provide your contacts plenty of time, request letters at least one month in advance.
Test Scores
Most graduate-level programs expect applicants to provide GRE or GMAT scores on their application. Acceptable test results should be less than five years old.
Application Fee
Schools generally charge between $50 and $100 to cover costs associated with application review and handling.

A typical master's in early childhood education online curriculum covers core topics in child development and effective teaching and classroom behavior management practices. At Christian institutions, students are encouraged to consider educational theories and strategies through both a Biblical lens and worldly perspectives. While course offerings vary by program, most curricula include one or more of the following foundational classes.

Many online master's in early childhood education programs allow candidates to specialize in a particular focus areas, such as administration or public policy. Specialization and concentration offerings differ considerably between programs. Any specialization you select should relate to your long-term career goals. Below are a few commonly-offered early childhood education specializations.

  • Special Education

    Certified early childhood special education teachers work with infants and very young students who face developmental delays and learning disabilities.

  • Bilingual Education

    Teachers who hold an endorsement in bilingual education create structured learning environments and adapt curricula to meet the needs of English language learners and bilingual students.

  • Reading K-8

    A K-8 reading specialization provides deeper insight into literacy acquisition and reading instruction. Educators are qualified to serve as reading specialists and provide students with dedicated one-on-one or small group instruction.

Along with a deeper understanding of early childhood education, a master's degree opens up many advanced employment opportunities that can lead to a higher starting salary. Potential career paths for educators with a master's degree include:

  • Postsecondary instructor
  • Curriculum coordinator
  • Preschool director
  • Daycare owner
  • Public policy coordinator
  • District administrator
  • Professional development facilitator

While some of these careers and other high-level positions may require additional licensure, study, or professional experience, a master's degree in early childhood education lays the foundation for career advancement and doctoral study. The need for qualified early childcare leaders is also expected to increase. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for preschool and daycare center directors is projected to grow 11% from 2016 to 2026, which is much higher than the national average.

While earning a master's in early childhood education online qualifies graduates for many leadership positions, some degree-holders choose to pursue teaching young children as a lifelong career. Although many different personality types fare well in the classroom, most early childhood educators are empathetic, with excellent communication skills and a great deal of patience. Teachers also enjoy being creative and resourceful as they develop lesson plans and find solutions to everyday classroom challenges.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school instructors usually teach core subjects such as math, reading, science, and social studies up to the fifth or sixth grade. They help children develop social and emotional skills through engaging activities and lessons.

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

Directors are responsible for overseeing educational center operations, from supervising staff to preparing program budgets. They are charged with developing educational programs and curricula that meet state and federal guidelines.

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers impart social, emotional, language, and motor skills to children under age five. Along with encouraging students positive behavioral habits and routines, they must maintain regular communication with parents.

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with children who face cognitive, behavioral, and physical disabilities and delays. They develop individualized education programs for each student and adapt general education lessons accordingly.
Occupation Minimum Degree Required Employment Hourly Median Wage Annual Mean Wage
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers Bachelor's 1,565,300 N/A $56,900
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors Bachelor's 61,800 $22.54 $46,890
Preschool Teachers Associate 478,500 $13.94 $28,990
Special Education Teachers Bachelor's 439,300 N/A $58,980

All early childhood public school teachers must be licensed in their area of expertise. While private school teachers may also seek licensure or certification, they are not required to do so. Each state maintains different certification requirements, but many share common standards. Typically, candidates must pass a knowledge exam that covers reading, writing, and mathematics. Many states use the Praxis exam series.

Each state maintains different certification requirements, but many share common standards.

The Praxis exams demand preparation through study, although they may be taken multiple times. Core academic areas are offered in separate exams, each of which cost about $90 and take around one-and-a-half hours to complete. Candidates may choose to take the exam in a combined format and receive a discount, but they must be able to sit for five hours. In some states, prospective early childhood teachers are required to take a separate subject area exam related to the education of young children. This exam requires a $120 fee and takes two hours and 30 minutes to complete.

After passing all necessary exams and completing a mandatory background check, candidates may apply for and receive state certification. Although some degrees and credentials may transfer across state lines, teachers always need to reapply for licensure when they wish to teach in a new state. Teachers who specialize in areas, such as special education or English language learning educators, may need to pass additional exams before obtaining licensure. Schools that feature inclusive classrooms, which combine general education and special education instruction, may expect prospective teachers to hold several types of credentials.

Choosing an accredited early childhood education degree online is essential to obtaining a quality education. Accreditation is a quality control process in which independent agencies assess and recognize a school's commitment to quality instruction, rigorous academic standards, and ethical practices. Only accredited institutions qualify to receive federal financial aid. There are different types of college accreditation, including national, regional, and programmatic. Understanding the differences between each type is helpful when selecting a school and program.

Choosing a regionally accredited institution is particularly important if you intend to transfer to another school or pursue a doctoral degree.

Regional accreditation is usually reserved for public, nonprofit universities, while most vocational and technical schools receive national accreditation. Credits earned at nationally accredited institutions rarely transfer to regionally accredited schools. Choosing a regionally accredited institution is particularly important if you intend to transfer to another school or pursue a doctoral degree.

Specific programs and academic departments may also hold specialized or programmatic accreditation through professional organizations. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is the leading accrediting body for teaching programs, including early childhood education degrees. Students must be enrolled in an NCATE-accredited program to participate in many financial aid programs, and some employers prefer to hire graduates with NCATE-backed degrees.

Professional organizations hold numerous benefits for online early childhood education students. Many groups offer discounted student memberships, which include subscriptions to academic journals and exclusive scholarship opportunities. Membership provides the chance to network at local, national, and international events, and to engage with mentors. Many organizations also sponsor professional development opportunities and continuing education programs.

  • Association for Childhood Education International

    ACEI is an international advocate for children's education and aims to raise educational standards worldwide. ACEI promotes innovative technology, diplomacy, and research, and sponsors several exclusive grants.

  • Council for Exceptional Children

    This association supports educators who work with children with special needs. Membership includes discounted event admission, a subscription to the CEC journal, and professional growth opportunities.

  • Division for Early Childhood

    The Division for Early Childhood is a branch of the CEC that serves early childhood educators. The DEC advocates for and works toward policies and practices that maximize learning opportunities for children aged eight and younger.

  • Military Child Education Coalition

    This professional coalition is made up of educators, families, small businesses, and community organizations that provide educational resources for students from military families.

  • National Association for the Education of Young Children

    One of the largest professional organizations for early childhood educators, NAEYC provides resources for policymakers, advocates, and families.

  • National Black Child Development Institute

    The NBCDI strives to create opportunities for black children through education, healthcare, and family services. Members receive discounted admission to the annual NCBDI conference and access to continuing education programs.

  • Zero to Three

    This organization strives to ensure that infants and toddlers build the essential family and community connections critical for healthy brain development.

  • National Head Start Association

    NHSA provides schools and community organizations with research-backed educational models and resources. Members serve as policy advocates and receive discounts on NHSA events.

Students pursuing an early childhood education degree online qualify for numerous scholarships, grants, and other funding opportunities. Learners may be eligible for the following awards, as well as many others sponsored by nonprofits, churches, and private companies.

Early Childhood Education Scholarships

Teacher.org's Inspire Our Future Scholarship $500

While both aspiring and experienced educators are eligible to apply, all applicants must provide a 500-700 word response to a question posted on Teacher.org. View Scholarship

Sol Hirsch Education Fund Grants Up to $750

Presented annually, these need-based grants provide K-12 educators with funding for classroom resources, instructional workshops, and program implementation. View Scholarship

ILA Regie Routman Teacher Recognition Grant $2,500

This annual award recognizes K-8 teachers who provide exceptional reading and writing instruction. Applicants must be ILA members and work at a school where at least 60% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. View Scholarship

Delta Gamma Foundation Florence Margaret Harvey Memorial Scholarship $1,000

Undergraduate or graduate students who are legally blind and pursuing a degree in education or rehabilitation are eligible for this scholarship. View Scholarship

T.E.A.C.H. Scholarships 85% of tuition

This award covers tuition and book costs for students enrolled in accredited Minnesota institutions. Applicants must be employed at least part-time in an early childhood education or care provider program and enroll in Minnesota's Achieve organization. View Scholarship

Early Childhood Educators Scholarship in Massachusetts $4,500

Massachusetts educators enrolled in postsecondary educational programs who work with young children qualify for this scholarship. View Scholarship

National Education Association (NEA) Jack Kinnaman Scholarship $2,500

Student NEA members who demonstrate financial need, submit a 200-word essay, and provide two letters of recommendation are eligible for this scholarship. View Scholarship

TEACH Grant $4,000

This federal aid program is intended for postsecondary education students enrolled at participating schools. Graduates must spend at least four years teaching in a low-income school. Applicants must score in the top 75th percentile on a college admissions test or hold a cumulative 3.25 GPA at minimum. View Scholarship

The Roothbert Fund Scholarships $3,000

The Roothbert Fund awards 20 scholarships each year to students from all academic backgrounds, with preference given to prospective educators. Applicants must provide an essay, transcripts, recommendations, and undergo an interview. View Scholarship

Educational Advancement Foundation (EAF) Graduate Scholarships Varies

Applicants are full-time students committed to community service. Students with a minimum 3.0 GPA may qualify for merit scholarships, while candidates who demonstrate financial need and at least a 2.5 GPA may receive financial scholarships. Graduate-level applicants must provide evidence of community involvement, letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and a program acceptance letter. View Scholarship