2021 Best Online Early Childhood Education Degrees [Bachelor’s Guide]

Ready to start your journey?

If you love kids and love to see them encouraged and supported, now may be a great time to invest in getting an early childhood education degree online.

Online Early Childhood Education Degrees

Even educators don’t know which small child will grow up to be the next president or Nobel prize winner, but experts know that a skilled teacher in those early years may have a huge positive impact on a child’s long-term growth, development, and academic success.

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Now, more than ever, policy makers agree that public investments in early childhood programs are changing lives for the better.

Maybe one way to make a positive impact on society is by starting a career as an early childhood education professional… And, not only are the salaries themselves gratifying, the smiles and joy you experience every day may be priceless.

Early Childhood Education Degrees Online

Kindergarten Teacher building blocks with her students in class

Probably the most common career path aligned with an online degree in early childhood education is preschool or kindergarten teacher.

These teaching jobs are abundant across communities and neighborhoods, making them jobs you can typically find close to home. The settings for these jobs include schools and childcare centers—public, private, and faith-based.

Your online degree in early childhood education may open doors to the fascinating world of developmental psychology, childhood pedagogy, and instructional design.

You may learn evidence-based practices for effective reading and math instruction, for creating engaging learning environments, and for ways to help all children feel supported and included, even those with special developmental, behavioral, or other social or physical challenges.

Learning about early childhood growth, psychology, and human development can also help qualify you as an urgently needed support specialist who works alongside children with special learning or behavioral needs, or struggling with other individual, social, or environmental challenges.

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For example, developing expertise in early childhood learning may put you on a path to be a reading or speech therapy specialist, a child welfare specialist, or help provide early childhood occupational therapy support.

In any of these roles, you might work privately or in conjunction with schools, medical providers, government, or nonprofit agencies.

There’s also a need for committed and qualified preschool and childcare center directors and administrators who can help create nurturing environments, advocate for new funding sources, and recruit and train staff committed to children and to implementing the best practices in their field.

Down the road, if you wish to work with older children, your early childhood education online degree may be a great stepping stone for being an elementary or middle school teacher or special education expert.

Early Childhood Education Careers & Salaries

Early Childhood Education Careers & Salaries

When you think of career paths, teaching in public or private schools may be one way to apply what you learn with your early childhood education online degree. With that in mind, it’s good to remember that most states, in addition to degree requirements, have teacher licensing requirements that you’ll want to look into.

Maybe less obvious than teaching jobs are occupations with any number of agencies that support children and families directly, or that partner with schools to provide specialized child development and education support.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn on average $60,660 a year in a field forecast for 4% job growth.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Elementary School Counselor $64,960
Early Childhood Special Educator $61,400
Elementary School Teacher $60,940
Middle School Teacher $60,810
Special Education Kindergarten Teacher $60,620
Kindergarten Teacher $57,860
Social Worker $51,760
Preschool and Childcare Center Director $49,160
Preschool Teacher $31,930
Childcare Worker $25,460

Many families, schools, hospitals, and communities rely on professionals and paraprofessionals working for local or state health and human services agencies or assisting in for-profit or nonprofit organizations that provide consulting or specialized services supporting young children.

These services run the gamut… from learning intervention to behavioral therapy to learning strategies for children with autism. Those with degrees in early childhood education may also provide valuable family counseling or child abuse prevention services.

In other words, having a deep understanding of childhood development, pedagogy, and psychology as well as training in related legal and ethical standards, may give you critical insights for working in what, as you can see, is actually a very complex field.

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Teachers play perhaps the most central role in the day-to-day life of the young child, but there’s a whole web of services in our communities today that rely on professionals who understand the learning dynamics and social and psychological development of young children.

As you can see, getting an online early childhood education degree may open doors to many connected occupations all involved in helping very young children get off to the best start possible, no matter what challenges they might be experiencing.

Choosing an Online Early Childhood Education Degree

Early Childhood Education Degree student studying online

In light of some of the distinct pathways you might pursue, consider what kinds of pathways different course offerings best support when comparing online degree programs in early childhood education.

Most degree candidates may also want to consider what programs best fit their needs in terms of  more flexible or part-time schedule options. If you’re particularly interested in school teaching, you may want an opportunity to do field work in a real classroom setting.

This kind of field work or “student teaching” internship (usually with support and supervision from a mentor teacher and site director) is a common component of teacher education programs.

Keep in mind that while some online early childhood education degree programs may offer this kind of field study option, others may not. Also, you may want to check with the appropriate board in the state where you plan to work to see if internships like this are a mandatory requirement for teacher licensing.

Early Childhood Education Curriculum & Courses

Preschool Teacher teaching her students how to play a xylophone

The following list describes the kinds of courses you should expect to enroll in for completing your online degree in early childhood education:

  • Theories and Principles of Child Development: An introduction to the intriguing theorists and theories guiding early childhood education principles and practices, including fundamentals of academic, social, and emotional learning, environmental influences, and child assessment.
  • Developmental Psychology: A study of the stages and key determinants of human psycho-social and moral-spiritual understanding, growth, and development.
  • Pedagogical Theory in the Early Grades: Learn about current, evidence-based principles underlying our understanding of children’s sensory experiences and learning aptitudes as they apply to effective pedagogical practices.
  • Reading Instruction in Early Childhood: An overview of both the dominant approaches to reading instruction and of theoretical controversies in the field along with strategies for age-appropriate reading instruction and more specialized reading assessment and intervention.
  • Math Instruction in Early Childhood: Learn how to make abstract numeracy concepts tangible for young learners and discover effective approaches for sequencing instruction in foundational math concepts, for integrating math into playtime activities, for assessing math understanding, and for connecting math learning to childhood objects and experiences.
  • Curriculum Planning and Design: Learn the concepts, methods, and models that will equip you to be a master curriculum designer crafting imaginative, results-driven instructional units and daily activities that engage learners’ curiosity and align effectively with learning targets.
  • Administering Early Childhood Education: This class will help you prepare to be a child center or preschool director and teach you foundational legal, ethical, operational, and financial concepts for leading others in promoting safe, compliant, and effective curriculum and physical environments for early childhood education.
  • Early Childhood Physiology, Nutrition, and Wellness: An introduction to key aspects of physical development that characterize early childhood, with information on common physical disabilities, and an overview of key principles for supporting the physical and social-emotional wellness of young children.
  • Childhood and Family Dynamics and Culture: In the context of ethnically and culturally diverse communities, learn about family dynamics in relation to childhood learning and wellbeing while developing insights for effective parent outreach.
  • Language Acquisition and Development in Young Children: An overview of the complex processes underlying early childhood language acquisition, with applications for school learning, child assessment, and special-needs language intervention strategies.

If, like most people, you’ve taken the growing-up process for granted and you don’t have any prior early childhood course experience you may be surprised to discover just how fascinating the theories and discoveries in this field really are!

Admissions Requirements

Most online early education degree programs will require you to submit transcripts for any pre-requisite diplomas, degrees, or coursework.

An early childhood education associates degree online doesn’t require much, but if you’re seeking a bachelor’s degree for the first time, you’ll be asked to provide proof of high school graduation or the equivalent and some schools may still require SAT or ACT scores.

Similarly, a traditional or online masters degree in early childhood education will require a relevant bachelor’s degree, while a PhD in early childhood education is more competitive and may require a variety of things such as test scores, course pre-requisites, and a statement of purpose.

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If you’ve already completed an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree in another major, or any other college coursework, you may want to consider what schools and programs will allow you to transfer most or all of those course credits to your early childhood education online program, saving you time and money.

Accreditation

Early Childhood Education Degree Accreditation

We recommend you stick with fully accredited schools when considering which school best fits your needs and goals. Accreditation means a recognized third-party entity has certified that your school and program meet objective academic and institutional standards.

Selecting accredited schools helps ensure you’re getting the academic quality you deserve. It also means your accomplishments should be honored by other schools and prospective employers.

To learn more about accreditation or about related resources, you might want to check out a resource such as CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation).

Financial Aid and Scholarships

financial aid for Early Childhood Education Degree students

Wondering how you’ll pay for your early childhood education online degree? Your selected school may offer scholarships, or you may be eligible for employer-based tuition assistance if you’re already working in a related field.

Other common forms of financial aid include federal financial aid and state aid, work study programs, and subsidized federal loans. To apply for government assistance, we suggest you get an early start filling out your federal financial aid application (FAFSA).

What Can You Do With an Early Childhood Education Degree?

Preschool Teacher teaching a child in class

Your early childhood education degree online may show prospective employers that you’re not only excited about working with young children but may support quality programs with professional, evidence-based practices and methods.

With your early childhood education degree online, you may be eligible to work in a number of occupations paying between $25,000 and $60,000 on average, and likely more with post-baccalaureate degrees (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

These occupations may include preschool teachers, childcare workers, kindergarten and elementary school teachers, social workers, health educators, child center program directors, and behavioral and occupational therapy assistants. Remember that some teaching jobs may require additional state certification, permitting, or licensing.

How Much Does an Early Childhood Education Degree Program Cost?

Early Childhood Education Degree student studying on her laptop

Tuition will vary from school to school, but you can expect to pay between $300 and $500 per credit hour for many bachelors programs. As always, we recommend you apply only to fully accredited programs.

Also consider which programs provide support for field study opportunities, especially if a student teaching component is required for getting fully licensed as a teacher in the state where you plan to work.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Early Childhood Education Degree?

The time it takes to complete your online early childhood education degree depends on the program you choose and the kind of degree you’re pursuing, and whether you’re have prior course credits that can be transferred.

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Following a traditional, 16 week semester and attending full-time, a bachelor’s degree will typically take four years. If you follow an 8 week semester, enrolled year-round, you can often finish in less time.

Are There Any Affordable Early Childhood Education Online Programs?

Early Childhood Education Degree students studying together

Yes, there are affordable programs. Most bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education are 120 credit hours.

You can expect to pay between $300 to $500 per credit hour for your online program.

What is the Best Online School for Early Childhood Education?

In most cases, the best online school for getting your online degree in early childhood education is the one that best matches your individual needs and goals—whether it’s the quality of course offerings, more competitive tuition rates, or an online program from a school that provides on-campus resources as well.

While most online programs also offer greater choice, open enrollment dates, and flexible learning schedules, some may offer more flexibility or provide more accelerated degree completion options that work best for you.

What is the Highest Degree in Early Childhood Education?

college professor teaching in a university

The highest degree you can pursue in early childhood education is a doctorate degree (Ph.D. or Ed.D.).

As we’ve said, when it comes to the study of learning, language acquisition, developmental psychology, or special education assessment, interventions and law, the intellectual scope of early childhood education study really has no limits.

Since getting a doctorate degree involves extended study and writing a dissertation, it may take four to six years.

A Ph.D. or Ed.D. with a specialization in early childhood education and the right work experience should make you eligible for work as a college professor, policy expert, or an administrator in a government agency, a nonprofit, or a K-12 school district.

What Can You Do With an Early Childhood Education Degree Besides Teach?

childcare worker taking care of a baby in daycare center

With your online degree in early childhood education, you may have knowledge and training valuable in many non-teaching jobs. There are many private nonprofit and for-profit organizations and government agencies providing support services to young children and to schools and families with young children.

Social worker, preschool program director, health educator, behavior therapy program assistant, and childcare worker are some of the occupations filled by talented and knowledgeable early childhood education professionals (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Is an Early Childhood Education Degree Worth it?

Preschool teacher playing with a group of toddlers

Yes, an early childhood education degree online is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 5% job growth in education, training, and library occupations over the next 10 years. Common careers in this field include preschool teacher, elementary school teacher, family support specialist, early childhood special educator, and elementary school counselor.

As more and more policymakers come to recognize the long-term benefits of supporting children’s wellbeing and learning, there may be demand for individuals who love working with young children and can implement high-quality teaching and support programs.

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Those looking beyond teaching should remember that a degree in early childhood education is also a great foundation for more specialized careers in special education, social work, child psychology, or school administration.

Universities Offering Online Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Brandman University

Brandman University campus

At Brandman University, the bachelor’s degree in early childhood education gives a steady core education while training students in the art of teaching. Practicum and fieldwork are taken alongside lecture classes to balance out student learning. This degree can be taken hybrid or online.

  • BA in Early Childhood Education

Brandman University is accredited by the WSCUC Senior College and University Commission.

California Baptist University

California Baptist University campus

California Baptist University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Studies personalized to each student’s career goals. Students become experts at early childhood care in diverse environments, working alongside children with and without disabilities. This affordable, WASC accredited degree program can be completed in as early as 16 months.

  • BA in Early Childhood Studies

California Baptist University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Central Methodist University

Central Methodist University campus

Central Methodist University’s undergraduate degree in early childhood education is a flexible online program that prepares students to work with children in a variety of settings and environments. In this Bachelor of Science degree, students are prepared across subject fields with in-person education experience, including practicum and internships.

  • BS in Education – Early Childhood Education

Central Methodist University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Florida International University

Florida International University campus

At Florida International University, the Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education is an online program that helps students get the knowledge they need to excel as future teachers.

Students study early childhood psychology, development, and curriculum to receive a well-rounded education and provide a healthy classroom setting for their students.

  • BS in Early Childhood Education

Florida International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University’s Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education is a 120 credit hour course that takes around 3 to 4 years to complete.

Students receive CAEP accreditation in this 100% online degree program focused on student success and career readiness. Liberty also prepares students to move forward to a master’s degree in teaching, should they desire.

  • BS in Early Childhood Education

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

National University

National University campus

National University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education balances contemporary classroom theory and curriculum with early childhood psychology, preparing students for excellence as early childhood educators.

Students receive hands-on experience in the classroom alongside lectures and discussion courses during this 4 year degree program.

  • BA in Early Childhood Education

National University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Regent University

Regent University campus

Regent University’s fully online bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education is an awarded program, with over 800 alumni winning Teacher of the Year from their states and districts.

This program offers courses in child development and psychology alongside pedagogical tools so that graduates can provide the best learning environment for their future students.

  • BS in Early Childhood Education

Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix campus1

In the University of Phoenix’s Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education program, students learn how to create lesson plans and develop a creative learning environment for their early childhood students.

Students learn pedagogical tools alongside community responsibility and engagement so they can be leaders both inside and outside of the classroom.

  • BS in Education – Early Childhood Education

The University of Phoenix is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Washington

University of Washington campus

The University of Washington’s Bachelor of Arts in Early Care and Education degree is an online program that can be completed in 2 to 3 years. With flexible classes and a dedicated faculty, students become experts in child psychology, teaching, and lesson planning. Students gain academic experience to bolster their teaching skills.

  • BA in Early Care and Education

The University of Washington is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

University of Wisconsin – River Falls

University of Wisconsin River Falls campus

The University of Wisconsin at River Falls offers a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education that is flexible and affordable. Students design their course loads to customize their bachelor’s experience, tailoring their learning to their unique talents and needs. Students graduate prepared to excel in their careers as early childhood educators.

  • BS in Early Childhood Education

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Early Childhood Education Degree Online

Early Childhood Education Degree student studying on her laptop in a park

If you want to love what you do and be loved by those you do it for, the young children, then getting an online early childhood education degree might be right for you.

You may not only get rewarded a good salary, you’ll likely find it hard to quantify the joy you get from making such an important difference in young children’s hearts and lives every day.

Working with young children is both rewarding and challenging, but the knowledge you may have earned in your degree program may allow you to hit the ground running, making positive contributions to children, colleagues, and programs.

Ready to start your journey?
Keith Nickolaus
WRITTEN BY
Keith Nickolaus
Keith has a Ph.D. and a M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of California - Berkeley and a B.A. in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz. A retired educator, Keith lives in Berkeley and researches and writes about trends in education leadership, innovation, and policy.