Studying Early Childhood Education

I’m interested in studying early childhood education. What can you tell me?

Early childhood education is a subject for people who are passionate about helping young children grow and learn. Early childhood educators are responsible for preparing children from birth to the age of 8 for the formal education system. Creative play and movement are central components of early childhood classrooms and learning centers. But the job of an early childhood educator is not all fun and games. If you choose to study early childhood education, be prepared to spend several hours each week planning lessons, managing classroom behavior and assessing the academic and social progress of your students. Many early childhood educators find it rewarding to help children learn, but unfortunately, they typically experience low wages and few benefits. The amount of education required to work in early childhood education depends on the specific job you want and the state where you live. In some cases you can work in a childcare center or preschool with an associates degree or less. But if you want to be an elementary school teacher, you will need to earn at least a bachelors degree through a teaching program approved by your state.

Let's hear some other perspectives

An Interview with Dessa Delfin

Dessa Delfin

Student, Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies,Texas State University

“Although a program in early childhood education requires a lot of work, you should leave time for yourself while earning your degree.”Read the Full Interview

An Interview with Brooke Hall

Brooke Hall

Graduate, Master of Arts in Elementary Education,Antioch University

“I chose to get a masters degree in elementary education because I wanted to enter a field where I could work with younger people, and I thought teaching was the best way to work with this age group while maintaining some creative autonomy.”Read the Full Interview

An Interview with Dianna Zink

Dianna Zink

Director of Early Learning Campus,University of Louisville

“It is amazing to work with children and to help them develop a love of learning.”Read the Full Interview

Early Childhood Educator Overview

Executive Director, Preschool,Ellen GreeneWatch Her Story
video

What exactly is an early childhood educator?

Early childhood educators instruct and care for children from birth to the age of 8. They foster young children's growth through a blend of structured learning activities and supervised play. Typically, early childhood educators either work as childcare providers or early elementary school teachers. In both of these roles, early childhood educators can work for either private or public institutions.

Childcare Providers

Childcare providers, or daycare providers as they were once commonly known, offer a safe place for children to stay while their parents are busy. They work at childcare centers that usually do not focus on academics. Instead, childcare providers oversee the well-being of infants and children up to about 8 years old by supplying nourishment, games and activities. Some childcare providers care for many children at a chain of childcare centers, while others operate out of their own homes and care for just a few children.

Early Elementary School Teachers

Early elementary school teachers introduce children to concepts of reading, writing, numbers and creative arts. They also teach children how to interact socially with others. This group of educators includes preschool and kindergarten teachers as well as first, second and third grade teachers. They work in public and private elementary schools. Often, the lead teacher works with an assistant teacher in preschool and kindergarten classrooms.

Let's hear some other perspectives

An Interview with Brittney Osborn

Brittney Osborn

Early Childhood Educator,Montessori School, Bellevue, WA

“I love to see the excitement and enthusiasm that young children have for learning, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”Read the Full Interview

Personality Quiz

How do I know if early childhood education would be a good fit for me?

Here is a quick quiz to help you decide if you have the personality it takes to succeed as an early childhood educator. Rate, on a scale from 1 to 5, how well each of the following statements describes you.

I enjoy working with young children.

Early childhood education involves teaching and nurturing children from birth to the age of 8. If you do not like young children, you will not make a good early childhood educator.

I am a leader who is comfortable being in charge.

As assistant teachers or daycare providers, early childhood educators are often solely responsible for caring for many children at once. Confident leaders will have no problem supporting young learners in the early childhood classroom

I am observant.

The early childhood classroom is 1 of the first places that students learn social and academic skills. Early childhood educators need to monitor children’s progress in many different areas.

I stay calm in the face of conflict.

Young children often act out against authority figures through tantrums. You will need to remain composed when you have to discipline children.

I interact with others in positive and healthy ways.

Early childhood educators teach children acceptable social behaviors like sharing and cooperation. You will need to model these behaviors consistently to reinforce appropriate social skills.

I am playful.

Successful early childhood educators use imagination, creativity and unstructured play to help children learn. Very serious people may find it hard to connect with small children.

I can keep track of many things at the same time.

Early childhood educators keep track of many children and tasks simultaneously. You will need to be able to manage your time well and quickly switch from 1 task to another to keep classrooms and daycare centers functioning smoothly.

I am not squeamish about bodily functions.

Working with small children includes caring for their bodily needs. If you are considering a career in early childhood education, be ready to provide first aid, clean up bathroom accidents and change diapers.

I know how to communicate ideas with simply language.

An educator’s job is to pass on knowledge. You will need to plainly express concepts at a level that young children can understand in order to be an effective early childhood educator.

I enjoy interacting with people from different backgrounds.

Childcare centers and schools in the United States reflect the country’s diverse population. You will need to be comfortable working with children whose cultural or ethnic background is unfamiliar to you.

Get My Score

*Note that this is not a scientific quiz. The result is simply my rough estimate of how well I believe your personality matches that of a successful early childhood educator.

By my assessment, a career in early childhood education is probably not a good fit for your personality. Please go to the Admissions Advisor homepage for a listing of other careers you may want to consider.

By my assessment, although a career in early childhood education may not be an ideal fit for your personality, if you are willing to adapt in a few areas, you can still find success in the field. Please see the list to the right for information on the areas that you may need to work on.

By my assessment, your personality is a good fit for a career in early childhood education. Scroll through our site to gain valuable insight into what it will take you to earn the necessary credentials.

Making the Right Choice

Is there anything else I should consider in deciding if early childhood education is the right choice for me?

If you are considering studying early childhood education, you should know that your degree may not be enough to qualify you for a job in this field. For certain jobs, you will need to obtain extra credentials, which vary according to your state and the area of early childhood education that you want to pursue.

Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential

Many childcare centers and preschools prefer that their workers earn a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential. While a CDA Credential does not qualify you to work in schools, it proves that you have been trained in childcare and helps to ensure that you will find employment as a childcare provider or preschool teacher. The CDA Credential is a national credential issued by the Council for Professional Recognition, which is associated with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). A CDA Credential will need to be renewed every 3 years.

The CDA Credential is offered in 4 areas of concentration:

  • Preschool
  • Infant/Toddler
  • Family Childcare
  • Home Visitor

To be eligible to earn a CDA Credential, you need to be at least a junior in high school. High school students who wish to earn a CDA Credential must be enrolled in an early childhood education vocational program. Before you can apply for the CDA Credential, you must complete 120 hours of formal early childhood education training and have 480 hours of professional experience as an educator. In addition, you will be observed while working with young children in a group setting. Your application for a CDA Credential will include a professional resource file that you will create and a fee.

Teaching License

If you plan to enter the field of early childhood education at the elementary level, you will need to obtain your teaching license. All states require teachers to become licensed by earning a bachelors degree and completing a teaching program approved by the state. Teaching programs include a student teaching requirement in which you will work in the classroom and receive mentoring and feedback from the classroom teacher. You will also need to pass a test and pursue continuing education credits throughout your career to keep your teaching license current.

Early Childhood Education Professions

What early childhood education professions can I choose from?

The most common professions within the field of early childhood education include:

Education Required:

High school diploma; some states require a CDA Credential (120 hours)

Average Salary:

$9.12 / hour (Lowest 10% earned less than $7.04; highest 10% earned
more than $13.98)

Work Environment:

Childcare centers, private homes, elementary schools

Job Description:

Childcare providers take care of children from birth to about 8 years old while their parents are busy. They provide snacks, meals and supervised activities. They are responsible for the special care of babies and toddlers, which includes changing diapers and encouraging and supporting nap time.

Education Required:

Masters (2 – 3 years)

Average Salary:

$39,940 (Lowest 10% earned less than $25,910; highest 10% earned
more than $77,150)

Work Environment:

Childcare centers

Job Description:

Preschool and daycare directors are responsible for establishing the goals and learning standards within their facilities. They develop their facility’s program and attend to administrative tasks like admissions. They are in charge of marketing through tours and publicity, overseeing the staff and interacting with parents.

Education Required:

Varies by state from high school diploma to associates (2 years)

Average Salary:

$22,200 (Lowest 10% earned less than $15,300; highest 10% earned
more than $34,000)

Work Environment:

Childcare centers, elementary schools

Job Description:

Teacher assistants help the lead preschool teacher to instruct the class. They often take over the non-academic tasks of early childhood education, such as serving snacks, escorting the children to other classes and supervising recess.

Education Required:

Varies by state from high school diploma to bachelors (4 years)

Average Salary:

$23,870 (Lowest 10% earned less than $16,030; highest 10% earned more
than $41,660)

Work Environment:

Childcare centers, private homes, elementary schools

Job Description:

Preschool teachers prepare 3- to 5-year-old children for the formal schooling that they will receive in kindergarten. They teach basic academic skills like letters, numbers and shapes to children using a blend of structured lessons and supervised play. They also communicate with parents about the academic and social progress that their children are making.

Education Required:

Bachelors (4 years); public schools require teaching license

Average Salary:

$46,000

Work Environment:

Elementary schools

Job Description:

Kindergarten teachers plan a curriculum to teach 5- to 6-year-old children basic academics like numbers, phonics and simple science concepts using games, music, artwork and hands-on activities. They may work part time or full time, depending on their school district. Sometimes, kindergarten teachers have help from a teacher assistant.

Education Required:

Bachelors (4 years); public schools require a teaching license

Average Salary:

$55,000

Work Environment:

Elementary schools

Job Description:

First, second or third grade teachers are responsible for teaching many subjects to a single class. Early elementary school teachers plan and teach lessons in arithmetic, science, literacy, computer skills and social studies. They also grade students’ work. Additional duties may include supervising breaks such as lunch or recess, taking children on field trips and leading parent conferences.

Job Outlook

What is the job outlook for early child educators?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008, there were approximately 457,200 working preschool teachers in childcare centers and elementary schools. Employment of preschool teachers overall is predicted to grow by an average of 19% over the next 10 years, which is faster than the expected growth for all occupations. Job prospects are very bright for those interested in early child education because the field experiences high turnover. Trained early childhood educators should have little trouble finding a job in this field.
Profession Employment 2010 Projected 2020 Average Growth
Preschool Teacher 456800 570400 25%
Childcare Worker 1282300 1544300 20%
Elementary School Teacher 1476500 1725300 17%
Health Educator 63400 86600 37%
Kindergarten Teacher 179200 211900 18%
Preschool Special Education Teacher 222800 270200 21%
Special Education Teacher 222800 270200 21%
Child, Family, Or School Social Worker 295700 353900 20%
Teacher Assistant 1288300 1479300 15%

Average Salary Growth 2006 - 2011

Profession 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Preschool Teacher 25900 25800 26610 27450 29200 30150
Childcare Worker 18820 19670 20350 20940 21110 21320
Elementary School Teacher 48700 50040 52240 53150 54330 55270
Health Educator 45370 47340 48590 49060 50270 52150
Kindergarten Teacher 47040 47750 49770 50380 51550 52350
Preschool Special Education Teacher 49710 51230 52970 53770 55220 56460
Special Education Teacher 49710 51230 52970 53770 55220 56460
Child, Family, Or School Social Worker 40640 41920 43120 43540 43850 44410
Teacher Assistant 21860 22820 23560 24280 24880 25270

Salary By Percentile

Profession 10th 25th 50th 75th 90th
Preschool Teacher $17750 $20720 $26620 $35600 $48080
Childcare Worker $16220 $17530 $19430 $23950 $29510
Elementary School Teacher $34910 $42410 $52840 $66330 $81230
Health Educator $26860 $34970 $47940 $65520 $85490
Kindergarten Teacher $32100 $39910 $49520 $62770 $76900
Preschool Special Education Teacher $35170 $42890 $53440 $67200 $84320
Special Education Teacher $35170 $42890 $53440 $67200 $84320
Child, Family, Or School Social Worker $26190 $32520 $40680 $53650 $70050
Teacher Assistant $17090 $19160 $23580 $29790 $36560

Education Requirements

How long would it take me to become an early childhood educator?

Educational requirements for early childhood educators vary by position and state. For example, if you want to work at a daycare, you may be able to start with only a high school diploma.

But if you want to be an elementary school teacher, you will need to earn a bachelors degree and a teaching license. Bachelors degree programs typically take 4 years to complete and will often require you to complete a 6- to 12-month student teaching internship during the last year of study. After you graduate, you will be able to apply for a teaching license. The specific requirements for earning a teaching license will vary according to the state where you want to teach.

Finally, many administrative positions in early childhood education, like daycare director, require a masters degree. Masters degree programs usually take 1 to 3 years to complete.

Areas of Study

What can I expect to learn while studying early childhood education?

You can expect to grow in both knowledge and skills as you study early childhood education.

KNOWLEDGE

Early Childhood Classroom Curriculum

Early childhood classroom curriculum consists of basic academic and life skills that prepare students to enter the formal education system. The curriculum of an early childhood classroom includes basic skills like counting, shape recognition and handwriting. The curriculum also focuses on social abilities that children need like following directions, working together and sharing.

Curriculum Design

Curriculum design is the process of planning the content and sequence of lessons. Classes in curriculum design provide future teachers with the ability to prepare age-appropriate lessons for young children. Elements of curriculum design include setting reasonable goals for each lesson, using engaging learning materials and judging the value of a lesson.

Learning Style Theory

Learning styles are the different ways that students absorb information. Learning style theory help teachers plan lessons that appeal to the various ways that children learn: by seeing, hearing and doing. Learning style theory also includes multiple intelligence theory, which outlines several distinct ways that people demonstrate intelligence.

Teaching Strategies

Teaching strategies, which are also called instructional strategies, are the different approaches that an educator can take to teach a lesson. Teaching strategies cover various ways to communicate information so that students with different learning styles can understand a lesson. Some examples of early childhood education teaching strategies are the use of flashcards or songs to help children remember information.

Child Development

Child development refers to the physical, emotional and intellectual changes that children experience as they mature. It covers the basic nutritional and environmental needs that must be met in order for children to grow. Child development theories offer a timeline for the ways that children should develop social skills, language and motor skills.

SKILLS

Instruction

As an early childhood education student, many of your classes will center on ways to become an effective instructor of small children. You will learn how to choose the best teaching strategies in order to present information clearly. You will also discover how to monitor your class for comprehension and how to adapt your lessons for students with different learning styles.

Classroom Management

A degree in education at any level will teach you ways to maintain control of your classroom. You will discover how to enforce positive behavior and prevent negative behavior. When challenges do occur in your classroom, you will know how to use age-appropriate discipline methods to deal with them constructively.

Time Management

As you progress through your early childhood education courses, you will learn that effective time management is central to teaching. You will learn how to vary activities within your classroom to fit the attention span of young children. You will also develop routines that your students will follow to save time when completing daily tasks like cleaning, lining up and eating.

Decision Making

As an early childhood educator, you will need to rely on your own judgment to make choices about curriculum design, instructional techniques and classroom management. Your early childhood education curriculum will teach you how to assess the potential outcomes of different actions so that you can choose the best option.

Interpersonal Communication

A degree in early childhood education will give you tools to communicate with and relate to young children. You will also learn tactful ways to discuss your students’ progress with their parents and how to cooperate with your co-workers. You will learn how to listen actively to the concerns of parents and children.

Academic Degrees

What academic levels are available in the field of early childhood education?

Early childhood education credentials are available at the associates, bachelors, masters and doctorate levels. You can also earn undergraduate and graduate certificates. Before you decide what level of early childhood education you want to pursue, remember that educational requirements vary widely according to:

  • The type of facility that you want to work in, such as a daycare center versus school
  • Whether you work in a public or private school
  • What state you work in

Select the degree level you are interested in:

  • Certificate
  • Associate’s
  • Bachelor’s
  • Master’s
  • Doctorate

Certificate

Some schools offer certificate programs in early childhood education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It is important to understand that an undergraduate or graduate certificate in early childhood education carries less weight than a CDA Credential or a state-endorsed teaching license.

All public schools require that teachers earn a teaching license through their state. The state licensing process requires that prospective teachers earn a bachelors degree, undergo a 6-to 12-month student teaching internship and sit for an exam. You should carefully research any program that offers a certificate in early childhood education so that you will know exactly what qualifications you will hold after you complete the program. Private schools may have different requirements for their teachers and may not ask teachers to hold a teaching license.

Undergraduate Certificates

An undergraduate certificate in early childhood education prepares students to work in preschools or daycare centers with infants, toddlers and preschoolers. But it does not qualify you to teach in public elementary schools. An undergraduate certificate is less valuable than the nationally recognized CDA Credential. However, you may apply the training hours that you receive through an undergraduate certificate program toward the CDA Credential, which requires 120 hours of formal instruction in early childhood education.

Graduate Certificates

Graduate certificates in early childhood education are often called endorsements. Only people who have graduated from a bachelors program and hold a valid state teaching license can earn a graduate certificate or endorsement in early childhood education. A graduate certificate or endorsement is a good option for secondary school educators who are already teaching other grade levels.

What are the different types of certificates that I can earn in early childhood education?

Undergraduate Certificate in Early Childhood Education

An undergraduate certificate in early childhood education provides you with basic knowledge of child development. This option is best for those who are working toward a CDA Credential or who want to become daycare providers or teacher assistants.

Graduate Certificate/Endorsement in Early Childhood Education

A graduate certificate or endorsement in early childhood education qualifies certified teachers to teach kindergarten, first and second grade. This option is only for people who already hold a valid state teaching certificate.

How long will I have to study to earn my certificate in early childhood education?

Undergraduate Certificates

Undergraduate certificate programs usually consist of 15 to 30 credit hours and 6 to 12 months of study, depending on the length and depth of the program.

Graduate Certificates

Graduate certificate or endorsement programs usually consist of 20 to 30 credit hours and can be completed in 1 year or less.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my certificate in early childhood education?

Undergraduate Certificates

To earn an undergraduate certificate in early childhood education, you will take introductory classes that describe different early childhood professions. You will also take classes like child development, curriculum design and child health and nutrition. You will not take core classes because an undergraduate certificate does not lead to an associates degree.

Graduate Certificates

To earn a graduate certificate or endorsement in early childhood education, you will take advanced classes in subjects like advocacy in early childhood education, child development, assessment of the young child, special education, child psychology and socioeconomics. Many programs also require a short-term student teaching internship.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a certificate in early childhood education?

Undergraduate Certificates

An undergraduate certificate in early childhood education qualifies you to be a daycare provider. In some states, you will be qualified to be a preschool teacher or teacher assistant. Undergraduate certificates hold the least value of any early childhood certification option.

Graduate Certificates

A graduate certificate is a professional teaching endorsement that is granted only to people who already hold a valid state teaching license. It qualifies educators to teach preschool through third grade in public elementary schools. This is the best route for secondary school and middle school educators to learn how to teach early childhood education.

What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my certificate in early childhood education?

Undergraduate Certificates

Undergraduate certificates are typically offered by community colleges and online schools.

Graduate Certificates

If you decide to pursue a graduate certificate or endorsement in early childhood education, you should keep accreditation in mind. Make sure that the department of education at your school is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education to ensure that your endorsement will be valid in your state.

What are the requirements for admission into a graduate certificate program in early childhood education?

To gain admission into an early childhood education graduate certificate or endorsement program, you must have a bachelors degree and a valid state tea

What about getting an online certificate in early childhood education?

Undergraduate Certificates

Because undergraduate certificate programs are theory-based and do not require an internship component, there are no significant drawbacks to pursuing them online. However, you may want to consult with potential or current employers in your state to determine if they will value an online certificate as much as a certificate that is earned from a traditional institution.

Graduate Certificates

There are few downsides to earning a graduate certificate or endorsement in early childhood education online. This is because graduate certificates and endorsements in early childhood education are only available to professional educators who have already earned their teaching licenses. Therefore, these educators have already gained valuable on-the-job experience and will not be held back by an online certificate program that lacks hands-on training.

Associates Degree

Many schools offer associates degrees in early childhood education. An associates degree will teach you the basics of child development and techniques for teaching early childhood education. This level of degree is suitable for people who want to work at daycares or in preschools. However, it will not prepare you to teach grades higher than preschool.

What are the different types of associates degrees that I can earn in early childhood education?

Associate in Arts AA

An AA degree in early childhood education has a liberal arts focus, but there is little difference between this degree and the AS. The AA is designed for people who plan to transfer to another school to obtain a bachelors degree.

Associate in Science AS

An AS degree in early childhood education has a scientific and mathematical course focus. The AS is designed for people who plan to transfer to another school to obtain a bachelors degree.

Associate in Applied Science AAS

An AAS degree in early childhood education consists of courses that teach the most practical aspects of the career. The AAS is designed for people who plan to enter the workforce directly.

How long will I have to study to earn my associates degree in early childhood education?

An associates degree in early childhood education typically takes 2 years to complete, or about 60 credit hours.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my associates degree in early childhood education?

To earn an associates degree in early childhood education, you will supplement general core classes like English, mathematics and history with classes designed to prepare you to care for children. Although exact course requirements vary by program, you will take classes like child development, child psychology, interpersonal communication, teaching special education and nutrition for early childhood. Many programs also include practical classroom experience through classroom observation or practicums.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with an associates degree in early childhood education?

An associates degree in early childhood education will qualify you to be an assistant preschool teacher, substitute preschool teacher or daycare provider in any state. In some states, it will qualify you to be the lead preschool teacher. Be sure to research the qualifications for the state in which you want to work before choosing to pursue an associates degree in early childhood education.

What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my associates degree in early childhood education?

One thing to consider when deciding on a school for your early childhood education associates degree is accreditation. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Commission on Early Childhood Associate Degree Accreditation confers accreditation on schools whose associate degree programs meet the Professional Preparation Standards, which are a set of national early childhood education standards. More than 125 associates degree programs have been accredited by the NAEYC. While it is not mandatory to attend an accredited early childhood education program in order to find employment, if a school’s program is accredited you can be assured of a quality education.

Another consideration when obtaining your associates degree in early childhood education is whether your credits can transfer to a 4-year school. If you are planning to pursue a bachelors degree in order to teach at the elementary level, check with the 4-year schools that you are considering to make sure your associates degree credits are transferable.

What about getting an online associates degree in early childhood education?

Some schools offer an online associates degree in early childhood education. Keep in mind that teaching is a hands-on job that requires constant interaction with children. Therefore, while pursuing an online associates degree in early childhood education may provide you with theoretical knowledge, you may not receive the practical experience that you would at a traditional campus. However, high-quality online early childhood education associates degree programs will require a practicum to make sure that you get practical experience working with children. Therefore, pursuing an associates degree in early childhood education online is a viable option if the program you choose has an internship or practicum component.

Bachelors Degree

Earning your bachelors degree in early childhood education will qualify you for the majority of jobs in this field, including daycare provider, preschool teacher and teacher assistant. Some early childhood education bachelors degree programs are more extensive than others. The more extensive programs will train you to teach children from birth to 8 years old. These programs usually require a semester-long student teaching internship that leads to teaching certification and qualifies you to teach in public schools up to second grade. Less extensive programs do not include a teaching certificate and will only qualify you to work as a preschool teacher or daycare provider, so you should research the program that you are considering carefully so you know which jobs you will be qualified for when you graduate.

What are the different types of bachelors degrees that I can earn in early childhood education?

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

A BA degree in early childhood requires more liberal arts courses so you will study the humanities along with early childhood education.

Bachelor of Science (BS)

A BS degree in early childhood education requires more scientific and mathematical courses. There is little difference between this option and the BA degree.

How long will I have to study to earn my bachelors degree in early childhood education?

A bachelors degree in early childhood education typically takes 4 to 5 years to complete, or about 120 credit hours.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my bachelors degree in early childhood education?

Although exact requirements vary from program to program, most early childhood education bachelors degree programs require students to complete general education courses in subjects such as mathematics, science and humanities in addition to classes specifically designed to prepare you to work with young children. Such classes include educational technology, child development and psychology, classroom management, special education and child health and safety. Most programs incorporate a student teaching internship as well.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a bachelors degree in early childhood education?

After you earn a bachelors degree in early childhood education, you will be qualified to work as a preschool teacher or as a childcare center director. If you earn your state teaching license through a student teaching internship and taking a state exam, you will be qualified to teach kindergarten, first and second grade in public elementary schools in the state where you earned your teaching certificate. But you should keep in mind that each state has a unique teaching certification process, so if you want to be certified in a state other than the 1 where you went to school, you may have to complete additional requirements.

What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my bachelors degree in early childhood education?

The first thing to consider when deciding on a school for your early childhood education bachelors degree is what type of environment you want to work in. If you want to teach preschool or work in a daycare, it is not necessary to choose a school that requires a student teaching internship. However, if you want to work in an elementary school, you need to choose a program that leads to teacher certification through a student teaching internship.

Once you know what type of facility you want to work for, look for a program with accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which works in partnership with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Accreditation is not mandatory, but if the NCATE has awarded a school with this honor, you will know you are attending a high-quality early childhood education program.

What about getting an online bachelors degree in early childhood education?

The most important thing to know about pursuing an online bachelors degree in early childhood education is that it will not be entirely online. That is because a quality program requires students to complete many hours in the classroom through observation and a practicum. That means a hybrid program, which allows you to complete coursework online, is the best option for pursing an online early childhood education bachelors degree. If you want to teach in a public school, you should only pursue an online degree that includes a student teaching internship. An online early childhood education bachelors degree without an internship will not qualify you to teach in public schools.

Masters Degree

People often choose to get a masters degree in early childhood education because it fulfills the continuing education requirements that are needed in order to stay employed in many jobs within early childhood education. In the general field of education, teachers are required to complete continuing education courses periodically in order to keep their teaching licenses updated. Other educators choose to get their masters degrees in order to go into school administration. The best degree path for administrators is the Master of Education, which is not a teaching degree.

If you choose to pursue a masters degree in early childhood education, you will perform original academic research related to the way that young children develop academically and socially. Many masters programs require that students write an original thesis, which is an extended research paper on a specialized topic that they have thoroughly researched.

What are the different types of masters degrees that I can earn in early childhood education?

Master of Arts MA

An MA degree in early childhood education is a flexible program that allows students to specialize in concentrations like child psychology or special education.

Master of Science MS

An MS degree in early childhood education allows students to take a scientific approach to studying education through research and evaluation.

Master of Education MEd

An MEd degree in early childhood education is not a teaching degree. It is the best option for students who want to pursue educational administration and run a school.

How long will I have to study to earn my masters degree in early childhood education?

A masters degree in early childhood education typically takes 1 to 3 years to complete, or between 30 to 40 credit hours.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my masters degree in early childhood education?

As you pursue a masters degree in early childhood education, you will take classes that help you develop an understanding of how children learn through play and direct instruction. You are likely to take classes like language development and cognition in children, early intervention for children with special needs, family relationships and foundation of educational thought. Some masters programs also require students to complete a thesis paper.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a masters degree in early childhood education?

A masters degree in early childhood education can serve as continuing education for individuals who hold bachelors degrees in the field, or it can serve as your only path to teacher certification. Although a masters degree is not necessary to teach early childhood education, it qualifies you to be a preschool or childcare center director or an academic researcher. Even if you have a masters degree, you still need a teaching license to teach kindergarten through second grade.

What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my masters degree in early childhood education?

Your biggest consideration should be whether the program is accredited. Accreditation is a credential that schools seek voluntarily. Early childhood education masters degree programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, a partner of National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Accreditation is not mandatory, but you can be sure that you are getting a top-quality education if you attend an accredited school.

Most people who earn a masters degree in early childhood education will already have practical experience teaching young children. If that is the case, it is not necessary to choose a masters degree program that offers an internship.

What are the requirements for admission into a masters degree program in early childhood education?

Most schools that offer a masters degree in early childhood education require applicants to hold a bachelors degree and have many hours of professional experience working with children. The exact number of required documented hours varies by institution. Many schools also require applicants to submit scores from the GRE exam. Acceptable GRE scores vary by institution.

What about getting an online masters degree in early childhood education?

Some schools offer a partially online masters degree in early childhood education. Many of these programs require students to participate in a practicum by traveling to classroom settings to observe or perform original research. These hybrid programs are not completed entirely online so there is no drawback to pursuing an online masters degree in early childhood education.

Doctorate

A doctorate is the highest graduate-level degree that you can earn in the field of early childhood education. People who earn doctorates in early childhood education either teach or research at the university level or become school administrators.

What are the different types of doctorates that I can earn in early childhood education?

Doctor of Philosophy PhD

A PhD in early childhood education is designed to prepare students for leadership roles at all levels of early childhood education. This is a good option for people who want to become school administrators or university faculty.

Doctor of Education EdD

A EdD degree in early childhood education is not a teaching degree. It is the best option for students who want to pursue educational research at the doctorate level.

How long will I have to study to earn my doctorate in early childhood education?

A doctorate in early childhood education typically consists of 60 to 90 credit hours, which typically requires 3 to 5 years of study.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my doctorate in early childhood education?

Although exact requirements vary by program, a typical doctorate in early childhood education program requires advanced coursework in curriculum design, instruction techniques, psychological and social development of young children and advanced research methods. Most doctorate programs also require students to complete a dissertation, which is an original book-length paper that you write based on your own research into a specialized area of study.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a doctorate in early childhood education?

A doctorate in early childhood education qualifies you to teach and research at the university level or to be a school administrator. School administrators manage the day-to-day operations of schools, daycare centers or colleges.

What are the requirements for admission into a doctorate program in early childhood education?

In addition to general requirements, admission to doctorate programs in early childhood education requires a year or more of professional experience.

What about getting an online doctorate in early childhood education?

It is not a good idea to pursue an online doctorate in early childhood education. Many doctorate programs in early childhood education require part-time residency, which means that you have to be physically present on campus for at least 1 semester. Therefore, residency requirements negate the purpose of online learning for many people. Also, as a doctoral candidate, you may be required to teach undergraduate classes and participate in discussion and collaborative projects with faculty, which will be extremely difficult to do online. Finally, online doctorates in early childhood education are not well respected. Thus, getting an online doctorate in early childhood education is not recommended.

Licensing Information

What else should I keep in mind when considering studying early childhood education?

Practicums

Before you devote yourself to early childhood education, you should be aware of the challenging working conditions of the job. The best way to see what being an early childhood educator actually entails is to gain some work experience in a classroom or at a childcare center. Many programs at all degree levels will require you to complete either a full-semester internship or a shorter practicum in an early childhood education setting prior to graduation. Early childhood education programs at the bachelors level and higher commonly require you to have a number of documented hours of experience with young children prior to admission.

Questions & Answers

Select a category to find answers to your questions

Resources

What are some other resources that can help me learn more about pursuing a degree or certificate in early childhood education?

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Childcare Workers

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Teachers—Preschool, Except Special Education

National Association for the Education of Young Children

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

National Childcare Information Center

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education

Council for Professional Recognition