An early childhood education degree introduces future teachers to learning theories, concepts and strategies for infant to primary school aged children. Some education advocacy groups have noted a marked decline in the academic performance of students in the United States in comparison with those in other countries. Subsequently, special programs have been initiated at all grade levels to help close the perceived learning gap, and a great deal of those initiatives are aimed at improving early childhood development and education. Here are some of the course topics that prospective teachers can expect to take when pursuing degrees in early childhood education.
Top 30 Affordable Early Childhood Education Degree Online Programs (Bachelor’s)
Many early childhood education degree programs help teachers to guide the physical, emotional and intellectual growth of their students. Course topics in childhood development instruct students on how to identify the stages of development in these areas and how to encourage growth in children who have different learning styles. These future teachers learn how to plan activities and games for their students that support the advancement of social abilities, physical coordination and motor skills. This type of course also introduces future teachers to the industry and state standards for preschool and kindergarten education as they pertain to childhood growth and development.
Language and Literacy
The ability to communicate well is essential for the cultivation of successful personal and professional relationships throughout one’s life. The years associated with early childhood education are the ones that are the most important for language development. It is the period when some parents choose to introduce their children to multiple languages that they seem to absorb with relative ease. It is also the time when neglected children fail to develop the necessary abilities to express themselves effectively in any language. Future early childhood education teachers are taught how to assess the linguistic development stages of their students and create lesson plans to promote language acquisition and communication skills that prepare young learners for literacy during their primary school years.
Special Needs in Early Childhood Development
The best time to identify whether children require special needs in academic settings is in the early childhood development stage. These special needs could be related to physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities; they could also address the issues surrounding childhood behavioral disorders. Courses that focus on these exceptional children introduce instructors to the appropriate ways of addressing the special learning requirements of these children according to the industry and state standards. Special needs courses also train future instructors on how to identify gifted students and help them to develop their talents. Many of these courses reflect the concept that it takes a village to raise a child, and instructors learn about programs sponsored by state and local agencies in their communities that help special needs children to receive the same level of quality education as all other students.
Childhood Creative Development
A casual observer into a classroom led by an instructor who is promoting childhood creative development would likely think that the young students are simply playing and having fun. However, future early childhood education instructors are trained in their degree program course work to structure play time for young learners in ways that help to facilitate artistic expression in drama, drawing, dance and music.
Many people regard early childhood education teaching positions as some of the most important in the field of education. It is during the early stages of development that children learn languages, establish cognitive skills and cultivate creative abilities. Early childhood education degree programs make sure that teachers of these young learners make the most of that critical time in children’s lives.
Earning an early childhood education degree will prepare you for a rewarding career teaching young children, ranging in age from birth to eight or nine years old, which is traditionally about 3rd grade. Early childhood educators play a critical role in their students’ lives; they lay the foundation for a lifetime love of learning. They may also be expected to identify and instruct children with special needs, learning disabilities, or developmental delays. The ideal candidate for an early childhood education job will be service oriented, with good communication and active listening skills. The job requires dependability, integrity, and adaptability. Many schools offer an early childhood education degree online, which can allow a student to study on their own time and at their own pace, often while maintaining regular employment. You can learn more about how to become an early childhood educator on our career guide and continue reading below to find out more about early childhood education degree programs.
Early Childhood Education Degree Requirements and Coursework
Coursework for a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education typically includes classes in language and literacy, child growth and development, equity and cultural diversity, curriculum design, and theories in instruction. Most early childhood education programs will also require student teaching.
Early childhood education degree programs are formatted to give pre-service teachers a specialist education in working with Pre-K to grade three. This degree is a good fit for students who wish to teach at these grade levels and achieve state-level certification. Many programs offer coursework leading to specialist endorsements in such areas as reading, English as a second language, and special education.
Typical classes in an early education degree program may include:
- Introduction to Early Childhood Education
- Language Development in Early Childhood
- Beginning Literacy
- Assessment and Evaluation in Early Childhood Education
- Language Arts and Reading for Early Childhood
- Science for Young Children
- Child Health and Safety
- Student Teaching and Professional Practicum
Early Childhood Education Degrees and Certification
Completing an early childhood education degree program will qualify you to seek positions in both public and private schools. Daycare centers, preschools, kindergartens, and elementary schools are the most common places of employment for those with a degree in early childhood education. Salary ranges widely, depending upon what kind of setting an educator works in. The median annual wage for preschool teachers is $28,570 per year, while daycare workers earn a median salary of $26,210.1 The median annual salary for kindergarten and elementary school teachers is $54,550.2 The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates job growth between 6 and 7% for these teacher groups through 2024.1,2
Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education
A bachelor’s degree in early childhood education prepares an instructor to teach small children, including infants and small children up to the third grade. They help children develop social, personal, and academic skills to properly prepare them for higher levels of education. These educators must align their teaching to education standards which are constantly changing and improving while also acting as caregivers who care for small children in their parents’ absence. Early childhood teachers must have skill and passion for working with children. Self-motivation, creativity, patience, a love of teaching, and the ability to demonstrate cooperation are attributes that complement this career. Teachers at this level must be able to create a safe, educational, and caring environment where children are able to maximize their potential and achieve or surpass learning milestones.
Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education
Students graduating with a master’s degree in early childhood education are prepared to work as senior teachers in elementary school settings. Many universities only offer early childhood education master’s degree programs to students who are already certified to teach in elementary settings, so earning a bachelor’s degree and state certification is the first step. Many online degree programs offer master’s degrees in early childhood education. Teachers who have earned a master’s degree often have higher earning potential than those with only a bachelor’s degree and can be more competitive candidates for administrative positions.
Early Childhood Education Degree Online
Prospective Pre-K to 3 educators can also pursue an online bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. An online early childhood education degree program can offer additional flexibility compared to on-campus study for individuals who prefer this option. Online education continues to improve with innovations like live streaming virtual classrooms with video conferencing and use of interactive social technologies that allow collaboration and discussion with classmates.
Profiles of Traditional Early Childhood Education Programs
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University offers an Early Childhood generalist certification program for teacher certification in elementary school to Grade 6. An intensive series of field placements that give students an active role in actual classrooms are built around blocks of methods-based learning for classroom and learning management. Students admitted to the program receive personalized advising throughout their studies, with one-on-one advising sessions scheduled at least once per semester. All College of Education students have access to financial assistance packages, global education experiences, and personalized learning communities, including an undergraduate peer mentor program for academically talented pre-service teachers. An Education Career Fair is held once per semester to give students the opportunity to network with potential employers. As the largest producer of teachers in high-demand fields in the state of Texas, Texas A&M University can give “Aggie” graduates a competitive edge in the career marketplace.
University of Central Florida
The College of Education and Human Performance at the University of Central Florida offers a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Development and Education that leads to teacher certification for pre-kindergarten through grade three. The program track includes the ESOL and Reading Endorsements in line with Florida Educator Accomplished Practices (FEAP). Field experiences begin early in the course sequencing, integrating theory and practice learned in the classroom in real school settings. Student reflection is encouraged through a continuously faculty-reviewed personal professional portfolio. The program curriculum emphasizes the creation of safe and nurturing environments for all young children in education partnerships with family and the community. Although this degree is not a fully online degree, many classes are offered in hybrid classroom/online formats, and select courses are delivered through online instruction. In addition to school-wide scholarships, the College of Education and Human Performance offers several scholarships that are only available to Early Childhood Development and Education students.
Kent State University
Kent State University’s Early Childhood Education program leads to the award of a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education (ECED). Field experience is heavily emphasized in the curriculum, with field placements and teaching experiences occurring in classroom settings at the Pre-K and K-3 levels. The ECED program holds accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Ohio State Department of Education. The College of Education, Health, and Human Services at Kent State is also a member of the Consortium for Overseas Student Teaching, which offers overseas student teaching placements to qualified students. Program graduates may be interested in earning a second license or endorsement through one of Kent State University’s numerous other education programs. An Early Childhood Generalist Endorsement for Grades 4-5 may be added to the P-3 Teaching License after Block IV of the ECED program is completed; the Grades 4-5 endorsement is an online program.
Profiles of Hybrid and Online Early Childhood Education Programs
Florida State College at Jacksonville
Florida State College at Jacksonville’s online early childhood education teacher preparation program provides graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to educate children from pre-kindergarten through grade three. Most courses are available online, though students must complete an in-person field experience as well as a semester-long student teaching engagement in order to earn the degree. Students must have completed an associate’s degree from Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) or another school plus three prerequisite courses at FSCJ in order to be admitted. The core curriculum includes such courses as Integrated Science & Math for Young Children, Language & Literacy in Early Childhood Education, and Language Principles for Teachers. Once all degree requirements are met, students are conferred the Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. FSCJ also offers an Associate of Science in Early Childhood Management which includes technical coursework that can be transferred to the bachelor’s program.
Kansas State University
Kansas State University’s Global Campus offers an online bachelor’s degree completion program that prepares graduates to seek licensure as early childhood educators in Kansas. The blended curriculum includes study in general as well as special education. Online early childhood courses in the professional studies component of the program include Family Relationships & Gender Roles, Exceptional Development in Early Childhood, and Emergent Literacy. While most courses are offered online, students must complete a supervised field experience in a public or private school. To be considered for admission, students must have at least 50 college credit hours with a GPA of at least 2.75 and be formally admitted to the teacher education program. In addition to teaching in early childhood education programs, graduates of the program may find work in community agencies and other organizations that promote learning and development for children from birth through kindergarten.
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama offers an online Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Sciences, Early Childhood Education with a concentration in early child development. The program curriculum focuses on growth and development in children from birth to age five as well as the design and evaluation of early childhood education programs in schools and in the community. Up to 60 credit hours can be transferred from a two-year institution and all core courses are available online. Required courses include Child Development, Adolescence; Developmental Perspectives of Young Children with Disabilities; and Parent and Family Development. Students must also complete an in-person field experience, which may be arranged in the student’s local area, to meet the six-credit Human Development and Family Studies Internship requirement. Financial aid, including grants and scholarships specific to the early childhood education program, is available to distance education students.
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See our list with reviews of top early childhood education blogs that provide an inside look into the classrooms and practices of current early childhood education teachers.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Question: How long does it take to complete an early childhood education degree program?
Answer: Most early childhood education degree programs are four-year undergraduate degrees that lead to teaching certification. In most cases, these programs can be completed in four to six years. Students that already hold an associate’s degree in another field may be able to complete the degree in less time under a transfer program.
Question: Can I earn an early childhood education degree online?
Answer: Early childhood education degrees typically involve intensive field work to qualify students for state-level teacher education, but in many cases the required courses are offered in online or hybrid formats to give flexibility to working professionals.
Question: What are the typical admission requirements for a degree in early childhood education?
Answer: Students are usually admitted to early childhood education programs after completing one to two years of general coursework in the liberal arts and maintaining a minimum GPA. You can check with schools in your area and online for the best fit based on your past education and experience.
Question: Is teacher certification automatically awarded with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education?
Answer: In most cases, teacher certification is based on passing state-level certification exams after earning a bachelor’s degree. However, there are alternative pathways to certification. The board of education for your state can provide answers on the best way to become certified in your circumstances.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Preschool Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/preschool-teachers.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm