Many educators have a long-standing tradition of continuing their education far beyond the bachelor's level; it will come as no surprise, then, that the online Master's in Early Childhood Education is a popular degree for these working professionals. The degree prepares licensed teachers to work with children from newborn to the fourth grade while giving them a firm understanding of childhood development through the prism of education. Many educators find that this advanced degree has been critical in their ability to educate their young students.
But traditional degrees are difficult to obtain for most teachers. Since educators work full-time, and often overtime, the idea of commuting to a campus at set times isn't feasible. What these professionals need is an online program that is both flexible and affordable in order to meet their needs. This ranking provides exactly the information an educator will need when researching schools for graduate education.
The National Center for Education Statistics was the foundation of research for this ranking. It has a public database, known as College Navigator, that provides valuable information on everything from tuition rates, gainful employment disclosures, and outcome measures. Research yielded an initial pool of 55 schools; the final 10 were selected based on their in-state graduate tuition rates. These can be found below in descending order of affordability.
Ranking Low-cost Online Early Childhood Education Master's
10. East Tennessee State University
Johnson City, Tennessee
Online Master of Arts in Early Childhood, Master Teacher Concentration (MTEA)
East Tennessee State University confers the MTEA, an online Master's in Early Childhood. It is an academic degree geared towards teachers and researchers; for this reason, a teaching licensure is not required for admission into this program. It is important to note that this degree is non-licensure. Students will find an entirely online cohort program that can be completed in two years with part-time study. The program consists of a curriculum that focuses on both the development and education of young children with a focus on research and creative development. Students can expect to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a research project, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Constructivist Programs for Young Children.
9. University of Alabama at Birmingham
Online Master of Education in Early Childhood and Elementary Education
Students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are offered a chance to earn a Master's in Early Childhood Education online that is geared towards working educators. Students will be expected to have a valid Alabama teaching license as part of the requirements for entering the program; they will also be required to complete their practical hours within the state. For this reason, this program is best suited for educators in the state. This is a fully online degree with coursework available asynchronously and in the traditional 16-week format. Students who successfully complete the program will become eligible to sit for Class A Certification in Early Childhood/Elementary Education. This program requires 33 credit hours of coursework, practical teaching hours, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Studying the Child in School, Language Development, and Curriculum Development in Elementary and Early Childhood Education.
8. University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Online Master of Science in Early Childhood Education
The University of North Dakota confers an online Master's in Early Childhood education that is perfect for educators. This degree requires that a student hold a valid teaching license in their own state so they may complete the teaching practicum. It is delivered fully online through asynchronous courses with the exception of the practicum, which can be completed in a student's own community. The program can be completed in as little as two years and is based on a 16-week term schedule. Students will also have the ability to earn the national Director Credential for Early Childhood Administrators; this credential can be completed while still finishing up the necessary requirements for the degree. This program requires 32 credit hours of coursework, a 60-hour teaching practicum, a thesis or special project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Foundations of Reading Instruction, Play in Development and Early Childhood Education, and Language Development and Cognition in Children.
7. University of West Alabama
Online Master of Education in Early Childhood Development (Non-Certification)
Educators will find an excellent early childhood education master's online degree that will help them advance their knowledge and skills. This is a non-certification degree that was created for licensed educators; a valid teaching license is required for acceptance into the program. It was created to enhance the analytical and research skills of educators who work in a variety of settings and who interact with children on a daily basis. This is a fully online program with asynchronous courses and an eight-week term schedule; this means the degree can be completed in as little as one year. This degree is also accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Students will be required to complete 34 credit hours of coursework and field practices, a technology portfolio, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Advanced Educational Psychology, Technology and Education, and Life-Span Development and Learning.
6. Kennesaw State University
Online Master of Education in Early Childhood Education
Kennesaw State University provides certified early childhood education teachers with a program that was designed to expand their knowledge of the field while also preparing them to take on specialties. The online early childhood education master's delivered at this school can be completed in as little as 13 months and is offered as a fully online cohort program. Students will find a variety of endorsement or certifications that are available within the degree, including ESOL, Online Teaching, and Teacher Leadership. Students will find that the majority of the curriculum focuses on advanced concepts of early childhood education, including issues and trends in various disciplines that affect the field. This program requires 36 credit hours of coursework, a capstone experience, a portfolio, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Trends and Issues in Science for Early Childhood Education, Teaching Number, Operations and Algebraic Thinking, and Curriculum and Pedagogy for Early Childhood and Elementary Classrooms.
5. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Greensboro, North Carolina
Online Masters in Birth-Kindergarten Interdisciplinary Studies in Education and Development
Educators interested in an exceptional online Master's in Early Childhood Education will find that the University of North Carolina at Greensboro offers a great program. This program was designed to be interdisciplinary, providing educators and researchers with the chance to learn how various disciplines, such as psychology and science, affect early childhood education. This degree comes with two emphases: Early Childhood Leadership and Program Administration and Early Childhood Leadership and Advanced Teaching Licensure. Students are offered a fully online program that is delivered synchronously and in an eight-week format; it can be completed in as little as two years with part-time study. The program requires 37 credit hours of coursework, a research project, a practicum, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Theory and Research in Early Childhood Development, Teaching methods in Inclusive Early Childhood Settings, Advanced Curriculum in Early Childhood Education.
4. Georgia Southern University
Online Master of Education in Elementary Education
Georgia Southern University confers an online Master's in Early Childhood Education that can be completed in as little as one year. It is a degree that was designed specifically for educators who hold a valid Professional Level Four Certification that is in good standing; successful completion of the program can lead to certification upgrades provided that a student wishes to sit for advanced certification. The curriculum is built around advanced concepts in developmental practice and field practices to ensure the student can apply the skills and knowledge they have learned in the classroom. It is also possible to earn certifications and endorsements in the following areas: ESOL, Online Teaching and Learning, Reading, and Curriculum and Pedagogy for Social Justice. Students will expect to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a teaching field practice, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Teaching Writing in the Elementary School, Advanced Social Studies Methods, and Teaching Communication Across Cultures.
3. Stephen F. Austin State University
Online Master of Education in Early Childhood
Students interested in a small university that offers an excellent online education will want to check out Stephen F. Austin State University. This is a great degree program for educators who are licensed to teach in the state of Texas. Students will be treated to a fully online program with asynchronous courses that are delivered on a half-term schedule. The program was built to be as simple for professionals to complete as possible and can be completed in as little as 18 months. It is possible to earn this degree with different endorsements, including Reading, ESL, and Bilingual. This program requires 36 credit hours of coursework; there is no comprehensive exam or thesis required for graduation. Sample courses include Introduction to the Exceptional Learner, Life-Span Development and Education, and Introduction to Educational Research.
2. Valdosta State University
Online Master of Education in Early Childhood Education
Valdosta State University confers an online Master's in Early Childhood Education that continues the work completed at the bachelor's degree in the same field. For this reason, students who hold a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education will be preferred during the admissions process. This is a non-licensure program that does not meet the requirement to sit for teaching licensure in the state of Georgia. The program was created for both educators and researchers and can be used to advance a professional's career in alternative careers. This is a fully online program that delivers asynchronous courses on the traditional term schedule. The degree requires 36 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive exam for graduation. Sample courses include Teaching Social Studies in Elementary School, Advanced Educational Psychology, and Technology and Education.
1. Texas A&M University at Commerce
Online Master of Education in Early Childhood Education
Texas A&M University confers a cheap early childhood education master's online degree that comes with three different degree distinctions: Master of Education, Master of Science, and Master of Arts. This is a program designed specifically for educators; a valid teaching license is required in order to apply for the program. This is a 100 percent online cohort program that is delivered through both asynchronous and synchronous courses. It can be completed in as little as two years with part-time study. Students will graduate with an advanced understanding of the developmental and educational needs of children from Kindergarten to the fifth grade and will help them in their work as teachers and educators. This degree requires 30 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Literacy Development in the Early Years, Early Childhood Curriculum Design, and Classroom Management for Teachers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are My Career Options for an Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree?
There are a variety of career options open to professionals who earn a graduate degree in this field. While it is possible to become a researcher or an academic, most professionals will work as educators within the school system in America. It is interesting to note that there are different careers available within the schools as well.
For example, a professional can become a Director of Educational Programming at a private school, a position that comes with a great deal of responsibility and often requires total supervision over all of the early childhood curriculum and instruction materials. It's also possible to become an early childhood special education teacher or a teacher with another specialization, such as ESL or gifted teacher. These provide professionals with a specific field of expertise and allows them to grow and advance in their career.
These are just some of the career options available. This master's degree can lead to many different career paths, from grant writer to headmaster of a private school, so it all depends on what a professional intends for their career path to look like. Students are advised to do more research to see what career path may fit them best.
How Much Can You Earn in this Field?
The salary range for a Master's in Early Childhood Education can range anywhere from $42,000 to $100,000. Most professionals with this degree go into teaching and the median salary for this job is $57,000. Early childhood special education teachers make more than traditional teachers, often earning up to $95,000.
The salary range, as well as specific job salaries, differ on one major factor: whether a professional has chosen to work in a public or private school or setting. Private schools are notorious for demanding more from their teachers, but they are also paid, on average, around $25,000 more than their public school counterparts.
What are the Various Disciplines in Early Childhood Education?
Early childhood education relies on several different disciplines to make up this field. The first is the most obvious: education. It is the central discipline the field is based in and makes up for a majority of the disciplines at play.
There are other disciplines, however, that are important. Psychology, specifically childhood development, plays a large role in how the field has taken shape. As society changes and technology becomes more important, this field has undergone a lot of changes and advancements to help educators keep children at pace to become educated adults.
Law and policy, funnily enough, also play another large role. This is because education in America is regulated by the government. From charter schools to public schools to private schools, secular to religious educational institutions, the government instills rules and regulations to provide a standard basis of education for each and every child. Therefore, politics also plays a role, as different political factions have their own ideas about education.
Other disciplines include technology, business, the various disciplines taught in early childhood education, counseling, and human services. The above three, however, are the major disciplines in the field and will be the ones that most professionals will work with on a daily basis.
What are Some of the Requirements for Applying for this Degree?
Requirements vary from school to school, but some requirements are universal for an online Master's in Early Childhood Education. For example, a bachelor's degree from an accredited university is required by all schools as well as GMAT or GRE scores. Most also require a professional letter of recommendation and some form of a personal essay.
The Master of Education degree, which is the most common degree in this field, often does require a teaching license that is valid and in good standing from applicants. This is because most of these programs are either non-licensure programs, meaning they do not offer the ability to earn a teaching license of any kind, or they offer advanced teaching licensure, which means that in order to upgrade a license, a professional must first possess one.
Most online programs also require that a teaching license must be held in the same state as the campus itself. This is because many states place limitations on where a teacher can earn their graduate degree for the purposes of ensuring that teachers meet the standards of their home state. Additionally, teaching practicums are often required by these programs and in order to earn licensure, it must be completed within the same state as the campus.
Another common requirement for graduate students is that of work experience. Because this is a professional degree, many schools require that a student has two years or more of teaching experience in a classroom. In some cases, this requirement can be waived, but it is rare and up to the discretion of the department head.
Is Licensure Necessary to Work in the Field of Early Childhood Education?
Licensure is not necessary for every career in the early childhood education field; this is reserved mostly for educators who work in private and public schools. It is possible to work with children and not receive any type of licensure in general, but it is important to note here that these careers restrict what a professional's responsibilities are and where they can work.
The most common form of licensure is a teaching licensure, which makes sense because any educator who works in a school in America must be certified by their state of residence in order to teach children. This is because schools must uphold a certain standard when it comes to education which is measured by standardized tests that are given at the state and national level. Teachers must also go through licensure to ensure that they themselves do not pose a risk to students and are equipped to help students with a variety of issues and concerns that may arise during their time in that professional's care.
Early childhood education starts in Kindergarten, so it is possible that some educators work in after-school programs, camps, or community centers. They would work closely with students, helping them with homework and providing supervision as they study and play with other classmates. In this scenario, licensure is not necessary as these professionals are not working in a classroom. However, alternative certification or licensure may be required by the state.
As stated above, it is possible to work as a researcher or academic in the field of early childhood education. These positions do not require any form of licensure or certification, although it is certainly encouraged if their specialization offers such a credential from a professional organization. Unlike educators working in after-school programs or teachers, however, these academics rarely work with children.
Early childhood education is an important field, both for parents and students. Because students are entrusted to educators during their formative years, professionals are expected to have a high degree of education and training. With an online master's in early childhood education, educators can move forward in their goal of helping each and every child reach their full potential.