Online Early Childhood Education Degrees

If you want to make a difference in young children’s lives, becoming a teacher is one of the most fulfilling ways to inspire, educate, and contribute to the development of the next generation of students. Graduates from early childhood education programs typically become preschool teachers, childcare center directors, and kindergarten teachers. The degree requirements for early childhood educators vary depending on the state, and can range from an associate degree to a master’s with certification.

Schools always need more creative, patient, and organized teachers who love working with children. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a job growth rate of about 7% for early childhood educators between 2014 and 2024.

Online early childhood education programs are a convenient option for working professionals who want to advance their skills on a flexible schedule. For more information on early childhood education degrees, read on to learn about the many career opportunities available in the field and the academic requirements needed to earn a job.

Online Early Childhood Education Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $11,229 13.1% 2 years N/A N/A 5.1%
Bachelor's $17,105 10.2% 4 years $34,000 $41,000 3.7%
Master's $16,562 8.6% 1+ years $49,000 $62,000 2.4%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

The degree you need depends on the educational setting and the state. Preschool teachers in states with Head Start programs, for instance, must have at least an associate degree; in other states, they may need early childhood education degrees at the bachelor’s level. BLS notes that your job prospects will increase with a postsecondary degree in the field, and many professionals choose to earn an online bachelor’s in early childhood education while they are working. Additionally, many preschools require national certification, such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) or the Childcare Professional (CCP).

Choosing Your Early Childhood Education Career

Average Early Childhood Education Salaries

$54,550
$20,320
$45,670
$28,570

Kindergarten Teacher

Salary: $54,550
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
6% 1,517,400 Bachelor's State licensure required for public schools

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers work in public and private schools teaching students basic subjects such as math, English, and reading. They also evaluate student aptitudes, grade assignments, monitor student progress, help students overcome challenges, and supervise them during lunchtime or recess. These professionals require at least a bachelor’s degree, such as an online bachelor’s in early childhood education. Effective teachers must have patience, creativity, and enjoy working with young people.

Childcare Worker

Salary: $20,320
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
5% 1,260,600 High School Diploma or Equivalent N/A

When parents and other relatives are unable to care for their children, they turn to childcare workers. They work in centers, which may include their own homes or the homes of children they care for. They monitor the safety of children, organize and supervise meals, change diapers, ensure children have enough rest and playtime, and monitor their development and keep record of their progress. The position requires excellent communication and instructional skills, patience, and stamina. While not always required, professionals who complete online early childhood education programs will be more qualified and stand out to employers.

Childcare Center Director

Salary: $45,670
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
7% 64,000 Bachelor's N/A

Childcare center directors are responsible for running the day-to-day operations at their facility. This includes supervising preschool teachers and childcare workers, providing professional development to staff, developing programming and standards, working with staff to interact with parents, and preparing budgets. Candidates who earn their bachelor’s in early childhood education online are typically qualified to work as childcare center directors.

Preschool Teacher

Salary: $28,570
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
7% 441,000 Bachelor's CDA or CCP

Preschool educators teach children basic skills, such as shapes, colors, numbers, and letters. They create and implement a curriculum targeting different areas of childhood development, design activities for students to explore and develop their skills and interests, and record each student’s progress. Creativity, patience, and great communication and organization skills are vital. Earning an online bachelor’s in early childhood education will qualify you to work as a preschool teacher at most schools.

Online Early Childhood Education Degrees

Associate

Associate-level early childhood education degrees may qualify you to work in some education settings, including preschools, depending on the state. Preschool teachers in Head Start programs, for instance, are required to have at least an associate degree; however, in many states they need a bachelor's. Child care workers, family support specialists, and teacher's aides are all positions that require at least a high school diploma. Online early childhood education programs give you the flexibility to pursue this credential at your own pace. Many associate graduates go on to earn their bachelor's in early childhood education online to better their career prospects.

Sample Courses
Introduction to Early Childhood Behavior Management, Instructional Design, Child Development, Instructional Resources and Technology
Common Majors
Early childhood education, child care management, teaching education
Potential Jobs
Preschool teachers, family support specialists, teacher's assistants, childcare workers, Head Start teachers
Average Income
The median salary for a family support specialist is $30,830 per year, $24,900 for a teacher's assistant, and $20,320 for childcare workers.
Employment Prospects
Job prospects in the field of early childhood education are favorable, and are expected to increase by approximately 5% through 2024.

Bachelor’s

Early childhood educators prepare young children for kindergarten and beyond and are integral to their development as happy, healthy children. Though a bachelor's degree is not always required to become a preschool or kindergarten teacher, most teachers hold one, and having a bachelor's makes you more marketable and increases your job prospects. Earning a bachelor's in early childhood education online will help prepare you for the industry without disrupting your current work or at-home obligations. Some schools may offer an accelerated bachelor's in early childhood education online.

Sample Courses
Children's Literacy, Educational Psychology, Classroom Management
Common Majors
Psychology, education, child care management, special education
Potential Jobs
Preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, preschool and childcare center directors, Head Start teachers
Average Income
The median salary for preschool teachers is $28,570; $54,550 for kindergarten and elementary teachers; $45,670 for preschool and childcare center directors.
Employment Prospects
The BLS projects a 7% increase in preschool teachers from 2014 to 2024, 6% for kindergarten and elementary school teachers, and 7% for preschool and childcare center directors.

The Top 5 Online Bachelor's Degrees in Early Childhood Education

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost
1

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Greensboro
  • in-state tuition: $6,382
  • out-of-state tuition: $20,180
2

National University

La Jolla
  • annually: $12,096
3

Florida International University

Miami
  • in-state tuition: $6,496
  • out-of-state tuition: $18,895
4

University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati
  • in-state tuition: $10,784
  • out-of-state tuition: $25,816
5

Harding University

Searcy
  • annually: $16,170

See full rankings

Master’s

Many teaching positions require you to hold a master's degree in the field, particularly in positions of leadership. Some teachers opt to earn their master's through online early childhood education programs as they continue working. A master's program can be completed in just one or two years after earning your bachelor's in early childhood education online.

Sample Courses
Education and Psychology, Curriculum Development in Early Childhood Education, Foundations of Educational Leadership
Common Majors
Special education, English, education
Potential Jobs
Kindergarten and elementary teachers, preschool and childcare center directors, elementary, middle and high school principals
Average Income
The median salary for kindergarten and elementary teachers is $54,550; $45,670 for preschool and childcare center directors; and $90,410 per year for elementary, middle, and high school principals.
Employment Prospects
The BLS projects most positions in the field to grow by approximately 5%.

The Top 5 Online Master's Degrees in Early Childhood Education

Rank School Name School Logo City Cost
1

University of Colorado - Denver

Denver
  • in-state tuition: $7,933
  • out-of-state tuition: $22,057
2

University of Dayton

Dayton
  • annually: $35,800
3

University of North Dakota

Grand Forks
  • in-state tuition: $7,508
  • out-of-state tuition: $17,794
4

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Birmingham
  • in-state tuition: $7,206
  • out-of-state tuition: $16,398
5

Erikson Institute

Chicago
  • annually: $35,060

See full rankings

Doctorate

Doctorate holders conduct research and evaluate educational modelings, and they apply their research findings in the field. Early childhood education degrees (bachelor's and master's), or those from similar fields, are prerequisites for PhD program entry. Work experience as a certified teacher will also be needed for many programs. In this program, you can expect to participate in faculty-guided research, face-to-face residencies, and online courses.

Sample Courses
Early Childhood Policy, Social Contexts of Learning, Curriculum Development, Research Issues and Assessment Techniques
Common Majors
Education, education and human development
Potential Jobs
High school principals, researchers and advisors, leaders in teacher training, instructional coordinators, teachers of education professionals (professors)
Average Income
A high school principal earns a median salary of $90,410 per year; $62,270 for instructional coordinators; $72,470 for postsecondary teachers.
Employment Prospects
Principalship positions are expected to grow 6-13% through 2024.

Professional Requirements

Certified Childcare Professional (CCP)

The Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) credential is designed for teachers who want to demonstrate their knowledge of early childhood development and their mastery of the principles and techniques of working with young children. It is required for those who have yet to complete their degrees or for teachers with degrees in an unrelated field. It can take up to a year to earn the CCP, but the timeline varies from student to student based on their training.

Is it required?

Yes

How long will it take?

1 year

Childhood Development Associate (CDA)

If you want to take the next step in your career, you may benefit from the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education. The Childhood Development Associate (CDA) can be earned in four areas: Preschool (center-based), Infant/Toddler (center-based), Family Child care, and Home Visitor. The CDA is “the sole nationally recognized ECE credential, accepted in all 50 states and U.S. territories.” It is highly recommended. 120 hours of formal early childhood education training is needed. You’ll also need 480 hours of professional experience in the appropriate age group, observation by a Council for Professional Recognition certified Professional Development Specialist, a CDA examination, and a statement of ethical conduct.

Is it required?

Recommended

How long will it take?

Varies

American Board for Certified Teacher Excellence (ABCTE)

The ABCTE is an online, self-paced program certifying educators in several subjects and is recognized in 12 states across the U.S. Whether you should get this certification or not depends on the state you live in. But the certification can be used in place of a master’s degree to get a temporary teaching license. This credential is a teaching certification providing professionals with an alternate pathway to becoming a teacher if they do not have traditional early childhood education degrees, for instance. It involves two exams: a subject area exam and a pedagogy exam.

Is it required?

Varies

How long will it take?

Varies

National Board Certification

National Board Certification is the most respected professional certification available in education in the United States. It is highly recommended. NBCTs are recognized for having met the highest standards set by the profession. While each state has its own licensure system, this credential signifies that the teacher has gone beyond state standards. Certification is awarded in 25 areas, from pre-K through 12th grade. Educators can complete the certification process in one year; some may take several years.

Is it required?

Recommended

How long will it take?

Varies

State Specific Licensure Requirements

Each state has its own licensure requirements for educators. Click on State Specific Licensure Requirements, click on your state on the map to see the requirements.

Is it required?

Varies

How long will it take?

Varies