Professionals specializing in early childhood education (ECE) are responsible for guiding the education and development of young children from birth to age eight. An online master’s in the field allows prospective educators to complete coursework in theoretical concepts virtually while pursuing required field training in a classroom or other professional setting in close proximity to their home. Assignments designed to build skills in child development, language, and literacy and assessment techniques, for example, can be completed online through a variety of multimedia technologies. Online students also have the opportunity to improve their communication, decision-making and collaboration skills through a combination of individual and group projects in the virtual classroom.
Pursuing a career in early childhood education requires a unique set of soft skills in addition to a formal education. While it is necessary for professionals in this field to have a comprehensive understanding of child education and development, it is equally important to possess very strong interpersonal skills, including but not limited to communication and written communication, patience, empathy and compassion. Though minimum education requirements vary, an online master’s in early childhood education can be the first step toward becoming a teacher, child center director, children’s program developer, public policy manager or parent and family advocate, among other options.
Below, we’ve ranked the best online master’s in early childhood education programs in the U.S. for 2016, as determined by our rigorous ranking methodology.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
University of Colorado - Denver
|Denver||1380 Lawrence Street, Lawrence Street Center, Suite 1400|
Denver, CO 80217-3364
University of Colorado Denver offers a master's in early childhood education online through its School of Education, the largest graduate school for education in Colorado. The degree is comprised of 36 total credit hours combining recommended core courses, performance-oriented assessments, an exam, practica and field work experience. Distance learners are required to participate in a three day seminar on-campus during the summer term.
Online courses are delivered through Canvas via week-long modules and are self-guided, taught by the same instructors and covering the same material as on-campus sessions. Distance learners have the added benefit of integrating multimedia skill-development into their online training, often preparing A/V presentations or sharing documents using innovative learning tech. Additionally, online students may now study from a tablet or phone via the UCD mobile app.
University of Dayton
|Dayton||300 College Park|
Dayton, OH 45469
The University of Dayton offers an online MSE with a concentration in early childhood leadership and advocacy. The degree is designed to prepare graduates for careers as administrators, supervisors, lead teachers and child and family advocates. The master's in early childhood education online program awards credit for work-related training and allows students to build on an associate degree to earn credits toward bachelor’s and master's degrees. Students pursuing the MSE must complete the program’s graduate leadership core sequence as well as either the advocacy or administration strand.
Online MSE students complete assignments through Blackboard, supported by numerous additional learning tools, including Turnitin, Isidore online training and more. Distance learners are encouraged to communicate frequently with each other and their instructors via Webinars, e-conferencing and Telecom services.
University of North Dakota
|Grand Forks||264 Centennial Drive, Stop 8193|
Grand Forks, ND 58202-8193
The University of North Dakota offers an early childhood education master's degree online, encompassing a 32-credit program designed to prepare teachers and leaders to address the needs of students ages 3 to 8 in public and private schools, child development and child care centers, Head Start programs and other programs related to educating young children. Graduates are also prepared to pursue director credentials for early childhood administrators in North Dakota, if desired. Coursework combines online assignments and a required teaching practicum, intended for application in a classroom setting. The program emphasizes educational methods related to children in the context of their family, gender, culture and community.
Online courses are run on the Blackboard learning management system; additional resources can be accessed through the same one-stop student portal that hosts the online learning system, including financial management, academic advising, Campus Connection communication tools and a live chat feature for program and online assistance.
University of Alabama at Birmingham
|Birmingham||Administration Bldg Suite 1070|
Birmingham, AL 35294-0110
University of Alabama at Birmingham offers an online MA Ed. in early childhood and elementary education; if preferred, students have the choice in specializing in one or the other or taking a mix of courses that cover both. Courses that make up the curriculum include work in language development, curriculum seminar and special topics in special education. The online program also results in class A certification in students’ specific teaching field, be it early childhood education or elementary education.
Assignments are completed through Canvas, with numerous services available to support distance learners; students may access online tutoring, Web-based labs, Webinars and student counseling through the SREB electronic campus, the Canvas Help Center and the UAB Division of eLearning and Professional Studies.
|Chicago||451 N. LaSalle Street|
Chicago, IL 60654-4510
Erikson Institute offers a master's in early childhood education online, ideal for educators with at least three years of post-bacc experience in the field. An optional specialization in bilingual/ESL education is also offered. Students in the 28-month program complete coursework via a cohort method, making it easy to collaborate and learn from their peers. Coursework includes core child development courses, early childhood education courses and an integrative seminar: Leadership in Early Childhood Education.
Online courses are delivered via EriksonOnline, the institute’s single sign-on portal. Student services available via EriksonOnline for distance learners include virtual library access, an online events schedule and an exclusive Webmail option.
Concordia University - Chicago
|River Forest||7400 Augusta|
River Forest, IL 60305-1499
Concordia University–Chicago offers an early childhood education master's degree online, designed to produce specialists in instruction, administration and advocacy in a range of education environments. Students will emerge with a strong understanding of child and language development, assessment, research, family and community relationships, theory and practice of birth to age eight educational programs. Additionally, graduates will be able to design and implement early childhood curriculum and programs in schools, home child care, districts, centers and other settings. Concordia-Chicago offers both endorsement and certification programs in ELL/ESL, special education, reading education (Type 10) and more.
Courses are delivered in a cohort model through Blackboard, with links to a variety of student services to support online learning, including a mobile learning app and Blackboard Collaborate. Concordia-Chicago offers a global classroom; students and faculty attend class online from around the globe. Each course lasts eight weeks.
|Dobbs Ferry||555 Broadway|
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
Mercy College offers an online MS in early childhood education with a concentration in children ages birth to second grade. Candidates of the degree can pursue multiple certificates including Early Childhood, Birth to Grade 2; Early Childhood, Birth to Grade 2 and Childhood Education, Grades 1-6, and Dual Certification; and Early Childhood, Birth to Grade 2, Childhood Education, Grades 1-6, with Students with Disabilities, Triple Certification. All of these certificates are specific to the state of New York. Permanent certification requires three years of teaching experience and an initial certificate.
Online students complete assignments through Blackboard, with the support of numerous other programs and applications that enable resources such as group chat, live online job boards and extensive help desk support. Students must also complete an internship in their concentration. Mercy provides a comprehensive set of tools for distance learners to stay social and learn Webiquette while completing their degree online, encouraging the use of its Twitter, YouTube and Facebook accounts, as well as a fully integrated online learning center via the MercyConnect student portal.
Stephen F Austin State University
|Nacogdoches||2008 Alumin Drive, Rusk 206|
Nacogdoches, TX 75961
Stephen F Austin State University offers an online M.Ed in early childhood education, developed around a research-based content model designed to address the needs of future elementary educators. The 36-credit-hour program emphasizes leadership skills and a mastery of concepts including language and literacy, classroom management and advanced research concerning children ages eight and under. Students may complete the program in as little as 22 months; graduates are prepared for careers as researchers, early ed. specialists, teachers and consultants.
Online assignments are delivered through Desire2Learn, using web-conferencing and streaming video tools to provide and share content and course materials. Online support services developed for distance learners include Steen Library remote access, counseling services, tutoring and academic advising and testing and proctoring services.
Northern Arizona University
|Flagstaff||1900 S. Knoles Dr, Babbitt Administrative Center|
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-4132
Northern Arizona offers an online M.Ed in early childhood education, with available emphases in either early childhood or early childhood leadership. The program encompasses 30-31 credit hours consisting of core and emphasis courses, as well as a student teacher or internship experience. The M.Ed degree at NAU stresses in-class experience as part of its required coursework, and is intended for students looking to become lead teachers or master-level instructors in preschool and primary classrooms. Online assignments are completed both asynchronously and synchronously via Blackboard, using multimedia lecture presentations and virtual discussion platforms. The university’s extended campus portal offers a variety of support services developed exclusively for distance learners, including 24/7 IT support, library access and tutoring through the NAU Student Learning Center.
Albany State University
|Albany||504 College Drive|
Albany, GA 31705
Albany State University offers an early childhood education master's degree online, designed to provide master-level teaching skills for instructors of pre-k through five-year-old students, as well as lead to the T-5 certification in early childhood education. The program is comprised of 36 course credit hours, aligned within the conceptual structure of the university’s department of education to build problem-solving skills, as well as raise cultural and technological awareness through transformative education practices for young children. Graduates are eligible for careers involving teaching, administration, program development and special education, among other options.
Online assignments are completed in Desire2Learn via the Ramnet portal, with the support of numerous online resources, including an online computer lab, virtual tutoring services and a convenient ticketing system for tech support requests. Distance learners are encouraged to stay connected via ASU’s Flickr account and various other social media outlets.
Concordia University - Saint Paul
|Saint Paul||1282 Concordia Ave|
Saint Paul, MN 55104-5494
Concordia University–Saint Paul offers an online MA in early childhood education, designed for students with teaching or volunteering classroom experience. The degree is comprised of 33 credit hours in a variety of core courses in curriculum and instruction, ethics for educators, language development and emergent literacy and more; completion of a professional efolio is also required. Individual courses are delivered in accelerated, seven-week modules.
Online assignments are completed through Blackboard, with a range of student support resources centered on distance learning. Additional services available via the CSPConnect student portal include access to the library archives, special interest student groups and personalized tutoring services for online learners.
Texas A & M University - Kingsville
|Kingsville||955 University Blvd|
Kingsville, TX 78363
Texas A & M University–Kingsville offers an online M.Ed in early childhood education. The program is designed to build skills for best practices of early childhood development through exploration of a variety of teaching methods and models, including Constructivist, Waldorf and Montessori, among others. A & M’s online M.Ed degree encompasses 36 total credit hours, in a combination of core, research and resource-area course requirements; students must also perform a graduate research project to complete the degree.
Distance students may access assignments through the exclusive Blue & Gold Connection student portal, which also directs students to a range of Internet learning resources at the same single-sign-on site; additional support tools include financial assistance, an interactive course scheduler and live registration and application services.
University of West Alabama
Livingston, AL 35470
The University of West Alabama offers an online M.Ed education specialist in early childhood education program. Curriculum in the 33-credit program combines intensive research and field experience to provide advanced leadership skills for prospective child education specialists. Students seeking field certification without relevant undergraduate experience are required to complete a survey course prior to enrolling in the M.Ed program.
Online assignments are delivered primarily through Blackboard, assisted by learning tools like WebView, WebAdvisor and the university Help Desk. Additionally, support specifically for M.Ed students enrolled in early childhood education-based distance learning programs is available through the NBC Learn portal for K-12 education.
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
|Edinboro||219 Meadville Street|
Edinboro, PA 16444-0001
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania offers an online M.Ed in early childhood education, with available tracks for both certified educators and those seeking certification with completion of this degree. The program encompasses core curriculum in pre-k through third-grade child education and development, as well as an independent study project in the field or specialty area of the student’s choice.
Though courses may be completed online through Edinboro’s learning management system, students are required to attend a one-week residency as part of the distance program. Support tools for online learners include tutoring via the SmartThinking platform, self-service email and communication through Banner and the option to create a personalized student profile on myEdinboro.edu.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Natchitoches, LA 71497-0002
Northwestern State University of Louisiana offers an online M.Ed in early childhood education, the only program of its kind in the state of Louisiana. The M.Ed degree is designed for certified teachers with undergraduate experience in education of children up to eight years of age. Coursework in this program combines core studies with a practicum experience, developed to reflect the standards set for curriculum in this field by the NAEYC.
Assignments are delivered through Moodle with the help of additional support services available through the MyNSU portal, including a student help desk and numerous orientation and tutorial modules. Additionally, distance learners may pursue academic advising, counseling, job placement support services and more through the same MyNSU subsite.
Jacksonville State University
|Jacksonville||700 Pelham Road North|
Jacksonville, AL 36265
Jacksonville State University offers an online MS Ed in early childhood education, designed for teachers with current certification in the field. The degree combines core and specialty courses with a practicum, focused on building expertise in effective teaching methods and exploring current trends in early childhood education and development.
Online assignments are delivered through Blackboard, with supplemental Web-based resources available for distance learners, such as advising, tutoring and technical support. The online MS Ed at JSU was developed by faculty and Web designers specifically for the university’s unique virtual learning environment, with integrated learning, scheduling and communication functions.
University of South Carolina - Upstate
|Spartanburg||800 University Way|
Spartanburg, SC 29303-4999
University of South Carolina–Upstate offers an online M.Ed with a focus in either early childhood education or elementary education. Candidates for the M.Ed program must have Initial teacher certification as a condition of enrollment. Both tracks of the M.Ed at USC Upstate require completion of core, specialty and related study credits; students must also complete a final seminar and graduate professional portfolio in their final semester. Both specializations are offered in an optional fast track format.
Online courses are available through Blackboard, with a wide variety of additional online tools for distance learners. Resources are available through a convenient dashboard of direct links to academic services and student support, including an online writing center, student activities board, career center, online account assistance and more.
|Burlington||246 S. Willard St|
Burlington, VT 05401
Champlain College offers an online M.Ed in early childhood education, designed for certified teachers to explore effective educational theories and build leadership skills through reflective practice. The program is comprised of 36 course credits delivered in eight-week-long online modules; it is fully online, save for one brief residency requirement to be completed on campus during the first year of the program. Students have three opportunities for enrollment throughout the year, and may pursue a part-time or full-time schedule.
In addition to facilitating convenient online courses through Canvas, Champlain prides itself on a comprehensive approach to online support for distance learners; the college’s wide range of online student services include career counseling, advising and tutoring options in accounting, math, English and writing, library access and full technical support.
Southern New Hampshire University
|Manchester||2500 North River Road|
Manchester, NH 03106-1045
Southern New Hampshire University offers an online M.Ed in early childhood education, well-suited to professional teachers looking to build advanced skills in this discipline. Completion of this degree can lead to initial teacher certification in New Hampshire, or provide additional endorsement credits for those already certified in the state. The M.Ed initial certification track encompasses 42 total credits in core courses, as well as completion of two student teaching seminars over two academic terms.
Courses are delivered through Blackboard, with links to numerous other student support resources via the mySNHU portal. Support tools for the virtual classroom offered through SHNU include a writing center, technical support, academic advising, tutoring options, an online library and online bookstore access.
|Rome||315 Shorter Ave|
Rome, GA 30165
Shorter University offers an online M.Ed in early childhood education, designed to promote professional development among teachers currently practicing in the field. The program incorporates Shorter University’s faith-based principles into the M.Ed curriculum, which stresses research and field experience courses totaling 37 credit hours. The degree culminates in a required action research performance portfolio.
All online assignments are accessible through Moodle, and are typically self-paced, though occasional synchronous sessions may be scheduled via video conferencing software. Additional online resources are available to provide fully integrated student support, including a live chat feature, an exclusive university blog and a student advising center.
Youngstown State University
|Youngstown||One University Plaza|
Youngstown, OH 44555-0001
Youngstown State University offers an online MS in teacher education with a concentration in early childhood education. The degree is comprised of 32 credit hours in core courses, as well as cognate/specialization courses, in topics including fundamentals of curriculum development, current social issues in early childhood education and literacy and phonics. Students are required to complete an e-portfolio as a final condition of the degree.
Online YSU assignments are delivered through Blackboard, utilizing web conferencing tools and asynchronous sessions to share content. Additional online support services include e-tutoring, a math assistance center, writing center, Maag Library access and other tools provided by the Center for Student Progress.
University of the Southwest
|Hobbs||6610 North Lovington Hwy|
Hobbs, NM 88240
University of the Southwest offers an online MS Ed in early childhood education, well-suited as a stand-alone program or in conjunction with teaching licensure for education of children up to third grade. The degree is comprised of 36 credits in a variety of leveling, core, specialization and elective courses, including two practicums and culminating in a comprehensive exam. Students will gain competency in child growth, development and learning; family and community collaboration; curriculum development and implementation; health, safety and nutrition; methods and materials; assessment of children and evaluation of programs; and appropriate developmental practices.
Online students complete assignments in Blackboard, with the support of additional student services including online tutoring, a virtual university store and Web-based research tools. Additionally, technology provided via MediaCAST, Tegrity and Nefis Web Conferencing, for example, help to facilitate multimedia learning in the USW portal.
Missouri Southern State University
|Joplin||3950 E. Newman Road|
Joplin, MO 64801-1595
Missouri Southern State University offers an online MS in early childhood education, designed for teachers looking to gain specialized training to guide young children in the classroom. The program comprises 32-33 total semester hours, including core requirements, subject field requirements, concentration and elective courses; students are also required to complete a field experience and a practicum as part of the coursework in the MS degree.
Online assignments are delivered through Blackboard, with numerous additional resources accessible through the Lion Access portal via single sign-on. Student support services include career opportunities, library access and technical help; students are also encouraged to participate in active communication through a variety of social media sites.
Graduates of a master’s program in early childhood education are eligible for a variety of jobs involving childcare and child development. Though not typically the minimum requirement for entry-level positions, an online master’s in early childhood education can open the door to unique managerial-level careers and directorships in the industry. Students holding a master’s in the field are qualified to become administrators, teachers or caregivers in both public and private settings. Childcare center directors, for example, are typically required to have at least some experience in early childhood education and the field is expected to see an increase of 17% in total jobs by 2022, according to the BLS. Other careers requiring experience in early childhood education include elementary school teacher and childcare administrators.
Students pursuing an online master’s in early childhood education should consider their career aspirations or area of concentration while completing their degree, as this will help to focus their coursework. For example, a student pursuing this field in order to become a teacher will likely be required to complete a practicum or field course to gain in-classroom experience, while a student who is pursuing research or administration in the early childhood education field may not. Overall, curriculum in this program is designed to provide a foundation in early child development, along with coursework centered on building person-to-person skills and humanistic qualities. Whatever their specialty, distance learners studying early childhood development are encouraged to research their area of interest and seek out local opportunities to gain experience in a classroom, childcare center or administrative setting.
Though requirements vary state to state, master’s candidates in early childhood education may be required to have additional certification or licensure. For example, some states require childcare professionals to be certified according to the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation, which requires students to pass a national exam, among other criteria. All states require kindergarten and elementary school teachers in the public school system to be certified, although private school teachers do not require certification. Additionally, some public school teachers may need to obtain certification specifically for the subject they teach and/or satisfy additional education requirements in the field.