How do you want to be remembered? What impact do you want to have on the world around you? If you want the opportunity to have a significant, positive difference in the lives of others, consider working in education. To do so, you need a degree from one of the best online colleges for Early Childhood education.
Teachers are the lifeblood of innovation, creativity, and development. If you think back to the individuals who made the most lasting impact on your life, there are likely at least one or two teachers on the list. An Early Childhood educator has the ability to make a positive – and necessary – difference in the lives of all of their students.
Early Childhood educators work with children from about one to eight years of age. So, preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, and other elementary teachers are considered Early Childhood educators. If you enjoy teaching a diverse group of students and are interested in learning how to deliver the best instruction, intervention, and daily care possible, a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education (ECE) might be for you.
What is an Early Childhood Education Degree Program?
There are several types of Early Childhood Education degrees, depending on your personal goals and the setting in which you plan to work. You can pursue a certificate program in Early Childhood Education, which prepares you to work at a daycare facility or comparable organization. With a certificate in this field, you might work as a teaching assistant, a tutor, or even a preschool teacher, depending on the regulations in your state. Many certificates take about a year to complete.
An associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education prepares you to work as a lead teacher in an early childhood setting, like a daycare. In a K-5 school, an associate’s degree might be sufficient for working as a teaching assistant in a traditional classroom or as an aide in a special needs setting. Most associate’s degree programs take two years of full-time studies to complete.
On the other hand, a bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for working as a teacher in a public school. This online degree often includes a licensure component, allowing you to work in practically any setting. These four-year programs focus on classroom-specific issues, instructional interventions, special education identification, and behavioral strategies. You’ll study concepts like:
- Human development
- How to make lesson plans
- Family studies
- Implementing different teaching strategies
You’ll hone these skills in classroom learning and in a field experience. During the field experience you’ll work under the supervision of an Early Childhood educator. You might begin by observing how they work, then working side-by-side with them during instruction. Eventually, you’ll take over as a practicing teacher and be responsible for most of the daily duties of the Early Childhood classroom. The mentor teacher, however, is always nearby, observing your development and offering feedback to help you become an even better teacher.
If you’re not positive early education is the right field for you, you might consider a general education degree, which allows you to take online classes that expose you to many different aspects of the education field. If you want to specialize in a particular field, consider special education, which is an in-demand degree for early care, elementary education, and upper levels of K-12 school systems.
What is an Accredited Early Childhood Degree?
Whatever your specific path, make sure the program you select is from one of the accredited online colleges for early childhood education. Accreditation is critical for several reasons, not the least of which is the value of your education. Accredited schools and programs are held to a higher standard, making the education you receive broader and more profound. You’ll acquire a greater level of knowledge, learn more skills, and do so with a degree recognized and respected by potential employers.
Additionally, an accredited early childhood development degree has credits that more easily transfer from one school to the next. So, if you begin your degree at one school, then decide to move to another school, the chances of your credits transferring are much better. This is especially true if the school you first attend is regionally accredited.
Regional accreditation is the gold standard. Most colleges and universities in the U.S. are regionally accredited, and as such, these schools are likely to recognize credits earned at another regionally-accredited institution. Some schools are nationally accredited, though. National accreditation is not as rigorous, so regionally-accredited institutions do not accept credits from nationally-accredited institutions.
It’s worth noting that some types of financial aid are only available at regionally accredited schools. In some instances, licensure or certification as a teacher might also require that you earn your degree at a regionally-accredited school. Before enrollment in colleges that offer early childhood education online, find out what kind of accreditation the school has. If it isn’t regionally accredited, you might think twice about enrolling.
How Much Can You Earn With an Early Childhood Education Degree?
The salary you earn as an Early Childhood educator depends on a number of important factors.
First and foremost, your level of education and experience determine how much money you make. As a new graduate with no experience, you can expect to earn less than an educator with the same degree and ten years of teaching experience. This might work out to a fairly significant sum of money. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the median salary for preschool teachers is $30,210 per year. However, the lowest ten percent of earners make less than $22,840 per year. If you’re a new teacher with no experience, you’re likely to be closer to that number than the median. Conversely, the highest-paid preschool teachers earn nearly $60,000 per year. This is partly the result of more education and experience.
Another experiential component is the type and number of certifications you have. Early Childhood educators with a specialization in special education stand to make more money. Other specialties in administration, language development, or psychology might also help you earn more money.
The setting in which you work also influences how much money you earn. For example, while preschool teachers earn a median of just over $30,000 per year, elementary teachers make nearly $50,000 per year. Moreover, the geographic location in which you work affects your income. Preschool teachers in Washington, D.C., and New Jersey earn a higher median salary ($55,960 and $44,810, respectively) than anywhere else in the United States.
What is Required for an Early Childhood Education Degree?
For admission to an Early Childhood Education program, online students like you likely need to complete prerequisite coursework in education and child development. The number and type of prerequisite courses depend on your chosen program. A good way to ensure you’ve completed prerequisites is to get an associate’s degree from an accredited community college. As noted above, an associate’s degree is usually two years in length, during which time you’ll take general education courses and basic Early Childhood courses.
Successful completion of an associate’s degree in this field usually requires taking 60 or so semester credits, including courses in curriculum planning, child safety, and special education.
To earn a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, you will take a range of classes in topics such as instructional interventions, behavioral management techniques, and assessment strategies. These programs also require you to engage in a field experience or student teaching placement to gain classroom experience, just like in-person students have to do. These types of programs typically qualify you to apply for state certification, though not always. It’s best to check with the programs in which you’re interested to find out if they are a pre-licensure track.
Most bachelor’s degrees require around 120 credits of coursework. As mentioned earlier, this usually takes around four years of full-time study.
What are the Best Online Schools for Early Childhood Education?
OSR uses six data points to answer the pivotal question, “What is the best online school for early childhood education?” These data points include three school-wide and three program-specific factors.
For school-wide factors, OSR uses student satisfaction, admission rates, and the number of programs the school offers online. Program-specific factors for online degree programs include the median debt of graduates from that program, how many degrees are offered within that program’s umbrella department, and what percentage of students at that school graduated from that department.
Each of the six statistics are displayed by each school. The sliding bar under each statistic represents how that school compares to other U.S. institutions. “Not reported” means a school did not release that information to the US Department of Education.
A more detailed description of the OSR process to find the best colleges in this area can be found on the methodology page.
Let’s get to the ranking of the best early childhood education programs online!