20 Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education for 2020

Early childhood development is a crucial period of growth for everyone.

According to Harvard University, a young child’s experiences can have lifelong impacts on learning, behavior and health. Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman takes the importance of ECD to a new level: Educating young children is the single most important investment for society.

An early childhood educator will make lasting impacts on children for the rest of their lives.

What is an Early Childhood Education degree?

This master’s degree trains students to teach, administrate, and care for children aged zero to eight. An ECE degree furthers leadership and advocacy skills, while focusing on the psychological development of a child.

An ECE degree can train you to become a teacher, administrator, or care giver in a pre-K through third grade setting.

Most programs are between 30-40 credit hours, accounting for 10-12 classes of direct learning experience. Depending on the school, you might enroll as a full-time or part-time student.

How much can I earn with an Early Childhood Education degree?

With a master’s degree in ECE, kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn an average of $55,490 annually.

Preschool teachers with the same education earn anywhere from $36,400 to $43,492, while preschool directors make an average of $45,000.

Your earning potential rises if you become a teacher with a niche in special education. The median annual income for this career choice is $57,910.

What is required for an Early Childhood Education degree?

Any master’s program requires that you hold a bachelor’s degree. Many schools expect you to have hands early childhood experience already, either through undergraduate studies or work.

Undergraduate GPA prerequisites range from 2.3 – 3.0. Roughly half the schools on our list require the GRE or MAT for admission consideration.

Most programs integrate a practicum teaching component as a part of fieldwork experience, in addition to your online studies. If you are already teaching or working in a school, this could also apply.

What are the best Early Childhood Education degrees?

OSR uses six data points: three school-wide and three program specific. For school-wide, OSR uses Student Satisfaction, Admission Rates, and the number of programs the school offers online. For program specific, OSR checks 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.

The six statistics are displayed by each school. The sliding bar under each statistic represents how that school compares to other US 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 can be found on the methodology page.

  1. University of West Alabama

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $6,678(in state) / $13,356(out of state)
    • You may receive your Alabama teaching certification after graduating
    • Up to 80 percent of students receive financial aid, scholarships, and grants
    • Advisors help place you in a teaching field experience

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction77.80%
    Admission Rate28%
    Programs offered online13

    Program Level

    Median Debt$38,266
    Programs in Department9
    Popularity at School17.80%
    100%
    OSR Score

    The University of West Alabama offers a Master of Education in Early Childhood Education. This is a 34 credit program and only takes one year to complete. This degree is for current educators or students with educational backgrounds looking to gain deeper experience in their field.

  2. Northern Arizona University

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $9,313(in state) / $17,915(out of state)
    • Boasts small class sizes and one-on-one instruction
    • More variation with class options and electives than other schools on our list
    • You have up to six years to complete this program

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction73.80%
    Admission Rate81%
    Programs offered online26

    Program Level

    Median Debt$27,368
    Programs in Department11
    Popularity at School9.30%
    87%
    OSR Score

    This 30-credit master’s in Early Childhood Education specializes in Early Childhood Continuing Professional, Early Childhood Leadership, or Early Childhood National Board Certification Teacher (NBCT) Preparation. A teaching practicum may or may not be needed based on your concentration.

  3. Georgia Southern University

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $6,636(in state) / $26,518(out of state)
    • US News & World Report ranked this program among the top 50 best online education degrees
    • GRE or MAT not required
    • Focuses on diversity in education with certificate in Curriculum and Pedagogy for Social Justice

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction74.80%
    Admission Rate68%
    Programs offered online3

    Program Level

    Median Debt$24,951
    Programs in Department9
    Popularity at School5.20%
    81%
    OSR Score

    GSU offers a fully online Master of Education in Elementary Education. This 36-credit M.Ed. can be completed in four or six semesters with optional field work.

  4. Concordia University-Saint Paul

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $8,550(in state) / $8,550(out of state)
    • This program offers the same tuition for in state and out of state students
    • Graduate study abroad options
    • 95 percent of graduates receive job offers in first year

    School Wide

    Student SatisfactionNot Reported
    Admission Rate55%
    Programs offered online17

    Program Level

    Median DebtNot Reported
    Programs in Department9
    Popularity at School11.00%
    81%
    OSR Score

    This Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education boasts one of the lowest tuitions for private colleges in Minnesota. This 33 credit course is designed for professional educators and practitioners. This fully online, flexible program offers a highly structured sequence of courses.

  5. Northwestern College

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $5,580(in state) / $5,580(out of state)
    • Career opportunities such as administrators, specialists, teachers, or consultants
    • You may apply for the TEACH grant
    • Option to earn Birth Through Grade Three Inclusive Setting Endorsement

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction80.80%
    Admission Rate68%
    Programs offered online2

    Program Level

    Median DebtNot Reported
    Programs in Department2
    Popularity at School19.90%
    80%
    OSR Score

    The school in Iowa offers a 33-credit online Master of Education in Early Childhood Education. The online degree costs the same for both in state and out of state residents. Each class lasts eight weeks and you can take two or more courses per semester.

  6. Northwestern College

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $5,580(in state) / $5,580(out of state)
    • Career opportunities such as administrators, specialists, teachers, or consultants
    • You may apply for the TEACH grant
    • Option to earn Birth Through Grade Three Inclusive Setting Endorsement

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction80.80%
    Admission Rate68%
    Programs offered online2

    Program Level

    Median DebtNot Reported
    Programs in Department2
    Popularity at School19.90%
    80%
    OSR Score

    The school in Iowa offers a 33-credit online Master of Education in Early Childhood Education. The online degree costs the same for both in state and out of state residents. Each class lasts eight weeks and you can take two or more courses per semester.

  7. Liberty University

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $8,217(in state) / $8,217(out of state)
    • Eight different start dates and no set login times
    • GRE or MAT not required
    • Students with elementary license eligible for endorsement in Early Childhood

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction73.40%
    Admission Rate30%
    Programs offered online23

    Program Level

    Median Debt$34,767
    Programs in DepartmentNot Reported
    Popularity at School7.70%
    79%
    OSR Score

    Liberty University offers a completely online Master of Education in Teaching and Learning – Early Childhood degree. This 36 credit hour program boasts a comprehensive curriculum with the option of a teaching practicum. You can complete this degree in as little as two years and as much as five years.

  8. Jacksonville State University

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $9,168(in state) / $18,336(out of state)
    • You can become eligible for an Alabama Teacher Class A Certification
    • Clinical experiences are built into the program
    • School offers similar programs with different specialties

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction77.20%
    Admission Rate54%
    Programs offered online2

    Program Level

    Median Debt$43,250
    Programs in Department5
    Popularity at School10.10%
    78%
    OSR Score

    JSU in Alabama offers a Master of Science in Early Childhood/Special Education. This fully online collaborative degree is designed for certified teachers interested in pre-K to third grade. In state and out of state students pay the same tuition for 30 credit-hours within the program.

  9. Kennesaw State University

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $4,851(in state) / $17,541(out of state)
    • Features over six different specializations and endorsements
    • You can choose a shorter, 13-month intensive option while you teach
    • Voted #3 for online masters degrees in education by Early Childhood Online Report

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction74.20%
    Admission Rate61%
    Programs offered online10

    Program Level

    Median Debt$21,735
    Programs in DepartmentNot Reported
    Popularity at School7.50%
    73%
    OSR Score

    KSU in Georgia offers a completely online Master of Education in Early Childhood Education program. This program is flexible if you would like to study on a more part time basis. You are a part of a cohort of students, making this online program more of a team collaboration than other programs on this list.

  10. University of Alabama at Birmingham

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $7,866(in state) / $17,910(out of state)
    • You have five years to complete this degree
    • UAB assists with practicum placement
    • You have an extensive cohort of advisors

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction77.80%
    Admission Rate92%
    Programs offered online12

    Program Level

    Median Debt$28,500
    Programs in Department5
    Popularity at School7.50%
    73%
    OSR Score

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers an online Master of Education degree in Early Childhood Education. This is a 31 to 34 credit course that emphasizes at least one-third of the courses be in field work for teaching. The University boasts that six out of eight of the 2017 Alabama Teachers of the Year are alumni of the UAB School of Education.

  11. West Chester University of Pennsylvania

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $12,000(in state) / $18,000(out of state)
    • Special education courses are already built into the program
    • Offers unique capstone course in early childhood research
    • You do not need to visit campus at anytime

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction74.80%
    Admission Rate69%
    Programs offered online1

    Program Level

    Median Debt$15,574
    Programs in DepartmentNot Reported
    Popularity at School7.50%
    71%
    OSR Score

    Westchester University in Pennsylvania offers a Master of Education in Early Childhood Education degree. This 33-credit course through the College of Education and Social Work is 100% online. This flexible program can be completed full-time or part-time.

  12. Capella University

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $14,365(in state) / $14,365(out of state)
    • Scholarships in upwards of $3000 with federal grant options
    • Licensure team will support you through teacher license application process
    • GRE or MAT not required for admission

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction71.60%
    Admission RateNot Reported
    Programs offered online23

    Program Level

    Median Debt$36,506
    Programs in DepartmentNot Reported
    Popularity at School< 1%
    70%
    OSR Score

    Capella University offers a Master of Science in Education, with an Early Childhood Education Specialization. This program is 100 percent online, with six core courses, four specialization courses, and one practicum. For a total of 46 credits, this is program can be part-time or full-time. The price varies based upon your course load.

  13. University of North Dakota

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $7,688(in state) / $20,526(out of state)
    • Partnership with the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Education Leadership
    • Certification for future administrators in Childhood Education available
    • No GRE required

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction72.60%
    Admission Rate83%
    Programs offered online13

    Program Level

    Median Debt$17,091
    Programs in DepartmentNot Reported
    Popularity at School5.00%
    68%
    OSR Score

    The Online Master of Science in Early Childhood Education is a 32-credit program identical to the curriculum on campus. With a flexible start date, you can complete the courses at your own pace on either a more full-time or part-time schedule. Regardless of where you live, this M.S. degree helps you to apply what you are learning in your own community through a 60-hour classroom teaching practicum.

  14. Mercer University

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $14,370(in state) / $14,370(out of state)
    • You graduate with a Level 4 certification in Early Childhood
    • Earn endorsements in the areas of Autism, ESOL, Math, Reading, or Science
    • Eligible to upgrade to a master’s level 5 teacher in Georgia

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction74.60%
    Admission Rate73%
    Programs offered online5

    Program Level

    Median Debt$44,417
    Programs in Department1
    Popularity at School8.30%
    64%
    OSR Score

    Mercer University’s College of Education offers a 30-credit Master of Education in Early Childhood. This degree is for currently certified educators in grades preK-5 and costs $14,370 for both in state and out of state residents. This 12-16 month fully online program allows you to work in the educational sector while studying. You can also meet with professors on campus in various locations, one-on-one, if choose.

  15. Biola University

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $10,656(in state) / $10,656(out of state)
    • Apply for rolling admission in the summer, spring or fall
    • You can apply for California Child Development Permits after graduating
    • Several scholarship opportunities

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction77.00%
    Admission Rate72%
    Programs offered online2

    Program Level

    Median DebtNot Reported
    Programs in Department3
    Popularity at School6.30%
    64%
    OSR Score

    Biola University’s School of Education offers a fully online Master of Arts in Early Childhood. This 38-credit program can be completed in two to three years while teaching full time. It is designed for school teachers who want to further their skills and expertise. At the end of the program, you may decide to do a research project or write a thesis to finish your degree.

  16. University of Dayton

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $16,182(in state) / $16,182(out of state)
    • The M.S.E. is nationally ranked within UD’s Department of Teacher Education
    • GRE or MAT only required if you apply with an undergraduate GPA of less than 2.75
    • Emphasis on smaller classes sizes and more one-on-one instructor-student interaction

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction73.60%
    Admission Rate72%
    Programs offered onlineNot Reported

    Program Level

    Median DebtNot Reported
    Programs in DepartmentNot Reported
    Popularity at School8.70%
    62%
    OSR Score

    Tuition is identical for in-state and out-of-state students in the Master of Science in Education in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy. This fully online program prepares students to become leaders and advocates for children with concentrations in administration or advocacy. The M.S.E. is designed for administrators, supervisors, teachers, and leaders who work with young children and families.

  17. University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $6,714(in state) / $22,374(out of state)
    • Specialist license or endorsement in Special Education available through extra coursework
    • Field-based learning experience with 200-hour practicum requirement
    • Extensive partnerships with urban schools in and around the Denver Metro area

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction73.20%
    Admission Rate65%
    Programs offered online10

    Program Level

    Median Debt$37,569
    Programs in Department3
    Popularity at School< 1%
    61%
    OSR Score

    UC Denver offers an online Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education degree. This 30 or more credit hour program has three concentrations in either Administration and Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion, or Teaching and Learning. Flexible course schedule allows 95 percent of students to work full-time while completing their degree.

  18. University of Toledo

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $13,429(in state) / $23,766(out of state)
    • Minimum undergraduate 2.7 GPA
    • Scholarships offered upwards of $4000
    • Several endorsements options

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction73.00%
    Admission Rate94%
    Programs offered online11

    Program Level

    Median Debt$34,574
    Programs in DepartmentNot Reported
    Popularity at School6.20%
    60%
    OSR Score

    This Ohio school offers a completely online Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education in the Judith Herb College of Education. This 36 credit curriculum is designed for preschool, childcare, and early learning educators and administrators.

  19. Champlain College

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $14,310(in state) / $14,310(out of state)
    • “Best Schools” ranked this as one of the top 10 online M.Ed. programs
    • Students are accepted year-round for summer, spring, or fall terms
    • You will have an individual advisor

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction72.60%
    Admission Rate75%
    Programs offered online22

    Program Level

    Median DebtNot Reported
    Programs in DepartmentNot Reported
    Popularity at School3.80%
    56%
    OSR Score

    This fully online Master of Education in Early Childhood Education was one of the first colleges to offer this online program. You can complete the 36 credit master’s degree in full, or receive an 18 credit Graduate Certificate for half tuition. This degree can be taken full-time or part-time.

  20. Portland State University

    Quick Facts

    • Tuition: $14,436(in state) / $21,780(out of state)
    • Study abroad options in Italy and other international locations
    • Summer intensive through the Helen Gordon Child Development Center
    • Options in Constructivism, Infant-Toddler Mental health, or Early Childhood Special Education

    School Wide

    Student Satisfaction73.80%
    Admission Rate92%
    Programs offered online3

    Program Level

    Median DebtNot Reported
    Programs in DepartmentNot Reported
    Popularity at School< 1%
    48%
    OSR Score

    This Master of Education in Early Childhood Education focuses on Inclusive Education and Curriculum & Instruction. This fully online program is interdisciplinary between the Curriculum & Instruction department and the Special Education department. This master’s program is designed for both current teachers and non-teachers.