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?

We have compiled a list of the 20 best schools for an online degree in Early Childhood Education. Our ranking system is first based on the quality of the program, as indicated by student engagement and faculty credentials. This score includes student to faculty ratio, graduation rates, and faculty experience and training.

A degree is only as good as its future prospects, so our rating includes potential earnings for an early childhood educator.

Our methodology also incorporates the number of online programs and courses offered, tuition price, and acceptance rates.

Quite importantly, we also take into consideration student and alumni satisfaction in the program rankings. We know that early childhood educators deeply care about impacting the lives of young children, so we want to give you the best chance to explore your potential.

  1. University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $27,962/$44,114
    Acceptance89
    Earnings Potential52
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention81
    Student Satisfaction79
    Reputation98
    Pros
    • 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
    Cons
    • Online students are required to go to the Denver campus for 3-5 days each June
    • One year of experience working with children in a care or educational capacity required
    • Partnerships with Colorado schools only
    100%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.

  2. Arizona State University-Tempe

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $26,118/$42,698
    Acceptance64
    Earnings Potential85
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention97
    Student Satisfaction77
    Reputation85
    Pros
    • No education experience necessary
    • “US News & World Report” ranks this as one of the best graduate schools in education
    • You can pursue a profession as a teacher, social worker, psychologist, or school administrator
    Cons
    • Undergraduate 3.0 GPA required
    • School will not assist you in out of state licensure
    • Most practicum opportunities offered only in Arizona
    99%OSR Score

    The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College offers a Master of Education degree in Early Childhood Education. You have the option to take the M.Ed. program without certification (30 credit hours) or with Certification (45 credit hours). You can apply if you have a teaching certificate or not.

  3. University of North Dakota

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $21,417/$33,017
    Acceptance89
    Earnings Potential66
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention82
    Student Satisfaction80
    Reputation100
    Pros
    • Partnership with the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Education Leadership
    • Certification for future administrators in Childhood Education available
    • No GRE required
    Cons
    • Student’s responsibility to find an approved practicum site
    • You need teacher certification or experience in the early childhood education field
    • No tuition discounts for in-state students
    99%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.

  4. Northern Arizona University

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $27,133/$40,915
    Acceptance69
    Earnings Potential63
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention81
    Student Satisfaction75
    Reputation93
    Pros
    • 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
    Cons
    • National Board Prep requires at least three years of teaching experience and license
    • You may need to submit a comprehensive thesis for admission
    • You must pass seven rigorous standards from teachers and national board
    98%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.

  5. Georgia Southern University

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $22,860/$33,646
    Acceptance81
    Earnings Potential59
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality66
    Retention80
    Student Satisfaction77
    Reputation92
    Pros
    • 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
    Cons
    • You can only apply for summer admission
    • One of the most expensive programs on the list for out of state residents
    • No formal practicum or student-teaching component to this program
    95%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.

  6. University of Dayton

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $57,680/$57,680
    Acceptance64
    Earnings Potential33
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention67
    Student Satisfaction90
    Reputation94
    Pros
    • 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
    Cons
    • Program only for experienced professionals in the early childhood sector
    • Applicants must already hold licenses to teach
    • Among highest in-state tuition on our list
    94%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.

  7. Liberty University

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $38,178/$38,178
    Acceptance71
    Earnings Potential73
    Online Presence4
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention86
    Student Satisfaction76
    Reputation77
    Pros
    • Eight different start dates and no set login times
    • GRE or MAT not required
    • Students with elementary license eligible for endorsement in Early Childhood
    Cons
    • Religiously affiliated Christian university
    • Need to take “Introduction to Graduate Writing” if undergraduate GPA is less than 3.0
    • Some states may not recognize this program for licensure
    91%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. Concordia University-Saint Paul

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $34,500/$34,500
    Acceptance80
    Earnings Potential55
    Online Presence30
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention60
    Student Satisfaction74
    Reputation90
    Pros
    • 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
    Cons
    • Minimum GPA of 3.0 in undergraduate studies
    • Need to be working or volunteering regularly in the education sector with children
    • In state students do not get preferential treatment or discounts
    91%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.

  9. University of Alabama at Birmingham

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $26,096/$36,800
    Acceptance81
    Earnings Potential50
    Online Presence22
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention76
    Student Satisfaction75
    Reputation78
    Pros
    • You have five years to complete this degree
    • UAB assists with practicum placement
    • You have an extensive cohort of advisors
    Cons
    • Must have Alabama bachelor’s level professional educator certificate in Early Childhood
    • GRE or MAT required
    • Must attend one in person information session on campus
    89%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.

  10. Northwestern College

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $43,650/$43,650
    Acceptance67
    Earnings Potential33
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention100
    Student Satisfaction72
    Reputation85
    Pros
    • 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
    Cons
    • Need to hold a valid teaching license in Early Childhood
    • Minimum undergraduate 3.0 GPA required
    • Must complete degree within two years
    88%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.

  11. Portland State University

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $26,642/$43,989
    Acceptance67
    Earnings Potential33
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention79
    Student Satisfaction83
    Reputation84
    Pros
    • 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
    Cons
    • You must reside in Portland, Oregon for the summer intensive
    • No discounts for in state students
    • One year of volunteer or work experience in early childhood or related programs required
    87%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.

  12. West Chester University of Pennsylvania

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $26,773/$38,253
    Acceptance65
    Earnings Potential49
    Online Presence5
    Online Program Quality50
    Retention60
    Student Satisfaction71
    Reputation82
    Pros
    • 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
    Cons
    • Need to be a certified Level 1 teacher in Pennsylvania on the Advanced Teacher’s Track
    • Degree does not lead to Level 1 Certification
    • You need to be cleared for your practicum before starting
    87%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.

  13. Kennesaw State University

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $25,773/$36,755
    Acceptance86
    Earnings Potential43
    Online Presence8
    Online Program Quality75
    Retention52
    Student Satisfaction72
    Reputation82
    Pros
    • 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
    Cons
    • Tuition does not cover fees, books or materials
    • Degree may not meet certain state requirements
    • GRE necessary
    87%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.

  14. Champlain College

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $54,001/$54,001
    Acceptance81
    Earnings Potential43
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention63
    Student Satisfaction78
    Reputation75
    Pros
    • “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
    Cons
    • Unique project-based learning tailored to your interests and work environment
    • Previous extensive education experience required
    • You must attend a 4-day residency at an annual NAEYC conference
    86%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.

  15. Mercer University

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $52,198/$52,198
    Acceptance67
    Earnings Potential33
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention71
    Student Satisfaction82
    Reputation87
    Pros
    • 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
    Cons
    • Certifications only apply if teaching in Georgia
    • Need to be a certified teacher to apply
    • GRE or MAT required
    85%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.

  16. University of Toledo

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $23,553/$32,891
    Acceptance67
    Earnings Potential49
    Online Presence43
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention66
    Student Satisfaction72
    Reputation79
    Pros
    • Minimum undergraduate 2.7 GPA
    • Scholarships offered upwards of $4000
    • Several endorsements options
    Cons
    • Cannot teach students above three-years-old in public schools
    • Program must be completed in two years
    • Experience in elementary education does not apply
    84%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.

  17. University of West Alabama

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $21,047/$28,661
    Acceptance75
    Earnings Potential53
    Online Presence3
    Online Program Quality79
    Retention69
    Student Satisfaction72
    Reputation76
    Pros
    • 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
    Cons
    • Degree will not help with teaching certification outside Alabama
    • Must hold an undergraduate professional teaching certificate in the same field
    • No part-time option
    84%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.

  18. Jacksonville State University

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $21,696/$29,112
    Acceptance82
    Earnings Potential44
    Online Presence4
    Online Program Quality77
    Retention77
    Student Satisfaction75
    Reputation77
    Pros
    • You can become eligible for an Alabama Teacher Class A Certification
    • Clinical experiences are built into the program
    • School offers similar programs with different specialities
    Cons
    • You must be a certified teacher to apply
    • Degree is most applicable in Alabama if seeking additional certifications
    • Only accepting fall admissions
    83%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.

  19. Biola University

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $54,516/$54,516
    Acceptance61
    Earnings Potential89
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality13
    Retention96
    Student Satisfaction76
    Reputation75
    Pros
    • Apply for rolling admission in the summer, spring or fall
    • You can apply for California Child Development Permits after graduating
    • Several scholarship opportunities
    Cons
    • Minimum undergraduate 3.0 GPA required
    • If your GPA is lower than 3.5, GRE is required
    • Must possess a Certificate of Clearance from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing
    82%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.

  20. Capella University

    Tuition in State/Out of State: $20,152/$20,152
    Acceptance82
    Earnings Potential58
    Online Presence1
    Online Program Quality75
    Retention78
    Student Satisfaction74
    Reputation77
    Pros
    • 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
    Cons
    • There is no physical campus
    • Not considered a competitive school
    • Some states do not recognize this program to fulfill licensure requirement
    82%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.