What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Program?

Early childhood education programs cover instructional strategies and educational theory for children up to age 8. As a student in an online master’s in early childhood education program, you’ll enchance your knowledge and understanding to teach children from preschool to age 8, which is usually second grade. Some students may also choose to study infant-toddler education, normally facilitated by parents, which covers birth to age 2.

Online programs for a master’s in early childhood education offer the same quality as on-campus programs. Completing an online degree is convenient because it allows you to review course materials and complete assignments whenever you have time — it’s a great option for those who must balance their coursework with other commitments. It’s important to consider all the options and different program offerings to find an online degree program in early childhood education that’s right for you.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Early Childhood Education Generalist Provides students with a wide range of educational techniques and topics for teaching young children, typically from preschool to second grade. Early childhood classroom teacher (preschool – grade 2), multi-subject general educator
Early Childhood Administration Students enrolled in this concentration learn about effective leadership techniques and how to develop organizational and administrative skills. Director of child care center, elementary school administration, early childhood teacher
Early Childhood Special Needs Effective teaching strategies for teaching children with special needs from this age group. Early childhood education special needs aide, teacher or specialist

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education

Programs for students obtaining an online master’s in early childhood education let them explore the latest theories, educational models and instructional strategies in the field. Students learn how to incorporate games, activities and sensory exploration into lessons in order to make them engaging for young learners. Students in master’s programs for early childhood education also learn how to monitor young children’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive development to ensure they’re meeting age-appropriate milestones.

While coursework is going to vary by program and your chosen area of concentration, you can expect to take some or all of these classes:

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Early Childhood Education Studies General overview of early childhood topics and an introduction to the field.
Instruction for Early Learners Learn how to integrate games, activities and other sensory tools into lessons to engage young children.
Differentiation Strategies for Special Education Students Overview of special education law and techniques teachers can use to help students with a wide range of disabilities have success in the classroom.
English Language Learning (ELL) Methods Examines ways to support ELL learners in the classroom.
Evaluation and Assessment Explores how to implement and analyze results of different assessment methods and strategies to improve teaching effectiveness.
Foundations of Reading and Writing Develop critical reading and writing skills in young children.
Teaching Methods (Across All Content Areas) Focus in single subject or multiple subject areas which includes math, social studies, science and reading and writing.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education?

Many online master’s programs in early childhood education lead to teacher licensure in early childhood education, while other programs focus on enhancing and improving the knowledge and skills of current teachers. In general, the type of license or certification you apply for will depend on the state you live in and its requirements for teaching licenses. When applying, be prepared to supply appropriate transcripts that certify your degree completion and any exam results.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Degrees

While browsing for an online program to enroll in, be sure to make sure you’re looking for an accredited early childhood education master’s program. For a school to be accredited, it means the school has met certain minimum standards outlined by industry groups, institutions or government agencies. Accreditation is important for employment purposes, as many schools, whether public or private, will only hire teachers whose degrees and certifications were obtained at an accredited school.

School accreditation comes in regional or national forms. Regional accreditation for an online master’s in early childhood education is generally considered to be more prestigious, since educational standards vary so widely by state.

Look for those certified by the Department of Education and Council for Higher Education Accreditation — these organizations act as oversight bodies and recognize legitimate accreditation agencies.

For early childhood development, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation are two of the most important accrediting bodies.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Early Childhood Education Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Across the board in the education field, students who earn a master’s degree in their chosen subject area, whether in elementary, early childhood, secondary or postsecondary, enjoy more favorable job placement rates than students who earned a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in the same field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, students who earned a master’s degree faced a 2.2 percent unemployment rate, whereas students with a bachelor’s degree had a 2.5 percent unemployment rate and associate’s degree holders had a 3.4 percent unemployment rate.

Expected Salary

In addition to enjoying better job prospects, students who earn a master’s in early childhood education earn higher salaries than their peers who hold a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. Below is a chart of some median annual salaries for jobs obtained with a master’s in early childhood education.

Median Annual Wage for Early Childhood Careers

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The chart below further outlines how master’s degree holders earn more than their bachelor’s and associate’s counterparts, even with less work experience under their belt.

Median Annual Salaries for Early Childhood Careers

Source: 2015-2016 PayScale College Salary Report

Career Opportunities

The career you pursue with your master’s in early childhood education is going to depend on several factors, including your chosen area of concentration, your preferred age group to teach and your overall career goals. You should decide if you want to work in a private preschool, day care, public or private elementary school or other child care center.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers Teachers who work in kindergarten and elementary school classrooms (typically in grades K-2 with an early childhood education degree) help students build core skills in reading, writing, math and other content areas. They also help them build strong social skills as they teach students how to be kind, how to be a good friend and how to work together with other classmates. $56,900 per year 7%
Early Childhood Special Education Teachers Special education teachers for early childhood specialize in instructing and modifying curriculum for students with physical, emotional, behavioral and cognitive disabilities. Most special education teachers for this age group teach in a small private classroom at their school so they can instruct students in small groups. $58,980 per year 8%
Preschool Teachers Preschool teachers work in public school districts or private preschools and instruct children who have not yet entered kindergarten. They create lesson plans that cover core subjects such as reading, writing and math and integrate games, sensory activities, music and drama into their lessons to help make them more engaging for younger children. $43,000 per year 15%
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors These directors of preschools or childcare centers supervise and lead staff members, including teachers and teaching assistants, design overall program plans, oversee daily activities and often manage finances. $46,890 per year 6%

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations offer many opportunities for students enrolled in master’s programs to foster connections among other professionals in the field. These organizations also often provide valuable resources, including teaching materials, lesson plan ideas, webinars and other professional development opportunities to help enhance your career. Below are some top organizations for those obtaining a master’s degree in ECE.

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC): This organization offers a wide range of supportive services for early childhood education teachers. Member benefits include access to discounted books, teaching resources, complimentary magazines and newsletters, and access to “members only” sections of the organization’s website.

National Child Care Association (NCCA): This organization advocates for things such as classroom equality, safe learning environments and adequate funding for early childhood education programs. NCCA’s website includes a discussion forum, a resource library and links to webinars and continuing education opportunities to help you earn professional development credits.

Association for Early Learning Leaders (AELL): This nonprofit organization aims to assist childcare center directors and administrators. AELL’s website provides a job board, online training and webinar programs for earning professional development hours and continuing education courses.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education

While online degrees are often less expensive overall when compared to taking classes on-campus, many students still require financial assistance to help fund the cost of their coursework. For students seeking financial aid, a logical first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which provides you with information about grants, scholarships and other financial aid options available to you through the federal government. Private grants and other scholarships are also widely available for early childhood teachers, and oftentimes, individual schools and programs have their own scholarships available, so be sure to investigate your particular program for these opportunities in addition to the resources listed below.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Inspire Our Future Scholarship

Award: $2,500

Deadline: April

Offered to a postgraduate or undergraduate student pursuing a degree in education with at least a 3.5 GPA.

Bright Futures Scholarship for Early Childhood Teachers

Award: $250-$1,000

Deadline: June

Eligibility: Full-time enrollment in an accredited early childhood education degree program, nine months of experience working with age group, GPA of 3.0 or higher, accepted into a master’s program. A written personal essay is required with the application along with two recommendations.

Early Childhood Educators Scholarship Program for Massachusetts Residents

Award: Varies depending on institution type

Deadline: June

Eligibility: Residents of Massachusetts and U.S. citizens who have filled out the FAFSA form and have enrolled in an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s early childhood education program, have been employed for at least one year at an early childhood center or school.

TEACH Grant

Award: $4,000

Deadline: October

Eligibility: TEACH grant recipients are eligible to receive up to $4000 annually to fund their master’s degree pursuit if they agree to teach for four years at a low-income school upon completion of their program.