Do you love children and teaching? Looking to empower today’s youth? Check out the Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education!
Early childhood educators will always be needed. In every state, town, and city, there are kids who need to learn.
People with a master’s degree in early childhood education often work as elementary school teachers, learning mentors, social workers, special needs teachers, and more.
If you already work in the field and are looking to further your studies, an online degree may be the perfect option for you. More and more colleges are catering their programs for those who have jobs, family obligations, and just need flexibility. This is even more important and relevant to those in the field of Early Childhood Education.
What kind of Early Childhood Education degree should you get?
It can be difficult to figure out what kind of degree you should get. Should you attend online? Or on-campus? If you’re already working and flexibility is key for you, an online program may be your best bet.
Many of the programs on our list lead to a Master of Arts in Teaching degree. If you're curious about additional options for this type of degree (in early childhood education and beyond), take a look at our Best Online Master of Arts in Teaching Degrees ranking.
How much money do people make with an Early Childhood Education degree?
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the median salary for preschool teachers is $28,790, and $55,490 for those working in elementary and primary schools, this is a career that often allows frequent promotion and advancement.
People place a high value on quality early childhood education with certified staff. The number of new preschool students alone has risen by 43 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2019, early childhood education is expected to have the highest job availability of any area of education, rising by 18 percent.
What are the requirements for obtaining a Master’s in Early Childhood Education?
Each state has different requirements for working in early childhood education. Some careers require teaching licensure or special certifications, while others don’t. Our list will give you an understanding of which online programs provide endorsements (for specific age groups, special education students etc.) which only amp up your early childhood education credentials and job options.
Most of the below programs are for those working professionals who are already in the field or those who already have a degree in the industry.
What are the best Early Childhood Education degrees?
There are so many degrees in early childhood education out there—how do you choose the best? If you’re looking to earn an advanced degree with the flexibility to learn on your own time, these Online Early Childhood Education Master’s programs below are a great starting point. Our ranking methodology is based on three primary factors: institutional excellence, student satisfaction, and student success (or, return on investment).
If you hope to go on to earn a doctoral degree in the field as well, many of the below programs offer excellent courses to prepare you for the road ahead. From Walden University’s Master of Science in Early Childhood Studies to Grand Canyon University’s Master of Science in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders, the opportunities are endless!
1. University of Southern Mississippi
Founded in 1910 and located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the University of Southern Mississippi has a total enrollment of nearly 15,000. With students representing over 70 foreign countries and all regions of the United States, this school is abuzz with activity. For those who need more flexibility, Online at Southern Miss is a great alternative. In fact, the university now offers an online Master of Science Degree in Child and Family Studies.
This completely online master’s program is typically completed in two years. Students can expect to take courses including:
- Marriage Education
- Parenting Across the Lifespan
- Adolescence and the Family System
- Theories in Child and Family Studies
- Adulthood and Aging in the Family System
All students in this program will also need to complete a practicum in child and family studies or a thesis to receive their degree. Graduates typically go on to pursue careers including: preschool teacher/director, substance abuse specialist, foster care coordinator, child life specialist, and more.
The online master’s program at Southern Miss is designed for working professionals who can’t fit traditional classroom learning into their busy schedules. The convenient and affordable online degree will also help to advance and improve careers of those already in the field.
2. University of La Verne
This private not-for-profit university is located in La Verne, California and has a total enrollment just shy of 5,000. The university is home to four colleges including the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business & Public Management, and the LaFetra College of Education. Now, students can obtain a Master of Science in Child Development at La Verne.
This program is only offered completely online to California residents due to newly implemented revisions in the Higher Education Act. Whether you pursue this MS online or on-campus, you can expect to take classes including:
- Educational Psychology
- Human Development
- Assessment in Early Childhood
- Teaching Adults
- Cognition and Brain Development
All students must complete a total of 33 semester hours to earn their degree. Graduates will be qualified to teach in a California community college after completing their coursework.
Since 1991, the University of La Verne has maintained a partnership with the Fairplex Child Development Center. The center is a private, non-profit center that’s been operated by the Los Angeles County Fair Association since 1980. Graduate students also have access to La Verne’s Curriculum Lab, Literacy Center, and more.
3. Kaplan University
Headquartered in Davenport, Iowa, Kaplan is predominantly a distance learning institution with 15 physical locations across the United States as well. In 2017, Kaplan celebrated its 80th anniversary. The university has come a long way and now offers a variety of degrees, including a Master of Science in Human Services.
Whether you’re looking to become a social or community service manager, a grant writer, or an executive director, Kaplan’s program may be perfect for you. The program offers two degree concentrations, including:
- Family and community services – this specialization includes an emphasis on human development, resiliency, family theories, and advocacy.
- Organizational and social services – this specialization includes an emphasis on skills needed to work with diverse funding sources, influence policy, supervise staff, etc.
All students will have to complete 45 total credits in order to receive their degrees. A master’s capstone is also required to complete the MS in Human Services.
The MS degree at Kaplan is designed to prepare current professionals for leadership positions in a variety of nonprofit, government, or private agencies. With great flexibility and affordability, Kaplan is a top choice for many. The university offers great discounts for active duty military members and their families as well.
4. University of Missouri
Founded in 1839, the University of Missouri, known as Mizzou, is located in Columbia, Missouri. With students from all 50 states and 100 countries, Mizzou is a hub of determined and proactive go-getters. Now, Mizzou Online offers more than 100 degree and certificate options for students who need a bit more flexibility. In fact, graduate students can now pursue a master of arts in human development and family science with an emphasis in youth development.
Offered through Mizzou’s College of Human Environmental Sciences, the MS in Human Development and Family Science is a great program. Delivered 100 percent online, students can take courses including:
- Community Youth Development
- Foundations of Youth Development
- Youth Cultures and the Cultures of Youth
- Federal and State Policies that Impact Youth Development
Students in this program may choose to complete either a comprehensive exam or an internship to receive their degree. Most people in this program take two classes each semester and finish the degree in two to three years. A total of 36 credit hours is required for degree completion.
Mizzou offers distance learners the same resources that on-campus students enjoy. Graduate students taking courses online receive the same top-notch education from MU's award-winning faculty as those on-campus. The university has been ranked among the Best Value Schools and Best Colleges for Veterans in the country.
5. University of Nebraska
Founded in February of 1869, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is home to mascots Lil' Red and Herbie Husker. UNL is home to students who thrive on discovering and researching new things. In fact, the university’s research expenditures totaled more than $280 million in 2015. Now, students can continue researching through the school’s Master of Science Degree in Youth Development.
UNL’s fully online master’s program in youth development requires students to complete a total of 36 credits. Courses may include:
- Youth in Cultural Contexts
- Contemporary Youth Issues
- Adolescents and Their Families
- Youth Professionals as Consumers of Research
- Program Design, Evaluation, & Implementation
Graduates of this program will be able to develop policies with a positive effect, work with agencies, boards, families and other professionals, identify how youth and family cultural issues affect positive youth outcomes, and much more.
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has been ranked near the top third of all national universities, both public and private. In recent years, Nebraska has been ranked highly for value, graduation rate, and access. In fact, in-state tuition and out of state tuition rates are the same. Online learners at the University of Nebraska have access to the same student services available to on-campus students.
6. Capella University
Capella University is an online institution headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The school is unique in that they offer two paths for their degree programs: FlexPath, which is self-paced, and GuidedPath, which is a more interactive setting. Now, through Capella’s Harold Abel School of Psychology, students can earn an online Master of Science in Psychology with a specialization in Child and Adolescent Development.
Capella’s child and adolescent development program focuses on prenatal, child, and adolescent development, physical and mental health, and social and educational issues. Courses may include:
- Child Psychology
- Lifespan Development
- Adolescent Psychology
- Human Prenatal Development
- Ethics and Multicultural Issues in Psychology
Students in this program will complete four core courses, six specialization courses, and an integrative project. Graduates will be able to critically examine both the scientific and practical findings pertaining to child and adolescent development.
With 24/7 online access to your virtual classroom, Capella makes it easy to earn a quality degree at your own pace. Perhaps you’re looking for a more specific degree option in the field? Capella also offers a Master of Psychology with specializations in Applied Behavior Analysis and in Educational Psychology.
7. Grand Canyon University
Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Grand Canyon University’s student body is largely made up of online students. With so many online students, GCU has mastered the art of delivering an incredible campus experience in a virtual setting. Among its popular online graduate programs is a Master of Science in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders.
Offered through the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, this MS in professional counseling program is a great option for those looking for a flexible degree. Courses may include:
- Counseling Theories
- Human Growth and Development
- Human Sexuality, Aging, and Long-Term Care
- Social and Cultural Diversity Issues in Counseling
All graduate students must complete 74 credits. Each course lasts a total of eight weeks. The tuition rate is $500 per credit. The childhood counseling degree program concludes with practicum and internship experience.
This MS program has been aligned to the standards established by the National Board for Certified Counselors. Graduate students will receive comprehensive training essential for the next step of achieving national certification and licensure in Arizona as a counselor. Graduates of this degree program may apply for state licensure after passing the state-mandated testing.
8. Northcentral University
Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, Northcentral is a completely virtual university that was founded in 1996. With an enrollment of over 10,000 students, Northcentral offers a variety of flexible and affordable degree options. If you’re interested in studying early childhood education, Northcentral has great options. Check out Northcentral University’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) with a specialization in Early Childhood Education.
Students in this program are required to complete 33 credit hours, including a three-credit hour capstone course. Other coursework may include:
- Foundations of Teaching and Learning
- Growth and Development of Young Children
- Administration of Early Childhood Programs
- Diversity, Inclusion and Exceptional Learners
- Planning and Presenting Instruction for Diverse Learners
Graduate students typically complete this program within 18 months, but all students have up to five years to earn their degrees.
Students in the MAT program at Northcentral University can choose an area of specialization from one of eight areas, including Curriculum and Teaching, Early Childhood Education, Reading Education, Special Education, E-learning, Sports Management, Athletic Coaching, or English as a Second Language.
9. Ashford University
Ashford University is an online university that is headquartered in San Diego, California. As its programs are offered online only, total enrollment is quite high—nearing 75,000 students! The university offers a 36-credit Master of Arts in Education for graduate students to pursue. Students may also choose from one of eight specializations, including Early Childhood Education.
Looking to become an expert in child development? Ashford’s program is one of the best. Below are some courses you may take if you choose the specialization in Early Childhood Education:
- Family & Community Engagement
- Early Childhood Curriculum & Methods
- Administration of Early Childhood Education
Graduates of this program will learn how to use a range of digital technology tools to research, organize, evaluate, and communicate information while understanding both ethical and legal issues surrounding the use of information technologies in this field.
What’s great about courses at Ashford University is their length; each course is just six weeks and students can complete just one course at a time. Each course is three credits, so if you took one at a time, you could complete the program in a little under 16 months. It’s perfectly accessible those who are working full time as well as those who need to finish their degree more quickly.
10. University at Albany, SUNY
Home of mascot Damien the Great Dane, the University at Albany, SUNY is located in New York State’s capital and has a total enrollment of over 17,000 students. Founded in 1844, UAlbany now offers more than 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. With more students seeking flexible and affordable degree options, the university also has online options. In fact, you can pursue an MS in Early Childhood Education completely online.
The MS in Early Childhood Education at UAlbany requires graduate students to complete 30 credits. Courses may include:
- Literacy in Society
- Science for Children
- Teaching Social Studies
- Early Literacy Development
- Teaching Mathematics in Elementary Schools
The MS in Early Childhood Education program at UAlbany leads to the degree needed for New York professional teacher certification in the area of Early Childhood Education B-2 (NY certification option), or for a master's degree in any state (non-NY certification option).
This degree can be pursued both online and on-campus. When taken online, this program can only be taken part-time, with a maximum of two courses per semester. Also, prospective students should note that this program is intended for teachers who already have their initial certification.
11. Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University is a private school located near Manchester, New Hampshire. While the university only has an on-campus population of roughly 3,000 students, it boasts an incredible 60,000 distance learners! Its innovative online learning platform has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report and continues to grow. Southern New Hampshire University now offers a Master of Science in Child & Adolescent Development Psychology.
Students pursuing the MS in Child & Adolescent Development Psychology should have a BA or a BS in a related field. Courses in this master’s program include:
- Intervention Strategies
- Theories of Personality
- Ethical Practice in Psychology
- Child and Developmental Psychology Seminar
All graduate students must also complete a capstone course in order to receive their degree. This online program does not lead to any form of licensure, but it prepares students for many careers as well as the knowledge needed to pursue doctoral studies.
Southern New Hampshire University was ranked the number one Most Innovative School by U.S. News & World Report in 2018. The university has also been ranked among the Best Colleges for Veterans and Best Value Schools in the United States.
12. University of Minnesota
This public research university located in Minneapolis, MN has a total enrollment of over 51,000 students. Ranked one of the Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report, as well as one of the Best Colleges for Veterans, it’s not surprising so many flock to this university. Now, graduate students can pursue a Master of Arts in Applied Child and Adolescent Development completely online.
Offered through the university’s College of Education and Human Development, students in this MA program can choose from one of three specialized tracks. The options include:
- Child Life
- Individualized Studies
- Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health
Depending on which track you choose to pursue, courses may include Child Life Theory, Practice and Program Development, Development and Psychopathology in Early Childhood, and Current Issues in Applied Child and Adolescent Development. Those in the Child Life track are required to complete a 600-hour clinical internship as well. No matter which track you choose, you’ll have to complete a total of 32 credits to earn your degree.
Whether you’d like to work as a social worker, family counselor, or in a related profession, the MA program through the University of Minnesota can help you get there. In fact, those who successfully complete the Child Life track will be eligible for the Child Life Professional Certification Examination and the Association of Child Life Professionals Eligibility Assessment.
13. University of Northern Colorado
Home to mascot Klawz, the University of Northern Colorado is home to six colleges and over 12,000 students. UNC is a great place to study education. In fact, the university was ranked 12th for “Colleges with Psychology at Their Core” and 44th among top U.S. Colleges & Universities for Teaching Education. Check out their MA in Special Education: Early Childhood.
This 36-credit program is offered entirely online for students who need more flexibility in earning their degree. Over the course of two years students will study:
- Learning Environments and Cultural Considerations
- Research, Policy, and Advocacy in Early Childhood Special Education
- Typical and Atypical Early Child Development: Application to Early Childhood Special Education
Students admitted this program without prior teacher licensure will be required to complete additional Professional Teacher Education Program (PTEP) admission and course requirements. Students may also choose between pursuing a master's degree or an endorsement-only program, depending on their career goals.
The University of Northern Colorado’s School of Special Education has been designated as a Center of Excellence by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education three times. UNC is also the top-ranked university in the state of Colorado and one of the top 10 in the nation for online graduate programs in education.
14. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is a public liberal arts and research university. Founded in 1891, it is now home to nearly 20,000 students. More and more working professionals are choosing UNC Greensboro’s online programs: Not only are they flexible, but they’re affordable too. The university now offers an online Master of Education in Birth-Kindergarten Interdisciplinary Studies in Education and Development.
Offered by the university’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies, this program offers two concentrations:
- Early Childhood Leadership & Advanced Teaching Licensure: This concentration is designed for students with a Standard Professional I or an initial license seeking education in early childhood leadership and an advanced teaching license.
- Early Childhood Leadership & Program Administration: This concentration is for teachers, directors/administrators, and other professionals looking to advance their careers.
All students must complete 37 semester hours to receive their degree. Graduates must also participate in a culminating capstone experience.
Research is a core value among faculty at UNC Greensboro. In fact, faculty who teach in the above program focus on the following research topics: preparation of early childhood educators for family-centered practice, measurement of child care quality, inclusive practices, and collaboration in early childhood programs and services.
15. Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University was founded in 1920 and was known as Marion College until 1988. With nearly 3,000 undergraduate students, IWU is the largest private university in Indiana. In addition to residential undergraduate programs, Indiana Wesleyan also offers adult education, graduate, and online learning opportunities. In fact, the school now offers a Master of Education completely online.
In just under two years, students can earn their Master’s of Education through this online program. Specialized areas of study include:
- Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction
- Master of Education in School Administration
- Master of Education in Special Education
If you’re just starting out, the university also offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. For those located in Ohio who are seeking P-3 Early Childhood Education licensure, IWU also offers a unique program. It’s an accelerated 24-credit hour post-baccalaureate program completely online for adult learners to pursue teaching certification for grades P-3.
U.S. News & World Report has ranked IWU as one of the top 30 Regional Universities in the Midwest, as well as one of the Best Value Schools in the country.
16. University of South Florida
Located in Tampa, Florida, USF is a public research university that is ranked 41st in the nation for research expenditures. Founded in 1956, USF continues to grow, boasting 14 colleges and over 180 majors for students to choose from. Now, students can pursue the fully-online Master of Science Degree in Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health (MSCABH) program through the university’s Department of Child & Family Studies.
The MSCABH program at the University of Florida is unique as it offers four areas of concentration. These areas include:
- Research & Evaluation
- Youth & Behavioral Health
- Developmental Disabilities
- Leadership in Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health
Within each of the concentrations, the university also offers two tracks for students to pursue: thesis and applied. The applied track offers a field experience component which may be beneficial depending on your career goals. GRE scores are only required for those applying to the thesis track. All students must complete 39 total credits and a comprehensive exam to earn their degree.
The University of South Florida was named one of the Best Value Schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report. It was also ranked among the Best Colleges for Veterans, as well as one of the best overall National Universities.
17. University of Colorado at Denver
Home to mascot Milo the Lynx, the University of Colorado Denver is a public research university that was founded in 1912. CU Denver has several highly ranked programs and now offers many of them online. In fact, students can now pursue a Master of Arts (MA) in Early Childhood Education completely online at CU Denver.
Offered through CU Denver's School of Education and Human Development, this 36-credit MA degree usually takes two to three years to complete. During that time you’ll take courses like:
- Language and Literacy in Young Children
- Curriculum in Early Childhood Education
- Research in Schools
- Basic Statistics
While the coursework is completed virtually, all online students are required to attend a three-day seminar in Denver each summer. The Early Childhood Education program at CU Denver also offers a license in Early Childhood Special Education Specialist birth to age eight. This license is offered to students online as well as those on campus.
The online MA in ECE program at CU Denver is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), the Colorado Department of Education, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
18. Stephen F. Austin State University
Home to mascots Ladyjack and Lumberjack, Stephen F. Austin State University is named after the “Father of Texas.” Now, nearly 12,000 students call this university home. Students can now choose from 44 master's and three doctoral degrees in the SFA Graduate School. Plus, those looking for more flexibility and affordability can earn their degrees entirely online. SFA offers a Master of Education in Early Childhood completely online.
This 36-credit program offers classes in half-term formats. Courses may include:
- Mathematics in Elementary School, Advanced
- Science in the Elementary School, Advanced
- Social Studies in the Elementary School, Advanced
- Early Literacy of Young Children
- Reading Methods Upper Level
Stephen F. Austin State University is also home to the Early Childhood Laboratory, located in the new Early Childhood Research Center.
SFA's online master's degree in early childhood education program was ranked as one of the most affordable in the nation. U.S. News & World Report also ranked SFA number 22 in Top Public Schools, as well as one of the Best Regional Universities in the West.
19. West Virginia University
This public, land-grant, space-grant, and research-intensive university is located in Morgantown, West Virginia. Founded in the late 1800s, WVU is now home to nearly 30,000 students. Ranked among the top 100 public schools in the nation, WVU offers a variety of its degrees online. In fact, students can now pursue an online Educational Psychology MA with an emphasis in Child Development and Family Studies.
Offered through WVU’s Department of Learning Sciences and Human Development, students in this program will complete 33 credit hours, including a thesis. Courses may include:
- Educational Psychology
- Comparative Study of Family
- Mixing Research Methodologies
- Socio-Emotional Development of Children
- Theories of Child and Adolescent Development
- Measurement/Evaluation in Educational Psychology
This program is best for those who wish to work with children, adolescents, or families in educational, applied, or other clinical settings. The program also prepares students who wish to continue on with doctoral-level studies.
Students can also pursue a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology with a General Emphasis. There is also an emphasis in Program Evaluation and Research. These flexible and affordable programs are perfect for working adults looking to further their careers.
20. Michigan State University
Founded in 1855, this public research university is based in East Lansing, Michigan and is consistently ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. With students from all 50 states and more than 130 countries, MSU is a pioneer in research and innovation. Now, MSU offers an online Master of Arts in Education (MAED) for those looking for a more affordable and flexible degree.
Students in this online program can pursue a variety of concentration areas. These include:
- Special Education Concentration
- Literacy Education Concentration
- Technology and Learning Concentration
- Sport Coaching and Leadership Concentration
- Science and Mathematics Education Concentration
- P-12 School and Postsecondary Leadership Concentration
This program is designed for educators who are looking to advance their careers through online study. There is no thesis requirement for students to earn their degrees. Since Fall of 2001, over 1,000 educators from the United States and around the world have graduated from this program.
The MAEd is highly ranked by the U.S. News & World Report. This ranking reflects the college's commitment to student engagement and support, the use of innovative technology, outstanding faculty, and strong peer reputation.
21. Missouri State University
Located in Springfield, Missouri and home to mascot Boomer the Bear, Missouri State University has been ranked one of the Top Public Schools in the nation. Founded in 1906, MSU is now home to 26,000 students. For those looking for a flexible degree without compromising the quality of education, MSU has great online options. In fact, the university now offers an online Master of Science in Early Childhood and Family Development.
All students must complete 32 approved graduate hours to earn their degree. Required courses may include:
- Programming and Policy Issues for Early Childhood Settings
- Children and Families in a Diverse Society
- Educational Research Methodology
- The Educational Role of Play
Graduate students also have the option of pursuing a four-semester degree option, a three-semester degree option or the Accelerated Masters Program option. Whether you decide to take one course a semester or finish in three semesters, the program offers the flexibility for you to succeed.
The childhood education and family studies program at Missouri State University is taught by faculty members who have tons of professional experience working with children and families. They bring to the classroom not only their degrees, but also their professional insights, practical approaches, and devoted enthusiasm. They are recognized leaders in the field who will help you to become a leader as well.
22. North Dakota State University
Located in Fargo, North Dakota, this university was founded in 1890 and is now home to nearly 15,000 students. Students can choose from over 100 academic majors, and graduate students can study many master's programs as well, including business, engineering, and education degrees. In fact, the university now offers a variety of degrees online. One of which is the MS in Human Development and Family Science: Youth Development.
This MS program requires 36 credits, including a practicum experience. A master's paper or thesis is optional. Courses may include:
- Adolescents and Their Families
- Community Youth Development
- Contemporary Youth Issues: Mentoring
- Program Design, Implementation, and Evaluation
- Contemporary Youth Issues: Promoting Positive Mental Health in America's Youth
Students can typically complete this online program in two to three years.
Students completing the master’s degree program in youth development will be qualified to work with various youth-serving organizations, including 4-H Clubs, Boys and Girls Clubs, non-profit organizations, faith-based groups, community recreation, correctional facilities, and many more. A master’s degree in youth development can also benefit elementary, middle, and high school educators, as well as extension educators and military youth specialists.