Early Childhood Education & Degree Programs
- The Importance of Early Education, Colleen Walsh, Harvard Gazette, December 6, 2007, Accessed August 2017, http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2007/12/the-importance-of-early-education/
- Preschool, A State-by-State Update, NPR, March 24, 2017, Accessed August 2017, http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/05/24/529558627/preschool-a-state-by-state-update
- Early Childhood Education, University of Maine at Farmington, Accessed August 2017, http://www.umf.maine.edu/majors-academics/early-childhood-education/
- B.A. in Early Childhood Education, Bethesda University, Accessed August 2017, http://www.buc.edu/web2/33c_ba_in_early_childhood_ed.htm
- Early Childhood Education Bachelor's and Master's Dual Degree Program, Wheelock College, Accessed August 2017, https://www.wheelock.edu/academics/schools-and-programs/school-of-education-child-life-and-family-studies/early-childhood-education-bs-and-ms
- Education, The University of Montana Western, August 2017, https://www.umwestern.edu/academics/education.html
- Early Childhood Education, Wright State University - Lake Campus, Accessed August 2017, https://lake.wright.edu/academics/business-education-nursing-and-technical-academic-unit/early-childhood-education
- Early Childhood Studies, SUNY Cobleskill, Accessed August 2017, http://www.cobleskill.edu/academics/schools/liberal-arts-and-sciences/early-childhood/early-childhood-studies-bs.asp
- Early Childhood Education Major, Worcester State University, Accessed August 2017, https://catalog.worcester.edu/undergraduate/school-education-health-natural-sciences/education/early-childhood-education-major/
- School of Business & Education, Navajo Technical University, Accessed August 2017, http://www.navajotech.edu/academics/departments/business-education
- School of Education Degree and Programs, Georgia Gwinnett, Accessed August 2017, http://www.ggc.edu/academics/schools/school-of-education/degrees-and-programs/
- Early Childhood Education, California University of Pennsylvania, Accessed August 2017, http://www.calu.edu/academics/online-programs/me-early-childhood-education/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Preschool Teachers, Accessed August 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/preschool-teachers.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Accessed August 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
- Education Scholarships, Scholarships.com, Accessed August 2017, https://www.scholarships.com/financial-aid/college-scholarships/scholarships-by-major/education-scholarships/
The early years are crucial for child development. In fact, early childhood education is so important that a 2007 study found students who attended preschool as three and four-year olds grew into 40-year old adults who had more family stability, greater incomes and less involvement in crime than their peers who didn't have an early school experience.
Studies like this have led many states to invest heavily in early childhood education with 43 states now offering public preschool programs. That means more job opportunities for those who want to work with young children. However, you need to have the right education if you want to fill one of these positions.
A bachelor's degree is the most common level of education needed for professionals in the field. While you can earn online early childhood education degrees at some institutions, most must be completed on-campus. If you're interested in working in the field, keep reading to learn more about the best schools, career opportunities and financial aid options for early childhood education students.
Best Colleges for Early Childhood Development Degree Programs
The best colleges for early childhood education degrees aren't necessarily the biggest names in higher education. Indeed, top programs are more likely to be found at smaller institutions offering personalized instruction. Using a methodology that looked at the prominence of program and available degree options, here are the best schools for early childhood education.
The number one school for early childhood education degree programs can be found in the northeast corner of the country. The University of Maine at Farmington has its campus in historic Farmington, situated in the state's lakes and mountains region.
UMF is nationally recognized for its outstanding teacher education program. In the past four years, five university graduates have been awarded Maine teacher or administrator of the year honors. For those interested in early childhood education, there are three bachelor's degree options:
- Early Education and Care (non-certification)
- Early Education and Care (certification)
- K-3 Education (certification)
A degree in early childhood education - special education is also available. All students get hands-on experience working with children through the on-campus preschool, infant/toddler programs and the Sweatt-Winter Early Care and Education Center.
Bethesda University is a Christian institution with its main campus in Anaheim, California. Founded in 1976, the school is known for its excellent music department, but it also ranks high for early childhood education.
In addition to a preschool certificate program, Bethesda University offers a bachelor's degree in early childhood education. The curriculum for this degree takes a Christian approach as it covers topics such as early child development, staff management and childcare program design.
The university ties for first in this survey for its admissions rate. It also has the best graduation rate among these schools for early childhood education.
From its very start, Wheelock College has been committed to preparing early childhood professionals. The college was founded in 1888 as a school for kindergarten teachers. Today, Wheelock College offers a range of degree options on its Boston campus for those preparing for careers educating youth.
Wheelock College offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in early childhood education. To streamline the process of earning an advanced degree, Wheelock lets students in the bachelor's degree program add an optional fifth year to earn a master's degree in early childhood education.
The college ranks high for the prominence of its program and Wheelock College also has the second best graduation rate on this list.
As a public university based in Dillon, The University of Montana-Western is an affordable choice for higher education. The school ranks second on this list for its tuition rate and offers alternative tuition plans to make payment easier. It also has the oldest education department in Montana and is known for the quality of its teacher preparation programs.
For those interested in early childhood education, The University of Montana-Western offers both an associate degree and a bachelor's degree in the field. There is also an early childhood education minor available.
The University of Montana-Western is unique in that it is one of the few schools on this list to confer online early childhood education degrees. Its degree programs are set up so distance learners can study via a combination of block courses and online classes.
Although growing, the Lake Campus of Wright State University continues to offer students a small learning environment, complete with the amenities you may expect to find at bigger schools. Based in Celina, Ohio, the school boasts of a park-like setting and reasonable tuition rates for its approximately 1,300 students.
The early childhood education program is designed for those wishing to teach children from age three through the third grade of elementary school. As juniors and seniors, students enrolled in the program get hands-on experience in a classroom. Upon graduation, those completing the program should be prepared to qualify for early childhood teacher license in Ohio.
Wright State University is a public institution which, in addition to its Lake Campus, has a main campus in Dayton.
Given its formal name, students might not immediately think of SUNY Cobleskill as one of the best colleges for early childhood education degrees. However, the college has an excellent program combined with affordable tuition.
Its bachelor's degree in early childhood studies is appropriate for those who want to work with children from birth to age five. The college's onsite child development lab allows for student observations and assessment. Those enrolled in the program can choose from a curriculum option, designed for future educators, and a child and family option intended for those pursuing a career in social work.
SUNY Cobleskill also offers associate degrees in early childhood and child and family services. The college is part of The State University of New York system.
At its central Massachusetts campus, Worcester State University has been offering higher education programs for 140 years. It is the most selective school among the institutions on this list of best colleges for early childhood education degrees. Those who are admitted get access to a liberal arts curriculum that emphasizes both research and service learning.
Within the Education Department at Worcester State University, there is an early education and care program and an early childhood education major. Students who choose the major should be qualified for licensure to teach preschool through 2nd grade in Massachusetts after graduation.
Worcester State University offers night and weekend classes for those who need a flexible learning schedule. There is also academic advising available.
Navajo Technical University nabs the number eight spot on this list. It also ranks first for affordable tuition among the best schools for early childhood education. Open to students of all backgrounds, Navajo Tech is Navajo Nation Higher Education Institution and has its main campus in Crownpoint, New Mexico.
The early childhood education degree at Navajo Technical University is unique in its focus. Rather than take a general approach to the subject, it is designed to prepare professionals to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students. Both an associate degree and a bachelor's degree in the major are available.
Graduates of the early childhood multicultural education program will be prepared to work with children from infancy through age 8.
Boasting small class sizes and affordable tuition, Georgia Gwinnett College is another good choice for students interested in early childhood education. The school is part of the University System of Georgia and has grown quickly since its founding in 2006. Today, more than 12,000 students are enrolled in its programs.
Georgia Gwinnett College offers an education based on three pillars:
Students enrolled in the early childhood education programs receive a combination of academic and field-based learning. During their final year, they take part in a leadership seminar as well as a student-teaching experience in a local school. Upon graduation, students receive a Bachelor of Science in Education.
California University of Pennsylvania rounds out this list of best schools for early childhood education. Known simply as Cal U to many, the university has its campus 35 miles from Pittsburgh. It is a part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and enrolls more than 7,500 undergraduate and graduate students.
The university offers a bachelor's degree in early childhood education services that prepares students to work with children from birth to age 8. A separate bachelor's degree in education is available for those interested in teaching preschool through 4th grade.
At the graduate level, Cal U offers some online degrees for early childhood education. These master's degree and certificate programs can be completed entirely online.
Common Career Paths
Students who choose to study early childhood education often work in the fields of education or childcare. They may serve as teachers, care facility directors or in similar positions. Due to state licensure requirements, a bachelor's degree is often required.
Bachelor's Degree Programs in Early Childhood Education
A bachelor's degree in early childhood education typically takes four years to complete and includes both theoretical and practical components. Students learn about child development through classroom study and then put those lessons to work through student teaching or a similar hands-on experience. Once they have graduated, students may go on to work in one of these common careers paths.
- Preschool Teacher: Preschool teachers work with children younger than age 5. They must create and implement learning activities that help children develop social and pre-learning skills that will be vital to later academic success.
- Kindergarten Teacher:Kindergarten teachers may have more formal teaching requirements, based upon their school or district. They are responsible for creating lesson plans, teaching concepts and communicating student progress to parents and administrators.
- Special Education Teacher - Preschool:Workers in this occupation also work with children younger than age 5. However, they specialize in providing instruction to those facing physical, mental or emotional impairments. In addition to classroom duties, special education teachers may have to coordinate services with other care professionals.
Career Outlook for Early Childhood Education Majors
Given the high priority many states and parents place on early childhood education, the future of several careers in this field is bright. Here's a closer look at the job outlook for some early childhood professions.
Expected Job Growth
|Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education||385,550||$33,300||6.7%|
|Education Administrators, Preschool and Childcare Center/Program||48,530||$52,150||6.6%|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||298,840||$47,510||6.2%|
|Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education||151,290||$55,460||5.9%|
Q&A with an expert
What are the most common educational paths for those interested in this career field?
First and foremost, anyone interested in this career field should love working with young children between the ages of about four through eight. Some schools require a bachelor's degree in child development or early childhood education; however, a graduate degree in early childhood education has become more common among early childhood educators.
Why is a degree in early childhood education important?
Advances in brain research show that the first five years are important to the cognitive as well as social emotional development of young children. This time is also important to the success young children experience later in their academic journey because those early years are building block years.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children - With nearly 60,000 members, this association represents individuals working with children from birth through age 8.
- Association for Childhood Education International - Founded in 1892, this organization is committed to promoting excellence in early childhood education globally.
- National Education Association - The largest professional organization in the country, the NEA represents educators working in public schools at all levels.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Many colleges and universities offer their own scholarship and financial assistance to those enrolled in their early childhood education programs. Plus, private organizations and foundations may offer their own awards. These include the Inspire Our Future Scholarship and the Bright Futures Scholarship for Early Childhood Teachers, among others.
Renewable for one year if recipient maintains a minimum 3.0 GPA.