Earning an early childhood education degree online is a great option for those looking to start or advance their career working with young children. Online programs allow students to complete their coursework on a schedule that fits their lifestyle, while still providing the knowledge and training needed for this rewarding field.
What is Early Childhood Education?
Early childhood education focuses on teaching and caring for children from birth to age 8, prior to their enrollment in elementary school. It emphasizes child development, teaching methods, and providing developmentally appropriate learning activities to promote social, emotional, cognitive, and physical growth.
Early childhood educators work in various settings including:
- Childcare centers
- Head Start programs
- Early elementary school grades
Their role is to nurture children’s development and spark learning through play, lessons, and activities tailored to different developmental stages. The early years are critical for building the foundation for future success.
Pursuing an Online Degree
Earning an early childhood education degree online offers several advantages:
Online programs allow students to complete coursework on their own schedule. This flexibility is ideal for those who work full-time or have other responsibilities. Students can study anywhere with an internet connection.
Online degrees open up opportunities for students in rural areas or those without colleges nearby. Distance is not a factor in pursuing education from accredited online universities.
Online programs tend to have lower tuition and fees compared to on-campus options. Savings come from not paying for room and board, commuting, or relocating.
Online students can often choose from a wider variety of course options to customize their learning for their goals and interests. Self-paced options are also available.
High quality online programs utilize experienced faculty and practitioners in the early childhood field. Students learn from experts across the country.
Types of Online Early Childhood Degrees
There are several degree options available online to start or advance an early childhood education career:
Early Childhood Education Certificate
Entry-level certificate programs provide an overview of early childhood development, teaching methods, and curriculum planning. They can be completed in 6 months to 1 year.
Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education
Associate degrees go more in-depth into child development, family relationships, inclusion practices, and learning observation techniques. They take roughly 2 years to complete.
Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education
A bachelor’s degree fully prepares students for professional teaching roles. Courses cover child assessment, behavior guidance, literacy, STEM learning, and working with special needs children. These 4-year programs include field experiences.
Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education
A master’s degree enables current teachers to advance into lead teacher, director, or administrative roles. Graduate studies delve deeper into family/community relationships, early childhood policy, staff leadership, and research methods.
Key Topics in an Online Early Childhood Program
Typical courses and topics covered in early childhood online programs include:
- Child Growth and Development – stages of growth, milestones, theories
- Teaching Methods – instructional strategies, lesson planning, technology integration
- Child, Family, and Community – family dynamics, diversity, community resources
- Children’s Literature – fostering early literacy, reading fundamentals
- STEM Learning – introducing science, math, engineering concepts
- Social and Emotional Development – self-regulation, relationships, guidance
- Nutrition, Health, and Safety – providing healthy environments, first aid
- Infant and Toddler Care – care routines, developing activities
- Classroom Management – organization strategies, schedules, behavior guidance
- Assessment Techniques – observation methods, identifying development levels
- Special Education – inclusion, accommodations, working with specialists
Field Experience Component
A key component of early childhood degree programs is field experience. Online programs require in-person classroom observations, student teaching, or practicum hours completed near where students live. This hands-on experience allows students to work directly with children in educational settings and connect theory to practice. Schools help arrange placement sites.
Accreditation for Online Programs
When researching online early childhood programs, it’s important to verify accreditation. Accredited schools have met strict educational standards. Key accrediting bodies for education programs include:
- CAEP – Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation
- NAEYC – National Association for the Education of Young Children
- NCATE – National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
Graduating from an accredited program will ensure credentials are recognized by licensing boards and employers.
Early Childhood Education Online Degree FAQs
Here are some common questions prospective students have about earning an early childhood degree online:
How long does it take to complete an early childhood education degree online?
Program length varies, but certificates can take 6 months-1 year. Associate degrees approximately 2 years. Bachelor’s degrees take roughly 4 years. Master’s degrees 1-2 years.
What kind of computer skills do I need?
Basic computer literacy, email, internet browsing, and word processing skills are needed. Schools provide online learning platforms with tech support.
Are teaching licenses required to work in early childhood education?
Licensure and certification requirements vary by state. A bachelor’s degree from an accredited program will meet requirements in most areas.
What is the job outlook for early childhood educators?
The job growth for preschool and early education teachers is projected to be 7% from 2019-2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs should be plentiful.
What types of early childhood education jobs can I get?
Jobs include preschool teacher, daycare teacher, Head Start teacher, early intervention specialist, nanny, child development specialist, and more.
Can I get financial aid for online early childhood programs?
Yes, you can apply for federal student aid grants, loans, and scholarships. Various aid options are available, including aid for part-time students.
Get Started in This Rewarding Field
Earning an online degree in early childhood education is an accessible and flexible way to start making a difference in young children’s lives. With competency-based training in child development, teaching methods, and curriculum planning, graduates are prepared to foster nurturing and enriching educational environments where children can thrive.