Why This Matters


    As of 2019, there were approximately 1,579,800 kindergarten and elementary school teachers, 127,700 of whom taught kindergarten.


    From 2019 to 2029, about 56,100 more kindergarten and elementary school teaching jobs are expected to become available to serve the growing student population.


    Kindergarten and elementary school teachers earned a median wage of $59,670 per year in 2019, compared to the $39,810 median for all occupations.

Our Research

This list includes master of education, master of science, and master of arts graduate-level degrees in early childhood education. Depending on the school and program, courses might be available online, in person, or as a mixture of both.

It’s important to note a school’s accreditation, because some are regionally accredited and others are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) or the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). NCATE and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) merged into one organization — the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) — which ensures a program’s high quality and evidence-based methods of preparation.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 54 hours to write this article
  • 155 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 316 education programs we compared

The Top 31 Master’s in Early Childhood Education Degree Programs

Best Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

A master’s degree in early childhood education provides a higher-level, more intensive, and specialized preparation for those seeking a career in this field. This professional degree differs from a degree in teaching because it also prepares individuals for leadership, policy, and administration positions in early childhood education. Teaching degrees, on the other hand, are typically available for specific in-classroom teaching for middle school levels and up.

While any accredited school on this list is going to offer a valuable program, potential students may benefit from those with a specialized NCATE certification that holds schools to more rigorous standards set by the education community.

The job outlook for early childhood education teachers is positive, and this growth rate is in line with the national average for all careers. Teachers can work in specialized subject areas or in special education with students with learning disabilities or other conditions.

After obtaining their master’s degree, graduates who wish to teach must obtain a license or certification from their state and pass the relevant teacher certification exams. It’s important to also research the certification program in your state because each has different requirements.

What’s Next?

Here are a couple of questions to ask when researching master’s in early childhood education degree programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? To qualify for a master’s degree, you must have a bachelor’s degree, typically from a four-year university. Specific programs have varying eligibility requirements, such as a minimum GPA or GRE score. Learn each program’s requirements before applying to ensure your best chance of admission.
  • How long does it take to complete this online degree? Most of these programs require students to complete at least 30 credits, which is considered a two-year program. Some, however, allow students to earn their degree by studying part-time at their own pace and over a much longer length of time.

Before applying, make sure you’re aware of each program’s requirements, application deadlines, and other criteria. To find this information, visit the school’s website or contact its admissions department.

Financial assistance for graduate school might be available in the form of state or federal aid, scholarships, grants, or assistantships. Some students may also be able to transfer some credits to the program, which would lower the cost.