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For those holding a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field and eager to improve the lives of young learners, a master’s in early childhood education is pivotal to achieving your goals.This degree prepares you for roles beyond the classroom, including potential positions in educational administration, with a median salary of $103,460. However, many teachers pursue this degree to develop their skill set further and may potentially earn higher salaries — with the top 10% of elementary school teachers earning $101,310.

Most programs are designed to be completed in 18 months to two years, although many offer a longer timeline for those seeking part-time enrollment. While costs can vary depending on the institution, the average tuition for these programs was $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year.

How to Choose a Master’s in Early Childhood Education Program

Choose your area of study

Early childhood education is already a niche field, but you can further align your education with your career goals by choosing a specialization. Options may vary depending on the institution, but many programs have curriculums to support various interests.

For example, those wanting to design educational programs may excel in curriculum development, while aspiring directors or educational leaders may opt for a concentration in administration and leadership. Alternatively, future professionals focused on supporting children with diverse learning needs may thrive in special education, and those specifically interested in child behavior and emotional development will be well-suited for child psychology.

Research schools and programs

With your intended specialization in mind, you can best research schools and programs by asking the following questions:

  • What is the faculty’s expertise in my area of interest?
  • What are the program’s graduation and employment rates?
  • What practical experiences, like internships or Practicum, are included?
  • Are there flexible scheduling options for working students?

This information can typically be found on school websites. You’ll also benefit from attending an information session or speaking with an admissions counselor, as they can offer further insights into the program’s fit for your educational needs.

Prepare for tests and applications

Once you’ve decided on the schools you’d like to apply to, start your application process early so you can manage deadlines effectively.

Gather materials like transcripts and recommendation letters well in advance, as these can take time to collect. Simultaneously, be sure to allocate sufficient time to write a thoughtful personal statement. For programs requiring GRE scores, consider enrolling in a test prep program to boost your performance.

Select your program

When acceptance letters arrive, you may have a big decision to make. Fortunately, revisiting your initial research criteria can make choosing the most ideal program for your goals more apparent.

Focus on what matters most to you, such as curriculum relevance, faculty you’re excited to learn from, and networking opportunities. Consider the total cost of attendance and compare it against financial aid opportunities like scholarships and assistantships. Prioritizing programs that offer substantial support can significantly boost your educational investment and future career opportunities.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Financing your graduate degree without incurring substantial debt may feel impossible, but many financial aid resources are available.

Begin by seeking scholarships and grants, which do not require repayment, making them the ideal funding option. Consider assistantships, which typically offer tuition remission and a stipend in return for taking on research or teaching responsibilities. If you’re currently employed, ask your employer about tuition reimbursement programs, as this can significantly offset costs.

Federal loans may be a good option to cover costs if there are any remaining expenses. Remember to borrow cautiously, as all loans will eventually have to be repaid.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs

Best Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree Programs_2024 badge
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University of Minnesota
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University of Dayton
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University of South Florida
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UF College of Education
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Biola University
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University of Colorado Denver
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Teachers College at Columbia University
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NYU Steinhardt
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University of Toledo
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Erikson Institute
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Concordia University Chicago
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CUNY Hunter College
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CUNY Brooklyn College
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National Louis University
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Southern New Hampshire University
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University at Albany
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University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign
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University of South Alabama
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San Diego State University
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Fordham University
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Bank Street College of Education
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American University
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Pacific Oaks College
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University of Nevada - Las Vegas
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Mercy College
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University of Hawaii at Manoa Outreach College
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Boston University
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CUNY Queens College
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Boston College
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Albany State University
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University of Central Florida

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

This list includes Master of Education (MEd), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Arts (MA) degree programs for early childhood education. Depending on the school and program, courses might be available online, in person, or as a mixture of both.

We only considered institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed. Many of these options are also accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation, which has particularly high standards for education-related programs.

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.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Early Childhood Education Program?

A master’s in early childhood education will provide advanced skills in child development, educational theory, and research methods, setting you apart from those with a traditional teaching degree. This program delves into classroom practices while emphasizing leadership, policy-making, and administrative roles in educational settings.

As a student, you’ll learn to influence early childhood education systems and implement effective change, directly impacting the developmental stages of young learners. Curriculums often include core courses on pedagogy, psychology, and management alongside electives tailored to specific interests in the field. A significant component of this degree is the thesis requirement, where you’ll conduct original research, demonstrating your ability to address issues in the field.

Typical completion timelines range from 18 months to two years, accommodating full-time and part-time students.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in early childhood education program

  • Leadership and Advocacy in Early Childhood Education: This course focuses on developing leadership skills specific to educational settings, including advocating for policy changes and improvements in early childhood education systems. Students will learn about the roles of leaders in shaping educational practices and policies that affect young children and their families.
  • Theories of Child Development: A central course in many curriculums, this class explores various theoretical frameworks that explain how children grow and learn from birth through primary school. Participants examine critical concepts from cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development perspectives, understanding how these theories apply in educational settings to support optimal learning outcomes.
  • Curriculum Design in Early Childhood Education: An essential component in most programs, this course teaches students how to create and evaluate age-appropriate curricula that promote early learning. Lessons cover strategies for integrating play, discovery, and structured learning to engage young children effectively, customizing educational experiences to many needs and backgrounds.
  • Family and Community Engagement: Occasionally offered as an elective, this course emphasizes the importance of building partnerships between early childhood programs and the communities they serve. Students explore strategies for involving families in the educational process and collaborating with community resources to support the holistic development of children.

Master’s in Early Childhood Education Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in early childhood education degree program?

To apply for these degree programs, you’ll typically need to meet several standard admissions criteria, as follows:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, often in education or a related field
  • Official transcripts from all previously attended institutions
  • Two to three letters of recommendation from academic or professional references
  • A statement of purpose outlining your educational goals
  • Potentially GRE scores, though some programs waive this under specific circumstances

Speaking with an admissions counselor before applying is essential, as they can help with any additional requirements and ensure your application meets program expectations.

How much does a master's in early childhood education degree cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of graduate tuition was $19,740 for the 2020-2021 academic year.

While the cost of tuition is a great baseline to begin budgeting for your education, it doesn’t include everything. You’ll also want to consider additional expenses like textbooks, course materials, commuting, and housing when planning your education budget to ensure you’re fully prepared for all your studies.

How long does it take to earn a master's in early childhood education degree?

Earning this degree takes 18 months to two years for most full-time students, while part-time students might take three to four years, depending on course load and program structure. Part-time programs generally take longer to complete due to reduced course loads each semester, allowing students to balance their education with a full-time job or other responsibilities.

Most programs require 30 to 40 credit hours to graduate, but this can vary, with some requiring anywhere from 24 to 50 credits. Before applying, review specific program requirements regarding credits to estimate better how long it’ll take you to complete your degree.