Why This Matters


    According to O*NET, 29% of preschool teachers have a high school diploma, 12% have some college but no degree, and 17% have completed a bachelor’s degree.


    The demand for educated early childhood educators is expected to grow 2% from 2019 to 2029, resulting in nearly 13,500 new jobs.


    Preschool teachers earn $31,930 per year. The lowest 10% earned $21,900, while the highest 10% earned $58,230. Elementary school educators earned $48,410 per year, while child care workers earned $29,860.

Our Research

Our list covers Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Applied Science (AAS), and Associate of Science (AS) degrees in early childhood education, which prepares individuals to work with children from birth through young childhood in diverse learning environments. Students who earn an associate degree in early childhood education learn about teaching strategies and developmental milestones and explore engagement, nutrition, and behavioral modifications. All the early childhood education programs on our list are offered online or in a hybrid format by regionally accredited schools, which verify that degree plans meet superior standards in education. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) also reviews early childhood education programs to ensure they demonstrate the highest professional standard of excellence set by the organization.

  • 61 hours to write this article
  • 200 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 363 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Early childhood education traditionally covers birth through about age 8. The key difference among early childhood educators are the ages they focus on. Preschool teachers focus on teaching basic skills such as identifying colors, numbers, letters, and shapes, while kindergarten and elementary school teachers focus more on math, reading, and writing. Elementary school teachers often also need a bachelor’s degree.

Look for online associate in early childhood education programs that are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission or the NAEYC to ensure that you’re enrolling in a reputable program.

The job outlook is about average for those going into elementary programs, with preschool jobs projected to grow at a slightly lower-than-average rate.

If you’re interested in a job in early childhood education and want to work in the public schools, you will need a state teaching license or ECE certificate.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching online associate in early childhood education programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Most associate degree programs require a high school diploma or equivalency. Students often must complete some general education college courses in areas like math, English, and science. You might also need to maintain a certain GPA and be able to pass a criminal and character background check.
  • How long does it take to complete this online degree? Associate degree programs are typically offered at community colleges and include 60 college credit hours. Students generally complete these requirements in two years by taking 15 to 18 credit hours per semester.

Once you’ve decided on a program and the courses you’re interested in pursuing, you should contact the admissions department at the school you want to attend and find out what their process and requirements are.

Also, research your financing options. Make sure to note what scholarships, financial aid, and tuition reimbursements you might qualify for and what the deadlines are for each.