Why This Matters

  • PRESCHOOL LEADS TO HIGHER GRADUATION RATES

    A longitudinal study of outcomes for children who attended preschool showed that high school graduation rates were much higher for those who attended a preschool program compared to those who had not.

  • THE U.S. WILL HAVE 25 MILLION KIDS BY 2024

    According to the Forum on Child and Family Statistics, the number of children under age five will continue increasing over the next few years. Early childhood education programs will need trained personnel to work with these children.

  • PRESCHOOL DIRECTOR JOBS TO INCREASE BY 8%

    Having a master’s degree can qualify you for leadership roles in preschools and childcare centers. An additional 6,200 director jobs are expected by 2031. These positions earn an average median wage of $47,310.

Our Research

This list features some of the best online Master’s in Early Childhood Education programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. Many of the schools on our list have been accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, which assesses the objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness of education-related programs.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for online students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online Master’s in Early Childhood Education programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The Top 29 Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs

Best Master's in Early Childhood Education Programs 2023
01
Intelligent Pick
Arizona State University
01
Best Private Institution
Concordia University at St. Paul
01
Best Public Institution
Kennesaw State University
01
Most Innovative Curriculum
University of North Dakota
01
Best Christian Institution
Liberty University
01
Best Student Support
California University of Pennsylvania
01
Most Affordable
Jacksonville State University
01
Best Specialization Options
University of Toledo
01
Best for Military
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
01
Best Professional Development Services
University of Alabama at Birmingham
01

Champlain College
01

National Louis University
01

Northcentral University
01

East Tennessee State University
01

West Chester University
01

Mercy College
01

Pacific Oaks College
01

PennWest Edinboro
01

Fordham University
01

Stephen F. Austin State University
01

FSU College of Education
01

University of Missouri
01

Western Governors University
01

Auburn University
01

Concordia University Chicago
01

George Mason University
01

New Mexico State University
01

University at Albany
01

Texas A&M University at Commerce

What You Should Know About This Degree

A key difference between early childhood education programs and other education degrees is that an ECE degree typically does not lead to teaching certification, which is usually required for teaching jobs in public and private schools. Therefore, individuals with an ECE degree typically work in other settings such as daycare centers, Head Start programs, or private homes. Before enrolling in an ECE program, it’s important to consider what your career goals are and whether you need a degree that will lead to teaching certification.

Each state sets its own requirements for being a preschool or early childhood educator or center director. Some states mandate that early childhood educators have the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, which requires a minimum of 10 instructional hours in eight distinct areas. It’s important to familiarize yourself with your state’s requirements and make sure that you select a program whose curriculum aligns with those standards.

Also note that even online programs typically have an experiential learning component that involves working with children in an early learning setting. As you research programs, be sure to find out what the specific experiential requirements are, and consider how they will fit into your schedule. If you are already working in an early learning environment, you may be able to use regular work hours to fulfill these requirements.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Master’s in Early Childhood Education programs:

  • Does this program offer the specialization that I want? Programs may offer the opportunity to concentrate in different areas of early childhood education, such as administration and leadership, diversity and inclusion, and bilingual/ESL education. If you’re considering a specialization, make sure the programs you are researching offer that option.
  • Am I eligible for this degree? Some programs may require students to have an undergraduate degree in education and/or teaching certification in order to be eligible for admission. Be sure to review the program’s requirements carefully to ensure you have the right qualifications before applying.

As you research programs, you should also take note of their application requirements and deadlines to ensure your admissions process goes smoothly. You can find this information on the school’s website, or you can contact their admissions department directly.

At this stage, you should also be thinking about how you will finance your graduate education. Find out what loans, scholarships, and assistantships are available to you. If you are currently employed, check with your employer to see if tuition remission/reimbursement benefits are available.