Why This Matters


    A longitudinal study of outcomes for children who attended preschool showed that high school graduation rates were 44% higher for those that attended a preschool program compared to those who had not.


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


    Having a master’s degree can qualify you for leadership roles in preschools and childcare centers. An additional 6,700 director jobs are expected by 2026. These positions earn an average median wage of $$47,940.

Our Research

Various degrees are available in early childhood education, including Master of Education, Master of Science, and Master of Arts in Education. Although the pedagogies for the degrees differ, all offer the necessary training for a career in early childhood education.

We reviewed programs that are offered on-campus, online, and in hybrid format to ensure that we listed a range of programs that fit all schedules and learning styles.

All of the programs on our list are regionally accredited. Additionally, many programs are accredited through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) or the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). These specialized accreditations are important when it comes to pursuing employment and certifications.

Once we narrowed our list of programs, we evaluated them for course strength, cost, flexibility, and reputation. We then calculated their Intelligent Score on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 69 hours to write this article
  • 476 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 311 education programs we compared

The Top 57 Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs

Best Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree Programs
loader Image

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.