Compare School Options

Most schools have rolling admissions and financial help so you can start your degree in a few weeks!

A master’s in early childhood education degree focuses on the lives of children from birth to age eight, the years that experts say have a profound impact on a person’s development into adolescence and adulthood. Early childhood education covers academics, social skills, cognitive abilities, and healthy habits.

Some people with this degree find work in education as teachers or administrators, while others pursue social work and policy reform. This degree takes about one to three years to complete. It prepares a student to work as a preschool teacher, a job for which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 15% (much faster than average) from 2021 to 2031, with a median annual salary in 2021 of about $30,000. You also would gain a foundation to work as a principal; the job growth for elementary, middle, and high school principals is projected at about 5%, with a median annual salary in 2021 of about $98,000.

Students with a master’s in early childhood education also could become childcare center directors. This career had a median annual salary in 2021 of about $47,000, with a projected annual job growth of about 8%.

The average tuition costs is about $12,400 a year for a public university and about $26,600 to attend a private institution.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Program

Choose your area of study

The first step in choosing an online master’s in early childhood education program is deciding on your career goals.

Some teachers and other educators pursue these degrees to advance to administrative roles or eventually earn a doctorate. Others have a specialty in mind, such as working as a special education teacher or a school psychologist. Others want a role where they can advocate for policies that protect and support young children and their families. Depending on your intended path, you’ll want to select a school that makes sense with where you want to go.

Research schools and programs

The next step is to look into different schools and their program offerings. If you’re pursuing an online master’s in early childhood education to teach, your teaching license requires you to hold a degree from an accredited school. Check whether a school or its program is accredited through the U.S. Department of Education or the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Accreditation ensures that the program meets specific educational quality standards and determines whether you can receive federal financial aid.

Also, look at whether the school has in-person requirements, such as working a certain number of supervised hours at a particular facility. Working with young children is essential for this degree, even for online learners. How does the school facilitate online students completing in-person field experience? Some schools have an on-campus childhood development center accessible for students who live nearby but also can approve other centers.

Remember to research what support services each school offers for online students and what networking opportunities are available. Look for this information on the school’s website, marketing materials, and social media profiles, as well as by speaking with program representatives.

Prepare for tests and applications

Each program varies in its application requirements and process. However, most online master’s degree programs in early childhood education require:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher, with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
  • Transcripts from previous colleges
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from academic and professional references
  • A resume or record of your employment history
  • A personal statement or statement of purpose outlining your achievements and plans

You’ll also likely need to submit standardized test scores like those from the GRE. If you need to take the GRE, prepare and sit for the exam while researching schools.

Select your program

Some students target a single program based on their needs and interests, while others submit multiple applications to boost their chances of acceptance. Whatever path you choose, remember that most schools charge application fees, which can add up if you apply to several schools. If you need financial assistance with these fees, contact the school to ask about a fee waiver.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Every school with an online master’s in early childhood education program should specify the financial support students can receive, including scholarships, fellowships, grants, assistantships, and work-study. Several financial programs for prospective teachers, such as the TEACH Grant Program, offer aid to those willing to teach in high-need fields. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines eligibility for federal student loans and need-based institutional aid.

Employer tuition assistance benefits are also an option for students already working. If you have detailed questions about how to pay for your degree, talk with your school’s financial aid office.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs

Best Master's in Early Childhood Education Programs

Arizona State University

Concordia University, Nebraska

Portland State University

Kennesaw State University

Northwestern College

Mercer University

University of North Dakota

Liberty University

California Baptist University

Jacksonville State University

University of Toledo

University of West Alabama

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Champlain College

Georgia Southern University

Biola University

National Louis University

Northern Arizona University

University of Dayton

UNC Greensboro

Campbellsville University

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

New York Institute of Technology

University of Colorado

Stephen F. Austin State University

University of South Alabama

Valdosta State University

Alabama State University

Pacific Oaks College

Harding University

Clemson University

University of Mississippi

Fordham University

University of North Georgia

Arkansas State University

Mercy College

West Chester University

East Tennessee State University

University of Missouri

Missouri State University

Discover More Options

How We Rank Schools

This list features some of the best online Master’s in Early Childhood Education programs at top colleges nationwide. 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, reputation, and 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.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Program?

Online programs for a master’s degree in early childhood education vary based on the school. Still, you can expect a core curriculum about child development, foundational skills, the principles of teaching, and developing a curriculum.

Although they have online components, early childhood education programs also often require in-person field training, which can be tough to balance with personal commitments and a current full-time job. A program offering part-time enrollment or asynchronous, meaning it’s mainly self-paced, might be a way for you to balance your education with your other responsibilities.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online program to earn your master’s degree in early childhood education

  • Childhood Learning and Development: Because this degree focuses on children’s lives up to age eight, expect to learn about all aspects of growth, from physical and cognitive to social and emotional. Such classes also cover comprehending the processes through which children learn and develop, which guide your approach to teaching.
  • Curriculum Assessment and Design: Here, students evaluate educational materials and create their learning objectives. They’ll select appropriate instructional resources and develop methods for assessing students’ progress.
  • Family and Community Engagement: Families and communities are essential partnerships in early childhood education. Such a course would cover establishing these collaborative connections that support and enhance young children’s learning.
  • Early Childhood Education Policy and Advocacy: A course like this examines practices and policies that support quality education programs for young children. Expect to learn about obtaining enhanced training, securing funding, and improving accessibility.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education?

Career outlook

Early childhood education plays a foundational role in a child’s development, and educators in this field have a significant impact on shaping young minds. Pursuing an online master’s degree in early childhood education enriches your understanding of child development and opens doors to diverse career opportunities.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for preschool teachers is anticipated to grow by three percent over the coming decade, which translates into 17,200 trained professionals needing to enter the field to meet demand. The median pay for this position is $35,330 a year, but those with advanced training can earn up to $61,180.

Career paths

A master’s degree in early childhood education opens the door to various career paths in child development and education. Growth in this field is driven by an increased focus on early education in the U.S., the expansion of pre-kindergarten programs, and the recognition of the vital role that early childhood educators play in a child’s development.

Here are some potential career paths for those with an online master’s in early childhood education:

  • Preschool teacher — educates and nurtures young children, typically aged three to five, helping them develop essential skills and readiness for kindergarten.
  • Elementary school teacher — works with and teaches children from kindergarten through fifth grade.
  • Special education teacher — supports children with diverse learning needs, including those with disabilities or developmental challenges.
  • Curriculum developer — designs educational materials and programs for early childhood education.
  • Child life specialist — works in healthcare settings to help children and families cope with the challenges of illness and hospitalization.

Preschool or Childcare Center Director

Earning Potential: $40,000-$95,000 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in early childhood education or a related field

Preschool or childcare center directors are responsible for managing and administering early childhood education programs. They ensure that these centers provide a safe, nurturing, and developmentally appropriate environment for young children. Directors oversee curriculum development, teacher training, and daily operations, including staff management, budgeting, and compliance with regulatory requirements. They also play a crucial role in maintaining effective communication with parents and families, ensuring a positive educational experience for the children. Directors create a supportive and engaging learning environment that promotes the physical, emotional, and intellectual growth of young learners.

Early Childhood Education Consultant

Earning Potential: $45,000-$100,000+ annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in early childhood education or a related field

Early childhood education specialists focus on the cognitive, social, and emotional development of young children. They provide support and guidance to teachers and caregivers, helping to create effective learning environments for preschool-aged children. Specialists offer expertise in curriculum development, assessment, and early intervention strategies. They collaborate with educators and parents to identify and address developmental challenges, ensuring that each child receives age-appropriate and individualized education. These specialists must stay informed about the latest research in child development and education. Their work is crucial in setting a strong foundation for a child’s future educational success.

Child Development Specialist

Earning Potential: $45,000-$85,000 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in early childhood education, child development, or a related field

Child development specialists promote the well-being and healthy growth of children from infancy to adolescence. They assess children’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development to identify developmental challenges or delays. Specialists collaborate with parents, educators, and healthcare professionals to provide tailored interventions and strategies. They offer guidance and support to address concerns, such as speech or motor skills delays. Child development specialists play a crucial role in early intervention, helping children overcome obstacles and reach their full potential. They work to create a nurturing and supportive environment that fosters optimal development and prepares children for success in their future educational and personal lives.

Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in early childhood education degree program?

Check the application webpage for your school of choice. Some schools have online portals to accept applications, while others still use traditional mail. The Common Application, or Common App, is a streamlined admissions application system that enables students to apply to multiple schools.

Just be sure to have electronic versions of all the required information, such as test scores, college transcripts, work experience, and letters of recommendation. Talk with a school admissions counselor to verify you have everything the school needs and check that you have the correct submission deadlines.

How much does an online master’s in early childhood education degree cost?

Graduate tuition generally costs an average of about $19,750 a year for 2020-2021 (the most recent statistics available), according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Compare that to an undergraduate degree, which costs about $25,900 annually, including tuition, fees, room, and board.

These records also show the average tuition for a public institution was about $12,400 a year, about half the cost of the $26,600 for a private institution.

Your school’s costs will vary depending on its costs per credit, the credits per course, fees, and other expenses. In addition to books, you’ll need to factor in any required hands-on experience, which might take away from your earning time at a job. Some schools also require technology purchases; for instance, the University of Washington wants online students to have a webcam, plus course-specific and video editing software.

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

The cost depends on the school and the curriculum. Most schools estimate their online master’s programs in early childhood education take about one to three years to complete. The total number of credits will impact the program’s length, as will whether you attend the program part-time or full-time. However, some schools offer asynchronous learning, where students can meet assignment deadlines while studying at their own pace, as well as some accelerated learning options.

Is an online master's in early childhood education worth it?

Overall, an online master’s in early childhood education is a valuable investment, allowing graduates to contribute to the growth and development of young children and opening doors to various professional opportunities in the field of education. Graduates with a master’s in early childhood education are well-prepared to make a positive impact on the lives of children and families, ensuring that young learners receive the best possible start in their educational journey. They can expect to earn a competitive salary, with preschool center directors making a median wage of $52,217 annually, according to

Earning your degree online has several benefits. The flexibility of an online program far exceeds what you will find with an on-campus program, making it an excellent option for adult learners who may have other personal or professional commitments. Online programs are accessible to students no matter where they live, and they are not limited to only those programs that are locally based.

In addition, online programs may offer diverse course offerings or specialties that match a student’s interests or professional needs. There may also be cost savings, as online programs sometimes offer lower tuition costs and eliminate expenses related to commuting and housing.

Compare School Options

Related Degrees