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

Online master’s in early childhood education programs offer the same academic quality as on-campus programs in a more flexible format. By eliminating the need to commute to campus, online programs will give you more time for work, family, and other commitments. When looking for an online master’s in early childhood education program, you should carefully review each option to ensure you pick the best one for your needs and career goals.

Available concentrations

Concentration selection is one of the most important factors to consider when comparing different programs. If you know what role you would like to have in this field after you graduate, look for a program that allows you to focus your studies on this specialty. Some of the most common concentration options for a master’s in early childhood education include:

  • Early Childhood Administration: Learn effective leadership techniques and develop organizational and administrative skills.
  • Early Childhood Special Needs: Explore the most effective strategies for teaching children with special needs.

Common degree curriculum

Online master’s in early childhood education programs cover the latest theories, educational models, and instructional strategies. To engage young learners, students learn to incorporate games, activities, and sensory exploration into lessons. Students also learn to monitor young children’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development to ensure they meet age-appropriate milestones.

While coursework is going to vary by program and your chosen area of concentration, you can expect to take some or all of the following classes:

  • Differentiation Strategies for Special Education Students: Reviews special education law and techniques teachers can use to help students with a wide range of disabilities.
  • English Language Learning (ELL) Methods: Examines ways to support ELL learners in the classroom.
  • Evaluation and Assessment: Explores how to implement and analyze the results of different assessment methods and strategies for improving teaching effectiveness.
  • Foundations of Reading and Writing: This course covers developing children’s critical reading and writing skills.

Certification and license preparation

Many online master’s programs in early childhood education lead to teacher licensure, while other programs focus on enhancing and improving the knowledge and skills of current teachers. The type of license or certification you need will depend on the state you want to work in. When applying, be prepared to supply appropriate transcripts that certify your degree completion and any relevant exam results.

Program accreditation

Only apply to schools approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. If your school doesn’t have regional accreditation, you may have trouble accessing financial aid or transferring credits to another institution if needed.

Ideally, your program will also be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children or Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation — these organizations hold early childhood education programs to an exceptionally high standard and only approve the best options available.

Program completion timeframe

Online master’s in early childhood education programs usually require 30 to 36 credit hours of coursework, which takes most full-time students about two years to complete. Motivated students who have the time to take as many courses per semester as possible may be able to finish in close to a year, while part-time students will need up to five years. 

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Early Childhood Education Graduates

Only a bachelor’s degree is required for most early childhood education jobs, but having a master’s still offers career benefits. Occupations in this field are projected to grow at an average or worse rate over the next decade, which means there will likely be a lot of competition for each open position — a higher level of education will help you stand out from other candidates and improve your odds of getting hired.

A master’s degree will also help you make more money. Generally, workers with a master’s earn an average income of $1,661 per week, while those with a bachelor’s earn $1,432. Over a year, that’s a difference of nearly $12,000.

Of course, your income will depend on where you work as well. Areas with a higher cost of living tend to offer higher pay. For example, preschool and childcare center directors make an average salary of $89,350 in New Jersey but just $44,020 in Mississippi.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate (2022 – 2032)

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers help students build core reading, writing, and math skills. They also help students build strong social skills such as being kind, being a good friend, and working with classmates.

$61,620

1%

Early Childhood Special Education Teachers

Early childhood special education teachers provide instruction and modify curriculum for students with physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive disabilities.

$69,620

N/A

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers work in public school districts or private preschools and instruct children who have yet to enter kindergarten. They create lesson plans that cover core subjects such as reading and writing and use games, sensory activities, music, and drama to make lessons more engaging for younger children.

$35,330

3%

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

The directors of preschools and childcare centers supervise staff members, including teachers and teaching assistants, design overall program plans, and oversee daily activities. They often manage the finances of their organization as well.

$49,690

-3%

Professional organizations

Professional organizations offer many opportunities for students enrolled in master’s programs to build connections with their peers in the field. These organizations also often provide valuable resources such as teaching materials, lesson plan ideas, and training webinars. Below are some top organizations for those obtaining a master’s degree in ECE:

  • National Association for the Education of Young Children: This organization offers many supportive services for early childhood education teachers. Member benefits include discounted books, teaching resources, and complimentary magazines and newsletters.
  • National Child Care Association: NCCA advocates for classroom equality, safe learning environments, and adequate funding for early childhood education programs. NCCA’s website includes a discussion forum, a resource library, and links to webinars and continuing education programs.
  • Association for Early Learning Leaders: AELL provides a job board and online training programs for continuing education and professional development.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Degree

While online degrees are generally less expensive than degrees earned on-campus, many students still require assistance to help fund the cost of their program. For students seeking financing, the first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which provides information about grants, scholarships, and other options available through the federal government. 

Many state-level agencies and private organizations also offer scholarships for early childhood educators. Individual schools often have scholarships available, so be sure to check whether your program provides these opportunities.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

As mentioned above, many financing options are available for your master’s in early childhood education program. The resources listed below will help you sort through all this information and save as much money as possible.

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Interested in a degree instead?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.