Master’s in Early Childhood Education Degree Guide

Early childhood education (ECE) students learn valuable skills for dealing with young children. They recognize the social, physical, intellectual, emotional, and creative strengths and weaknesses in each child and can effectively combine them to produce one coherent classroom setting. Because early childhood education teachers also work with parents and guardians, strong verbal and written communication skills are critical. 

With a degree in early childhood education and teaching, a graduate can pursue a wide range of professions, from teacher or childcare care director to less obvious careers, such as an early childhood consultant. 

What is a Master’s in Early Childhood Education?

People who have a passion for understanding the individuality of young children may be a perfect fit for a master’s degree in early childhood education. The coursework is geared towards child development and student involvement, and instruction includes 

  • Health
  • Safety
  • Nutrition for young children
  • Growth and development
  • Language development
  • Math
  • Science
  • Arts

Students must be able to develop the appropriate curriculum and learning environment based upon the latest educational trends for both individual children and groups.

What Can I Do With a Degree in Master’s in Early Childhood Education?

With a degree in early childhood education and teaching, you can pursue a career in roles including:

  • Childcare worker
  • Preschool teacher
  • Teachers’ assistant
  • Special education teacher
  • Preschool and childcare care director

For any of these careers, ideal candidates should possess a creative mind, a love of children, and the ability to adapt to unexpected occurrences. Below is a list of potential jobs that someone studying master’s in early childhood education could grow into.

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2019-2029)Description
Childcare Worker $25,4602% (Slower than average)Childcare workers attend to children’s needs while helping to foster early development. They may help younger children prepare for kindergarten or assist older children with homework.
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors$49,1601% (Slower than average)Directors of this caliber oversee childcare workers and teachers, make decisions regarding policy, and choose applicants to hire as new employees. These workers also deal with budgets, update parents on children’s wellbeing, and ensure the center functions according to relevant standards, such as federal regulations for Head Start programs.
Preschool Teacher$31,9302% (Slower than average)Preschool teachers help students who are too young for kindergarten learn early concepts such as numbers, colors, communication, and hygiene basics. These teachers plan curricula and encourage children to learn through play, storytelling, and interaction with other children. Work settings include schools and childcare organizations.
Special Education Teacher$61,4203% (As fast as average)Special education teachers work with students who have learning, mental, emotional, or physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects to students with mild to moderate disabilities. 
Teachers’ Assistant$28,9004% (As fast as average)Teachers’ assistants keep up with classroom information, such as grades, and offer students help with classroom topics. They also aid in monitoring students and maintaining classroom guidelines. Other responsibilities involve getting classrooms ready for the day’s itinerary. 
Source: BLS

Earning a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education

Students should consider a variety of factors when deciding on a college including 

  • Program specializations
  • Admission requirements
  • Specific areas of focus (specialization vs elective courses)

Additionally, when deciding on a master’s program it is important to look at course offerings, program length, and skill development.

Courses in Early Childhood Education Graduate Programs

Since course offerings vary by school, students should review each institution’s curriculum to find the early childhood education degree that best suits their needs. However, certain foundational topics are common across most programs. While the names of these courses may differ, many degrees feature courses in the following topics:

Fundamental CoursesDescriptions
Child BehaviorChild behavior courses provide students insight into how to effectively encourage good behavior from their students. Courses may also explore environmental elements that could cause children to behave poorly.
Child DevelopmentChild development courses borrow concepts from psychology and sociology to examine a child’s growth on various levels. A child development course may cover cognitive changes as children age, as well as psychological needs of children at specific times in their lives. 
Childhood LiteratureChildhood literature courses explore the different genres of children’s literature. For instance, these courses may cover fairy tales, picture books, fantasy novels, and young adult fiction. These courses may explore common themes, the evolution of children’s writing, and ways literature impacts children.
Early Childhood CurriculumEarly childhood curriculum courses teach students to develop curricula based on their class’s needs. These courses explore theories and methodologies involved in classroom design and organization, and apply those concepts in building lesson plans and choosing activities for young children. 
Student TeachingMany educational programs require student teaching experiences. During these field requirements, candidates apply the skills they learned within the program in a classroom setting. 

How Long Does a Master’s in Early Childhood Education Take To Finish?

Typically, master’s degrees in early childhood education take two years to complete. However, program details may alter this time frame. For instance, accelerated programs allow ECE students to advance through coursework quickly. Cohort programs, on the other hand, prefer that students take courses as a group.

Most early childhood education master’s programs require 30-36 credits, so students need to complete 15-18 credits per year to finish the degree in two years. These credits are typically divided into fall and spring semesters only, though some programs include additional semesters. Students can also enroll part-time, taking smaller course loads but finishing in more than two years.

Skills Learned in a Master’s in Early Childhood Education Program

Pursuing a master’s degree in early childhood education requires patience and a significant amount of energy. Additionally, early childhood education programs build skills in 

  • Communication
  • Curriculum preparation
  • Behavior
  • Child development
  • Management

By earning a master’s in early childhood education, graduates gain a competitive edge for careers in the field.

Choosing the Best Master’s in Early Childhood Education Program

When choosing an early childhood education master’s program, ECE students need to consider a variety of factors including 

  • Onlive vs. on campus programs
  • Program costs
  • Program length
  • Accreditation
  • Admission requirements

A master’s in early childhood education takes about two years to complete, but certain factors can alter that time frame. A program with a higher credit requirement, for instance, can take longer to finish. 

This section explores the many factors that students should consider when choosing a master’s program in early childhood education. 

Online vs. On Campus ECE Degrees

Many ECE students have the option to choose between an online or on-campus degree. Online degree programs offer flexible schedules and allow working teachers to maintain their current employment. 

On-campus programs, on the other hand, could help you form connections with the local school district. Furthermore, learning on-campus also fosters networking relationships. This networking occurs through practicums and internships, as well as symposia and other events.

Accreditation

Accreditation indicates that a higher education institution meets the educational and professional standards of a national or regional organization. Students can trust that accredited institutions’ academics feature rigorous, relevant courses and acceptable learning outcomes. 

Additionally, teaching license requirements vary from state to state. Therefore, many state licensing boards require teacher candidates to attend a regionally accredited school. 

Programmatic accreditation assesses certain programs and departments within a school. For instance, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation approves teaching programs. Future employers may look for this accreditation when considering job candidates.

Master’s in Early Childhood Education Admission Requirements

When applying to ECE master’s programs, it is highly recommended that potential students apply to two types of school. 

The first group is target schools, or institutions with admission standards that give them a strong chance of acceptance. This provides applicants with “fallback” options if they don’t get accepted into their desired programs.

The second category of schools includes colleges and universities that appeal to the student, but hold more vigorous admission details. This strategy gives applicants the possibility of acceptance at a prestigious university, with little risk. 

Prerequisites & Admission Material

Admissions standards differ among schools. Generally, anyone applying to an online early childhood education master’s program must hold a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field. Some master’s programs require applicants to hold teaching licensure or certification. 

Applicants may need to provide proof of experience working with young children, and many schools request applicants’ GRE, GMAT, or MAT scores. Below are the standard list of prerequisites and admission material for ECE Master programs. 

PrerequisitesDescription
Bachelor’s DegreeA majority of colleges and universities require either a bachelor’s degree or ask for prior coursework in areas such as child development.
Professional ExperienceMany programs insist that applicants hold a current teaching license and classroom experience.
Minimum GPASchools often require a 3.0 GPA for students to enter a master’s program. ECE students who do not meet the minimum GPA requirement can contact schools to explore their options.
Application Requirements
ApplicationCertain schools require written components such as statements of purpose, personal essays, and letters of recommendation. The application process can be long, so it is recommended that applicants prepare for the process to take weeks.
TranscriptsTranscripts provide records of academic progress. Students should contact every school they have attended and request to send transcripts to their new schools. Typically, ECE students must pay a small fee for each transcript.
Letters of RecommendationLetters of recommendation may come from professors, employers, or community leaders. Candidates should give their references at least two weeks to write the letters.
Test ScoresSome graduate programs may require ECE students to take the GRE. Programs that ask for a teaching license may also, by extension, require an exam that was included in the licensure process.
Application FeeSome schools do not charge an application fee while others charge $25-$95. Applicants should check with each school to see about available application fee waivers.

Paying for an Early Childhood Education Degree

The cost of an early childhood education degree depends on several factors. If you plan on attending a public school, state residency is an important consideration since many colleges and universities charge higher tuition for out-of-state students. 

Whether the program is online or in person can also impact tuition rates. Technology fees are another key factor; these fees often apply to online students but not their brick-and-mortar counterparts. However, online students avoid commuting costs or other costs associated with living on campus. 

Nevertheless, applying to available scholarships and grants can significantly alleviate some of the financial burden that arises with a master’s program.

How Much Does a Master’s in Early Childhood Education Cost?

Tuition rates differ among colleges and universities, and certain factors may impact the cost of an early childhood education degree. For instance, private universities usually charge higher tuition rates than public colleges because private institutions depend more heavily on tuition money and private donors. 

Additionally, degree candidates may experience higher tuition rates at out-of-state schools. However, some out-of-state schools extend in-state tuition rates to all online students regardless of where they live. Students who study part time may pay higher tuition rates, depending on the school’s policies. 

Along with tuition, ECE may have to pay program fees. Possible costs include 

  • Technology fees
  • Student services fees
  • Fieldwork fees
  • Health fees
  • Housing fees

Students must also consider textbook costs and commuting expenses like gasoline and parking permits.

Scholarships for Master’s in Early Childhood Education Students

Early childhood education scholarships can be found nearly anywhere and there are plenty of teaching scholarships created for groups like men, women, minorities, and disabled individuals. 

While many available scholarships are for graduating high school seniors, it is possible to find scholarships dedicated to graduate programs, licensure programs, and continuing education. However, there are significantly fewer of these scholarships. 

Some examples of scholarships available to individuals pursuing a master’s degree in early childhood education include:

Graduates can also take advantage of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, a federal program that forgives teachers’ student loans.

Master’s in Early Childhood Education Career Resources

Professional organizations provide ECE graduates and students with multiple benefits, including access to networking opportunities, conferences, seminars, and other events. Many of these groups also assist with professional endeavors by providing members with job boards and current research. 

Some organizations may offer continuing education programs to help teachers maintain or upgrade their licenses. Below are five relevant organizations that ECE graduates and students should explore and get connected with.

OrganizationsDescriptions
Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI)ACEI is a global community of educators and advocates who share knowledge, experience, and perspectives in order to exchange information and advocate for children. The Association promotes and supports the education and development of children and the professional growth of educators and others committed to the needs of children in a changing society.
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)NAEYC is dedicated to improving the well-being of all young children, with particular focus on the quality of educational and developmental services for all children from birth through age 8. The Association sponsors a variety of initiatives to improve professional preparation of early childhood educators and produces a wide array of early childhood resources. NAEYC membership provides participation in both national and local services through the Association’s network of over 300 local, state, and regional Affiliates.
National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI)NBCDI provides and supports programs, workshops, and resources for African American children, their parents and communities in early health and education, health, elementary and secondary education, child welfare, and parenting. 
National Head Start Association (NHSA)NHSA provides support for the Head Start community by advocating for policies to strengthen Head Start services; providing training and professional development to Head Start staff; and developing and disseminating research, information, and resources that enrich Head Start program delivery.
National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC)NAFCC is dedicated to promoting quality child care by strengthening the profession of family child care. NAFCC provides technical assistance to family child care associations by promoting leadership development and by promoting quality and professionalism through the organization’s accreditation process for family child care providers.

FAQ

What can I do with a master’s in early childhood education?

ECE is a broad field with opportunities both in and out of classrooms. Educators with this degree can become curriculum designers, daycare center directors, ECE specialists, education program specialists, elementary school teachers, ELL teachers in grades K-3, Head Start directors, and Pre-K teachers.

Is a degree in early childhood education worth it?

Yes, having a master’s degree in this field can increase the available job opportunities. This difference is reflected in wages, too. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those who have a master’s degree can expect to earn about $13,000 more per year than those with only a bachelor’s degree.

Is early childhood education a good career?

Yes, the primary reward of a career in early childhood education is the chance to play a key role in a child’s life. Teachers often serve as caring, responsive adults who offer attention, warmth and creativity, demonstrate how to communicate respectfully, and enthusiastically encourage individual accomplishments. 

Is there a demand for early childhood educators?

While some positions may have a larger demand than others, ECE workers overall have good career outlooks.

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