Best Online Early Childhood Education Programs

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An online bachelor’s degree in early childhood education is appealing to working professionals and traditional undergraduates alike. Those wanting to become preschool or elementary school teachers need a bachelor’s in early childhood education (ECE), and the online format suits most students. Anyone who wants to pursue a degree without uprooting their job, moving their family or attending classes on campus is a natural fit for an online program.

For a look at the best online bachelor’s in early childhood education programs, check out our list below. Our unique methodology has identified the top schools for distance learners, and you can use our guide to find the right program for your interests.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Florida International University

 2/554.19%Miami, FL


Students enrolled in FIU's fully-online Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education follow the early childhood development track, which focuses on how children learn and develop their cognitive, language, social and emotional skills during their first few years of life. The degree is comprised of 120 credits, including 30 hours of professional education focused on foundational research, teaching methods and curricula.

Top faculty members have research interests in school readiness, children from high-risk environments, emotional intelligence, teacher's discourse in the classroom and language and literature development. Students interested in these topics should enjoy working with FIU's engaging and helpful faculty.

Quick Facts

  • Graduates are prepared for a career in childcare, child development or early childhood education
  • Interested students should know that this track does not include teacher certification
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University of Cincinnati

 3/559.56%Cincinnati, OH


The University of Cincinnati's Bachelor of Science in Education - Early Childhood Education is offered entirely online. Classes are taught by instructors with professional experience in ECE, and students are given the skills and knowledge they need to create appropriate curriculums and learning environments for children under the age of six.

Many students in this program are already working with children in some capacity, which makes it easy to complete practicum requirements. The fieldwork components allow students to apply lecture theory to an ECE classroom.

UC's students can focus their studies on pre-k education, infant to toddler development or early childhood administration.

Quick Facts

  • Those who have already earned an associate's degree may apply their credits towards this undergraduate degree; the number of credits they can transfer is determined through an evaluation
  • Online students have access to the support system, resources and conferences provided through the Early Childhood Learning Community at Cincinnati
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University of North Carolina at Greensboro

 2/555.61%Greensboro, NC


UNCG offers two degree completion programs online: birth through kindergarten teacher licensure and early care and education. Each track is designed for students who have an associate's degree and want to earn a bachelor's. The interdisciplinary nature of the programs combine knowledge of both social and behavioral science with early childhood special education. The programs prepare students to work with children from birth to five years of age and help them understand early childhood education from a holistic perspective.

After completing coursework, exams and fulfilling 40 hours of student teaching each week, graduates of the birth through kindergarten program are licensed to teach pre-k and kindergarten classes in North Carolina's public schools. The early care track is for students who want their bachelor's degree without licensure.

Quick Facts

  • Courses are based on fall entry to the program; most are offered just once per year
  • The coursework is delivered through the Blackboard online learning platform; students must have internet access, a webcam, microphone and headset
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Mount Vernon Nazarene University

 3/558.42%Mount Vernon, OH


At MVNU, students interested in early childhood education can enroll in the university's degree completion program. Courses are taught online and students are expected to complete one class at a time. This timeline allows students the freedom to maintain work and family responsibilities while finishing their degree.

Graduates can earn a teaching license in ECE with the Early Childhood Endorsement in Ohio, allowing them to teach preschool through grade five. Beyond coursework, students undertake 510 hours of field and clinical experience. This includes at least 12 weeks of full-time student teaching and another practicum related to the school's 12-hour reading core requirement.

Quick Facts

  • Most students finish their degrees in as few as 27 months
  • The degree requires 123 semester hours to graduate, including a variety of general education needs that should be completed before enrolling at MVNU
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California Baptist University

 4/555.38%Riverside, CA


CBU offers their online Bachelor's in Early Childhood Studies to students who want to work with children from birth to age eight in a variety of learning settings. Most coursework focuses on teaching students how young children grow and learn, emphasizing cognitive, social, emotional and perceptual-motor development. All coursework follows state standards and prepares students for the rigors and requirements of the classroom.

Unlike some ECS/ECE programs, which are geared towards students who already have an associate's, CBU's program is a full degree; students can transfer up to 24 credits to CBU.

This degree allows graduates to work with disabled and non-disabled students. The program teaches students to apply developmental learning theories as they foster supportive educational environments in their work.

Quick Facts

  • Aside from teaching, graduates have also chosen to work in intervention, research, early childhood advocacy and offices of education
  • Before enrolling, students must complete two English composition courses
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Vanguard University of Southern California

 4/555.18%Costa Mesa, CA

The Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Development prepares students for roles in public and private classrooms or school administration. Courses are taught asynchronously on a rotating, eight-week schedule, allowing students to study and complete assignments at their convenience.

Instructors provide practical exercises, research-based reading material and spiritual training through scripture and online discussions. Faculty members in the department have extensive training and experience in classrooms, tutoring centers, education offices and other settings as early childhood educators.

Quick Facts

  • Students not looking to complete a full degree may enroll as a "student-at-large" and take individual courses
  • Residents of Alabama, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin are not eligible to enroll at Vanguard
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Southern Arkansas University

 2/530.61%Magnolia, AR

SAU's Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education helps students build a foundation in developmental and learning theories. Graduates are eligible for licensure to teach preschool and elementary school in Arkansas. Students take classes as a cohort and collaborate with peers, learn from industry-leading faculty members and complete student teaching practicums.

Some of the courses students can expect to take include child growth and development, philosophy and curriculum, inclusive teaching and families, schools and communities.

Quick Facts

  • The program is offered online or as a hybrid degree
  • SAU offers a four year program, though students may transfer into the program
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National University

 3/540%La Jolla, CA

The online Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education degree at NU incorporates the competencies established by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC.) The degree requires 180 quarter units to graduate, 45 of which must be completed at NU. Major courses, which comprise 45 required quarter units, include early cognition and play as pedagogy.

All students enrolling in this program are required to complete a background check before admission. Students develop the skills they need to create safe and challenging learning environments while learning how to assess the needs of a diverse group of children and how to effectively communicate with families.

Quick Facts

  • The program meets the requirements for the State of California Development Permits and the Child Development Associates National Licensing Program
  • Before enrolling in this program, students outside California should check with the department of education in their state to ensure that their degree can qualify them for employment
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Notre Dame College

 3/536.16%Cleveland, OH

Notre Dame College's online B.A. in Education allows students to specialize in early childhood education. After completing their studies, graduates apply for PreK-3 licensure in Ohio. The program prepares students with the knowledge, skills and demeanor required for young children's developmental and educational needs.

Faculty members present innovative pedagogical techniques blended with the latest learning methods. Career opportunities after graduation include working in childcare, teaching and school administration.

Quick Facts

  • The degree program also offers a specialization in mild-to-moderate intervention with a focus on K-12 children
  • While the degree is offered as a four-year program, students have the opportunity to transfer credits from other institutions
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Lewis-Clark State College

 2/526.89%Lewiston, ID

LCSC offers an online Bachelor's in Early Childhood Development. Enrollees are taught to create developmentally appropriate lesson plans and learn how to convey basic concepts in literacy, math and science. Alongside this instruction, the curriculum emphasizes the importance of building positive learning environments that promote cognitive, physical and emotional development in children. Students also learn how to develop sensory and open-ended materials focused on enhancing creativity.

Students spend eight to ten hours per week at an approved site for their theory classes. They also create one lesson plan each week; these plans are observed and evaluated by a practicum mentor. Distance learners frequently collaborate with classmates, reading and evaluating lesson plans while learning coursework together in an engaging, online environment.

Quick Facts

  • Individuality is a key component of this degree program; students evaluate children on a case-by-case basis to create assessments for their lessons each week
  • Graduates have become early childhood instructors and teachers, childcare coordinators and directors of childcare centers
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Western Governors University

 2/516.74%Salt Lake City, UT

WGU's online Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies attracts students interested in teaching children in kindergarten through eighth grade. The program familiarizes students with content knowledge and teaching theories. Graduates may apply to become certified elementary school teachers.

As they work toward graduation, students complete courses in children's literature, fundamentals of educational psychology and critical thinking and logic. To graduate, students are required to complete a professional portfolio showcasing the skills they learned in the program. Enrollees typically spend at least 15 hours per week on their studies; most students graduate within two and a half years.

Quick Facts

  • WGU is the first exclusively online program to receive NCATE accreditation for its teacher licensure degree programs
  • Courses are graded as pass or not pass; students earn competency units for their courses, which are equal to semester credit hours
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Wilmington University

 2/535.06%New Castle, DE

Wilmington University offers an NAEYC recognized Bachelor of Science in Early Care and Education program. At the end of the program, qualified students may apply for licensure within the state of Delaware, after taking the appropriate Praxis exams.

Beyond coursework requirements, students must complete 150 hours of field practicums and 30 hours of seminars. The school arranges fieldwork placements, although students already working in an early childhood setting may arrange to use their place of employment as the field site.

Most required courses are offered online, though some general education classes are only available on-campus. Transfer students who have already completed their general education requirements are eligible to forgo all on-campus classes. Specific coursework includes infant and toddler development, psychology of the exceptional child, teaching diverse populations and creating environments for learning.

Quick Facts

  • Before graduating, students complete a full-time, all-day student teaching experience; the practicum length ranges from 80 days to one full school year
  • Upon graduation and licensure, graduates are prepared to work with children from birth until second grade.
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Mayville State University

 2/541.57%Mayville, ND

Graduates of Mayville State University's Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education program are prepared to work in a variety of roles, including as a teacher, administrator, supervisor, curriculum specialist or educational coordinator for early childhood education classrooms.

In order to graduate, students must complete 120 semester hours of coursework. Those who have an associate's degree when entering the bachelor's program must take eight additional elective credits along with their core classes. Those with no previous education are required to take some courses at local sites.

Classes include 60 to 63 semester hours in core professional courses, including art and music in ECE, child and adolescent psychology and a child development internship. While completing the degree, students can specialize in administration, special needs, infant and toddler development or after school education. Three of the four specializations offer a sign language course that may require in-person classroom attendance.

Quick Facts

  • Mayville has articulation agreements with schools in several states, helping students transfer credits from associate's programs outside of North Dakota
  • Mayville employs the experiential learning model, which promotes student reflection on research, theory and teaching experiences
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Granite State College

 2/513.51%Concord, NH

Graduates of GSC's B.S. in Early Childhood Education are qualified to become licensed and certified early childhood education providers. The degree leads candidates to two possible certification options: early childhood education (newborn to three years) and early childhood special education (birth to eight years).

As part of the curriculum, students learn about current brain research and are taught to apply their knowledge to teaching young children. They also learn how to use technology as a gateway to empowered learning and teaching. Students are required to complete fieldwork experiences across several semesters. They must also create a portfolio of their work in order to graduate.

Required classes include young children with exceptionalities, special education law, assessment of children in early childhood and behavior interventions for young children.

Quick Facts

  • Before enrolling in certain upper level classes, students must successfully pass a PRAXIS test in early childhood education
  • Students outside of New Hampshire should check with their state's department of education to ensure their licensure is applicable
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The schools above seek to provide students with the top online bachelor’s early childhood education program possible. Crucially, the online component does not compromise the quality of instruction: distance learners have access to the same teachers as residential students, and faculty members are always available through email or other web tools. Additionally, schools help facilitate practical learning and training by arranging practicums and student teaching programs, just as they do for on-campus students.

In class, students learn how to effectively impart their knowledge to young children. Prospective teachers are taught to create lesson plans tailored to individual needs and how to evaluate the effectiveness of their own teaching methods. Graduates are prepared to foster an inclusive, safe and creative learning environment, and finish just a licensing exam away from beginning their career in early education.

Online learners develop these skills in a flexible format that doesn’t require them to re-arrange their personal or professional lives. Online courses are generally taught asynchronously, and students can complete work and practicums on their own schedule. The format allows students to get an education at their own pace, helping them learn material effectively without disrupting their life at work or home.

Employment Outlook for ECE Graduates

While certain private schools may allow you to teach without any formal training, all public schools and most private ones require a degree and a teaching license. A bachelor’s in early child education serves as adequate preparation for most teaching and administrative positions; students interested in training and developing early childhood educators may want to consider postgraduate study in the field.

Between 2012-2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that preschool teaching positions will grow by 17%, while jobs for kindergarten and elementary school teachers will increase by 12%. While the average salary for pre-k teachers is $27,130, established kindergarten and elementary teachers can expect to make over $50,000 annually.

As the population swells, the demand for early childhood teachers will only increase. If you want to work with children and have the skills and temperament for teaching, an online degree in early childhood education can go a long way towards beginning a meaningful and rewarding career.

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, the need for financial aid is still a reality for most students. But rest assured, loans aren’t your only option. Explore our collection of financial aid resources or dig into one of the following guides to read more about financing your education.

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We’ve curated a list of 43 scholarships and grants specifically for education students. With over $170,000 in available rewards, take the time to learn how you can access free money for your online bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

An Overview of Financial Aid

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Understanding the FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first and most crucial step for any student seeking financial aid. Follow our step-by-step guide for answers to frequently asked questions.

Financial Aid for Online College Students

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Financial Aid for Veterans and Active Military

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