Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs

Early childhood education (ECE) programs cover education theory and instructional methods for children through age eight. Generally, ECE programs provide instruction on how to teach children from preschool through second grade. You may also study infant-toddler education, which is normally facilitated by parents for children from birth to age two.

Workers with a master’s degree in early childhood education earn higher salaries and enjoy lower unemployment than workers with only a bachelor’s.

ECE professionals include teachers, paraeducators, child care center personnel, special education teachers, psychologists, and social workers. Earning a master’s in early childhood education will prepare aspiring teachers to lead young children as they develop cognitive and social skills.

Today, many students are pursuing their master’s in early childhood education degree online. The flexible schedule and convenient platform are ideal for students who must balance their coursework with other commitments, such as childcare or a full-time job. Most online ECE master’s programs are delivered in a hybrid (or ‘blended’) format, where students complete most assignments and exams online and receive supervised, hands-on training from established professionals in an internship or practicum course. These programs often culminate in a final capstone or research project, which allows students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they developed in school.

Read on to learn more about what you can do with a master’s degree in early childhood education, and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to upon graduation.


Online ECE master’s students will explore the latest theories, educational models, and instructional strategies in the field. They will learn how to integrate games, activities, and sensory stimuli into lessons in order to engage with young learners. Learning how to monitor physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development is another program focal point. Other study topics include educational law and ethics, student-teacher relationships, and working with disabled children.


Online ECE master’s programs are designed to work around your schedule. Most curricula follow an asynchronous timetable, allowing students to complete course requirements on their own time from the comfort of their home computer. You can also study away from your desk using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other device with Wi-Fi accessibility. For additional convenience, online students are usually able to coordinate internships or practicum courses at a facility close to their residence.


Students who graduate with a master’s in ECE will be well-prepared to work as teachers. Those who earn a degree specialization in areas like special education, curriculum development, or infant-toddler education will also bolster their career standing in niche dimensions of the field. The best online master’s in early childhood education programs prepare students for the licensure requirements in the state where they plan to work. Remember, public school teachers must be licensed in all 50 states, and most states also carry certification requirements for childcare center directors.


Choosing a program is a personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online master’s in early childhood education programs in the United States. If you are considering obtaining a master’s degree in early childhood education, and you value the flexibility inherent in online education, be sure to take a look at these top schools.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
1 University of Dayton 68.02 5/5 7% Dayton, OH

U Dayton is a top-tier, comprehensive Catholic institution in Ohio with academic undergraduate to doctoral offerings and an emphasis on research. Educational programming is rooted in the school’s Marianist tradition, wherein the whole person is educated. Learning is connected to leadership and service, and collaborations are fostered to effect change. Several of the offerings from the School of Education and Health Services can be taken 100% online.

Dayton’s master’s in early childhood leadership and advocacy is designed for early childhood professionals seeking to pursue roles as leaders and advocates in the field. Career options for graduates with this online early childhood education degree include supervisors, program administrators, teacher leaders and advocates. All degree candidates are required to complete the graduate leadership core sequence in addition to an administration or advocacy strand. Classes can be completed entirely online, and the program is designed to be taken part-time.

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2 University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus 62.99 3/5 22% Denver, CO

CU Denver is located in a city that is top-ranked for young professionals. The school offers more than 120 majors and minors, and around 600 internships are awarded to students each year. The school also offers 450 online courses and more than 20 degree programs that are 100% online.

CU Denver’s School of Education and Human Development’s master of arts (MA) in early childhood education (ECE) degree prepares ECE professionals for careers in classrooms and other educational settings, child care initiatives, intervention programs such as Head Start, and family support programs. This accredited master's in early childhood education online degree program’s delivery accommodates the busy schedules of enrollees, 95% of whom work full-time. The school notes the program is taught by accomplished professors and is highly rated among students because of small class sizes fostering personalized learning and interaction. Around 70% of students at the school receive financial aid.

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3 University of North Dakota 62.55 3/5 34% Grand Forks, ND

UND provides educational programming in 225 areas of study to students from all 50 states and 85 countries. Among UND’s top programs are nursing, psychology, mechanical engineering, and elementary education. UND has the number one online college in the state, and a number of online programs are nationally ranked, including the master of science (MS) in early childhood education.

UND’s online MS in early childhood education is a non-licensure degree program designed for professional teachers and leaders in settings such as public and private schools (pre-K through grade 3), Head Start programs, and child care centers. The curriculum for this online early childhood education degree develops students’ understanding of human diversity, fosters reflectiveness in teaching and leadership, helps students create supportive learning environments, and integrates knowledge about special needs children into the curriculum. Among highlights are semester-based courses, a two-credit teaching practicum, and in-state tuition to students regardless of residency.

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4 Erikson Institute 61.76 3/5 19% Chicago, IL

Erikson Institute is a premier independent institution recognized for its groundbreaking work in the field of early childhood education. Among the tenets of programming are relationship-based education, a commitment to social justice, and high standards and excellence.

Erikson’s online MS in early childhood education provides early childhood educators with in-depth knowledge and training in child development and learning, and the important role that families, communities, and culture play. This master's in early childhood education online degree is a 28-month cohort program wherein students collaborate with their peers as part of the learning process.

Course topics include how to collaborate with adults; human development; the development of cognition, language, and play; and family and culture. Students have an option of adding a specialization in bilingual/English as a second language (ESL) to their degree by substituting five specialization courses for core courses, plus one more course.

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5 Nova Southeastern University 61.67 4/5 54% Fort Lauderdale, FL

Florida’s NSU boasts state-of-the-art facilities, highly ranked graduate programs in areas such as medicine, law, business and education, and a diverse student body that includes 1,200 students from 116 countries.

The school offers an online master of science in education (MSE) with a specialization in prekindergarten and primary education. It is designed for early childhood educators seeking to pursue graduate degrees, or those with undergraduate degrees in education seeking advanced knowledge and skills in pre-K and primary education. The master's in early childhood education online allows students to take courses and interact with students and professors via the Internet. Areas of study include the foundations of reading; research issues in child development; curricular practices in multicultural settings; and the needs of young children with disabilities. There is also a required applied professional experience in which students complete a portfolio demonstrating competence in their professional practice.

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6 West Chester University of Pennsylvania 59.93 4/5 8% West Chester, PA

West Chester University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1871 as an educator preparation institute. Today it offers more than 118 undergraduate and 103 graduate programs in dozens of fields, including online master’s programs in business administration, public administration, and education.

The online master of education (MEd) in early childhood education is an advanced degree program that prepares graduates for leadership positions as teachers, administrators, and advocates for young children and their families. This master's in early childhood education online was developed based on 2009 NAEYC Advanced Program Standards and has two tracks: accomplished teachers and program administrators. The accomplished teachers track includes study in advanced child development -- pre-birth to eight years old; play as a learning medium; families, communities and education in a multicultural society; and trends and issues in ECE. The program administrators track includes the aforementioned in addition to leadership in ECE and small business management in ECE coursework.

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7 Concordia University-Saint Paul 58.77 3/5 56% Saint Paul, MN

A university of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, CSP offers students from all backgrounds career preparation and a challenging academic experience. Your classroom is wherever you are with CSP’s online campus. The online MA in early childhood education is a non-licensure teaching program designed for busy adult students seeking to learn the strategies and best practices they will need to interpret, evaluate, and apply research and theory in ECE. Course topics include study in education research and application, ECE curriculum and instruction, observation and assessment, the theory and application of play, and diverse classrooms.

The courses for this online master’s in early childhood education incorporate the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s professional standards. Notably, 92% of CSP students land jobs after graduation, and tuition is locked in throughout continuous enrollment in the program.

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8 Georgia Southern University 58.59 3/5 27% Statesboro, GA

GSU offers 124 degree programs at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral levels to about 20,500 students on its Statesboro campus and through distance learning. Online learning affords learners the opportunity to earn credentials from anywhere in the world.

Georgia Southern’s online MEd in early childhood education is a 36-hour program for candidates who hold a bachelor’s and are eligible for a Georgia level-four certificate in ECE, or those who possess, or are eligible for, a Georgia Certificate of Eligibility for an Induction Certificate in Early Childhood Education. Students in this online master’s in early childhood education learn developmentally appropriate practices and are immersed in field experiences working with diverse student populations.

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9 Concordia University-Chicago 58.29 3/5 53% River Forest, IL

Concordia University, a top institution in graduate and undergraduate education, has an enrollment of more than 3,500 students in online and on-campus programs ranging from community counseling and gerontology to social services and education.

The MA in early childhood education is 100% online and is nationally recognized by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, making it a top graduate degree program. This online ECE degree is for early childhood educators with at least two years of experience. While the program does not lead to licensure, it provides graduates with education and training in child and language development; assessment, research, theory, and practice of ECE programs; and family and community relationships. Graduates can work as early childhood teachers, public policy and advocates and administrators, etc. The MA in ECE is affordable, with tuition locked in throughout continuous enrollment.

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10 Texas A & M University-Commerce 56.86 3/5 62% Commerce, TX

TAMUC offers 144 areas of study at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. With programming that is highly recognized, accessible, and affordable, the institution serves a diverse community of learners. It also offers 50 distance learning opportunities, many fully online, in areas such as business, computer science, criminal justice, agribusiness, accounting and education.

The MEd or MS in early childhood education is 100% online. It prepares graduates with knowledge of physiological and psychological development, curriculum theory, and development, instructional strategies, and the management of classrooms for young children. Course topics for this online ECE degree program include child development, literacy development in the early years, and early childhood curriculum design.

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11 University of Alabama at Birmingham 56.21 3/5 44% Birmingham, AL

UAB is a doctoral research university and academic medical center with degree programs in the arts and sciences, education, business, engineering and the health professions. UAB includes professional schools in medicine, dentistry and optometry; the institution offers 100% online and hybrid format degree and certificate programs in various fields.

At the UAB School of Education, students have access to affordable, state-of-the-art online instruction. The school offers an online MA in elementary education or early childhood education to prepare graduates for careers as teachers in preschool, kindergarten, or elementary school. Study areas for this online ECE degree include developmental reading, primary math methods, teaching pedagogy, curriculum development in elementary, and early childhood education.

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12 Northern Arizona University 54.04 3/5 38% Flagstaff, AZ

NAU has approximately 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including educational programs that are nationally and internationally renowned.

The online MEd in early childhood education is designed for educators seeking to increase their education and knowledge in working with preschool and primary-level children. There are three areas of emphasis: early childhood teacher; early childhood leadership; and early childhood national board preparation. This master's in early childhood education online program is recognized by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

NAU notes the school embraces affordability and rigor, and graduates have a 98% pass rate on the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessment exam. The school participates in the Western Undergraduate Exchange program, in which eligible students who live in one of 14 Western states get a 40% discount on out-of-state tuition.

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13 University of West Alabama 52.57 3/5 51% Livingston, AL

UWA provides its students with educational programming leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees in areas including the liberal arts, sciences, business, and pre-professional programs.

Among is education specialist degrees is UWA’s MEd in early childhood education, available 100% online. Areas of focus include educational planning, educational research, technology and education, teaching reading, and developing a teaching portfolio. This online early childhood education degree is a certification-track program for graduates who meet state requirements.

UWA students in an online master’s program complete it in about 18 months on average. However, students can complete an online master’s program in less time by taking two classes per term, with each term lasting eight weeks. The school offers five online terms per year.

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14 Mercy College 52.33 3/5 43% Dobbs Ferry, NY

Mercy College is a New York City area institution with a catalog of more than 90 undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs. The school is highly ranked in the state and nationally for affordability, high-quality academic programs and online excellence. Mercy College’s Mercy College, birth through grade 2, is available 100% online and prepares graduates to be teacher candidates for New York State certification.

Areas of study include students with disabilities, teaching English, language development and acquisition, and evaluation and assessment in ECE. Students in this master's in early childhood education online program can also pursue additional certificates that will require more coursework and fieldwork. By the end of the program graduates become effective educators using evidence-based techniques, understand the needs of diverse populations, use technology to deliver information and instruction, etc. Mercy’s e-learning includes online academic advising, financial assistance, an online learning center, and career services.

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15 Pacific Oaks College 50.75 4/5 34% Pasadena, CA

Pacific Oaks was founded 70 years ago and offers undergraduate and graduate programs with a culture-centered learning model and an emphasis in experiential learning. The institution’s Pacific Oaks Children's School is a renowned, cutting-edge program in infant and preschool education. The institution has developed anti-bullying and anti-bias programs, was one of the nation's first Head Start training sites, and fosters a community of change agents.

Pacific Oaks’ MA in early childhood education prepares its graduates for leadership careers in schools, child care, organizations serving children and families, and in state agencies. Areas of study include privilege and oppression in ECE setting, public policy and its impacts on children and families, staff development, and how to create responsive communities for children and families. Some master's in early childhood education online courses include a fieldwork component, which distance students can fulfill in their community upon approval of the site by Pacific Oaks.

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16 Stephen F Austin State University 50.38 4/5 35% Nacogdoches, TX

Located in the heart of East Texas, SFA has more than 120 majors and areas of study at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including liberal arts, sciences, business, and pre-professional programs.

SFA Online delivers more than 20 online degree programs. The MEd with EC-6 and 4-8 alternative teaching certification​ is delivered 100% online and designed to meet the needs of ECE professionals who work with children up to eight years old. Overall, students in this online masters in early childhood education program learn child growth and development, classroom practice, learning strategies, and the factors -- sociological and psychological -- that influence young children’s behavior. Classes are offered during the fall and spring semesters in half-term formats. Online learning at SFA is delivered using the DL2 learning management program.

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17 Western Kentucky University 50.11 3/5 36% Bowling Green, KY

WKU has an enrollment of about 20,000 students on its campuses and online. The school boasts nationally recognized academic programs in fields such as education, engineering, business, journalism, and a noted speech and debate team. Another notable is WKU’s Gatton Academy for Mathematics and Science for high achieving high school juniors and seniors in the state. Distance learning at WKU features more than 80 certificates and degree programs, flexible scheduling, and affordability.

WKU’s MA in early childhood education/teacher leader program is designed for ECE professionals to create and plan experiences and instruction for children birth through five years (B-5). This ECE degree online requires students to attend some classes at regional campus locations. The 36-hour program is divided into two components, including professional education (18 hours), which provides students with schooling in advanced-level pedagogy and leadership development, etc.

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18 Northwestern State University of Louisiana 50.02 3/5 67% Natchitoches, LA

NSU of Louisiana is a comprehensive institution that offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs. eNSU, the state’s largest electronic campus, offers 39 online degree programs.

eNSU’s MA in teaching in early childhood education is 100% online, including synchronous class meetings and webinars. This online early childhood education masters program, which meets all National Association for the Education of Young Children standards, provides those seeking to work with young children and their families with a pathway to alternative teacher certification. It is comprised of 39 semester hours of courses that include a one-year teaching internship. Notably, distance learners do not pay out-of-state fees, and eNSU has earned Top Military Friendly University designation.

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19 Northwestern College 49.37 4/5 15% Orange City, IA

A Christian liberal arts college based in Iowa, NWC’s motto is building minds, building faith. NWC offers more than 80 academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate level, including pre-professional programs.

NWC’s MEd in early childhood education (pre-K through 3rd grade) is designed for students seeking career opportunities as teachers, administrators, specialists, or consultants. Study emphasis areas include collaboration and advocacy in ECE, advanced child development, leadership in ECE, and strategies for early literacy development. Online early childhood education degree students can complete the program in two years or less by taking two online eight-week classes each semester. Note that students thinking about enrolling in this program may be eligible for Teach Grants of up to $4,000 if they plan to teach in a high-need, underserved area.

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20 Albany State University 48.98 3/5 36% Albany, GA

A historically black institution in Southwest Georgia, Albany State offers 55 associate, bachelor's, master's, and specialist degree programs and 13 postsecondary certificate programs, many of which are offered fully online.

Through RamNet, Albany State’s online learning website, students can develop coveted educational and leadership skills by enrolling in any one of various programs of study. The MEd in early childhood education is 100% online and developed to prepare practitioners for careers in ECE as master teachers. The 36-hour program leads to T-5 certification in ECE for master teachers in grades pre-K-5. This online ECE degree prepares practitioners who are reflective, transformational, culturally responsive, and technologically competent. To be admitted, the candidate needs an undergraduate degree in ECE, a current ECE teaching certificate, and acceptable GRE scores.

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21 Biola University 47.91 5/5 7% La Mirada, CA

Established 100 years ago, Biola University in California provides students with biblically centered education at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The 100% online MA in teaching with a concentration in early childhood education prepares educators to work with infants through age four, and for students in kindergarten through grade three. The program also strengthens teacher’s understanding of the academic, developmental, social, spiritual, and cultural needs of children, especially those in early childhood settings. This online early childhood education masters can be completed in 18 months.

There are three components: core coursework, a concentration of early childhood coursework, and a capstone experience. Core areas of study include childhood development, school/family/community partnerships in urban settings, and classroom management in early childhood settings. Upon completion of the program, candidates will be eligible to apply for Child Development Permits from the state.

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22 Champlain College 46.96 5/5 37% Burlington, VT

A private college overlooking Lake Champlain and Burlington, Champlain College offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certifications in 80 subject areas. The school delivers 16 undergraduate and 20 graduate degrees online in areas such as business, healthcare, cybersecurity, leadership, and education.

Champlain’s MEd in early childhood education is a project-based learning degree program requiring 36 credit hours for completion. Delivered 100% online, study areas for this online ECE degree includes English language and literacy; early childhood and play; child, family and community; creating constructive learning environments; and children with special needs.

The program offers flexible scheduling, allowing students to take one or two courses per term asynchronously. It also offers online instructor-led scheduling with one short face-to-face residency, and eight-week online terms. The school notes that more than 90% of Champlain graduates find work in their chosen field within 12 months of graduation.

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23 University of South Alabama 45.26 3/5 37% Mobile, AL

USA provides students with a well-rounded and rigorous education encompassing the fields of the liberal arts, sciences, business, education, engineering, healthcare, and computing. Annually, USA enrolls more than 16,000 students who are taught in small class sizes; have access to hands-on research opportunities in areas such as medicine, engineering, and sociology; and have a catalog of 100 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs from which to choose, including distance learning.

The is a 30-hour 100% online program designed for educators already holding the Class B Professional Early Childhood Certificate. Areas of study for this online ECE degree include the elementary curriculum, instructional planning in elementary school, and practices in teaching reading. Program graduates are eligible for the Class A Professional Early Childhood Education (P-3) certificate.

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24 Edinboro University of Pennsylvania 41.78 3/5 21% Edinboro, PA

Pennsylvania-based Edinboro University has more than 100 areas of academic study leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees, and co-curricular education. The school is known for personalized learning for student success and a commitment to diversity.

The MEd in early childhood education is an online graduate program designed with two options. Option #1 is for practitioners who are certified in ECE, and option #2 is for those certified in elementary education and are seeking certification in ECE (pre-K through 3rd grade). With part-time study, this master's in early childhood education online degree can be completed in fewer than two years. There is a one-week summer residency during the first summer of the program.

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25 Jacksonville State University 40.64 3/5 18% Jacksonville, AL

Located in Alabama, JSU is known as the friendliest campus in the South. With more than 45 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and advanced certificate programs, students at JSU engage in world-class learning rooted in rigor, small classes, one-on-one interactions, and student engagement. Distance learning opportunities are available in a wide range of areas, from computer science and applied engineering to nursing and public administration.

The MS in education in early childhood education (P-3) leads to eligibility for a fifth-year teacher certification in ECE. Among the areas of focus are behavior and development, individualization of education for young children, issues and trends in ECE, enhancing learning using literature, and teaching writing in ECE. This early childhood education masters degree online requires 34-37 semester hours; admission requires fourth-year teacher certification in ECE, P-3 or P-5.

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2 to 3 years
Program costs (when available)
$10,000 to $25,000 in annual tuition
Infant-Toddler Education, Preschool, K-3, Child Development, Special Education
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and Association for Early Learning Leaders (AELL)
Additional Considerations
Many programs (including many of those listed above) aware a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Education with a concentration in early childhood education.

Master vs Bachelor of Early Childhood Education

Students who earn a master’s degree enjoy more favorable job placement rates than their counterparts with less education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), master’s recipients across all industries face a 2.4% unemployment rate. Comparatively, the unemployment rates for bachelor’s and associate degree-holders are 2.8% and 3.8%, respectively. In education, the unemployment rate differences are even more pronounced. In a recent publication, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce explored career outcomes for employees with different educational attainment levels. Using data from this survey, we examined how educational attainment correlates with unemployment in ECE:

Educational Attainment Unemployment Rate
Recent Bachelor’s Graduate with Limited Work Experience 5.7%
Recent Bachelor’s Graduate with Limited Work Experience 5.7%
Experienced Bachelor’s Graduate 3.7%
Recent Graduate Degree Recipient with Limited Work Experience 2.4%
Experienced Graduate Degree Recipient 2.2%

Source: Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce

As the table indicates, even graduate degree-holders with minimal experience in the field face a much lower unemployment rate than experienced bachelor’s-holding graduates.

Earning a Living

In addition to better job placement rates, students who earn a master’s in ECE stand to earn higher salaries than their peers with a bachelor’s degree or less. The 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report tallied salary expectations at the entry-level and mid-career stages for employees with different academic majors and educational attainment levels. Using this data, the next table examines salary projections for associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree-holding professionals.

Degree Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ years) Salary Premium for Master’s Degree- Holders
Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education $23,100 $29,400 59.7% at Entry Level; 63.6% at Mid-Career
Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education $30,300 $38,000 21.7% at Entry-Level; 26.5% at Mid-Career
Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education $32,900 $42,300 12.1% at Entry-Level; 13.7% at Mid-Career
Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education $36,900 $48,100  

Source: 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

As the table indicates, master’s-holders earn more than bachelor’s and associate earners by a considerable margin at both career benchmarks. However, it’s also important to note that your expected career earnings will vary depending on your job title. The next table looks at salary expectations for five ECE occupations at four different career stages.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Early Childhood Educator (ECE) $26,000 $30,000 $34,000 $39,000
Kindergarten Teacher $34,735 $40,046 $43,191 $47,505
Preschool Teacher $26,670 $29,076 $29,417 $30,215
Special Education Teacher (Preschool, Kindergarten or Elementary) $39,973 $43,926 $49,929 $54,788
Preschool Director $35,512 $36,663 $39,410 $40,844

Source: PayScale

Of the five careers listed, ECE educators enjoyed the highest career salary growth ― a 50% increase in annual earnings between the entry-level and late-career marks. Special education teachers and kindergarten teachers also saw significant salary growth. Finally, special education teachers earned the highest salaries at all four career stages.

Career Opportunities

Students who graduate with an online master’s in ECE will qualify for a variety of jobs. Below, we’ve covered four of the most common career pathways for graduates with a master’s in ECE.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: Teachers in kindergarten and elementary school classrooms help students build core skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and other basic skills. All kindergarten or elementary teachers who work at public schools must earn a teaching license or certification in all 50 states, and most states also require candidates to pass a background check. Private school teachers do not need to be licensed.

Special Education Teachers: Special education teachers specialize in instructing and helping students with physical or cognitive disabilities, as well as those with behavioral disorders and mental health problems. Most special education teachers maintain a private classroom at their school where special needs students can come study or develop other key skills. A teaching license is required in all 50 states for special education teachers who work at public schools.

Preschool Teachers: Preschool teachers are responsible for educating children five and under who have not yet entered kindergarten. They make lesson plans that cover core subjects like reading, science, and basic math.

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors: These directors oversee the teachers, support staff, and other personnel at pre-K childcare centers. Many preschools and childcare centers are located in public buildings, although some are operated in private homes. Many states require public and private childcare centers to earn certification before they can accommodate young children; some states also require preschool directors and their staff to become certified in CPR and first aid.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2014-24)
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers $54,550 6% (+87,800 jobs)
Preschool Teachers $28,570 7% (+29,600 jobs)
Special Education Teachers $56,800 6% (+28,100 jobs)
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors $45,670 7% (+4,200 jobs)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different educational approaches is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for early childhood education professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.

  • National Association for the Education of Young Children: In addition to accrediting college programs, the NAEYC offers a range of supportive services for professionals who teach and assist children from birth to age eight. Member benefits include discounted books and other resources, complimentary magazine and newsletter subscriptions, and access to ‘Members Only’ areas of the organization’s website.
  • National Child Care Association: The NCCA is an advocacy-driven organization that fights for classroom equality, safe learning environments, and educational funding. The website features a resource library, discussion forums, and links to webinars and continuing education opportunities.
  • Association for Early Learning Leaders: Founded in 1984, the AELL is a nonprofit organization dedicated to childcare center directors and administrators across the globe. The website offers a job board, online training and webinar programs, continuing education courses, and other professional development opportunities.

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about your financial aid options.


Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Best Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2016
Rank School Location
1 University of Colorado - Denver Denver, CO
2 University of Dayton Dayton, OH
3 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND
4 University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham, AL
5 Erikson Institute Chicago, IL
6 Concordia University - Chicago River Forest, IL
7 Concordia University - Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
8 Mercy College Dobbs Ferry, NY
9 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ
10 Albany State University Albany, GA
11 Champlain College Burlington, VT
12 Stephen F. Austin State University Nacogdoches, TX
13 Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Edinboro, PA
14 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Nacogdoches, TX
15 University of South Carolina - Upstate Spartanburg, SC
16 Shorter University Rome, GA
17 Texas A&M University - Kingsville Kingsville, TX
18 Jacksonville State University Jacksonville, AL
19 University of West Alabama Livingston, AL
20 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH