Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2022

Schools and daycares need qualified instructors to teach and inspire the next generation. Find more information here about the best online associate in early childhood education degrees, how to get admitted, what to expect to pay.

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by Stefanie Grodman

Updated August 9, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Samantha Fecich

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Early childhood education combines theories and applications of education and human development to study how young children learn effectively. Professionals in this field study children's cognitive, emotional, and language development. Early childhood education students learn how to nurture cognitive and emotional growth in classrooms.

An online associate in early childhood education degree takes full-time students about two years to complete. Part-time students, particularly those enrolled in asynchronous online programs, generally take longer. According to National Center for Education Statistics data, two-year public schools charged $3,377 on average for tuition in 2019-2020. Private schools charged an average of $15,828. Earning an associate degree is generally less expensive at community colleges.

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Professionals in this field can pursue many in-demand roles. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that between 2020-2030, the number of jobs available for preschool teachers will grow by 18%. The BLS also projects childcare worker jobs to grow by 8% and teacher's assistant roles to grow by 9%. In May 2020, preschool teachers earned a median salary of $31,930, and daycare workers earned $25,460. Teacher assistants earned $28,900.

What Can I Expect From an Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Program?

Early childhood education is a field well-suited for personable, patient, and empathetic people who love working with young children and supporting their growth and development.

Many online associate in early childhood education programs consist of about 60 credits total. Full-time students generally take about 15 credits per semester and earn their degree in about two years. Most part-time students complete this degree in 3-4 years. However, for online students taking self-paced, asynchronous courses, program length can vary considerably.

Some of the most valuable learning in this discipline occurs in hands-on settings. Many associate in early childhood education programs require fieldwork, student teaching, or internships. Although policies vary considerably by school, some students can earn credits through relevant work or internship opportunities.

Some early childhood education students narrow their coursework to better align with their desired careers or specializations. Many programs offer concentrations like:

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Featured Online Associate Programs

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

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Program?

Infant and Toddler Growth and Development

Students learn about the social, cognitive, and physical milestones of children under three. Learners examine how caretakers and teachers can foster optimal development in a classroom or childcare setting.

Classroom Management

Effectively managing groups can be one of the greatest challenges of working with young children. Here, learners review classroom management and problem-solving strategies that allow teachers to set up routines and enforce class objectives.

Language and Literacy

Early childhood learning promotes verbal communication and vocabulary. It also focuses on principles, such as phonics and letter recognition, that students will encounter as they learn to read. The course also covers teaching students sight words and improving their fluency.

Children's Play and Learning

Early learning often occurs through play. Through various theories and applications, students learn how educators can use toys and games to promote sharing, working in groups, strategy, and problem-solving.

Health, Safety, and Nutrition

Educators and caretakers must consistently safeguard students' health and safety. This course details strategies that these professionals can use to keep students safe and healthy. Learners also study how to enforce good health practices and promote proper nutrition in classrooms.

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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Program?

Applicants to associate in early childhood education programs must submit proof of high school graduation or a completed GED test. Usually, applicants showcase their secondary school performance and any completed post-secondary credits by submitting their official transcripts. Although many two-year programs are test-optional, submitting above-average SAT or ACT scores can help applicants stand out.

Students may also submit a resume detailing employment history, internships, and extracurriculars. Some associate in early childhood education programs may allow students to use work experience to earn college credit.

Although application requirements may vary by school, many institutions also require written materials to gather more information about students' capabilities and aspirations. Examples may include application essays and letters of recommendation.

What Can I Do With an Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Degree?

Career Outlook

Graduates with an associate degree in early childhood education often enjoy various fast-growing career opportunities. The BLS projects the growth rate for preschool teachers to more than double the average growth rate of 8% for all jobs. The BLS also projects 150,300 openings for childcare workers and 136,400 teacher assistant openings per year on average from 2020-2030.

Degree-holders often work in classrooms as preschool teachers, teacher's aides, or special education aides. Some may work in childcare roles as nannies or daycare workers. Others may work in a variety of more specialized programs and activities for young children, such as those emphasizing STEM or the arts.

As of Feb. 2022 Payscale data, special education aides earned an average annual salary of $23,630. According to the BLS, In May 2020, preschool teachers earned a median salary of over $30,000. But preschool teachers working in elementary and secondary schools earned a median wage of $48,410. In the same year, teacher's aides employed by public elementary and secondary schools earned $29,320.

Career Paths

Preschool Teacher

These individuals work with groups of children under the age of five. They focus on the developmental and academic skills these young students need in kindergarten. Skills may include recognizing shapes, letters, colors, and numbers, and gross and fine motor coordination.

Median Annual Salary: $31,930

Teacher's Assistants

These individuals work alongside licensed teachers in elementary or preschool classrooms. They may work with individual children or small groups to reinforce lesson objectives and provide more specialized attention.

Median Annual Salary: $28,900

Day Care Worker

These workers supervise and care for infants, toddlers, and young children, often during the workday. Caretakers conduct stimulating and age-appropriate activities for children and supervise free play. They promote children's health and safety needs by keeping track of dietary restrictions and changing diapers. They also promote children's literacy skills and facilitate play with others.

Average Annual Salary: $29,760

Nannies

Nannies typically provide daytime, in-home childcare for individual families. They oversee children's daily routines, drive children to and from activities, and may assist with light housekeeping or pet care.

Average Annual Salary: $33,220

Special Education Aide

These professionals reinforce grade-level curricula in classrooms. Or, they may work with students in special education classes alongside licensed special education teachers. Aides may encounter learners with a variety of learning challenges and capabilities. They may work one on one with students or instruct small or large groups. Professionals with an early childhood education background also work in elementary or preschool environments.

Median Annual Salary: $23,630

Early Childhood Education Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

It is common for people with an online associate in early childhood education to later earn a bachelor's in early childhood educationor abachelor's in special education. A four-year degree may increase education professionals' prospective salary range and allow them to apply for more competitive roles. Many aspiring teachers pair a bachelor's degree with a state-issued teaching certification to teach in public elementary schools.

Some graduates go on to pursue graduate and professional degrees, such as a master's in early childhood education. Other options include a master's in child psychology, a master's in occupational therapy, or a master's in child development.

How Do I Choose an Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Program?

Cost

An associate degree can be a more affordable option for entering the early childhood education field. As of 2019-2020, students at two-year public schools paid $3,377 on average for tuition. Learners at private institutions paid an average of $15,828.

Although online students must still pay for some additional costs, such as textbooks and technology fees, virtual learners can save on many expenses. These expenses include the cost of room and board, on-campus dining, or transportation. In addition, many online programs charge on a per-credit basis, which can be more manageable for students earning their degree gradually.

Program Format

Students pursuing an online associate in early childhood education can choose from a variety of format options. Many students, especially those who have just graduated from high school, prefer to earn this degree on a full-time basis. Accelerated programs may allow students to graduate in as little as one year. Students with many employment or family responsibilities may prefer to balance these obligations with part-time coursework.

Remote learners have the unique opportunity to choose between synchronous and asynchronous programs. Synchronous programs allow students to meet in live classes and follow more formal deadlines. For some learners, this format can be more engaging and better replicate traditional in-person courses. Asynchronous programs are often self-paced. Students learn through resources like recorded lectures and forums. Working students may embrace the flexibility of asynchronous programs.

Location

Students who wish to enroll in fully remote programs often do not need to choose a program from a nearby institution. However, learners hoping to pay more affordable in-state tuition or access state resident-specific financial aid opportunities may consider enrolling in a local school.

Having physical access to a college campus also allows learners to take hybrid or in-person courses more efficiently. They can also meet with faculty members, advisors, or students in person.

Accreditation

No matter a student's major, budget, or career aspirations, they should always check that their program has received proper accreditation. This means that third-party accrediting bodies evaluate the quality of programs' curricula and learning outcomes. Institutional agencies accredit schools, while programmatic agencies accredit programs in a specific discipline.

Student Support

The best online learning institutions provide a variety of student support infrastructuresto solidify learning outcomes. Online colleges can providevirtual student serviceslike tutoring, writing assistance, academic advising, and digital libraries. Colleges should also provide career support, such as alumni networks,mentorship programs, andinternship opportunities.

2022 Best Accredited Online Associate in Early Childhood Education Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
Full Time | $390
Part Time | $455

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Liberty University features a fully online associate in early childhood education degree that students can complete in 1.5 years with no practicum requirements.

Students study educational philosophy for teachers, early childhood education fundamentals, and behavior and individual differences. Courses take eight weeks to complete. However, some online learners can finish degrees even quicker since Liberty accepts up to 75% of transfer credits.

Candidates for this program need at least a 2.0 GPA. They also must submit college and high school transcripts. 

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#2

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

School Information
Location Waxahachie, Texas
Admission Rate 88%
Graduation Rate 45%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 70% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $399
Out of State | $399

Credits to Graduate
60

Southwestern Assemblies of God University, which has educated Christian teachers since 1984, features a completely online associate in early childhood education degree that emphasizes a biblical education.  

SAGU's curriculum prepares future teachers to work in schools around the globe. Online learners complete 39 general education courses, including 12 credits in biblical studies. The major courses cover children's literature, development psychology, theories and principles of learning, and reading and writing across the curriculum. 

Unlike other colleges, SAGU online learners benefit from reduced tuition. The college has decreased its online tuition from $499 to $399 per credit for the 2021-2022 school year.

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#3

Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute

School Information
Location Hudson, North Carolina
Graduation Rate 28%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $76
Out of State | $268

Credits to Graduate
66-67

Program Information
Program Accreditation | National Association for the Education of Young Children Commission on the Accreditation of Early Childhood Higher Education Programs

Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute's associate in early childhood education degree provides specialized training with electives in administration and educational technology. 

Students study language and literacy experience, school age development, professional research and reporting, and creative activities. The program ends with a practicum where students apply their knowledge in classrooms. Degree-seekers gain the training to work with children from infancy to middle school. 

CCC&TI requires students to submit high school and college transcripts. Applicants also need to complete placement testing and meet with an academic advisor.

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#4

Vance-Granville Community College

School Information
Location Henderson, North Carolina
Graduation Rate 36%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 73% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $76
Out of State | $268

Credits to Graduate
74

Founded in 1969, Vance-Granville Community College offers an associate in early childhood education degree that provides a direct pathway to a four-year college.

Over two years, students complete courses in child development, child guidance, creative activities, general psychology, and children with exceptionalities. Asynchronous courses engage students through forums, message boards, and chat rooms. Students complete readings, discussions posts, and tests by meeting weekly deadlines. The program concludes with a practicum. 

To apply, candidates need a high school diploma or GED, and they must submit transcripts.

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#5

Hagerstown Community College

School Information
Location Hagerstown, Maryland
Graduation Rate 29%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $123
Out of State | $252

Credits to Graduate
60

Hagerstown Community College, which opened in 1946, offers an associate in early childhood education degree that lets students customize their education.

Online learners study early childhood education, administration and management, children's literature, and educational psychology. Electives include an optional internship with 45 field hours. Students can also take electives in first aid, infant and toddler development, and fundamental fitness and motor skills. 

The curriculum prepares students for careers as teachers, child care center directors, and teaching assistants in preschools. 

HCC, in partnership with the Maryland State Department of Education, offers funding for students who have worked in childcare for at least one year and hold certification. 

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#6

Pitt Community College

School Information
Location Winterville, North Carolina
Graduation Rate 28%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $76
Out of State | $268

Credits to Graduate
66

With more than 200 online courses, Pitt Community College offers an associate in early childhood education degree. Students can select a concentration in career, birth through kindergarten, or early education.

PCC's curriculum focuses on all aspects of instruction, including creative activities, health and safety, exploration activities, and language and literacy. Students take their classroom experiences and apply them to a capstone practicum. They must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA to complete the capstone. 

 Full-time students can finish the degree in five semesters or under two years. 

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#7

Eastern Wyoming College

School Information
Location Torrington, Wyoming
Graduation Rate 38%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 28% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced and Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $105
Out of State | $315

Credits to Graduate
60-61

Eastern Wyoming College, established in 1948, features an online associate in early childhood education that lets students graduate in four semesters. 

Courses teach students constitutional requirements, physical education activities, child development, first aid and CPR, and curriculum planning and development. The distance learning programs offer self-paced and scheduled courses with live instruction. 

To support online learners, EWC provides counseling, tutoring, and technological support. EWC's courses prepare students to transfer to the University of Wyoming or Chadron State College. 

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#8

Ohio State University-Main Campus

School Information
Location Columbus, Ohio
Admission Rate 54%
Graduation Rate 86%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Total Cost
In State | $20,224-$31,780
Out of State | $21,024-$33,780

Credits to Graduate
60

Graduates of Ohio State University's online associate in early childhood education program can pursue certification or a bachelor's in human development and family science. 

The core courses cover psychological perspectives, family development, child development, early language and literacy development, curriculum preparation, and creative arts. Students also complete fieldwork. The lessons prepare students to earn a pre-kindergarten associate teaching license. 

Applicants need a high school diploma or GED certificate. All states except Colorado provide students access to the online associate in early childhood education program. 

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#9

Indiana Wesleyan University-National & Global

School Information
Location Marion, Indiana
Graduation Rate 38%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 97% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $299
Out of State | $299

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

Indiana Wesleyan University features an associate in early childhood education degree that students can complete in 30 months. 

Online learners take 10 courses in child growth and development, emergent literacy, and infant and toddler experience. They also complete field experiences in infant and toddler daycares, preschools, or elementary schools. Students with a child development associate credential do not have to take the program's first five courses.

IWU offers a pathway to earning a bachelor's in early childhood education. Graduates can also find careers as childcare workers, preschool teacher assistants, and daycare assistants.

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#10

Pima Community College

School Information
Location Tucson, Arizona
Graduation Rate 21%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $89
Out of State | $219

Credits to Graduate
60

Pima Community College offers an online associate in early childhood education program that prepares students to earn higher degrees or launch their careers. 

Courses teach child growth and development, positive child guidance, and mathematics for elementary teachers. To prepare for post-graduate life, online learners take a course in college success and career planning or university transfer exploration and preparation.

PCC requires that incoming students receive a TB test, provide proof of immunizations, and submit fingerprint clearance in preparation for their practicum experience.

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FAQ's About Associate in Early Childhood Education Programs

Is an associate degree in early childhood education worth it?

Many professionals in early childhood education find their work exceptionally fulfilling, making this online degree worth it. Several roles in the field, such as special education aide, preschool teacher, and teacher's assistant, require at least an associate degree. So, earning this credential can be a great way to kickstart your career.

Peoplewith an associate degree earn more than those with only a high school diploma. As of 2020, workers with a high school diploma earned median weekly earnings of $746. People with an associate degree earned a median of $887 per week.

How fast can I get an associate in early childhood education degree online?

Although earning an associate in early childhood education is designed to take about two years of full-time study, some learners can finish in 12-18 months. Often, students can reduce the program length by transferring previously earned credits. General education requirements may transfer the easiest.

In the early childhood education discipline, students may also earn college credit through relevant employment. Students looking to graduate faster can take courses over summer and winter breaks.

Is an online associate degree in early childhood education credible?

Some individuals may be skeptical about the efficacy and learning outcomes of online early childhood education programs. However, many remote learning options are accredited by the NAEYC Commission on the Accreditation of Early Childhood Higher Education Programs. Usually, remote learners must also complete in-person fieldwork to supplement their courses. Online learners graduate with both academic understanding and hands-on experience.

How much money can I make with an associate in early childhood education?

The exact salary potential depends on several factors, such as position, specialization, and employer. Location and experience also impact salary. As of May 2020, childcare workers who work in daycare earned a median salary of over $24,000.

Preschool teachers who work in family services and elementary and secondary schools earn higher salaries than those who work elsewhere. They earned median annual salaries of $34,420 and $48,410 in May 2020, respectively. The highest 10% of these educators earned over $58,230 each year.

In the same year, teacher's assistants earned a median of $28,900, while the top 10% of workers made $44,290. A 10-month school year also allows these professionals to pursue supplementary employment, often in tutoring or childcare roles.

Is an associate degree in early childhood education in demand?

Young children need quality education and care regardless of economic health or technological advancements. Professionals with an associate in early childhood education may find in-demand employment.

In 2020, 469,600 professionals worked as preschool teachers, a figure the BLS projects to reach 556,000 by 2030. This represents an 18% increase. In 2020, 1,306,300 people worked as teacher's assistants. The BLS projects there will be 1,422,300 of these roles in 2030, which represents a 9% increase.

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