Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023

Early childhood education is the bedrock of lifelong learning. Discover what a master's degree in this discipline can do for you professionally.
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  • A master's degree prepares you for more high-earning careers than a bachelor's.
  • These programs typically take two years to complete and cost $320-$1,500 per credit.
  • Master's programs offer concentrations, including leadership and special education.
  • A master's can lead to elementary school teacher and instructional coordinator roles.

We know that early childhood education plays an important role in the development of our nation's children. These programs help children develop the building blocks for socialization, academic success, independence, healthy living, and societal contributions.

But what about the people who design and lead these programs? How does their education impact their career outlook? Here, we take a closer look at the fieldwork requirements and what professional benefits a master's in early childhood education can bring you.

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Ready to Start Your Journey?

If that sounds like the kind of career you want, an online master's in early childhood education might be the best fit. Here's how to get started:

  • Explore this page to determine whether this path is the right choice for you.
  • Check out the top-ranked online master's in early childhood education programs, as well as our sponsored programs.
  • Request more information from schools you're interested in to find the best fit for your schedule, your pocketbook, and your career goals.

What Can You Do With a Master's in Early Childhood Education?

  • What It's About: A master's in early education is designed to provide you with the skills needed to work with and advocate for children from birth to age eight. This program is also well suited for educators who want to pursue a doctorate.
  • Purpose: This master's program prepares you for careers in teaching, social work, administration, and policy reform. You may also qualify for leadership roles in education. For example, teachers may advance to administrative roles, principal roles, or director positions.
  • Place of Work: With a master's in early childhood education, you can work as a teacher in preschool, kindergarten, or elementary school settings. You can also work as a preschool or childcare center director, as an early childhood instructional specialist, or as a special education teacher.

Popular Online Master's Programs in Early Childhood Education You Should Consider

Why Should I Get a Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree?

A master's in early childhood education can elevate your career in many ways. While traditional teaching roles for early childhood educators only require a bachelor's, your graduate degree could prepare you for more job opportunities and higher earnings. You could even pursue a specialization or more advanced occupations.

Benefits of a Master's in Early Childhood Education

  • A master's in early childhood education may lead to more advanced positions.
  • Master's degree-holders often earn more money than those with a bachelor's.
  • Graduate-level early childhood education programs provide advanced teaching skills and specializations.
  • Many employers may prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree over those with a bachelor's.

Reasons to Get Your Early Childhood Education Degree Online

How Much Does an Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree Cost?

Average Annual Tuition Cost of a Master's Degree

Public Institution

$11,957

Private Institution (Nonprofit)

$19,167

Source: BestColleges

Total Average Cost of a Master's Degree (Two Years)

Public Institution

$54,718

Private Institution (Nonprofit)

$72,572

Source: BestColleges

Tuition rates for an online master's in early childhood education range widely but may cost between $320-$1,500 per credit. In-state students enrolled in public colleges tend to pay the lowest tuition costs.

However, many online master's in early childhood education programs do not charge nonresident fees. Private schools generally charge the highest rates. Learn more about true online program costs and how these costs compare to on-campus programs.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023?

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1 Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023

Campbellsville University

  • Campbellsville, KY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Online + Field Practicum

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $310
Out of State | $310

Credits to Graduate
36-39

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

The online MAT in interdisciplinary early childhood education (P-K) at CU provides professional courses in collaboration and communication. You'll study integrated technology and curriculum and global perspectives. Along with coursework, you'll complete a 16-week teaching component or a practicum. 

You can finish the master's in early childhood education in less than two years by taking a full course load every eight-week session. You need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA for admission, plus three reference letters.  

Average Tuition
In-state
$24,900
Out-of-state
$24,900
Retention Rate
64%
Admission Rate
78%
Students Enrolled
12,771
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
72% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#2 Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023

Liberty University

  • Lynchburg, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $615
Out of State | $615

Credits to Graduate
36

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

Liberty's online M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction — early childhood education offers training in educational research and assessment. You'll learn about elementary curriculum and methods, as well as instructional methods for behavior and learning. You'll also complete a practicum and a current issues capstone. 

Completing your early childhood education degree at Liberty can take less than 18 months. For admission, you need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$14,791
Out-of-state
$14,791
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
50%
Students Enrolled
93,349
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
93% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#3 Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023

New York Institute of Technology

  • Old Westbury, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,470
Out of State | $1,470

Credits to Graduate
39

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Association for Childhood Education International

The online MS in childhood education (grades 1-6) at NYIT helps to qualify you for a state teaching certification. You'll take courses in human growth and development at various ages and curriculum design and development. 

With 3-5 additional courses, you can earn extension certifications in bilingual education or bilingual special education. 

For admission into NYIT's MS in childhood education program, you need to have or be seeking initial licensure. You also need a bachelor's degree in one of several disciplines with a minimum 3.0 GPA.  

Average Tuition
In-state
$38,060
Out-of-state
$38,060
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
75%
Students Enrolled
6,851
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#4 Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023

University of West Alabama

  • Livingston, AL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% online

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $429
Out of State | $429

Credits to Graduate
34

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council For Accreditation Of Educator Preparation

At UWA, you can earn an online M.Ed. in early childhood development in about one year. You can take classes in technology and education, advanced educational psychology, and special education. You'll also get paired up with a mentor for one-on-one advice and support. 

To apply to this master's in early childhood education, you need a bachelor's degree and a valid teaching certification. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,100
Out-of-state
$18,200
Retention Rate
63%
Admission Rate
93%
Students Enrolled
5,734
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
82% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#5 Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023

University of North Dakota

  • Grand Forks, ND
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Online + Field Practicum

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $547
Out of State | $547

Credits to Graduate
32

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation

The online MS in early childhood education at UND features core courses in curricular foundations and language development and cognition. You'll also study the role of play in development and early childhood education. The program has a 60-hour classroom practicum. 

You can complete the early childhood education degree in about two years, benefitting from online asynchronous classes and a local practicum. To earn admission, you need a bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.75 GPA.

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,540
Out-of-state
$12,810
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
87%
Students Enrolled
13,615
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
83% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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#6 Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023

Northwestern College

  • Orange City, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% online

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $340
Out of State | $340

Credits to Graduate
33

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

NWC's M.Ed. in early childhood online provides you with leadership training in early childhood programs, strategies for early literacy development, and STEM approaches. For an additional seven credits, you can earn a birth through grade three inclusive setting endorsement.

The M.Ed. in early childhood program takes two years to complete, with asynchronous classes in eight-week sessions. You need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$32,700
Out-of-state
$32,700
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
74%
Students Enrolled
1,496
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#7 Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023

Portland State University

  • Portland, OR
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% online

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $486
Out of State | $486

Credits to Graduate
45

Program Information
Program Accreditation | National Association for the Education of Young Children

The online master's in early childhood inclusive education at PSU offers four specializations. You can choose from infant toddler mental health, early childhood special education, and constructivism specializations. The final option is a distributed pathway concentration. The program also has an action research component.

While the courses run entirely online, you can take optional summer intensives. You can earn an MA or an MS in early childhood at PSU, but you need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission. You may also need relevant work or volunteer experience.  

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,907
Out-of-state
$25,536
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
95%
Students Enrolled
23,640
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
#8 Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023

Stephen F Austin State University

  • Nacogdoches, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Online + Field Experience

Avg. Cost per Semester
In State | $5,300
Out of State | $5,750-$11,420

Credits to Graduate
36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | National Association for the Education of Young Children

In the online M.Ed. in early childhood education at SFA, you'll study play and learning environments, early childhood assessment, and creativity and social learning. You'll also complete field experiences, which you can do locally. 

The online classes feature synchronous delivery. And the online master's in early childhood education takes about two years to finish. For admission, you need a bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.75 GPA. GRE scores are not required. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,842
Out-of-state
$18,858
Retention Rate
77%
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
12,620
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
95% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#9 Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023

University of South Alabama

  • Mobile, AL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% online

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $503
Out of State | $503

Credits to Graduate
30 

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

In the online M.Ed. in early childhood education, you'll complete courses in organizational patterns and curriculum, instructional planning, and trends and practices. The M.Ed. program finishes with a capstone portfolio requirement. 

After graduation, you'll qualify for the class A certification in professional early childhood education. You will need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA for entry, plus a valid teaching certificate. GRE scores may help you qualify. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,896
Out-of-state
$15,792
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
73%
Students Enrolled
14,224
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
61% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#10 Best Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023

Alabama State University

  • Montgomery, AL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% online

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $412
Out of State | $824

Credits to Graduate
33-46

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation

ASU's online M.Ed. in early childhood education features courses in human development and behavior, modern issues in education, and the exceptional student. Completing this M.Ed. program qualifies you for a class A teaching certification. 

For an additional 13 credits, you can pursue an alternative class A teaching certification. To earn admission, you need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA. You may also need to submit GRE scores. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,328
Out-of-state
$16,656
Retention Rate
62%
Admission Rate
99%
Students Enrolled
4,072
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
95% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education?

An online master's in early childhood education program typically requires about 30-40 credits and takes about two years of full-time study to complete.

However, accelerated online tracks can lead to a degree in one year. Programs that lead to initial certification may require 48 credits. These programs require fieldwork and student teaching experience.

Required Course Credits

30-40*

Field Study Requirements (Y/N)

Yes*

*Depending on your program and specialization

Concentrations for a Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree

Concentrations enable you to pursue your area of interest in early childhood education. You can choose from special education, administration, child advocacy, or curriculum development concentrations.

When preparing for grad school, you should consider where you would like to focus your studies. A few of the many early childhood education specializations include the following:

  • Trauma Studies: This concentration teaches you how to identify and address behavioral challenges that stem from trauma. Graduates can work in schools, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.
  • Special Education: This specialization focuses on the skills required to serve and teach students with special needs.
  • Leadership and Advocacy: This concentration teaches you about management and advocating for policies that support and protect young children and their families.

How Much Money Can I Make With a Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree?

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021

While salaries depend on your employer and location, you can boost your earning potential with a graduate degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for kindergarten and elementary school teachers was $61,350 in May 2021. The top 10% of these teachers made over $99,420.

A master's degree in early childhood education may improve your chances of entering high-paying jobs in the field. It can also help you access specialist positions, such as instructional coordinator. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for this occupation was $63,740 in May 2021.

What Jobs Can I Get With a Master's in Early Childhood Education Degree?

Common Early Childhood Education Career Paths

Preschool and childcare center director

Special education teacher

Childhood curriculum developer

Elementary school principal

Kindergarten and elementary school teacher

Early childhood education policy analyst

Instructional coordinator

A master's in early childhood education gives you plenty of career options. Along with the teaching positions and child development roles available to bachelor's graduates, you can take on leadership and specialist roles, too.

For example, you can specialize in designing instructional strategies and curriculums for a certain demographic. You might also focus on creating more inclusive or productive classroom environments.

Skills like these make you a better teacher and turn you into an educational expert qualified for administrator, analyst, and consultant roles.

Is an Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Worth It?

The answer to this question depends on your personal goals and priorities. A master's in early childhood education will likely give you more career opportunities and flexibility in the long run.

In the short run, however, you're spending more time and money on education. Most early childhood education professionals want to make a difference, but you need to think about where and how you want to do this.

If teaching is your goal, a bachelor's might be more suitable. If working behind the scenes to improve educational systems and environments is your goal, you should strongly consider a master's degree.

Everything Else You Need to Know About Master's in Early Childhood Education Degrees

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in early childhood education?

An elementary school principal is probably the highest-paying early childhood education job for master's graduates. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for principals was $98,420 in May 2021. The top 10% of principals made more than $153,520.

What are the 12 core early childhood education units?

The 12 core units refer to the most foundational early childhood education courses in the discipline. These early childhood education classes include some variation of the following subjects:

  • Child development
  • Curriculum
  • Principles of teaching
  • Child and family

These fundamental classes help you to better understand young children and how best to teach them. As a result, many employers look for the completion of these courses when hiring.

Why is early childhood education important?

Early childhood education equips children for success educationally, behaviorally, and socially. During their early years, children develop foundational skills and curiosities that will drive them into adulthood.

As an early childhood educator, you are the guide and facilitator of this essential process. According to the National Education Association, children who attend early education programs:

  • Develop special needs at lower rates
  • Earn higher grades
  • Graduate high school more often
  • Earn more in their careers

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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