Early childhood educators prepare children who are usually under the age of five to enter the American school system. Parents often like to be involved at this stage in a child's education, so these teachers navigate interactions with their young pupils and parents, helping children develop social skills in addition to fundamental skills like reading, writing and math. See how online associate degree programs help future early childhood educators acquire the necessary qualifications before gaining experience on the job.
Best Online Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education
Prospective students pursuing an online associate degree in early childhood education have several factors to consider when choosing an online program. To help refine their individual searches, students can sort through programs by tuition cost, graduation rates, student-to-teacher ratios, services available outside of graduation and financial aid opportunities. One place to start is by taking a look at 2017's top-rated programs listed in the rankings below.
The Online Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Timeline
Just as with on-campus programs, online education program applicants must convince admissions professionals that they will do well in an early education associate degree program. Once accepted, a student learns about the stages of child development and how to prepare children for school. Graduates can go on to teach preschool immediately after receiving their degree and licensure, but for some program students, an associate degree may only be the first step in their educational careers. Learn what to expect during each year of study in the online associate degree in early childhood education timeline below.
After finding a program, it is important for an applicant to communicate to the admissions committee why they will succeed in that program. Program applications consist of objective data like grades and financial information, outside opinions in the form of recommendation letters, and an applicant's own explanation for their interest in the program and how they will use their degree.
Official or Unofficial Transcripts
Applicants to online early childhood education programs must have a completed high school diploma or GED. Programs may ask for these transcripts to be sent from the applicant's previous school, as any transcripts sent by a student are not considered official.
Degree programs want to know an applicant's academic and career plans in the field of early childhood education. A personal statement explains an individual's goals, interest in the field and why an applicant is interested in this particular early education degree program.
Background Check to Work with Children
Working with children involves background checks and fingerprinting to ensure that children are safe. Applicants should be able to pass these required inspections.
Find Local Practical Experience Options
Students may need to gain practical experience with young children as part of program graduation requirements. They should check that local childcare centers will allow them to work and fulfil these course hours.
Year 1 Milestones
Introduction to Developmental Stages
Students will learn the developmental stages of child psychology, how to care for children at these varying levels of emotional and mental development, and how to cultivate personal growth in individual children.
On-Site Learning in Childcare Setting
Though students are not taking classes on-campus, they may need to find positions in local childcare centers for practical work credits. If work credits are required throughout the entire program, students who are already working in the field often can remain at one center to fulfil these requirements.
Curriculum Planning for Young Learners
This program learning goal explores lesson planning at several stages: how to organize day-to-day activities, monthly or quarterly goals and long-term education outcomes. Students will learn how to break down educational goals into small steps that they can teach to children in manageable, age-appropriate ways.
Teaching Health and Wellness
Because good habits are established early in life, students will learn how to impart health, safety and nutritional information to their students. They will also learn how to manage their own health and the health of their pupils in childcare environments.
Year 2 Milestones
Working with Specific Ages
Students will learn how to comfortably work with infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Students will study the developmental stages of each age-group, learning care, teaching strategies and the essential qualities of education for each phase of childhood.
Working with Special Needs Students
Students will learn how to identify and address disabilities that affect childhood development, and they will examine the legal implications of having students with special needs. They will also learn to create an inclusive, respectful, nurturing classroom environment for these students.
Importance of Community
Because family plays such an important role in early childhood development, students will learn to cultivate parent involvement in the classroom and to connect children with the world of adults.
Most online early childhood education programs will have exams at the end of each class, the end of each semester or the end of each school year. Students may be responsible for finding local licensed proctors to administer these exams.
Transfer and Graduation Requirements
Online associate degrees in early childhood education prepare students to teach in a classroom. After fulfilling all state licensure requirements, students are generally prepared to join preschools or other early childhood centers. Other students may want to continue to explore child development, learning outcomes, teaching strategies and other aspects of early childhood education. These students may go on to pursue a bachelor's degree in early childhood education either right after earning an associate degree or after a year or two of practical work.
Complete Learning Objectives
Every online associate degree program has learning outcomes that students are expected to understand by the time they graduate. Additionally, a specific minimum grade point average and a final project for students to demonstrate their knowledge may be required
Apply for Credit Transfer
Transferrable credits vary from program to program, so students interested in transferring to a bachelor's program should check that they have fulfilled early prerequisites. Most higher-education programs will evaluate a student's current transcript and propose a plan to complete prerequisites.
Articulation Agreements for Transfer
Some states have articulation agreements that allow accredited online associate degree program graduates to join state colleges for degree completion if they have passed certain courses. Individual colleges may also have articulation agreements between associate and bachelor's degree programs, which makes it easier for online associate degree students to enter higher degree programs.
After Your Degree: What to Do with an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education
Teaching young children in a classroom setting is one career option for early childhood education associate degree program graduates, but there are many early childhood learning opportunities ranging from foreign language immersion programs to government-funded programs targeting low-income students. Early childhood education graduates can also work from home as daycare facilitators or as a caregiver for a family. Learn about possible opportunities to help young children discover the joys of learning below.
Browse Associate in Early Childhood Education Careers
Professionals in this field teach children up to age five before they enter kindergarten. They teach basic reading and writing skills, science, math and other subjects using lessons younger children can understand. They may follow a local school district schedule or work year-round at public or private schools, childcare centers or charity organizations.
Job Growth (2014-2024): 7%
Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $28,570
Childcare workers can provide childcare services in daycare centers, in their own homes or in their employer's homes. They take care of children when parents or other family members are unavailable and may help prepare children for kindergarten in addition to assisting with basic needs such as feeding and personal hygiene.
Job Growth (2014-2024): 5%
Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $20,320
Teacher's Assistants for Preschool and Kindergarten
These professionals work under classroom teachers, providing additional support. Duties may include reviewing material with individual students and giving extra support as needed, helping the teacher keep records and prepare materials for lessons, and supervising students. They work in schools, childcare centers and religious organizations. They may work part-time and typically do not work during the summer.
Job Growth (2014-2024): 6%
Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $24,900
Key Skills Learned in an Online Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education
Associate in Early Childhood Education
Knowledge of the Stages of Childhood Development
Children grow and learn at different rates, and early childhood is an especially rapid time for development. It is important to engage children physically, emotionally and mentally at every stage. Students in associate degree programs learn how to interact with children in each stage of development.
Ability to Plan Age- and Skill-Appropriate Lessons
Establishing a clear curriculum to develop children's social skills and cognitive development is an essential part of early childhood education. Early childhood education programs explore some styles of teaching that students can use in the classroom and many learning styles that children may exhibit depending on their development and personal interests.
State Licensure Standards
Different states have different standards for early childhood education associate degree graduates; some states only require an associate degree, while others have state-specific licensure exams and professional certification standards. Accredited associate degree programs should note individual state standards for early childhood educators while also preparing students for state licensure.
Collaborative Learning Process
Young children require a lot of attention and care as they learn and grow, and while early childhood educators provide some of this guidance, parents and other adults influence children as well. Associate degree students learn to engage a child's community to cultivate development, enforce social and emotional lessons, and encourage healthy interpersonal communication at this early stage in a child's life.
Master's in Early Childhood Education
Most online early childhood education associate degree program graduates will go on to teach children in a preschool setting. The following websites have resources that teachers can use to construct lessons for their young students.