Resources, Program Options & Curricula for Online ECE Master's Students
An online master's degree in early childhood education allows students to dive deeper into the theory and practice of teaching young children. This higher education program is for certified early childhood teachers who want to expand their knowledge and advance their careers, or for students who have earned bachelor's degrees in another field and want to guide young children into the American school system. Read on to see more of what a master's degree in early childhood education can mean for future educators.
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Degree Leaderboard: Online Master's in Early Childhood Education
Tuition costs, financial aid options, student sizes and graduate services are just a few of the factors that determine the strength of an online early education master's program. Use these rankings to see the top early childhood education programs in the U.S.
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Students accepted to a master's in early childhood education program learn child psychology, lesson planning and how to navigate shifting American school system standards. Most programs have students choose a specialization within early childhood education for the two-year program. Students may even have to work with a class of children before graduating as part of their program requirements.
Online master's programs in early childhood education ask students for a great deal of commitment, preparing them to work with children or to design programs and deal with administrative business. The admissions process for a master's degree is rigorous, and there are specific requirements for accepted students to meet, including the following.
Because this is a graduate-level degree program, applicants must first complete a bachelor's degree. Candidates with undergraduate degrees in in early childhood education or a closely related field, such as psychology, child development, education or sociology, are best fit for this master's program.
Programs ask for official transcripts from all higher learning institutions that an applicant has attended. These transcripts must reflect a GPA above a certain range on the 4.0 scale, generally 2.3 or higher.
Some programs ask applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and/or the Miller Analogy Test (MAT) and submit their scores. These tests show how prepared an applicant is for graduate degree studies.
Some online early childhood education programs require students to complete a practicum in an early learning classroom, meaning that students may have to have a state teaching credential before entering the program.
Year 1 Milestones
Online master's degree students learn to keep control of a classroom, manage difficult children or those who need extra help, and create a learning environment that welcomes all children and their families.
Structuring learning and playtime for young children makes up a large part of an early childhood teacher's duties. Students in online early childhood learning degree programs learn to organize instruction in ways that suit a range of learning styles.
Early childhood master's degree programs teach students the different stages in child development, particularly mental and emotional milestones. Students in some programs may choose to specialize in child psychology and become school psychologists.
Because a master's in early childhood education prepares students to work with children in the classroom, online programs may require students to spend time there as well. This could be a set number of hours per semester or an extended placement at a particular point in the program.
Year 2 Milestones
Early childhood master's programs teach educators to incorporate parents and other members of a child's community in the process of learning, thereby spurring childhood development outside of the classroom.
As master's degree program students grow in their confidence working with young children and fellow educators, they should become able to control a classroom, direct learning, and encourage individual students and whole classes.
After completing the standard required coursework that addresses all aspects of early childhood education, students in a master's degree program can narrow their focus to particular areas of early childhood education, such as learning theories, special education or supervisory roles.
Graduating from an online early childhood master's degree program can lead students directly into teaching positions in preschools or day care centers, administrative roles, or careers as counselors, program directors or school psychologists.
Although some online master's programs accept current early childhood educators who want to earn additional endorsements without completing a full graduate program, all other students must complete the program's credit hour requirements for graduation. Required courses vary by institution but likely include instruction on teaching math, building literacy and developing curricula.
Because students in an online master's in early childhood education programs are not learning in a classroom, professors may have them demonstrate their commitment to the program by grading the quality of their contributions to discussions. Group assignments are commonplace, and students may be asked to, for instance, role-play a parent-teacher meeting or put together a presentation outlining applicable pedagogies for early learners.
Educators benefit from seeing other teachers at work and incorporating new methods into their instructional style. For this reason, many online programs include observational visits to pre-K, kindergarten and early primary classrooms, which are then followed up by classroom-based student teaching.
Some states require professionals to get additional licenses or certifications to teach or work with children. Online programs prepare their graduates for these exams with general course material, and some even run prep courses in addition to their core courses. Early childhood education students should discuss potential licenses with their program advisor so they can tailor their specializations to be relevant for these state exams.
Career Paths for Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Graduates
Because of the higher intensity of the coursework combined with the ability to specialize within the field, graduates from an online master's in early childhood education program have several career options. The most obvious career is teaching in a preschool, but the master's degree opens up opportunities to administer programs, work in scientific roles or be an advocate for children. Below are a few jobs open to graduate degree holders that can inspire young children to learn and grow.
Browse Master's in Early Childhood Education Careers
Preschool & Childcare Center Directors
Directors work in preschools and daycares, supervising staff members and managing all aspects of the child care programs. They design curricula, prepare budgets and ensure program excellence in addition to overseeing daily activities. They serve as the main point of communication between families and early childhood teachers.Mean Annual Wage
Special Education Teacher - Preschool
These instructors work with children who have mental, emotional, physical and/or learning disabilities. They adapt lessons for these children, teaching communication techniques and life skills at a level that is comprehensible and manageable. They may also teach general education lessons such as reading, writing and math in a one-on-one setting to give students more personalized attention.Mean Annual Wage
Grant writers research, write and submit proposals for funding on behalf of child care centers, seeking funding from governments and private foundations. Grant writers may work for one institution or they may be hired on a freelance basis.Mean Annual Wage
Professionals in the field of sociology study behaviors within larger social structures, including what forces exert social influence, how groups form and why, and how a particular law may affect a specific section of the population. Sociologists typically work with research organizations, colleges and state and local governments.Mean Annual Wage
Core Skills & Principles Learned in an Online Master's in Early Childhood Education
Master's in Early Childhood Education
- Communication with young children The ability to clearly communicate information to children who are at various stages of development and have different learning styles is a key skill for early childhood educators to cultivate throughout their online master's degree program and their careers. They will also have to speak with parents, discussing learning objectives and individual children's progress as well as strategies to improve or reinforce lessons.
- Understanding school systems Master's program graduates must know the current context of schools, education, teaching theories and learning to be able to design standards-based lesson plans or administrative practices. Graduates will be able to put together a curriculum that not only meets governmental standards but also helps students to easily transition into primary classrooms.
- Ability to work with a diverse student body Given the proliferation of child care centers, professionals in early childhood education can increase their chances of employment by being able to work with students, families and fellow teachers who come from diverse backgrounds. Early childhood educators, for instance, may find opportunities in Head Start and Early Head Start programs, which cater to children from lower socioeconomic standings. There are also many programs tailored to students who come from homes where English is not spoken. A master's degree program exposes educators to the skills they need to work in diverse classrooms.
- Appetite for continuing education A master's degree is just one part of a professional's continuing education plan. Government standards, teaching resources and technologies are constantly evolving. Educators must stay up to date as well as strengthen areas they did not fully cover in their master's program. Examples of continuing education courses for early childhood educators include learning how to build a classroom portfolio, assessing toddlers' mental health and creating behavior management plans.
Associate in Early Childhood Education
Administrators, counselors and other professionals working in the field of early childhood education can find current policies and data via various organizations online. See the resources below for the latest research, lesson plans and government policies.
This organization, based at Vanderbilt University, provides research and resources to early childhood teachers, including plans and training modules for educators working with each age group and strategies for handling difficult children.
Begun in the memory of children's television star Mr. Rogers, this center has teaching resources on how to incorporate media into learning strategies and encourage simple interactions with children.
NAEYC is a professional membership organization that publishes work on early childhood policy, best practices and research to help teachers advance their educations and careers.
Almost all current government policies and educational resources relating to early childhood and preschool are on this website, which also has an archive of informational resources.