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Best Early Childhood Education Programs: List of Top Schools

Read on to learn about the top schools that offer early childhood education programs. Get info about university rankings, locations and degree programs so you can compare and contrast your education options. View article »

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  • 0:02 School Overviews
  • 0:45 Vanderbilt University
  • 1:53 University of Texas at Austin
  • 3:05 Arizona State University
  • 4:10 Top Early Childhood Programs

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Video Transcript

School Overviews

Early childhood education programs provide training for aspiring educators who want to focus on infants, preschoolers, and children in pre-kindergarten (pre-K) through third grade. Here you can get information about top schools that offer early childhood education programs. The early childhood education programs at the three schools profiled below award a bachelor's degree, though the University of Texas at Austin also offers master's and doctoral degree programs in early childhood education that emphasize educational theory or leadership. Each school was also nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report for 2017. After reviewing profiles for the following three schools, check out the list of additional options for early childhood education training.

Vanderbilt University

School Highlight: Undergraduates at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education and Human Development are quickly placed in preschools and primary schools, sometimes beginning in their second semester, so they can gain as much practical experience as possible before graduation.

In 2017, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN was ranked 15th by U.S. News & World Report in its 'National Universities' category. The magazine also ranked the Peabody College as 5th in the nation in the 'Best Education Schools' category. Peabody College, which merged with Vanderbilt in 1979, offers an early childhood education major in its bachelor's program. The curriculum begins with field observation and participation in classrooms in local schools, agencies, and Peabody College's experimental programs. Students are required to complete a second major in child studies, which may add courses beyond the 120 hours needed for the primary major.

During the time as undergraduates, students have options to study abroad at a variety of international partner institutions. Students who wish to gain their teacher licensure must meet the requirements and apply through the Office of Teacher Licensure at Vanderbilt.

The University of Texas at Austin

School Highlight: Students in University of Texas's School of Education have the opportunity to join a variety of education-related student organizations, including the Bilingual Education Student Organization, the Student Council for Exceptional Children, and Teachers of Tomorrow.

The University of Texas at Austin (UT) was ranked 18th among 'Top Public Schools' by U.S. News & World Report in 2017. UT was also ranked as 10th among 'Best Education Schools' with exceptionally high-ranking specialty programs, including 'Special Education' at 4th and 'Educational Psychology' at 6th.

Undergraduate degrees for early childhood through 6th grade are divided into a generalist option or a bilingual generalist option. The College of Education's Department of Curriculum and Instruction offers an interdisciplinary program that leads to a Master of Arts, Master of Education, or Doctor of Philosophy in Early Childhood Education. The program, which focuses on child development and research methodology, as well as early childhood education issues, is considered preparation for careers in public elementary schools, childcare centers, and preschools. Available to doctoral students are specialized courses, such as inquiry in play, thinking as social construction, and childhood education theory.

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Arizona State University

School Highlight: At Arizona State University, the Bachelor of Arts in Education (BAE) prepares graduates for both early childhood and early childhood special ed certifications.

In the BAE program in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education at Arizona State University in Tempe, aspiring teachers study a wide range of topics related to early childhood training including community building, special education, public policy, and using technology in the classroom. The program culminates in an apprenticeship in an elementary school setting. At the master's level, ASU offers a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in early childhood education. In addition to the standard Master of Education degree, students can also earn an endorsement or certification by taking extra credits of coursework. Aside from the in-classroom experiences, the Master of Education can be completed entirely online. For 2017, ASU was ranked the #1 most innovative school in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Its online graduate education program was ranked #34.

Top Early Childhood Education Programs

These top universities also offer strong early childhood education programs:

School Name Location Distinction
Boston University Boston, MA All students in early childhood programs spend a semester working in the Early Childhood Learning Lab located on campus
Florida State University Tallahassee, FL Only a select group of students is admitted to the Early Childhood Education program each year, ensuring a high-quality program
New York University New York, NY The core curriculum meets the 30-point liberal arts concentration needed to be a certified teacher in New York State
Purdue University West Lafayette, IN Graduates of early childhood program are prepared for licensure in generalist and exceptional needs categories
University of Georgia Athens, GA Bachelor of Science in Education in early childhood education prepares graduates to work with students up through the 5th grade
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL In order to be admitted into the Early Childhood Education Program, students must complete seven prerequisite courses

For aspiring preschool and pre-K teachers, excellent programs in early childhood education can be found at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. These programs typically involve real-world experience in early childhood classrooms.

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