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Ph.D. Programs in Early Childhood Education: Degree Overview

Ph.D. programs in early childhood education prepare students for a variety of careers in education. Students will learn about the education of young children and work to improve elementary educational programs.

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Essential Information

Ph.D. programs in early childhood education are devoted to research. Students learn to design experiments and gain practical training in collecting and analyzing data. Some programs offer students a variety of specializations options, such as educational assessment, curriculum development, and emergent literacy.

Most programs require students to have a master's degree in education or previous education coursework at the master's degree level. Often, programs require applicants to complete a statement of interest, submit a sample research paper and supply academic and employment references. Online programs are available from certain schools.


Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Teacher Education, Multiple Levels
  • Teaching, Adults
  • Teaching, Elementary
  • Teaching, High School
  • Teaching, Junior High
  • Teaching, Kindergarten and Preschool
  • Teaching, Waldorf and Steiner Education
  • Teaching, Young Children

Ph.D. Programs in Early Childhood Education

Coursework in a Ph.D. program focuses on theoretical study in early childhood education. Students also devote much time to writing scholarly papers, designing research projects and performing statistical analyses. Most programs require students to write an original dissertation. Courses in the topics below are usually offered:

  • Early childhood educator development
  • Early childhood education research design
  • Preschool curricula design
  • History of early childhood education
  • Preschool program implementation

Popular Career Options

Students who earn a Ph.D. in early childhood education are qualified for careers in education research, administration and instruction. Graduates can work directly with young students, or they can become college professors. Popular career options include:

  • Early childhood education program supervisor
  • Learning assessment researcher
  • Education policy advisor

Career Information and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a 7% employment growth is expected from 2014 to 2024 for preschool and childcare center directors, and a 6% growth is expected for elementary, middle and high school principals (www.bls.gov). Postsecondary education teachers, including those who teach early childhood education, are expected to have a 9% employment growth. The BLS also expects a 9% employment growth for postsecondary education administrators, such as academic deans of education.

In May 2015, the BLS reported median salaries of $45,670 annually for preschool and childcare center education administrators, and education administrators working for elementary, middle and secondary schools earned $90,410. The median wage was $61,560 for a postsecondary education teacher and $88,580 for a postsecondary education administrator.

Continuing Education Information

Every state requires school or school district administrators to be licensed. Licensure requirements vary by state, but most administrators are required to have at least a master's degree. States require administrators to pass a written exam, complete an internship and keep up with current educational trends through continuing education.

Anyone interested in pursuing a career involving the education of young children should look into early childhood education Ph.D. programs. These programs provide future educators and administrators with all the tools and skills needed to improve educational outcomes for future generations.

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