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Child Care College Degree Program Information

Learn about undergraduate and graduate degree programs in child care. Read about common prerequisites, required courses and employment opportunities after graduation.

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Essential Information

Universities and community colleges offer child care programs at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Associate's degree programs in early childhood education can prepare graduates to become teaching assistants, while bachelor's degree programs in the field can prepare them to earn a teaching license. Master's degree programs in child care are ideal for aspiring school administrators and may only admit current teaching professionals. Master's programs may be available in a variety of formats, including online.

At each of these degree levels, students not only learn to support and educate children, but also about classroom health and safety procedures, curriculum development and literacy building. Associate's and bachelor's programs typically include a student-teaching experience.

Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education

Students interested in working in child care can enroll in a 2-year degree program for early childhood education, which offers practical skills and foundational theories in teaching. Future child care providers learn to nurture and instruct children from birth through six years of age. Furthermore, they learn the importance of building relationships with parents in order to support individual child development outside of the classroom.

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants to a child care associate degree program must have high school diplomas or GED certificates. Individuals may have to meet with a child care program representative and take a college placement test.

Program Coursework

At the associate degree level, future child care professionals participate in student-teaching experiences. They study general education topics in addition to taking education classes such as:

  • Nutrition and health for children
  • Child and parent relationships
  • Child behavior modification strategies
  • Teaching special needs students
  • Introductory reading and writing

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

With proper child care credentials, such as Child Development Associate or Child Care Professional certification, graduates of an associate degree program for early childhood education are eligible for entry-level opportunities as preschool teachers and teaching assistants. As of May 2012, teaching assistants earned an average annual salary of $25,310, while preschool teachers averaged $30,750, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Furthermore the BLS noted that from 2010 through 2020, employment of teaching assistants was predicted to increase at an average rate of 15%, about as fast as the average for all occupations, while hiring of preschool teachers was expected to increase 25%, faster than the average for all occupations (

Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education

Child care college programs at the baccalaureate level thoroughly prepare students for teaching roles and may result in a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. Majors develop skills for dealing with children under the age of six and prepare for licensure as early childhood or elementary school educators. Depending on the child care program, concentrations may be available in math, reading or science teaching methods. Other possible concentrations include diversity education and behavior management.

Educational Prerequisites

Individuals must have graduated from high school or passed GED examinations to enroll in 4-year postsecondary early education programs. Standardized test scores from the SAT or ACT are usually required. Prospective students may have to submit a statement of purpose and a resume.

Program Coursework

Degree-seekers participate in educational seminars and practicum in order to graduate. They take courses in science, social sciences, math and language arts as well as:

  • Child mental and physical development
  • Child care observation and assessment techniques
  • Technology in the classroom
  • Music and education
  • Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL)

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

The BLS noted that from 2010-2020, employment of kindergarten and elementary educators was predicted to climb 18% and 17%, respectively, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Furthermore, kindergarten teachers averaged $53,030, while elementary teachers averaged $56,130 annually as of May 2012.

Master of Education

This professional child care college program is generally geared toward current educators seeking advancement opportunities and administrative skills. Because of this, graduate-level child care classes are typically offered on weekends or evenings, and some programs are even offered entirely online. Concentrations are often available in elementary, secondary or ESOL education.

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants to a graduate college program in education are required to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college, with typical GPA requirements of 2.8-3.0. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, reference letters and a resume must usually be supplied for consideration.

Program Coursework

Graduate students usually complete a senior project or thesis. They study such topics as:

  • Teaching students with literacy delays
  • Advanced teaching techniques
  • Educational politics
  • Leadership in education

Popular Career Options

Those with a master's degree in education can work in public and private elementary, middle and high schools, as well as non-profit sectors. Specific job titles may include:

  • Primary school teacher
  • Secondary school teacher
  • School program coordinator
  • Assistant principal
  • Principal

Continuing Education

Additional graduate degrees and certificates are available in the field of education, but vary according to special interest. For example, a Ph.D. in Special Education prepares child care workers with the tools to implement a constructive and understanding learning environment to those with physical and mental disabilities or disease.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics