Online certificate and degree programs for preschool teachers are hard to find. Certificate programs are rare, either online or on campus, while the classroom experiences required in associate's and bachelor's degree programs make totally online degree programs impossible.
Certificate programs may allow students to complete all courses via distance learning. However, some certificate programs are open only to students enrolled in a degree program at a school. In these short programs, students get general information on the education of young children, with courses that may include child development, children's literature, and educational theory.
Associate's and bachelor's degree programs for preschool teachers are available in early childhood education. These programs may offer a few online courses. Associate's degree programs may require teaching experiences in a daycare center, while the bachelor's degree programs call for student teaching experience in a school. Students may also need to complete in-person classroom observations. In both these degree programs, students study education theory, child development, and classroom management.
Education and training requirements for preschool teachers/childcare workers vary from state to state. Several states say childcare workers must have completed a training course before starting to work. Federal Head Start teachers must have or be working towards an associate's degree. Some states require that childcare workers hold a certification from a national professional organization. Early childhood education majors who want to teach in a public school must meet state teacher licensing requirements.
Preschool Teacher Certificate
Though rare, online certificate programs in early childhood education are available. Topics relevant to preschool education, like child development and beginning education techniques, are the main focus in these programs. In some cases, the program you apply to may have restricted admissions, open only to students who are residents of the state housing the school and are currently enrolled in a specific degree program at the same school.
Program Information and Requirements
Online certificate programs in early childhood education typically allow students to complete all courses in a distance-learning format. In some cases, the program may require students to participate in a practicum at an approved site, such as a preschool. This gives students the chance to gain hands-on experience teaching and supervising young children. Schools may use technology like Blackboard's ANGEL system to deliver course materials.
Common Preschool Teacher Certificate Courses
Curricula for these programs focus on giving students foundational information in educating young children.
Early Childhood Education Theory and History
In this foundational course, students learn the history and development of early childhood education techniques. One focus is the development of curricula for children, including those who are disabled, from infancy through age eight. Other topics discussed may include ethics and early childhood education theory.
Students in this class learn about teaching literature and language arts to young children. In addition to being exposed to a variety of different type of children's literature, students learn how to incorporate technology into language arts lessons.
Stages of youth development from birth through adolescence are covered in this course. Child behavior is discussed through the lens of data and psychological theories.
Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education Programs
Online associate's degrees for preschool teachers are not common. Like the certificate, degrees in this category are typically in early childhood education rather than preschool teaching. These degree programs may focus on a specific area of early childhood education, such as child development.
Program Information and Requirements
Typically, all the classes required for this degree are available online. However, some programs may require students to seek practical experience at an approved site. These practicums can take place in preschools or daycare centers. They may be scheduled at the student's convenience, but cannot take place online.
Common Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Courses
In addition to this focus on educating young students, general education courses are typically included.
Art for Young Children
Classroom-relevant art activities are explored in this course. The class focuses on developing creativity rather than entertaining students.
Early Childhood Math, Science and Technology
Age-appropriate math and science topics are covered in this course. Additionally, students learn how technology might be used to teach these lessons.
Teaching Exceptional Children
Techniques for educating children with special needs are covered in this course. Assignments may include developing a curriculum for individual special needs students.
Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education
Online bachelor's degree programs in early childhood education are available on a limited basis. As is common in this field, the degree title itself may be in a variety of closely related disciplines, like early childhood education or education studies. In the latter case, the degree is available with a specialization in early childhood education.
Program Information and Requirements
Depending on the program you choose, it is possible to take the bulk of your requirements for this degree online. However, in-person student teaching experiences are required for state teaching certification. Additionally, some programs offer classes that have some elements online, but include in-person classroom observation and interaction components that cannot be completed online.
Common Early Childhood Education Bachelor's Degree Courses
Coursework in these bachelor's degree programs includes a more in-depth study of child psychology and development.
Principles of Early Childhood Education
This class delves into the philosophical foundations of early childhood education. The class may require observation of different age groups including kindergarteners and infants.
The course covers growth and development from birth through middle childhood. An emphasis may be placed on multiculturalism and how development plays out across different cultures.
Students in this class are trained to encourage parents and family to become involved in the education of their young child. The course may emphasize diplomatic interaction and other skills necessary to promote family participation.
An early childhood education certificate may be sufficient education to gain a position in childcare or preschool teaching. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some positions in this field only require a high school diploma, with no further training, so a certificate could be seen as an asset by some employers. However, the BLS does indicate that some preschool teaching jobs are only open to those with more advanced education (www.bls.gov).
Earning an associate's degree in early childhood education opens a few doors not available to those with fewer credentials. For example, the BLS pointed out that Head Start programs are now required to hire professionals with an associate's degree as a minimum credential. The BLS also stated that it is becoming increasingly common for employers of childcare workers to hire employees with associate's degrees.
Having a bachelor's degree in early childhood education can be an asset if you want to manage or run a preschool or daycare center, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The NAEYC serves as an accrediting body as well as an advocacy group, and according to its standards, early childhood program administrators must have a bachelor's degree (www.naeyc.org). Additionally, the BLS says that a bachelor's degree in early childhood education may qualify graduates to teach kindergarten through third grade.
Those interested in becoming a preschool teacher can complete coursework in education, child psychology, and development through an online program. Students enrolled in this program will also need to complete in-person observations and student teaching experiences.