Schools for Aspiring Child Care Workers: How to Choose

There are many routes to becoming a child care worker, and one of them is to obtain a college degree in early childhood education. Those who wish to pursue a child care career can find study options that range from associate's and bachelor's degree programs to more advanced master's degree programs.

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a growing number of employers are requiring at least an associate's degree in early childhood education for child care worker positions. Depending on the degree level, these programs may be taken at community colleges or universities through their teaching, education or human services departments.

Early Childhood Education Schools

These schools offer undergraduate and/or graduate degrees in early childhood education.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees 2015-2016*
Cambridge College Cambridge, MA 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's $14,004
Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 4-year, public Master's $16,950** (for 30-credit online degree program; adding certifications/endorsements increases cost)
Howard University Washington, DC 4-year, private not-for-profit Master's $31,778
Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $33,778 (undergraduate), $21,402 (graduate)
Georgia State University Atlanta, GA 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's $8,974 (in-state undergraduate), $9,004 (in-state graduate)
New York University New York, NY 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $47,750 (undergraduate), $40,984 (graduate)
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC 4-year, public Master's $11,074 in-state
Boston University Boston, MA 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate $48,436 (undergraduate), $48,082 (graduate)

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics, **School website

School Selection Criteria

Some things to keep in mind when selecting a child care program include:

  • Students should begin by looking at schools that have early childhood education programs accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and decide what type of degree they wish to pursue.
  • Hands-on experience can be very important in the education of the aspiring child care worker, so prospective students also may want to consider schools that have opportunities for field experience at nearby pre-schools and/or elementary schools.
  • Because state licensing and caregiver training requirements can vary widely, students should make sure that their program fulfills the requirements leading to their particular career goal.
  • Education department ranking may be important to prospective students looking to study early childhood education.

Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education

Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education programs are 2-year programs that combine the study of psychology, sociology and education with general education coursework. The A.S. or A.A.S. degree is designed to give students a very practical form of child care training.

Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education

Students can receive a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. Both degree programs provide the appropriate education for students seeking to become child care workers. These 4-year programs are similar in coursework to associate's degree programs, but more extensive. They prepare students for more leadership-oriented roles in child care, such as lead/head teachers or day care program heads/administrators. In addition to coursework, many early childcare education programs also have supervised student teaching opportunities at preschools and day care centers that give students more hands-on experiences with young children.

Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education

There are many varieties of master's-level degree programs in early childhood education, ranging from the Master of Education to the Master of Science to the Master of Arts. They are all 2-year programs that primarily prepare students for administration and supervision duties in the field of child care, such as owning and/or operating day care centers or serving as an early childhood family specialist. Much of the coursework is designed to give students a more sophisticated view of early childhood education and child care.

Aspiring child care workers should look for accredited programs that offer hands-on experience. Students may also consider the ranking of a school's education department when selecting an associate's, bachelor's or graduate degree program in the field.

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