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Best Bachelor's Degrees in Early Childhood Education

Mar 22, 2021

Early Childhood Education Degrees

Early childhood education (ECE) degrees prepare students to work in centers for teaching young children. Degrees in ECE will focus on training professionals to foster motor, language, academic, emotional, and social skills in young children. ECE teachers play an important role in teaching students the basic skills needed to succeed in an educational setting. Because of the increasing need for early learning specialists, there are many options for degrees and certifications in early childhood.

The Top Bachelor's Degree Programs in Early Childhood Eduation

1. Rochester University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$23996 100% 52% 99% No Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

2. University of Maine at Farmington

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$9344 91% 58% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits

3. California State University-Sacramento

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7368 82% 55% 85% Yes Yes AP Credits

4. The University of Montana-Western

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$5725 56% 49% 85% Yes Yes AP Credits

5. McMurry University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$27924 45% 33% 99% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits

6. Wright State University-Lake Campus

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6072 99% 38% 81% Yes Yes AP Credits

7. University of Mount Olive

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$21194 58% 55% 99% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

8. West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10421 75% 77% 81% No Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

9. The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$9656 82% 48% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits

10. California State University-Fullerton

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6924 53% 69% 77% Yes Yes AP Credits

11. California State University-Dominguez Hills

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6946 77% 44% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits

12. University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$14156 79% 57% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits

13. Southwest Minnesota State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8874 64% 50% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits

14. Notre Dame College

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$30160 98% 37% 100% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

15. California State University-Los Angeles

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6768 48% 52% 94% Yes Yes AP Credits

16. Millersville University of Pennsylvania

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$12250 79% 56% 88% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

17. Converse College

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$19890 89% 58% 99% Yes Yes AP Credits

18. Salem State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11284 86% 57% 92% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

19. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10543 83% 44% 92% No Yes AP / ACE Credits

20. University of South Carolina Aiken

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10760 56% 39% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits

21. Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10958 84% 60% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits

22. Lake Superior State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$12255 57% 51% 96% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

23. Lander University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11700 43% 45% 100% Yes Yes AP Credits

24. York College of Pennsylvania

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$20885 69% 63% 100% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

25. California State University-Northridge

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6977 59% 55% 86% Yes Yes AP Credits

26. Carlow University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$30528 92% 57% 100% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

27. East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11476 85% 52% 89% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits

28. Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$12744 91% 58% 91% Yes Yes AP Credits

29. California State University-Stanislaus

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7542 89% 59% 90% Yes Yes AP Credits

30. South Dakota State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$9114 90% 56% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits

31. Keene State College

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$14568 88% 63% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits

32. Frostburg State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$9410 80% 49% 92% No Yes AP Credits

33. Georgia College & State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$9530 80% 64% 96% Yes Yes AP Credits

34. Miami University-Oxford

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$15193 80% 81% 82% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

35. Lourdes University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$23550 69% 36% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

36. Minnesota State University Moorhead

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8954 65% 53% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits

37. University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$14148 84% 34% 96% Yes Yes AP Credits

38. Lock Haven University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10878 95% 54% 95% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits

39. Winthrop University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$15806 69% 63% 99% Yes Yes AP Credits

40. Bridgewater State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10732 88% 61% 91% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

41. College of Charleston

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$12939 78% 66% 83% Yes Yes AP Credits

42. Northeastern State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6915 100% 33% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits

43. University of Wisconsin-Stout

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$9463 91% 60% 83% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

44. Worcester State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10161 66% 58% 85% Yes Yes AP Credits

45. University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8270 85% 60% 86% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

46. University of Pittsburgh-Bradford

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$14158 73% 40% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits

47. Salisbury University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10044 74% 70% 90% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

48. Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11149 95% 52% 96% Yes Yes AP Credits

49. Walsh University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$30830 76% 65% 100% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

50. SUNY College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8884 54% 44% 92% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit Study.com's ranking methodology page.

Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

What Kinds of Early Childhood Education Degrees Are There?

Degrees in early childhood education include the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate. For those who wish to work as an early childhood educator, only an associate or bachelor's level degree needs to be obtained. Students who are more interested in research, curriculum development, and policy work may be interested in master's or doctoral level degrees. After graduation, students will need to pass a state licensing exam. They also have the option to get certificates in specialty areas of early childhood education.

Associate Degrees in Early Childhood Education,

An Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education is between 60 and 64 credits. Depending on the program, it can take up to two years to complete. This degree focuses on training teachers to work with children from birth to third grade. Those who earn this degree will meet the requirements to work as a preschool teacher or teaching assistant. Individuals may also choose to continue their education and pursue a bachelor's degree or higher.

Bachelor's Degrees in Early Childhood Education

A Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education is about 120 credits and takes approximately four years to complete. Many of these programs are offered in a flexible online format. Some of the courses may require laboratory experiences as part of the program. During the program, students will be required to participate in a teaching apprenticeship (TA) position. This position will provide the student with valuable opportunity to gain experience in the classroom, and some programs even offer compensation for the apprenticeship.

Master's Degrees in Early Childhood Education

There are a few different paths for someone interested in a job that requires a master's in early childhood education. Master of Arts in Education--Early Childhood Education programs are about 2 years in length and require students to complete 30 credit hours. Programs typically focus on early childhood assessment and research. Upon the conclusion of these programs, students will likely complete a final project or teaching assistantship.

Master of Education (M.Ed.) programs are also about 30 credits, but focus more on child development, curriculum, and research in early childhood education. The Education Specialist (Ed.S.) is a more advanced degree for individuals looking to specialize in curriculum or for someone who wants to advance to a doctoral program. Ed. S. programs are around 30 credits and will typically require a graduate practicum or internship.

Doctoral Degrees in Early Childhood Education

The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Early Childhood Education and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Early Childhood Education are the two main types of doctoral degrees in early childhood. While the Ph.D. degree is typically 90 credit hours, the EdD degree can be around 50-60 credit hours depending on the program. Both programs require students to complete a dissertation. These programs prepare graduates for professorships at the college level, research, policy work, or leadership positions in early childhood education.

Certificates in Early Childhood Education

Undergraduate and graduate students may choose to pursue certificate programs to further their education and expand their expertise. Furthermore, certificate programs are available for both non-degree and degree holders. The programs are typically 12-20 credits and take about one year to complete. Early childhood education certificates may count towards certification, a bachelor's program or a master's program. The purpose of these certificates is to gain knowledge and skills for working with infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary aged children. Some of the certificates may specialize in:

  • Infants and Toddlers
  • Leadership in Early Childhood
  • Equity and Inclusive Education
  • Administration

Difference Between Associate & Bachelor's Degree Programs

For students interested in teaching at the preschool or early childhood level, it can be difficult to decide which degree to work towards. On one hand, preschool teachers are only required to have an associate degree and a license to teach, but many employers may look favorably on someone with a bachelor's degree. The associate degree takes only two years to complete; the bachelor's takes four years. In both programs, students are trained to work with children from birth to about third grade, and will encounter similar course subjects. Yet, students who obtain a bachelor's degree are likely to have a more in-depth course sequence, can specialize in content areas, have completed a teaching apprenticeship, and may be better prepared to take the state license exam. Further, those who are interested in becoming an early childhood teacher may get their associate degree and work as an assistant teacher to gain experience while working towards their bachelor's degree.

Early Childhood Education Bachelor's Degree Concentrations

Students interested in a degree in early childhood education have the opportunity to choose from many concentrations. Concentration coursework provides detailed knowledge of a specialized area of early childhood. Some areas of concentration include, but are not limited to:

  • English Education
  • Mathematics Education
  • Science/STEM Education
  • Social Studies Education
  • English as a Second Language

Curriculum for a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education

The common classes in early childhood education revolve around child development and curriculum development. Many students will also have the chance to take subject specific courses, such as math, literature, science, and social studies. Students usually participate in lecture-based classes and field experiences. Some courses that students can expect to take are listed below.

Human Development

If a student is interested in working with children, it is important to understand how humans develop. Human and child development courses will study physical, emotional, and social growth across the lifespan.

Teaching and Learning

A major aspect of the early childhood degree is learning how to be a successful teacher. Students will study the leading perspectives and theories related to teaching and student learning.

Curriculum Development

Students in the early childhood field should know how to develop activities and games that will help young students learn, so participating in courses that help with curriculum is a must. Students will learn how to develop age-appropriate curricula for early childhood students.

Field Observations

One of the best ways to learn is to practice and apprentice under someone who already works in the field of education. Students in early childhood will get the chance to observe in the classroom setting and work with a licensed teacher as a teaching assistant.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education?

Bachelor's degrees in early childhood are 120 credits and take about four years to complete. However, students may complete these degrees in more or less time depending on the number of credits taken each semester. To complete a four-year degree on time, students must take at least 15 credits each semester. If a student has transfer credits from other universities, associate degree programs, advanced placement exams, or qualifying high school courses, the student may be able to finish the bachelor's degree in less time. It is also possible for students to attend school part-time and continue to work outside of school. Further, some online programs may offer summer courses that the student can take to complete the degree in fewer years.

Accreditation for Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Degrees

Accreditation is important for students interested in a degree in early childhood education. Programs that are accredited are guaranteed to be high quality, deliver approved course content, and adhere to national guidelines. Additionally, accredited programs are also more likely to have options for financial aid. There are two types of accrediting bodies: institutional and regional. Students should at the very least look for programs that are accredited regionally, but programs that are accredited by a specific institution are top-notch.

The Council for Higher Education (CHEA) is a regional accrediting agency. Specifically for early childhood education programs, students should look for accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Both of these organizations accredit early childhood programs and monitor their educational material. Further, students can go to the U.S. Department of Education's website to get more information on accrediting organizations and programs.

Early Childhood Education Licensure & Certification

Certification for early childhood educators is typically granted by the individual state, so qualifications may vary and students should research the state in which they plan to teach. California, for example, requires teachers to take the the CSET/CBEST exam, while those looking to teach in Texas will need to take the TExES exam. While nearly all states generally require an associate degree and a passing score on a state examination, some states will require the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential that is offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. This credential requires a high school diploma and 120 hours of formal ECE training. Many licenses will also have to either be renewed or updated with continuing education or professional development credits.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education?

A bachelor's in early childhood education can often lead to a career as a preschool or early childhood teacher. Preschool teachers teach social, language, emotional, and motor skills to children under 5 years of age. These educators teach pre-kindergarten students the basic skills, such as identifying colors, letters, numbers, and shapes. Their primary goal is to prepare students for kindergarten. To become a preschool teacher, individuals need an associate degree and state certification, but many employers will prefer a bachelor's degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), preschool teachers made a median salary of $30,520 in 2019. The projected growth of preschool teaching jobs is 2% from 2019 to 2029. This growth is slower than the average, but there is still an increasing demand for early childhood professionals. With an early childhood education degree, graduates may also expand into other positions, such as:

  • Childcare Worker
  • Preschool and Childcare Center Director
  • Early Childhood Special Education Teacher

How to Become a Preschool Teacher's Assistant

The job of a preschool teacher's assistant is to work with a licensed teacher to support and assist in a classroom. Teacher's assistants will likely review educational material with students, take attendance, keep records of students, supervise students on the playground and during unstructured time, and prepare lesson material. Teacher's assistants are required to have at least a high school degree, but 2 years of college coursework or an associate degree is preferred. To work in a federal program that has a significant population of low-income students such as a Title 1 program, the individual may need to pass a state assessment. Some programs may also require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid certification. The BLS states that teacher's assistants made a median salary of $27,920 in 2019 and have an expected job growth of 4% in 2019 to 2029.

How to Become a Preschool and Childcare Center Director

Preschool and childcare center directors are in charge of the day-to-day operations of a childcare center. They supervise preschool teachers, develop educational programs, and are responsible for ensuring that the center meets state requirements. To become a preschool or childcare center director, the student must possess a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a similar degree, and have several years of relevant experience. This experience may be working as a preschool teacher or other position in early childhood education. Some child centers also require a nationally recognized credential, such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. Additionally, directors should also look at required state licensure for the childcare center they plan to operate. To qualify for licensure, the director will likely have to pass a background check, be CPR certified, and be certified in first aid. According to the BLS, childcare center directors made a median salary of $48,210 in 2019 and have an expected growth of 1% in 2019 to 2019.

Financial Aid & Scholarship Information for Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Degrees

All students applying for programs should become familiar with financial aid options. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the free form that students fill out to receive financial aid. Federal and state aid come in the form of grants, loans, and work-study and cover the expenses of tuition, school fees, room and board, textbooks, school supplies, and transportation. Some schools may also offer scholarships and grants for specific programs or majors.

  • Loans are borrowed money that must be repaid upon the completion of a program. Often, students will need to repay the loans as well as the interest that accrues over time.
  • Grants are award-based aid that does not need to be repaid. Specific grants, such as the Pell Grant, is awarded to students who have not previously received a bachelor's, graduate, or other degree.
  • Work-Study is offered as an on-campus job at the university to help the student make money while in school.
  • Scholarships are award- and need-based aid that is offered to students from schools, employers, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, an individual, or an organization. There are often scholarships that are specifically meant for certain groups, such as veterans, women, first generation college students, or students of color.

How to Choose an Early Childhood Education Program

Once prospective students have made the decision to attend a bachelor's program in early childhood education, it is time to find the right program. Because early childhood programs offer degrees in various formats, students must first decide whether an online or on-campus program best suits their learning style. Online programs may be suitable for students who plan to work or fulfill family obligations while in school. On the other hand, on-campus degree programs offer in-person lectures and support. Aspiring students should compare the cost, length, and location of different programs. While tuition will likely be the largest cost, books, room and board, and school supplies will also add to the total price.

Students interested in early childhood education should look for programs that are accredited. Accredited programs follow national standards and are more likely to offer financial aid. Additionally, learners should also begin thinking about the career they wish to pursue after obtaining their degree. Programs will offer different areas of concentration, so students should always keep their career goals in mind. Once students have addressed these factors and have chosen programs to apply to, they should consider contacting current students, faculty, and admissions counselors to get further information about the program.

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