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Illinois Early Childhood Degree Programs with School Options

Illinois has 37 schools that offer early childhood education degree programs. Learn about the degree programs, tuition info and program options for the 10 largest schools to make an informed education decision.

Essential Information

Individuals interested in studying early childhood education in Illinois can look to various 2- and 4-year postsecondary schools. Students can earn a relevant bachelor's or associate degree. Some associate degree programs are designed as transfer programs for students ultimately interested in earning a bachelor's degree, while others are designed to ready students for entry-level positions in early child care, such as daycare teacher or public school teaching assistant. Master's and doctoral degree programs are also available, as are undergraduate and graduate certificates. Many early childhood education degree programs integrate student teaching or internship experiences.

College of DuPage

Located in Glen Ellyn, the College of DuPage offers two associate's degree programs in early childhood education. The Associate in Arts in Teaching (AAT) program is designed for students wanting to transfer to a four-year institution, while the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Early Childhood Education and Care prepares students to enter the workforce upon graduation. Both programs require roughly 64 credit hours. Students can expect to study child development, teaching methods, literacy development, curriculum planning and community relations.

In addition, the College of DuPage offers three certificate programs in early childhood education and care. The Early Childhood Assistant Teacher Certificate requires six credit hours, which include the study of child development, growth, safety and nutrition. The Early Childhood Education and Care Certificate program, on the other hand, requires 34 credit hours. Courses include the study of child guidance practices, training methods, curriculum planning and nutrition. Finally, the Administration of an Early Childhood Center Certificate requires 21 credit hours. Students can expect courses in program operations, administration procedures and child development.

College of Lake County

The College of Lake County is a public two-year college in Grayslake. The Associate in Arts (AA) in Early Childhood Education transfer program is offered through the Social Science Division of the college. This 60-hour program prepares students whose goal is to transfer to a four-year college after obtaining a two-year degree. Upon completion, students meet the qualifications of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for employment in a day care center or preschool.

Students can also choose to participate in an AAS in Early Childhood Education program, which requires between 61 and 64 credit hours. Graduates of this program can seek employment as teacher assistants in public schools. Required courses include the study of creative activities, child development, professional ethics, nutrition, language development and social development.

Columbia College - Chicago

This Chicago-based college offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Early Childhood Education with two tracks: one that leads to certification and the other designed for Head Start teachers who lack a degree. The first option requires 120 credit hours, which includes 800 hours of field experiences in classrooms. The other track requires 60 credit hours and can be completed in two years. Applicants for the second option must be working teachers as part of the Head Start program. While not a teacher certification program, this program does qualify graduates for Opportunity ECE Level 5 credentials.

DePaul University

DePaul University in Chicago offers five degree programs for students interested in early childhood education through its Department of Teacher Education. Undergraduate students can choose between a BA and a Bachelor of Science (BS). Both degree programs include courses in child development, children's literature, curriculum development, family structures, instruction methods and language development. The BS option requires 12 quarter hours of student teaching and prepares graduates for necessary certification tests. The BA option is offered as a joint degree with the School for New Learning.

There are two master's degrees available as well. The Master of Education (M.Ed.) program requires 12 courses and 56 quarter hours of student teaching experiences, while the Master of Arts (MA) program requires 13 courses and 60 quarter hours of fieldwork. Students can expect courses in literacy, behavior, curriculum strategy and early childhood assessment. The MA program also requires a thesis.

Finally, students can pursue an educational doctorate with a concentration in early childhood education. This terminal degree program requires 88 credit hours, including coursework, dissertation research and an oral defense. Participation in seven seminars on research, teaching and early childhood is mandatory.

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University's Chicago campus offers a Bachelor of Science in Education in Early Childhood Special Education that focuses on educating children with special needs from birth through the second grade. Graduates can pursue licensure for teaching basic early childhood education, special education and English as a Second Language (ESL). The program is divided into three phases: exploration, concentration and specialization. The exploration phase acts as an introduction to teaching and the professional learning community and allows students to explore various learning environments. The concentration phase allows students to begin specialization and study literacy, communities and cultures. Finally, students spend two semesters focused on their chosen specialty.

Northeastern Illinois University

Located in Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University offers two degree programs focused on early childhood education. Students can earn the BA in four years. The curriculum is segmented into five blocks of courses, including the study of language development, teaching methods and developmental assessment. Students must also complete clinical experiences, a practicum in special education and a student teaching experience.

Students can also pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Early Childhood Education. This 39-credit hour program also requires a 135-hour practicum that covers all three levels of early childhood education and a full-time internship lasting no less than 16 weeks. Courses include the study of learning theories, teacher interaction, language acquisition, curriculum development, teaching methods and literacy instruction.

Northern Illinois University

Located in Dekalb, Northern Illinois University offers undergraduate and graduate programs in early childhood education. The bachelor's degree program is offered through a joint effort between the College of Health and Human Sciences and the College of Education. Students can expect courses in language development, teaching methods, classroom management and play development for young children. In addition, student teaching experiences are mandatory. Graduates are eligible for teacher certification in Illinois.

A Master of Science in Education (M.S.Ed.) in Early Childhood Education is also available. Students can choose between a thesis and non-thesis option but must complete 33 credit hours to earn the degree. The non-thesis option includes courses on instruction analysis, school partnerships and child behavior.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Students can obtain a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in early childhood education at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Undergraduates can specialize in either child and family services or preschool and primary education. The curriculum requires between 120 and 128 credit hours. Students can expect courses in infant development, family studies, children's literature and early literacy.

The M.S.Ed. program allows for a thesis or non-thesis option. Students must complete between 32 and 36 credit hours to earn the degree. Available courses include the study of child abuse, family literacy, child development, early intervention, public policy and literacy. A PhD program is also available. To earn this terminal degree, participants must complete two doctoral seminars, multiple research methods courses, core coursework in early childhood education and at least 24 dissertation hours.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Southern Illinois University's Edwardsville campus offers a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and a Master of Science in Education - Curriculum and Instruction. The bachelor's degree program can be completed in four years, and the curriculum includes courses in child psychology, interpersonal communication, computer concepts and critical thinking. A minimum of 124 credit hours is required.

The master's degree program requires 36 credit hours and includes professional coursework on curriculum models, learning theories, educational issues and classroom instruction. Students can either complete a thesis, action research project or written final exam to complete this program.

University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign

Early childhood programs and initiatives are extensive and distinguished at this school in Champaign. The BS in Early Childhood Education program prepares teachers for preschool through grade three. Admission to the extremely competitive 129-credit program requires at least 50 hours of work with children in this age range. Six prerequisite courses are required. Study of a foreign language or proof of competency in a foreign language is also necessary. The standard curriculum includes professional education courses plus coursework in communication, math, science, humanities, American history, social sciences, health and an 18-credit area of concentration.

The College of Education also offers a 32-hour master's degree program with teacher certification for individuals with four-year degrees who wish to become teachers. There is extreme competition for limited space in the program.

Another option is the Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS). This 32-credit post-master's program is designed for teachers seeking study in an area of specialization, which may include early childhood education. As this is a terminal program, credits cannot be applied toward the PhD.

Finally, this university offers a 64-credit doctoral program that is designed to prepare practitioners for leadership positions in government, teacher training and public school districts. The student can design a program emphasizing early childhood education. A dissertation is required.

Career Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), students wanting to begin a career teaching children in kindergarten or elementary school in any state will need to earn a bachelor's degree, but prospective preschool teachers need only earn an associate's degree. Candidates must also complete a state-approved teaching certificate preparation program that includes student teaching experience.

In Illinois, after students meet all testing and coursework requirements, they receive their teaching certificate from the Illinois State Board of Education. Short overviews of the 10 largest schools in this state that prepare students to meet licensing requirements can be found below, along with a comparison table with tuition information and individual school offerings.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type and Setting Early Childhood Education Degree Programs Undergraduate Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)
College of DuPage Two-year, public; large suburb Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Early Childhood Education and Care,
Associate of Arts in Teaching (AAT) - Early Childhood Education,
Early Childhood Assistant Teacher Certificate,
Early Childhood Education and Care Certificate,
Administration of an Early Childhood Center Certificate
$5,275 in-district; $10,885 in-state; $12,985 out-of-state*
College of Lake County Two-year, public; midsize suburb Associate in Arts (AA) in Early Childhood Education,
AAS in Early Childhood Education
$3,612 in-district; $8,358 in-state; $11,046 out-of-state*
Columbia College - Chicago Four-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Early Childhood Education $24,344*
DePaul University Four-year, private not-for-profit; large city BA in Early Childhood Education,
Bachelor of Science (BS) in Early Childhood Education,
Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Early Childhood Education,
Master of Arts (MA) in Early Childhood Education,
Educational Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Early Childhood Education
$36,361*
Loyola University Chicago Four-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Science in Education in Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) $40,426*
Northeastern Illinois University Four-year, public; large city BA in Early Childhood Education,
Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Early Childhood Education
$9,351 in-state; $17,079 out-of-state*
Northern Illinois University Four-year, public; small suburb BS in Early Childhood Education,
Master of Science in Education (M.S.Ed.) in Early Childhood Education
$14,295 in-state; $23,761 out-of-state*
Southern Illinois University Carbondale Four-year, public; small city BS in Early Childhood Education,
M.S.Ed. in Early Childhood Education,
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Early Childhood Education
$13,137 in-state; $26,390 out-of-state*
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Four-year, public; large suburb BS in Education - Early Childhood Education,
M.S. Ed. in Education - Curriculum and Instruction
$10,247 in-state; $21,740 out-of-state*
University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign Four-year, public; small city BS in Early Childhood Education,
M.S.Ed. in Early Childhood Education with Teacher Certification,
Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS),
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Curriculum and Instruction
$15,054 in-state; $30,214 out-of-state*

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics, College Navigator


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