Both early childhood development graduate degree programs and graduate certificates in this field are available through distance learning from public and private four-year institutions. However, online early childhood development degree programs are less common than early childhood education degree programs.
Students in early childhood development degree programs learn about the physical, social, creative and emotional growth of young children. They are trained in discipline techniques and age-appropriate activities in areas such as creative development, guiding the behavior of young children, child health and nutrition, child psychology and dealing with exceptional children. Some programs offer additional courses in music, emergency health care or first aid, physical education and caring for autistic children. Students are also taught the need for keeping records of daily events, understanding and following safety regulations, maintaining a professional demeanor, planning programs and offering guidance. Some programs require student teaching or internships.
Master of Science Degree in Early Childhood Development
This online graduate degree program is designed for students wishing to begin careers in teaching and often allows specializations, such as communicative arts, play development and young children assessment. Prospective students must have a bachelor's degree, which may need to be in education or a related field. Relevant work experience may also be a factor in admissions. Some programs require students to have licensure or, if they do not, to be willing to complete student teaching during the course of their studies. Program requirements range from 27-42 credit hours depending upon level of degree being awarded and can often be completed totally online with the exception of internships.
Students enrolled in online early childhood development graduate degree programs take the same courses as students receiving classroom instruction, such as the following:
- Child Assessment and Evaluation
- Understanding Family Interaction
- Learning and Guidance in Early Childhood
- Appraisal in Counseling and Development
- Foundations of Reading
- Methods of Teaching English as a Second Language
Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Development
An online early childhood development and care graduate certificate program is designed for those students wishing to become active in child social work or pre-school care. The classes focus more on the development and socialization of children than on teaching and education.
Coursework for these programs is delivered through online lectures, assignments and interactive sessions in a virtual classroom. Students may contribute to class discussions at a time convenient for them through message boards although some programs require scheduled live Web classes.
Many students who earn an online graduate degree in early childhood development go on to achieve teacher certification and become elementary school teachers. Other students may choose to apply their knowledge to a career in pre-school, counseling, child protective services or crisis nursing.
Online early childhood development graduate degree programs can be taken fully online, or in a hybrid format that includes student teaching or internships. These programs are typically designed for those who wish to pursue teaching, but students may choose to follow alternative career paths such as counseling.