Top 10 Best Online Associate’s in Early Childhood Education Degrees for 2020

Teaching is one of the most important professions, as these trained and licensed education professionals have a great influence on young children through their final years in high school and beyond. Ultimately, teachers shape future generations. Early childhood educators are tasked with the responsibility of preparing young children for academic success before they enter kindergarten. The teaching professionals who work in early childhood education set the foundation for a child’s educational, emotional, and social development.

A child’s education begins at birth. By the time they reach preschool age (ages typically younger than 5 years old), most children are ready (many even eager) to enter a more formalized program taught by early childhood education professionals. Many of a child’s first teachers have early childhood education associate’s degrees. For prospective early childhood educators, an online associate’s degree in education is an affordable and convenient way to take the first step to a meaningful career.

Ranking the Best Early Childhood Associate’s Degree Online Programs

To rank the top online associate’s degree in education programs, Value Colleges editors did a broad search of fully online associate’s degree programs from accredited, trusted community colleges, colleges, and universities, focusing on a defined Early Childhood Education specialization. From there, we applied the usual VC methodology, averaging figures on tuition cost, reputation, and student success using data from IPEDS, College Scorecard, and Niche. That combination gives students the assurance that the program they’re considering is not just affordable, but will have a genuine impact on their career and a solid return on investment

1. Indiana Wesleyan University

When you’re looking for an online associate’s degree in education, the early childhood education program at Indiana Wesleyan University is a good option for your goals. The A.S. in Early Childhood Education prepares students for the rigors of handling the needs of young children from their birth until they are eight years old. It recognizes that children have physical, emotional, social, and cognitive needs and it strives to ensure that students are prepared to provide the support young children need to develop and grow in a healthy way.

A key advantage of Indiana Wesleyan University is the use of online tools to help students with their goals. You can work around your schedule and complete the degree without wasting time or registering for classes multiple times. It gives you a flexible schedule that allows you to handle personal obligations while you are working on your associate’s degree. Indiana Wesleyan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, so you can feel confident that the degree program will help you reach your long-term career goals.

Degree: AS in Early Childhood Education

2. University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati offers an early childhood associates degree online that helps you accomplish your goals for your career. The associate’s degree program gives students the foundation they need to care for young children and handle the challenges of addressing their specific needs. It gives you a focus that helps with your long-term plans.  The University of Cincinnati allows students to personalize their education by taking one of three courses: Infants and Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Administration. That gives you more opportunities to specialize in your career.

A key way the University of Cincinnati stands apart is the in-depth focus that allows students to learn valuable skills related to the needs of children. It gives you a strong foundation in early childhood care and education that allows you to work with children from infancy until they are ready to move into elementary school.

Degree: AS in Early Childhood Education

3. University of Alaska Fairbanks

The AAS in Early Childhood Education from the University of Alaska Fairbanks offers the opportunity to gain the knowledge you need to care for young children and their needs. The degree program focuses on the concerns that may arise when working with young children and handling situations to ensure that children remain safe when they are in your care. The University of Alaska Fairbanks recognizes that courses in early childhood education may interest parents, so they allow students to take a single course or to focus on the entire program as it fits their situation and needs.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks focuses on providing students with a strong foundation in early childhood education. The course work for the early childhood associates degree online allows students to start a career working with children and it counts as credit for more advanced degree programs if students decide to pursue a higher level of education in the future. 

Degree: AAS in Early Childhood Education

4. Clarion University of Pennsylvania

When you are looking for an online associates degree in education that fits a challenging schedule, the AS in Early Childhood Education from Clarion University of Pennsylvania may be the best option for your goals. The online degree program focuses on teaching students about early care for young children and childhood development to ensure that you are prepared for your long-term career goals. It also ensures you know how to construct activities and tasks with a focus on helping children learn useful skills that carry forward as they grow.

Clarion University of Pennsylvania offers a early childhood associates degree online that allows you to obtain your degree while you are working a full-time job or engaged in other obligations. The online program offers flexible classes and course work that allows you to work around your schedule and keep up with your goals. Clarion University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and was recognized by the NAEYC as the best in-state online college in 2016.

Degree: AS in Early Childhood Education

5. Southwestern Assemblies of God University

When you are looking for an early childhood associate’s degree online, the AA in Early Childhood Education from Southwestern Assemblies of God University is a good choice for your long-term goals. The online degree program offers a flexible schedule that helps you stay on track to reach your goals. It is a fully online program that focuses on developing and implementing the school curriculum to teach young children at an age-appropriate level.

Southwestern Assemblies of God University takes a Christian view on the topic of education. It recognizes that teachers may work in private and public schools, so it focuses on the value of early childhood education to a child’s development and growth. While SAGU takes a Christian approach to topics of study, it also focuses on ensuring that students are prepared to handle the realities of their career and jobs. Southwestern Assemblies of God University offers small class sizes that allow students to get individual attention from professors through online tools when they need assistance or clarification.

Degree: AA in Early Childhood Education

6. Minnesota State College Southeast

Minnesota State College Southeast offers an AAS in Early Childhood Education online that helps professionals focus on their career goals while working in a full-time position. The online degree program offers flexible scheduling that allows you to learn valuable skills about child health, safety, and education to prepare for a career in a preschool or daycare facility. It recognizes the importance of early education to a child’s social, emotional, and physical development.

A key way Minnesota State College Southeast stands apart from other programs is the focus on competence in educators. The curriculum for the early childhood associate’s degree online is based on the standards set by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, or NAEYC. That focus on meeting high standards of education prepares students for the challenges of their career. Minnesota State College Southeast provides a 2+2 articulation that allows students to pursue a higher level of education at a later date without repeating coursework or facing challenges with transferring credits

Degree: AAS in Early Childhood Education

7. Liberty University

When you are looking for an AA in Early Childhood Education, the program at Liberty University may help with your goals. The early childhood associate’s degree online offers eight-week courses that allow students to focus on their plans for their education. It is designed for students who have a passion for teaching and want to work with children at a young age to help them succeed through the remainder of their education and life. Students can transfer as much as 75 percent of their credits for the online AA in Early Childhood Education from other schools to accelerate the process of finishing the degree program.

A key way Liberty University stands out from other programs is the focus on providing students with a strong foundation in early childhood education. The program is taught by educators who have real-world experience and who understand the importance of education for your children and their development. It also recognizes that students have a passion for teaching and strives to encourage that passion.

Degree: AA in Early Childhood Education

8. Northeast Community College

When you want to work with young children, Northeast Community College offers an AAS or an AA in Early Childhood Education that prepares you for the challenges of your work. The early childhood associate’s degree online program recognizes that students will take on a variety of roles that focus on the needs and growth of young children, which range from working in preschools and Daycare programs to working as a nanny or classroom aide.

Northeast Community College stands out for its associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education by offering scholarships to those who are already working as a childcare worker. The school also does a background check on students before they enroll in the courses to ensure that students are qualified to work with young children. Students have opportunities to gain experience by working with children during special events at the school or through school organizations.

Degree: AAS or AA in Early Childhood Education

9. Western Kentucky University

Western Kentucky University offers an AA in Early Childhood Education that allows students to work in childcare facilities, elementary schools, and related programs. You can also work directly with families as a nanny or childcare provider. The early childhood associate’s degree online program focuses on teaching students the process of developing an age-appropriate curriculum, teaching young children, and working with children from infancy until they are ready for elementary school. Western Kentucky University teaches students about nutrition and family relations as part of the curriculum to ensure that they are prepared to help children with every aspect of their development.

Western Kentucky University stands apart from other programs by offering students an opportunity to transfer credits for the associate’s degree program. While you can start the program when you finish a high school degree, you can also transfer credits into the program to advance in your career at a faster pace. The degree program does require a copy of your high school transcripts if you are transferring 24 credits or less, so you will want to check into the number of credits you plan to transfer for your degree.

Degree: AA in Early Childhood Education

10. Granite State College

The AS in Early Childhood Education from Granite State College offers students the opportunity to build up the skills they need to guild children and their families through the process of early education. It focuses on language development, basic numbers and math skills, and health and safety for young children. The program acknowledges that you act as a caregiver, an educator, and a playmate for the children you work with and it helps you develop the skills you need to work with young children.

A key way Granite State College stands apart from other programs is the ease of transferring credits into the college. Roughly 84 percent of students at the college transfer from other colleges and programs, so the school makes it easy for students to transition. Granite State College prepares students for their career with a fully online associate’s degree in education and it ensures that students who decide to pursue a higher level of education can transition smoothly into more advanced studies.

Degree: AS in Early Childhood Education

How Much Can I Make with an Associate’s in Early Childhood Education?

So, what would an associates degree in early childhood education salary be?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), early education teachers can expect their associates degree in early childhood education salary to be as follows:

For the calendar year 2018, early childhood educators earned $29,700 each year. This translates to $14.32 for each hour. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that the job outlook for early childhood educators with associate’s degrees to grow at a 10% (which exceeds the national average of all industries) pace through 2026. In fact, the BLS predicts that the industry will need another 50,000+ early school educators by 2026. 

Based on the economic indicators, it appears that the associate’s degree in early childhood education salary to be trending upward.

What Will I Learn in an Associate’s in Early Childhood Program?

When you have made the decision to earn your early childhood education associate’s degree, you have taken the first step towards becoming a teacher in early childhood education. As with any other online college degree program, an applicant must meet the associate’s degree in early childhood education requirements. Once a student has been accepted into the program of study, they begin to delve deeper into the early education relevant concepts of:

  • Developing Educational programs that allow children to explore the world
  • Learning Assessments specifically created for early childhood educators
  • Designing effective learning strategies that are age-appropriate
  • Working with special early education learners

In addition, early education associate’s degree candidates will be required to complete fieldwork or a student teaching assignment before graduating. When a student meets the associates degree in early childhood education requirements denoted in the program, they graduate prepared to:

  • Effectively apply theoretically accepted early childhood education development approaches that can meet the distinct needs of young children on all levels of learning.
  • Efficiently design assessment procedures that utilize data as feedback to improve learning programs and better learning outcomes. 
  • Effectively manage a classroom of early childhood learners while creating high-quality learning environments that are healthy, safe, respectful, supportive, and culturally responsive.
  • Implement teaching strategies that promote effective and dynamic family and community partnerships. Teachers are adept at maximizing resource through community participation,
  • Maintain professional standards and ethical behaviors necessary to maintain a classroom of professional learning opportunities. 

What is the Cheapest Way to Start a Teaching Career?

Certainly, the easiest, least expensive method to begin teaching is to volunteer in a local early childhood education center or preschool for a few months. In this way, you earn real-life experience in an authentic early education classroom. Working in the classroom allows you to gain insightful information regarding the daily work life of an early educator who holds an associates degree. 

And while there aren’t any free online teaching degree programs there are free online teaching courses that can be taken through the many websites offering MOOCs — Massive Open Online Courses, authored by some of the most elite universities in the country. Completing one of the many early childhood education MOOCs are a great idea, as it gives students a chance to understand the depth of the coursework required to earn an early childhood education associate’s degree. It is often a great idea to take a MOOC course while volunteering to help connect the written material to a practical experience. 

It is also a smart idea for an interested individual to enroll in a certificate course related to the field of early childhood education. Certificate programs are generally affordable and allow you to begin to study for an early childhood education associate’s program as you decide the way in which to proceed with your education. 

It is noted that there are a variety of certifications from which to choose. Select the certification course that is directly related to early childhood education. 

For those students ready to begin an early childhood education associate’s degree, you will find that some of the cheapest online teaching degree programs are offered by local schools and community colleges.

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