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

Early Childhood Education professionals will eventually find that their ability to advance is weak with just an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. For higher positions and pay, a master’s degree is the choice. Most students that earn a master’s in early childhood education degree go on to become advocates for young children. They are childcare directors, elementary school principals, childhood counselors, and even social workers. Their goal is to provide knowledge and learning to young children, so they can get a good head start in life. Graduates may work with children from birth to elementary-school age; however, in some cases, they will instruct middle-school age children as well. 

Early childhood educators tend to concentrate in a specific aspect of the education field. For instance, special education, ESL teaching and instruction, and early childhood counseling. Many master’s in early childhood education jobs with a concentration in special education programs offer skills that help teach graduates to be critical thinkers, have interpersonal skills, and be resourceful in how they approach their curriculum to their future students. Having patience is another key ability when working among special needs children. Some technological skills may be required as a special education teacher, counselor, or advisor.

Ranking the Best Master’s in Early Childhood Education Online

Working professionals in early childhood education can earn their master’s degree in a fully online environment, but not every online master’s degree in early childhood education is the same. To rank the very best, Value Colleges surveyed fully online programs from accredited, legitimate colleges and universities that have a proven record of quality. To ensure that students could trust these programs to offer a real return on investment, VC editors scored programs based on cost, student satisfaction, and potential income, using data from IPEDS, Niche, and College Scorecard. 

1. George Mason University

George Mason University’s College of Education and Human Development offers a Masters of Education (M.Ed.) degree program in Early Childhood Education for Diverse Learners that is available 100% online, except for fieldwork in a localized setting. George Mason’s Master’s in Early Childhood Education online requires the completion of a practicum and 30 credit units to graduate. Coursework includes Pathways for Diverse Learners, Policy Perspectives, and Inclusive Curriculum Development. Mason’s graduate degree program (M.Ed.) is not designed to prepare students for licensure as it is designed for working in the same field outside the classroom.

George Mason University was established in 1949. Soon after, George Mason University became a campus of the University of Virginia and now holds the distinction as being the largest institution of higher learning in Virginia. Mason operates with four campuses in Arlington, Fairfax, Front Royal and Prince William, VA. Two of George Mason’s distinguished faculty have won the Nobel Prize in the field of Economics — two times!

Degree: MEd in Early Childhood Education for Diverse Learners

2. University of Colorado Denver

The University of Colorado Denver’s School of Education & Human Development offers a Master of Arts (MA) degree program in Early Childhood Education (ECE) that is available exclusively online or as a hybrid program. Degree candidates have the option of earning an Early Childhood Special Education Specialist license by completing this online masters degree in early childhood education. The number of credit units required to graduate (30-42) varies and is contingent upon the exact curriculum you choose.     

The University of Colorado Denver was established in 1912. The University of Colorado Denver is a member school within the University of Colorado system. The school’s two campuses are home to nearly 19,000 students. Forbes Magazine has recognized the University of Colorado Denver among the top public institutions of higher education in the country. The University of Colorado Denver holds the distinction as being the biggest institution of research in the state as it receives more than $370 million each year.

Degree: MA in Early Childhood Education

3. University of Dayton

The University of Dayton’s School of Education & Health Sciences offers a Master of Science in Education (MSE) degree program in Transdisciplinary Early Childhood Education that is available through their distance learning platform. UD’s Master’s in Early Childhood Education online program is designed to prepare professionals without an education background for jobs in nontraditional educational settings.   

The University of Dayton was established in 1850 and remains affiliated with the Roman Catholic Marianist discipline of the Christian Church. The school’s 375+-acre campus sits alongside the Great Miami River and is home to more than 8,400+ students. The University of Dayton operates with five schools/colleges in the disciplines of Arts & Science, Engineering, Business, Law, and Education. The University of Dayton is the second-largest private institution of higher education in the state of Ohio, and one of only three Marianist schools in the country.

Degree: MSE in Transdisciplinary Early Childhood Education

4. Clemson University

Clemson University’s College of Education offers a Masters of Education (M.Ed.) degree program in Experiential Learning for Early Childhood that is available through the school’s distance learning platform. Clemson’s online masters degree in early childhood education program is recognized as the finest (and affordable) distance learning graduate education-related degree programs in the country. Clemson’s M.Ed. degree program requires the completion of 30 credit units and a relevant capstone project. Graduates find rewarding jobs as Curriculum Developers, Policy Advocates, or Program Directors.

Clemson University was established in 1889 under the Morrill Land Grant Act. Clemson University is also a sea-grant university and, in terms of the student population, the second-largest institution of higher education in the state of South Carolina. The school’s suburban campus sits alongside the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains and is home to nearly 25,000 students. US News recognizes Clemson University among the top best public universities in the country.

Degree: MEd – Experiential Learning for Early Childhood

5. University at Albany

The SUNY University at Albany’s School of Education offers an online MS in Early Childhood Education that is recognized among the best online education degree programs in the country by industry ranking gurus. SUNY Albany’s Master’s in Early Childhood Education online degree program has received accreditation from the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) for 10 years. Classes are available as a part-time or full-time student, in the evenings, and throughout the summer.

The University at Albany is a member school of the State University of New York system.  The school was established in 1844 as a teacher’s college. The school’s 1,400+-acre campuses straddle the might Hudson River are located in New York State’s capital and home to nearly 18,000 students. An economic impact study assessed that SUNY Albany impacted the New York State economy by more than $1 billion.

Degree: MS in Early Childhood Education

6. West Chester University of Pennsylvania

The West Chester University of Pennsylvania’s College of Education & Social Work offers a Masters of Education (M.Ed.) degree program in Early Childhood Education that is recognized among the best online masters degree in early childhood education program, according to Bestcollege.com. WCUPA’s M.Ed. degree program has received accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Degree candidates must complete a student fieldwork internship prior to graduation; however, students have the option of working in a school within sixty minutes of WCUPA’s campus — in a rural, suburban or urban location. 

The West Chester University of Pennsylvania was established in 1871. The school operates with several campuses located in West Chester, West Goshen, East Bradford Township, PA. WCUPA’s campuses are located about 20 miles from Philadelphia. The West Chester University of Pennsylvania holds the distinction of being the largest member school within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Degree: MEd in Early Childhood Education

7. Auburn University

Auburn University’s College of Education offers an online Master of Science (MS) or Masters of Education (M.Ed.) degree program in Early Childhood Education that each requires 30 credit units and teach field requirements. Auburn’s M.Ed. degree prepares graduates for an Alabama professional license issued to educators and requires capstone Survey of Special Ed or Diversity. On the other hand, the MS degree does not prepare graduates for this licensure.   

Auburn University was established in 1856 under the Morrill Land Grand Act. Auburn University’s 1,800+-acre campus is located in a college town and home to more than 30,000 students. The school operates with 15 colleges/schools that offer more than 135 majors to its student body. Auburn’s campus and property played an integral role in the Civil War. Six astronauts, and one Kennedy Space Center director are graduates of Auburn University.

Degree: MS or MEd in Early Childhood Education

8. University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota offers an online MS in Early Childhood Education, a nonlicensing degree track that prepares graduates to work with children below the age nine. UND’s online masters degree in early childhood education program requires the completion of 32 credit hours and follows the curriculum set forth by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Additionally, UND’s Master’s in Early Childhood Education online program has received accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). 

The University of North Dakota was established in 1883, several years before North Dakota became a state as an institution of higher learning with a strong focus on liberal arts degree programs. The school’s 500+-acre campus is home to nearly 15,000 students studying for degrees in more than 220 fields of study. The University of North Dakota is noted to be the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of North Dakota.

Degree: MS in Early Childhood Education

9. University of Missouri

The University of Missouri’s Department of Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum offers a Masters of Education (M.Ed.) degree program in Early Childhood Education that can be completed entirely online. The University of Missouri’s online Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education requires the completion of 30 credit hours to graduate. Mizzou’s graduate educational degree has received accreditation from the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).

The University of Missouri was established in 1839 as the result of the Morrill Land Grant Act. Additionally, the University of Missouri is also a flagship and space grant university with satellite campuses in Rolla, St. Louis, and Kansas City. The University of Missouri is home to the most powerful academic research reactor across the globe. The University of Missouri founded one of the first journalism schools in the country. 

Degree: MEd in Early Childhood Education

10. University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky’s College of Education offers an online MS in Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education (UECE) prepares degree candidates for rewarding careers working with children from birth to age five. UK’s Master’s in Early Childhood Education online program can be taken with, or without a thesis option, although the nonthesis option requires the completion of 36 credit units, compared to the thesis option’s 30 credit unit requirement. UK’s graduate education degree has received accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). 

The University of Kentucky was established under the Morrill Land Grant Act in 1865, the second institution of higher education in the state of that received the Morrill Grant. The University of Kentucky operates with sixteen schools/colleges that offer several hundred-degree programs. The University of Kentucky (UK) participates in the South East Conference’s Academic Initiatives.

Degree: MS in Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education

What Can I Do with a Master’s in Early Childhood Education?

After becoming a teacher, reaching the higher levels of early childhood education, like elementary education, earning an online masters degree in early childhood is where to begin. The average amount of credits required by a college or university is 36, although some schools require more, due to specializations or concentrations in the degree. 

Many schools, universities, or colleges also offer a Flexpath or fast track option, allowing students to finish their degree in a matter of twelve months. However, the average masters in education degree can take up to twenty-four months to complete. Depending on the school’s curriculum, programs can be competency-based education or course-based training. Competency-based education provides approaches to teaching with concrete skills, instead of abstract learning. These skills will lay the foundation that early learners need to become successful in the future. 

Many schools have an accreditation with certain state and national accreditation organizations. For instance, the Council for the Accreditation of Education (CAEP) and the National Counsel for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) are among those commonly partnered with colleges or schools that offer the MEd program of choice.  In addition, the average school’s GPA requirement is 2.8. Students taking the online masters degree in early childhood special education or just the masters in education degree program, will learn real-life applications with evidence-based instructions to best teach early learners. 

How Much Can I Make with a Master’s in Early Childhood Education?

A masters in early childhood education salary can vary state to state or by what grade level you’re teaching. If the school district provides IEP’s for their students, the pay scale may be higher than just the regular salary offered to the masters in education graduate. According to the BLS, early childhood education salary with masters degree provides many opportunities. The average Kindergarten teacher that holds an early childhood education masters degree makes about $57,980 annually. The projected growth for early childhood teacher from 2016 through 2026 is seven percent. Graduates that hold master’s in early childhood education jobs are more inclined to have higher salaries than those with just a bachelors in early childhood; even though, most school districts require at least a bachelors in early childhood education. Preschool Directors make an average of $43,824 per year, according to payscale.com.  A childcare director also makes around $40,000 each year. 

Masters in early childhood education salary pay rates are higher in big metroplex cities, similar to Dallas or New York City, compared to much rural or small towns. Some small towns that do not have much projected growth or career opportunities for graduates of the masters in early education programs provide little benefits or incentives for their employees or applicants. 

Can I Specialize in Special Education for Early Childhood?

Many education students that earn their masters in early education do choose a specialization or concentration to go with the degree. The special education certificate is a great choice and many colleges do offer the program. An online masters degree in early childhood special education option will provide students with skills to identify special needs challenges and develop individualized education plans (IEP) for their students. Most certificate programs are accredited by the Council for Exceptional Children and teach knowledge about human behavior and performance, create accurate student records, and facilitate playtime that increases development and learning with students that are emotionally, socially, or cognitively behind. 

The average special education teacher makes around $59,780 a year, according to the BLS. Of course, it may rise, due to location or grade level. For instance, Pre-K and elementary special educators make slightly less, compared to middle school and high school special education teachers. In fact, special education teachers of high school aged students can have a salary of $60,000 a year in some cases.

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