Top Online Bachelor’s Programs in Early Childhood Education 2020

Written by: Staff Writer
Last Updated: May 2020

What Are the Goals of a Bachelor's Program in Early Childhood Education?

Early childhood educators care for children in childcare settings, preparing young learners for kindergarten. Educators who work with young children benefit from specialized training. A bachelor's degree in early childhood education prepares graduates for roles like preschool teacher, elementary school teacher, and childcare center director.

During an early childhood education degree, learners study child development, teaching methods, and curriculum design. The degree also incorporates hands-on training and leadership skills, preparing educators for opportunities as lead teachers or preschool directors.

An early childhood education degree helps current childcare workers advance their careers in education. The degree meets the requirements for a teaching license in many states. Earning a bachelor's in early childhood education also helps professionals transition into teaching careers. 

Completing a bachelor's degree in early childhood education generally takes four years for full-time students. However, students with prior college credits can complete the degree in less time. Some programs offer self-paced or accelerated options to help educators reach their career goals on their schedule.

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions
Questions Answers
Can you study early childhood education online? Yes. Many colleges and universities offer online early childhood education programs. 
What grades can you teach with an early childhood education degree? Many early childhood education programs focus on children from birth through age eight, preparing graduates to teach at the lower elementary level. 
How long does it take to earn an early childhood education degree? Earning an early childhood education degree generally takes four years for full-time students. Transfer students with prior college experience can earn the degree in less time.
How does early childhood education compare to child development? Both early childhood education majors and child development majors study the developmental stages of young children. However, an early childhood education major includes teaching-focused coursework and may meet the requirements for a teaching license.

Top 10 Online Bachelor's Programs in Early Childhood Education for 2020

1. Florida International University

2. Southwestern College

3. Fort Hays State University

4. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

5. University of North Carolina at Greensboro

6. Chaminade University of Honolulu

7. National University

8. Florida State College at Jacksonville

9. California Baptist University

10. Wichita State University

Why Study Early Childhood Education Online?

An online early childhood education degree offers flexibility and accessibility compared to an on-campus program. An online learning format appeals to busy students and those with work or family responsibilities. For example, childcare workers can schedule their coursework around their professional obligations, allowing them to advance their career while working.

Many online teaching degrees use an asynchronous learning format, meaning students complete coursework at any time with no required class meeting times. Programs also prioritize flexibility by offering self-paced study options and accelerated enrollment. When pursuing a teaching degree online, students may watch recorded lectures, complete assignments in an online learning platform, and communicate with fellow students in discussion forums. 

Early childhood education programs often include a practicum or internship to build hands-on experience. Online learners fulfill this requirement at an approved site in their local area. Some programs let childcare professionals meet this requirement at their current workplace.

Earning an online education degree benefits students in several ways. Students enrolled in online programs often save money compared to on-campus learners. Many schools offer tuition discounts for fully online students. Online learners also save on housing, transportation, and childcare costs. As a result, many students prefer an online learning format.

Accreditation for Online Childhood Education Programs

Prospective students should always check a program's accreditation status before applying. Accredited institutions meet the highest standards for academic excellence. To earn accreditation, colleges and universities voluntarily submit to review by an independent accrediting agency. During the review, the agency assesses the institution's student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and graduation requirements. Schools that meet the accrediting agency's standards earn accreditation.

Online schools can also apply for accreditation by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The DEAC sets standards for distance learning and accredits schools that offer online programs. 

In addition to institutional accreditation, programs can hold specialized accreditation from programmatic accrediting agencies. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accredits early childhood education programs. 

Accreditation benefits students. Accredited degrees meet requirements for more professional licenses and certifications, and credits earned at an accredited institution are more likely to transfer. Learn more about the accreditation process

Top Online Bachelor's Programs in Early Childhood Education 2020

A bachelor's degree in early childhood education prepares graduates for career advancement to supervisory positions and for competitive careers in education. Our list ranks the top online teaching degrees in early childhood education to help prospective students find the right fit for their career goals.


1. Florida International University

Florida International University offers an online bachelor of science in early childhood development that helps students gain an understanding of cognitive development. Learners explore early education theory and practical applications. This program does not lead to teacher certification.

This BS in early childhood development requires 120 credits and takes most students four years to complete. Core major courses include cultural and social foundations of education, art in early childhood, and early social and emotional development. In-state students receive a discounted tuition rate.

Freshman applicants must submit high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Transfer applicants must submit all college transcripts. Transfer applicants who have completed fewer than 60 college credits must also submit high school transcripts and standardized test scores.


2. Southwestern College

Online students at Southwestern College can pursue a bachelor of arts in early childhood education to prepare for careers as preschool teachers, elementary school teachers, and daycare directors. This program leads to licensure to work with children ages eight and below. Students who plan to work outside of Kansas should contact their state department for information about licensure requirements.

This online degree requires 124 credits. Full-time students typically graduate in four years. Major coursework explores topics including teaching young children with disabilities, infant development, assessment strategies in early childhood, and reading in elementary school. The program culminates in capstone student teaching experiences.

Students must earn at least a 2.75 GPA in all foundation and major courses. Applicants must have completed at least six college credits and must have a minimum 2.75 GPA.


3. Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays State University offers an online bachelor of science in education that leads to an early childhood unified endorsement. Graduates can teach regular and special education in Kansas, to children from birth through third grade. Out-of-state students should research their state's licensure or certification requirements.

This online teaching degree requires 126 credits and takes four years to complete. Major core courses include emergent literacy, behavior strategies and support, the young child, and diverse learners. The curriculum also incorporates internships and student teaching. Learners can complete up to two internships per semester.

The program prepares learners for careers as teachers, administrators, and coordinators of early childhood education programs. Applicants must have a minimum 2.75 GPA. Competitive applicants have at least a 980 composite SAT score or a 22 ACT score.


4. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Online learners at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College can earn a bachelor of science in education with a specialization in preschool to grade three. This program is ideal for aspiring teachers who plan to work with young children in schools or childcare centers. This program can lead to dual licensure in early childhood and special education.

This online education degree requires 120 credits, including 87 major credits. Courses explore topics including educational psychology, emerging literacy, infants and toddlers, project-based learning, and early childhood administration. The curriculum also requires 21 credits of clinical experience and six credits of supervised teaching.

To enroll in the teacher preparation program or licensure track, students must have completed 40 hours of coursework and a tier-two field experience. Applicants also need satisfactory SAT or ACT scores and a minimum 3.0 GPA.


5. University of North Carolina at Greensboro

University of North Carolina at Greensboro offers an online bachelor of science in early childhood. The university's 2-Plus program is designed for students who hold an associate degree from a participating North Carolina community college. Students in the early childhood program can major in birth through kindergarten teacher licensure or early care and education. UNCG delivers online courses in asynchronous and synchronous formats.

Each major requires 120 credits and takes two years to finish. Learners complete field experiences in early childhood or classroom settings. Graduates often teach kindergarten, preschool, or daycare. The program also prepares learners for graduate studies.

The birth through kindergarten teacher licensure track can lead to North Carolina licensure. Out-of-state students should contact their state department to learn about licensure requirements.


6. Chaminade University of Honolulu

The online BS in early childhood education program from Chaminade is ideal for learners who plan to teach children aged two to six. The curriculum aligns with Hawaii state requirements and the National Association for the Education of Young Children standards.

This early childhood education degree requires 120 credits and takes four years to complete. Major core courses include children's literature, developmentally appropriate practice, language arts curriculum and methods, and math curriculum and methods. Students also complete a seminar and field experience. Chaminade charges a per-credit tuition rate, and military members receive a discount.

Admission requirements include a minimum 2.5 high school GPA and an SAT or ACT score of at least a 1000 or 19, respectively.


7. National University

National University offers an online BA in early childhood education for students who plan to pursue teacher or administrator licensure in California. The program prepares learners to work with children from birth through age five. Out-of-state students should ensure the program fulfills their state's licensure requirements.

The online education degree requires 180 quarter credits, 45 of which students must earn from NU. Core courses explore topics including early cognition, early language and literacy, designing emergent curriculum, and play as pedagogy. The curriculum requires a field experience in an approved early childhood education setting.

NU charges a per-credit tuition rate and offers discounted tuition to active-duty military members and their dependents. Applicants who have not completed prerequisite college-level English and math courses must take a placement exam. Applicants without a minimum 2.0 GPA can apply for probationary admission.


8. Florida State College at Jacksonville

Florida State College at Jacksonville offers an online bachelor's in early childhood education program for aspiring kindergarten and elementary school teachers. This program is designed for associate degree-holders who want to pursue a specialization area.

The online BS in early childhood education requires 120 credits, and individuals with an associate degree can earn the bachelor's in two years. The curriculum covers topics including classroom and behavior management, cognitive experiences for young children, language and literacy in early childhood education, and integrated science and math for young children. Students complete 150 hours of fieldwork in an approved preK-3 setting.

Students must pass three Florida certification exams. Applicants must have an associate degree in early childhood management or a similar discipline, must have completed a prerequisite teacher preparation course, and must have a minimum 2.5 GPA.


9. California Baptist University

California Baptist University offers an online BA in early childhood studies that prepares students to work with children from birth to age eight. Graduates can qualify for credentials to teach K-12 or work in early childhood education.

This online degree requires 48 major units and takes 16 months to complete. Core courses include early childhood curriculum, social and emotional development in young children, learning environments for young children, and consultation and collaboration in early childhood intervention. CBU is a Christian institution and requires coursework in the Bible and foundations of Christian thought.

Applicants must have a high school or GED diploma. Applicants with 24 or more transferrable credits receive preference. Candidates must have a minimum 2.0 GPA.


10. Wichita State University

Wichita State University offers an online bachelor of arts in education program that qualifies graduates to pursue state certification. After completing the program, graduates are eligible to apply for two licenses: elementary teaching and early child unified.

The BA in education requires 120 credits. Full-time students typically graduate in four years. Major coursework covers topics including learning assessment and evaluation, literacy strategies in content areas, integrating learning through the arts, and differentiated instruction for diverse learners. Students must maintain a GPA of 2.7 or better.

Incoming freshmen must have a minimum 2.0 high school GPA, at least a 21 ACT score or 1080 SAT score, and a high school ranking in the top third of their graduating class. Transfer applicants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA in all college-level coursework.


11. University of Cincinnati

University of Cincinnati students can pursue an online bachelor's degree in early childhood education. The program is designed for aspiring educators who plan to work with children aged five and younger. The program builds on associate-level studies and emphasizes the development of learning environments for young children. The degree does not lead to licensure.

This online education degree requires 120 credits, which most students complete in four years. Core courses include classroom organization and guidance, assessment and evaluation in early care and education, developmental transitions from childhood to adulthood, and social issues in early care and education. The curriculum also includes student teaching and internship requirements.

Learners must maintain a minimum 2.8 GPA and must complete at least 30 credits through UC. Transfer applicants must have at least a 2.5 GPA in all college-level coursework.


12. Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University offers an online bachelor of applied science in early childhood education. The program prepares students to pursue careers as preschool teachers and childcare specialists. This degree does not lead to state certification.

Associate degree-holders can complete the 120-credit online BAS program in two years. The curriculum includes core coursework in play education, curriculum and assessment in early childhood, foundations of child development, and educational psychology for educators. Students must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA and must complete at least 30 credits at NAU. The program requires a supervised practicum and an independent study course.

Applicants must have an associate degree from a regionally accredited institution and at least 64 transferrable credits. Students with an associate of applied science from an Arizona community college can transfer up to 75 credits into the bachelor's program.


13. Florida Gateway College

Florida Gateway College offers an online BS in early childhood education that helps students gain the skills necessary to work with young children in educational and childcare settings. The curriculum prepares learners to take state pre-K and primary subject area certification tests.

Students pursuing the teaching degree online complete 120 credits. Associate degree-holders can earn the bachelor's degree in two years. Core courses explore topics including infant and toddler curricula, instructional practices, education and development of young children, and children's literature. Students complete an internship or field experience.

Learners must also fulfill foreign language requirements and maintain at least a 2.0 GPA. Applicants must hold an associate degree and have completed prerequisite coursework.


14. University of the Southwest

University of the Southwest offers an online bachelor's in early childhood education that prepares students to work with children from birth through third grade. The curriculum incorporates state licensure requirements, including supervised field experience and intern teaching.

This BS in early childhood education requires 120 credits, which full-time students typically complete in four years. Core courses include culturally responsive teaching, young children with diverse abilities, family and community collaboration, and curriculum development. Learners also complete student teaching and practicum experiences.

Students must maintain at least a 2.75 GPA and must earn at least 30 credits from USW. Freshman applicants must rank in the top 50% of their graduating class, must have a minimum 2.0 GPA, and must score at least 940 on the SAT or 18 on the ACT. Transfer applicants must have at least a 2.0 college GPA.


15. Wilmington University

Wilmington University offers an online bachelor of science in education studies with a concentration in early childhood education. The program prepares students to work with young children from diverse communities. This non-licensure program does not fulfill state licensure requirements.

The BS in education studies requires 122 credits. Core courses include differentiated methods for teaching infants and toddlers, professional issues in early childhood, learning differences and assessment of exceptional children, and learner development and early literacy. Students complete an internship requirement.

WilmU charges an affordable per-credit tuition rate. Applicants must submit high school or college transcripts. The university does not require applicants to submit standardized test scores. However, WilmU may waive math and English placement exam requirements for learners who provide SAT or ACT scores.


16. Liberty University

Liberty students pursuing the online bachelor's in early childhood education gain an understanding of early childhood behavior and development. Liberty delivers online courses in an eight-week format. This degree program does not meet state licensure requirements.

The BS in early childhood education requires 120 credits, and students can graduate in three and a half years. Core courses examine topics including wellness in early childhood settings, developmental psychology, and psychology of childhood. Learners also complete a field experience and capstone course.

Students must earn at least 30 credits from Liberty and must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA. Liberty charges an affordable per-credit tuition rate, and military members receive a discount. Applicants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA, and students can transfer up to 75% of degree requirements into the program.


17. Eastern Washington University

Eastern Washington University offers an online bachelor's in early childhood education program for individuals who plan to teach in preK-3 settings. Graduates of the program can qualify for a teaching certificate in Washington.

The program requires 89 major credits, including courses in early numeracy instruction, assessment in early childhood education, language arts methods, and diversity in early childhood education. Students also complete a field experience, student teaching, and a capstone course.

Applicants must have completed prerequisite courses and must have a minimum 2.8 GPA. Prospective students must also pass the Washington Educator Skills Test-Basic. EWU may waive the exam requirement for applicants with satisfactory SAT or ACT scores.


18. Colorado Christian University

The online BA in early childhood education program from CCU is ideal for busy students. The program prepares learners for careers teaching pre-K through third grade. The university offers the program in a licensure track and a non-licensure track. Distance learners take classes one at a time in five-week blocks.

The BA in early childhood education requires 120 credits, which most students complete in four years. The licensure track requires 42 professional core credits, while the non-licensure track requires 31 professional core credits. Core courses include literacy methods, math and science methods, assessment and measurement, and psychological foundations of education.

Applicants to the major must have completed all general education and elective requirements and must have a minimum 2.75 GPA. Applicants must participate in an interview with the program director.


19. Fresno Pacific University

Fresno Pacific University offers an online bachelor's in early childhood development. Graduates often work with children ages eight and below in preschools and elementary schools. FPU offers the program entirely online and in a cohort-based format.

The bachelor of arts in early childhood development requires 39 major units and takes 18 months to complete. Core courses include advanced child growth and development, children's play and learning theory, early childhood physical education methods, and guidance in social and emotional behaviors.

Applicants must have a high school or GED diploma and must have completed at least 60 transferable credits with a minimum 2.4 GPA. Applicants who have an associate degree in child and adolescent development, early childhood education, psychology, or sociology can transfer all lower-division credits into the program.


20. Eastern Kentucky University

Eastern Kentucky University offers an online bachelor's degree in child and family studies with a concentration in child development. The program is ideal for aspiring preschool teachers and early childhood curriculum specialists. EKU delivers courses entirely online in an accelerated eight-week format.

This degree requires 120-125 credits. Concentration courses include creative activities and materials for young children, early childhood literacy, program planning for preschool children, and research analysis in child and family studies. Learners also complete a nine-credit early childhood practicum. EKU charges a per-credit tuition rate and offers a tuition discount for active-duty military members.

Freshman applicants must submit high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Students with more than 24 college credits must submit all previous college transcripts. Transfer students can apply up to 90 previous credits toward the degree.

 

Career and Salary Outlook for Early Childhood Education Graduates

A degree in early childhood education prepares graduates for several fulfilling career paths. Careers in education with an early childhood education degree include preschool teacher, childcare worker, and preschool or childcare center director. An early childhood education degree also meets the requirements for an elementary teaching license in many states. A teaching license lets educators work at public elementary schools. 

This section provides an overview of early childhood education careers and the earning potential for each career path. Salaries and job requirements vary depending on the state, so prospective early childhood educators should research career prospects in their area. 

Preschool Teachers: Preschool teachers educate children younger than five to build kindergarten-ready skills. For example, they build language, counting, and social skills. Preschool teachers implement a curriculum to develop these skills while incorporating playtime and physical activity into the schedule. Some employers prefer to hire preschool teachers with a bachelor's degree.


Childcare Workers: Childcare workers supervise children in center or home-based facilities. They monitor children's safety, organize activities to keep children engaged, and develop schedules that include physical activity and playtime. Childcare workers also keep records on children and communicate with parents. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor's degree.


Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: Kindergarten and elementary school teachers educate young learners in subjects like math and reading. They create lesson plans, observe students to evaluate their abilities, and communicate with parents. An early childhood education degree may meet the requirements for a teaching license.


Preschool and Childcare Center Directors: Preschool and childcare center directors oversee daily operations at their facilities. They manage staff members, develop educational program plans, and allocate funds according to the budget. Preschool and childcare center directors also establish policies, communicate with parents, and ensure facilities follow state laws and regulations.

 

Job Title Median Annual Salary Projected Job Outlook 2018-2028
Preschool Teachers $30,520 7%
Childcare Workers $24,230 2%
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers $59,420 3%
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors $48,210 7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Certifications and Licensure for Early Childhood Education

Early childhood educators can stand out on the job market by earning professional certifications or licensure. Unlike many other careers in education, early childhood educators often do not require a teaching license. However, licensed teachers with an early childhood education degree can work in elementary schools.

Child Development Associate Credentialâ„¢: This credential recognizes experienced early childhood education professionals. Candidates must meet requirements based on their place of employment. For example, preschool teachers must complete 120 hours of formal early childhood education training and demonstrate 480 hours of professional work experience in a center-based setting. Candidates must prepare a professional portfolio demonstrating that they meet competency standards. 


Teaching License: Teachers at public K-12 schools generally must hold a valid teaching license issued by their state. Each state sets its own requirements, but typically candidates must hold a bachelor's degree in teaching and complete a teacher preparation program. After meeting educational requirements, teachers must pass an exam and a background check. Prospective educators should research the process and requirements in their state. 


Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Certification: Many early childhood education jobs require CPR training. Candidates can get CPR certified through an organization like the Red Cross. CPR certification classes train people in life-saving skills. The Red Cross offers in-person, online, and blended simulation learning to earn CPR certification. Class participants can earn digital certification by completing the course and passing an exam. 

Courses in Early Childhood Education Programs

During an early childhood education degree, undergraduates take courses that build the skills and knowledge necessary for early childhood education careers. Many programs incorporate courses in early childhood development, curriculum design, and special education. 

Learners in an early childhood education program build hands-on skills through real-world learning. Many programs incorporate a practicum in which students gain experience in the classroom. Students may complete a capstone project or build a portfolio at the conclusion of the program.

The following sample curriculum includes common courses for early childhood education majors. Specific courses vary depending on the program.

Foundations in Early Childhood Education

Many early childhood education programs begin with an introductory course that explores the foundations of the field. Students learn about different theories and approaches to early childhood education while also exploring inclusive practices and teaching methods. This course builds the foundational knowledge required for advanced courses in early childhood education.

Early Childhood Development

Early childhood development courses examine the growth and development of infants, toddlers, and young children. Educators learn about healthy brain development, the stages of life, and early education. Students learn to conduct observations, apply childhood development theories to teaching practices, and develop appropriate programs for children at different stages of development.

Early Childhood Curriculum Design

Curriculum design courses train students in the process of building a developmentally appropriate curriculum for young learners. This course covers incorporating educational philosophies into the curriculum, setting standards for early childhood learners, and integrating student observation into the development process. Coursework also introduces students to several early childhood curriculum models.

Leadership in Early Childhood Education

This course explores leadership issues in early childhood education, professional conduct in the field, and incorporating educational philosophies into leadership. Students build theoretical and practical knowledge of leadership strategies and positive leadership methods.

Early Childhood Special Education

Courses in early childhood special education introduce teachers to disability research and the best practices for including children with disabilities in the classroom. This course may cover adapting activities for children with special needs, collaboration with parents, and adapting the outdoor environment. 

Scholarships for Early Childhood Education Students

Early childhood education students qualify for many scholarships and grants. Many professional organizations offer scholarships to support students pursuing an early childhood education degree. The federal government also offers teaching grants. The following opportunities help students complete an online teaching degree and advance their career.

TEACH Grant

Who Can Apply: The federal TEACH grant program provides up to $4,000 per year to students planning to teach in a high-needs field like early childhood education or special education. 

Amount: $4,000 per year


American Montessori Society Teacher Education Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Applicants earning a degree in early childhood education submit a personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and verification of enrollment in an AMS-affiliated program. AMS considers applicants based on financial need.

Amount: Varies


Bright Futures Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Full-time or part-time students earning a degree in early childhood education at an accredited institution qualify. Applicants submit an essay, a letter of recommendation, and proof of a minimum 2.5 GPA. 

Amount: $250-$500


The Lasting Legacy Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Offered by the NAEYC, this scholarship recognizes early career teachers. Applicants submit a letter of recommendation, a resume, and essays.

Amount: Varies


NEA-Retired Jack Kinnaman Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Members of the National Education Association student program apply by submitting an essay, a transcript showing a minimum 2.5 GPA, and two letters of recommendation. Applicants should also demonstrate financial need.

Amount: $2,500


Learn More

Five Professional Early Childhood Education Associations 

Top 25 Online Master's in Early Childhood Education 

What Jobs am I Qualified for with a Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education?