Online Certificate in Early Childhood Education

Certificates in Early Childhood Education

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Researchers have long targeted the first five years of life as among the most crucial when it comes to a child's development. What happens during those early years can set the tone for their future academic and social success. As a result, parents, public organizations, and the government have all taken a deep interest in fostering an environment that encourages growth for the youngest members of society.

Early childhood education degree programs are designed specifically for those who want to work with infants, toddlers and preschoolers. They typically combine classes on human development and behavior with instruction in early learning techniques. Graduates of these programs often go on to work in schools, child care centers or private homes, among other places.

While a degree in the field could take years to complete, a certificate in early childhood education can be earned in as little as six months from some institutions. Busy adults can even find schools that offer early childhood education certificates online, which may make it easy to study around work and family obligations.

Why Get a Certificate in Early Childhood Education?

There are several reasons people might pursue an early childhood education certificate. Some students earn a certificate in early childhood education so they can obtain a job working with young children. Even if a certificate is not required, employers may prefer to hire those with formal education in the field.

Others might be interested in applying for the Child Development Associate designation from the Council for Professional Recognition. A certificate alone does not provide the level of education needed for a CDA, but those with existing education may choose to earn additional hours toward the credential's requirements by enrolling in a certificate program.

For those curious what careers are available to early childhood professionals, the chart below reviews some common options. Note that some states have licensure requirements for occupations such preschool teacher and day care director. In those cases, a certificate in early childhood education might not be enough, and workers may need an associate or bachelor's degree instead. Check with your state licensing agency for specific requirements before enrolling in any degree program.

Potential OccupationAverage Income (2015)Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)
Childcare Worker$22,3105%
Preschool or Childcare Director$52,7607%
Preschool Teacher$32,5007%
Teacher Assistant$26,5506%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Projections Central

How Do You Enroll in an Online Certificate Program?

Compared to some degrees, enrolling in a certificate program can be a simple process. Often applicants only need to provide basic information like their personal details and education background in order to enroll. Some schools even let you complete all the steps online and provide instant approval. Other institutions, such as community colleges, may require more time to evaluate an application and respond.

What's the Difference Between Online and Campus-Based Degrees?

With the many online educational tools that have been developed, students can expect the same quality and rigor of education online as they would sitting in a physical classroom. These tools make it possible for instructors to digitally share lectures, notes and other materials with students, while classmates are able to communicate via online chats or message boards.

Online education has become a widely accepted option, but if students are concerned about how their certificate may be perceived, they should rest assured. Most schools treat their online and on-campus programs the same in terms of curriculum and academic rigor. As such, there is often little or no distinction between the degrees conferred.

Why Is Online College Good for Certificates in Early Childhood Education?

Most certificates in early childhood education are short-term programs. They can often be completed in a few months to a year, and it may not make sense for students to disrupt their work schedule or home life for that short of a period. Instead, by studying online, students can maintain their normal schedule while pursuing a certificate from the comfort of their own home.

What's more, some students may not live near a college campus. Using an online certificate program can be a convenient way for these people to get the education they want. And even if they do live near campus, some students might find an online program is a cheaper option. It could mean less money spent on gasoline, parking and meals out of the house.

Does Location Matter for an Online Certificate in Early Childhood Education?

From an instructional standpoint, location shouldn't matter for an online certificate in early childhood education. The program content lends itself well to distance learning, and the curriculum can be easily conveyed via online means.

However, some schools have on-site preschools or child care centers where students can get hands-on experience observing and caring for young children. If you want to participate in activities through this type of center, you should check to see if the campus location is convenient. In addition, some longer certificate programs may require students spend a certain number of hours observing or helping in the center before they can graduate.

Working with young children can be both personally and professionally rewarding.


  • A Call for Excellence in Early Childhood Education, National Association for the Education of Young Children,
  • About the Child Development Associate Credential, Council for Professional Recognition,
  • Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
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