All of us have had at least one teacher who affected our lives in a profound way. Teaching children what they need to know to grow into well-rounded adults is a noble and rewarding occupation, and earning a degree in early childhood education (ECE) can help give you the knowledge and skills necessary to develop an effective curriculum and deliver lessons with confidence.
While it's true that it's possible to find work in the education field by taking other paths through college, there can be distinct advantages to making early childhood education your focus. Prospective educators or administrators who hold an early childhood education degree are often preferred for positions that require intimate knowledge of contemporary theories and practices related to teaching kids age eight and younger.
However you choose to use your expertise, earning a degree in early childhood education can help you acquire the tools you need to create and supervise enriching learning environments for growing minds.
What to Know About Online Degrees in Early Childhood Education
The skills taught in campus-based and online early childhood education degree programs can be valuable to teachers, administrators, school counselors, and a range of other professionals whose day-to-day work involves children and the challenges of teaching and learning. Degrees can be pursued at all levels of academic work, from associate or bachelor's to master's and beyond.
Here are a few of the subject areas that students can expect to study in an undergraduate early childhood education degree program:
- Infant and toddler development
- Healthy environments for early childhood
- Educational program administration
- Curriculum design
- Children's literature
- Psychology of teaching and learning
- Language acquisition and development
- Classroom management
- Classroom technology integration
- Advocacy for early childhood education
Program concentrations may also be available from some institutions, allowing students to narrow their focus somewhat and specialize in one or more areas within the discipline. Here are a few popular specializations in the field:
- Childhood nutrition
- Special education
- Infants and toddlers
- Grant management
- Administration and leadership
- English as a second language (ESL)
Graduate-level degrees in the field tend to focus their coursework on similar subject matter, usually adding a considerable research component and culminating in the composition and defense of a thesis project. Some programs, for graduate students as well as undergraduates, may also include a pathway to whatever state license is required to legally practice as an early childhood educator or administrator in your area.
Job Outlook for Early Childhood Education Graduates
Careers in education are projected to grow slightly faster than the overall job market, according to the most recent data published by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The average expected growth calculated across all occupations came in around seven percent between 2014 and 2024, while education, training, and library careers are projected to see growth of about eight percent in the same period.
Here's a table of a few specific occupations that may suit early childhood education degree graduates, along with relevant salary and employment data from the BLS:
|Occupation Title||National Mean Annual Salary
|Projected Job Growth
|Total U.S. Employment
|Kindergarten teacher||$54,510||6 percent||159,400||Bachelor's degree|
|Education administrator||$90,970||6 percent||240,000||Master's degree|
|Instructional coordinator||$64,870||7 percent||151,100||Master's degree|
|School counselor||$56,490||8 percent||273,400||Master's degree|
Those national averages provide a somewhat fair picture of the employment circumstances you can expect after graduation, however job availability and salary expectations vary depending on location. For example, instructional coordinators in Connecticut earned a mean salary of $81,710 in 2015, while those in Massachusetts earned a mean annual wage of $66,960, much closer to the national average.
Choosing the Right School
Whether you're just starting your journey through higher education, or you're an established professional hoping to enhance your existing skills, it's important to find a program that fits with your academic goals. Above all else, you should make sure that the school where you're pursuing your early childhood education degree is legitimately accredited. Without the proper accreditation, some employers or other authorities may not recognize your education as meeting their standards for qualification.
You should be able to easily determine whether your school is accredited by checking their website. If you're having a hard time locating information on an institution's accreditation status, contact an admissions rep or registrar by phone or email, and find out directly from the source.
It can also help to talk to people already working in the educational segment you're hoping to join, if you can, and get some advice about what characteristics of an early childhood education degree are the most important. Certain courses, concentrations, or extracurriculars may be more important to some careers than others, and the more information you have, the better.
To learn more about earning an online degree in early childhood education, request information from any of the schools listed below.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed April 21, 2016: Education, Training and Library Occupations, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/home.htm; Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm; Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm; Instructional Coordinators, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/instructional-coordinators.htm; School and Career Counselors, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm
- May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed April 21, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
- Instructional Coordinators, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed April 21, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes259031.htm