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Best Online Master’s Degrees in: Education Early Childhood

Explore a Master’s Degree in Education Early Childhood

Individuals who have a passion for working with preschool-aged students, or who want to pursue research opportunities in how young children learn most effectively, may want to consider pursuing an online master’s degree in education early childhood, more commonly called early childhood education. This degree path is also a good fit for students who want to become postsecondary teachers, training up the next generation of early childhood educators. In this field of study, students will learn how children develop cognitively, emotionally, and socially; how to foster healthy learning environments for young children; and how to create curriculum that is age-appropriate for children who have not yet entered kindergarten. Some programs focus on teaching methods that are appropriate for children under the age of eight.

Most online master’s degrees in early childhood education can be completed in two to three years, depending on the requirements of the program. However, some students take longer to complete the program because they can only attend part-time. Other students are able to reduce the time it takes to complete a master’s program by transferring in credits from prior graduate work completed at other accredited schools. Online students are typically able to access their course content from their home computers at a time of day that works best for them, and communicate with their professors and classmates through email, instant messages, online discussion boards, and sometimes even video chat or video conference.

Class Curriculum

A master’s curriculum in early childhood education is designed to expose students to the predominant theories of effective learning for young children, and the research that supports those theories. Practical application of early childhood learning theories is emphasized. Professors provide instruction in working with diverse learners, including children from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as children with special needs. Course work in early childhood education master’s programs differs greatly from school to school, but a few courses you might encounter in such programs include:

  • Language Development and Cognition in Children. In this course, students learn how developmentally normal children build language skills, as well as how developmentally abnormal children build language skills. Focusing on the preschool years, students explore the most up-to-date theories and research in how children acquire language skills.
  • Exceptional Children in the Early Childhood Setting. This course teaches students strategies for working with preschool-aged children who have disabilities and special needs, including blindness, deafness, autism, and behavioral disorders. Students learn the value of including exceptional children in activities with other children, and methods of accommodating such children. In addition, students are taught how to adapt instruction for disabled children and how certain disabilities impact a child’s ability to learn.
  • Foundations of Reading Instruction. In this course, students learn modern reading theories as well as best practices in reading instruction. Students learn how to put systems in place that encourage effective reading and pre-reading behaviors, as well as how to assess the effectiveness of those systems.

In an online master’s program in early childhood education, students may be asked to complete a scholarly project in which they conduct a long-term, in-depth investigation into a certain topic within early childhood education and present their research in a written document. Many online courses will incorporate practicum requirements in real-world early childhood education settings, including preschools, childcare centers, kindergarten classrooms, elementary school classrooms, and Head Start programs. During these practicum experiences, students may apply research-based instructional practices, observe the results of putting these practices into place, and report their findings to their instructor.

Building a Career

Students who complete online master’s degrees in early childhood education often go on to pursue a doctorate in a related area to pursue careers in academia conducting research and teaching as college professors. Others serve as preschool teachers, kindergarten and elementary school teachers, and managers and program specialists in Head Start programs. Still others become curriculum specialists and educational directors.

Education professors teach a wide variety of college classes, including English as a second language (ESL), curriculum and instruction, counseling, teacher education, and other education-related courses, as well as conduct research. These teachers work in different industries, including colleges, universities, and professional schools; junior colleges; and technical and trade schools. The median yearly wage for education teachers at the postsecondary level was estimated at $59,380 as of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers who work in public schools will need to possess a license to teach, often called teacher certification, in their state. Teachers at private schools, however, may not require a license. Kindergarten teachers earned a median yearly wage of $48,800 as of May 2011, while elementary teachers earned a median wage of $51,660, the BLS noted. These professions are projected to experience employment growth of 17%, which is average employment growth, between 2010 and 2020. Actual salaries for educators can vary greatly based on how much experience and education you have, your roles and responsibilities, and the region of the country you live in.

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