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Early Childhood Education Degrees

Explore a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education

An online degree in early childhood education is a good fit for students who connect well with young children and who primarily want to teach or work with children under the age of 5. Early childhood education focuses on learning through playing, and on equipping young children with the foundational learning and social skills they need to excel when they transition into kindergarten. Online programs in early childhood education teach students how to create learning programs that are developmentally appropriate for young children, such as pre-reading programs where children learn letters, letter sounds, and the blending of sounds and words. Since early childhood educators typically work with preschool-aged children, many programs do not lead to teacher certification.

Online bachelor's degree programs in early childhood education can be completed in four years if a student is enrolled full-time and the program follows a traditional semester school year. Accelerated programs, which tend to incorporate terms or modules, may allow students to complete their degree in less time. Program length also depends on how many prior credits a student brings into the program from course work completed at other colleges or AP courses completed in high school. Hybrid, or blended, programs are also available for students who wish to receive a portion of their instruction in a traditional college classroom while completing the majority of their course work online.

Class Curriculum

Students seeking online early childhood education degrees start out taking general education courses in communication, mathematics, the physical and social sciences, and the arts and humanities. From here, their course work may include child health and safety, educational psychology, family dynamics and community relationships, and play and learning for preschool children. Other courses will be shaped by their specialization, which could range from childhood nutrition to infants and toddlers to English as a Second Language (ESL). In general, however, students often take the following major courses:

  • Early Childhood Development. This course explores how children develop physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially from birth through early childhood. Students examine methods of building a positive self-image in young children as well as how children develop motor skills. Emphasis is often placed on language development in children.
  • Early Childhood Curriculum Planning. In this course, students learn effective instructional planning and evaluation strategies for young children, including planning for daily, weekly, and long-term instruction. The course also touches on creative learning activities that help children along in the learning process, using age-appropriate methods and materials.
  • Observation and Assessment of the Young Child. This course introduces students to techniques they can use to assess at-risk children and children who exhibit signs of special needs. Students learn how to measure a child's development and the tools typically used in assessment.

Students complete a wide range of homework assignments and projects in an online early childhood education degree program. Students may be asked to write out educational activity and lesson plans for different age groups, such as infants and toddlers, or four- and five-year-olds, drawing from what they have learned in class. Students may also be asked to complete field work for their courses, where they gain hands-on skills in instruction, play learning, and assessment. Many programs also require an internship, or practicum, where students gain teaching experience in preschools or other early childhood education settings.

Building a Career

Some of the most fitting careers for people with a background in early childhood education are preschool teachers, preschool and childcare center directors, and childcare workers. Preschool teachers go beyond the role of babysitter to teach age-appropriate curriculum and organize educational activities that facilitate learning. While it is possible to enter the field of preschool teaching with only a high school diploma and certification in early childhood education, postsecondary education may be preferred by many employers.

A minimum of an associate degree is currently required for preschool teaching positions with Head Start, but there is a push for the program to increase the number of preschool teachers with bachelor's degrees in early childhood education, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In addition, preschool teacher positions at public schools also typically require a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a similar field.

Preschool and childcare center directors are in charge of early childhood education operations, leading and directing child care staff, and overseeing the business side of preschools.