We love education at SuperScholar. And education is nowhere more important and valuable than in the life of a child. For those looking to join or move up in the ranks of competent, caring, and committed child educators, we’ve put together our first ever Smart Choice ranking of regionally accredited colleges and universities offering online early childhood education degree programs.
The Value of an Online Early Childhood Education Degree
A degree in Early Childhood Education is the perfect for people who love working with children and helping them flourish. Early childhood educators have the unique opportunity to impact the lives of children at the most important stage of their growth and development. The impact of good early childhood education on the long term well being of society has become better understood and more well known in the last decade, giving rise to greater demand for trained early childhood educators. An online degree in early childhood education has the potential to open up numerous possibilities for future employment and promotion. An associate’s degree in early childhood education from a regionally accredited college or university is considered a minimal requirement for most entry-level positions in the field, with the need for a bachelor’s degree becoming more prevalent. Those seeking leadership and administrative positions are usually required to have at least a master’s degree.
The Advantages of an Online Early Childhood Education Degree Program
Students who earn their early childhood education degree online can avoid all of the hassle and costs associated with moving to attend college, keep their current job, and continue to spend time with their families. Most online degree programs are designed with working adults in mind. Fieldwork for most online early childhood education degree programs can be completed in the student’s hometown.
How We Picked Our Smart Choice Schools for Online Early Childhood Education Degrees
Only regionally accredited colleges and universities listed in the National Center for Education Statistics database and offering Associates, Bachelors, or Masters degree programs in Early Childhood Education were considered. Schools that passed this initial criterion were then evaluated based on market reputation, academic quality, student satisfaction, and cost. We believe the resulting list of twenty-five schools offers prospective students in early childhood education an excellent place to start their search for the school and degree program that is right for them.
Pacific Oaks College, located in Pasadena, CA, was founded over 60 years ago by a group of Quaker families committed to the values of inclusion, social justice, and the intrinsic worth of every human being. These values continue to shape the direction and approach of the college today, making it one of the most revered and distinctive institutions for training progressive leaders in education.
Online Programs: Pacific Oaks College offers an online bachelor’s completion program in Early Childhood Education, as well as an online master’s in Early Childhood Education. All POC programs take a culture-centered, experiential approach to learning. Students interested in enrolling in the bachelor’s completion program must have at least 60 credit hours of prior coursework from a regionally accredited college or university. The program can be completed in two years or less. The online master’s degree can be completed in one year of full-time study, or two years of part-time study. Required fieldwork for both the bachelor’s completion and the master’s program may be completed at a site convenient to the student pending the approval of the site, supervisor, and college.
Accreditation: Pacific Oaks College is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Erikson Institute was founded by a group of child advocates in 1966 to train instructors in the new Head Start programs. Named for child psychologist Erik Erikson, the Erikson Institute educates future educators in a multi-disciplinary, relationship-oriented curriculum designed to provide care for at-risk children, but is open to anyone who wishes to educate children.
Online Programs: Erikson Institute offers an online Master of Science degree in Early Childhood Education. Designed for early childhood educators with a Bachelor’s degree and at least three years of teaching experience, this 38-credit-hour program takes 28 months to complete. As a structured cohort program, all students will be grouped with a peer cohort for support, and as a fully online program students may work at their own pace around their current schedule.
Accreditation: Erikson Institute is accredited by the North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission.
#3. Kendall College
Kendall College, located in Chicago, IL, is a for-profit college with programs in business, culinary arts a hospitality, and education. Originally founded in 1937 as Evanston Collegiate Institute, Kendall College was renamed in honor of Curtis P. Kendall, head of the firm that employed many early graduates, Washington National Insurance Company of Evanston. In 2008 Kendall College became a subsidiary of Laureate Education, a for-profit education corporation.
Online Programs: Kendall College offers an accredited Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education in an Illinois certification track, and a non-certification track. This 180-credit hour program prepares students to work with children from birth to 3rd grade, and offers concentrations in Childhood Nutrition, English as a Second Language (ESL), Special Education or Infants and Toddlers. Kendall College’s Early Childhood Education program emphasizes leadership skills and relationship development, teaching students to form appropriate, inclusive relationships with students and their families.
Accreditation: Kendall College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). The Early Childhood Education program is approved by the Illinois State Board of Education for Type 04 Illinois Teacher Certification.
Grand Canyon University is a private, for-profit Christian university located in Phoenix, AZ. Originally founded by Arizona Southern Baptists in 1949, as a school that would provide Baptist education to students in Arizona, financial difficulties led to its sale in 2004 to Significant Education, LLC, making it the first for-profit Christian university in the nation. Since its switch to for-profit education, Grand Canyon has expanded its reach and improved its reputation, leading to acclaim from Forbes magazine.
Online Programs: Grand Canyon University offers a Master of Education in Early Childhood Education with two possible tracks, one leading to licensure, the other not. The non-licensure track is a 32-hour program for teachers who already have a Bachelor’s degree in education. For students who wish to lead to teaching licensure, a student teaching component is required, increasing the program to 44 credit hours. Designed according to the standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the M.Ed. program prepares students with courses in instructional strategies, teaching methodologies, assessment techniques, theories of early childhood growth and development, and the impact of family and cultural diversity on early childhood.
Accreditation: Grand Canyon is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
#6. Post University
Post University is a private, for-profit university based in Waterbury, Connecticut, offering full-time and online degrees. Originally founded in 1890 as Post College, Post University is now owned by Generation Partners, a firm in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Online Programs: Post University offers an online accelerated Bachelor of Science in Child Studies degree, which continues their Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education. This degree completion program adds to the Early Childhood Education Associate’s degree with classroom instruction and field work, as well as greater knowledge of early childhood education practice and the skills to advance in the profession. This accelerated program can be completed in only two years by students who already hold an Associate’s degree, or substantial transferable credits.
Accreditation: Post University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Founded in 1920, Vanguard University began as a training school for Christian workers in Costa Mesa, CA, but today is a comprehensive university affiliated with the Assemblies of God. As a part of the Pentecostal movement, Vanguard has always been inclusive of many cultures, races, and genders, and considers racial reconciliation one of its primary values. Vanguard University has been named one of the top universities in the West by US News and World Report.
Online Programs: Vanguard offers an accredited online Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education. This 124-unit program is designed for maximum flexibility and convenience, allowing students to choose any time of the day or night for classes. Vanguard’s online Early Childhood Education program uses an accelerated 5-week class schedule to help students complete their BA quickly.
Accreditation: Vanguard University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Capella University is a for-profit online university owned by the Capella Education Company and based in Minneapolis, MN. Originally founded in 1991 to provide education for underserved adult learners, Cappella became an online university in 1996 and now serves over 37,000 students at any give time. Capella has been ranked as a top online school, and one of the bet colleges in the US.
Online Programs: Capella offers an accredited online Master of Science in Education with an Early Childhood Education specialization designed for students who already have a BS in Education. This 49-credit program will help licensed teachers who wish to learn more effective practices, as well as those who wish to teach Early Childhood education in higher education. Courses include child psychology, classroom management, and strategies for helping at-risk or developmentally disadvantaged children. Students will be required to take an approved teaching practicum in their area.
Accreditation: Capella University is accredited by the The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Capella’s education programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
Concordia University St Paul is one of the ten-member Concordia University System, a university system overseen by the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church. Originally founded in 1893 to prepare high school students for the ministry, Concordia gradually grew into a one-year, then a two-year college, ultimately becoming a four-year, coeducational university.
Online Programs: Concordia offers an accredited online Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education. Concordia’s 33-credit MA program will instruct students in best practices based on research, emphasizing child development, building family and community relationships, and growing as an education professional. Students should already have an accredited BA or BS in Education.
Accreditation: Concordia is accredited by the North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission. Concordia’s Education program is accredited by the National Council of Accreditation for Teacher Education (NCATE).
#10. Kaplan University
Kaplan University is a for-profit distance-learning university owned by Kaplan, Inc, a subsidiary of the Washington Post Company; Kaplan University is also know as the Iowa College Acquisition Corporation. Originally founded in 1937 as Quest College, Kaplan was bought by the Iowan College Acquisition Corporation and changed to Kaplan College, in honor of Kaplan Test Prep founder Stanley H. Kaplan.
Online Programs: Kaplan offers an accredited online Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Development. This 120-credit hour course prepares students to teach in pre-K and early elementary education, emphasizing family and community building, assessment, effective learning environments, sound professional standards and ethics, and cultural diversity. Students learn in a flexible online environment, with access to the Kaplan Online Library, and are provides with dedicated advisors to help with course selection, graduation, and job placement.
Accreditation: Kaplan is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission as a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The University of Missouri – informally called Mizzou – is the largest public university in Missouri and the most significant of three campuses in the University of Missouri system. Founded in 1839, Mizzou was the first public university west of the Mississippi River, and holds the distinction of being the first university to celebrate Homecoming. Ranked in the top 100 national universities by US News and World Report, Mizzou has enlarged its scope with its online degree programs.
Online Programs: Mizzou Online offers an Early Childhood Education Master’s degree for students with experience teaching pre-schoolers to increase their knowledge of educational theory and practice for children 3-8 years old. The program requires 33 credit hours: 24 credit hours in early childhood education courses, and 9 credit hours in core courses such as learning theory, leadership, and research. Students may begin taking courses while applying to the program. Students must obtain teaching certification for the state in which they plan to teach.
Accreditation: The University of Missouri is accredited by the Commission on Higher Learning of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The University of Missouri College of Education is a member of the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).
The University of Massachusetts is the largest public research university in New England, and one of the most respected, established in 1863 as a land-grant research university. Amherst, MA, is acclaimed as one of the best college towns in America, and the university is consistently ranked as one of the greatest in the nation.
Online Programs: UMassOnline offers an online Bachelor’s degree in Early Care and Education, designed to help students develop the knowledge and experience needed for preschool, Head Start, and private childcare programs. The Early Care and Education program is multi-disciplinary, with courses in education, psychology, and other fields. At least 120 credit hours are required, but experienced educators may transfer as much as 30 hours from experience. Students usually complete the program in four or five semesters.
Accreditation: The University of Massachusetts is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Its school of education is accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Arizona State University, founded in 1885, is spread over four campuses around the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, but they are one institution. While the university has typically ranked lower than the top 100 in standard lists (such as US News and World Report), recent advances in quality, such as those experienced by the Carey School of Business, have led to ASU’s reputation as an up-and-coming university.
Online Programs: ASU Online offers an accredited Master of Education Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. There are three potential program paths: the M.Ed. with Certification takes 46 credit hours; M.Ed. with Endorsement takes 35 credit hours; and the straight M.Ed. takes 30 credit hours. Designed to prepare teachers for working with infants and children, the Early Childhood Education M.Ed. prepares future and current educators for all areas of education and policy, from pedagogical theory to advocacy and administration.
Accreditation: Arizona State University Main is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.
Founded in 1956, the University of the Southwest is a private, Christian university in Hobbs, New Mexico. Originally Baptist, the university is now inter-denominational, with an explicitly Christ-centered approach to higher education. Highly ranked as a regional university by US News and World Report, the University of the Southwest has a growing online distance learning program.
Online Programs: The University of the Southwest offers an accredited online Master of Science in Education with a specialization in Early Childhood Education. For students who already have a Bachelor’s degree in Education, the MS in Education can prepare educators not only for classroom practice and theory, but also curriculum development, administration, and assessment. The program takes 45 credit hours. All coursework is online, with practicum in the student’s home area.
Accreditation: The University of the Southwest is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools of the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of North Dakota is the oldest and largest public university in the state of North Dakota. Founded in 1883 as a liberal arts college, even before North Dakota was admitted as a state, the university today teaches 14,000 students in a wide range of fields, including a top aeronautics program. In an effort to counter a shrinking state population, and thus a reduction in potential students, the University of North Dakota has invested in an excellent distance education program.
Online Programs: The University of North Dakota offers an NCATE-accredited online Master of Science in Early Childhood Education. This 32-credit hour program is offered entirely online and usually takes 2 years to complete. The MS ECE program prepares certified teachers to work with children ages 3-8 in the context of their family, gender, culture, and community, and prepares teachers for working in public and private schools, Head Start programs, and child development centers. Online students take the same courses as resident students, and interact with one another in a virtual environment.
Accreditation: The University of North Dakota is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The College of Education & Human Development is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
#16. Clarion University
Clarion University, located in Clarion, Pennsylvania, is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Founded in 1867, Clarion is a small university with a favorable student-instructor ratio, allowing Clarion students much more personal attention than a large university, with the quality of the Pennsylvania State system.
Online Programs: Clarion offers an accredited online Master of Education in Early Childhood for certified teachers who already have a BS in some education field. The M.Ed. requires 30-32 credit hours, with 12 core curriculum hours, 12 hours in a concentration, and 6 elective hours. Early Childhood concentration courses include instruction in curriculum development, health, leadership, and assessment.
Accreditation: Clarion University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The Early Childhood Education program is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
Stephen F. Austin State University was founded in 1923 as a teaching college in Nacogdoches, TX, and today is one of only four independent public universities in the state. Because of the university’s ties to the forestry industry, the school’s mascot is the Lumberjack. Stephen F Austin State University has been named one of the top 100 western universities, and boasts a number of famous alumni, including singer-songwriters Rodney Crowell and Don Henley.
Online Programs: SFA offers an accredited online Master of Education in Early Childhood, providing certified educators an opportunity to develop their knowledge and experience while continuing to work. For students with a Bachelor’s degree already, the MS Education provides the same coursework as resident students in a fully online format, with multiple start dates for convenience. Instructors are professors and researchers, and the courses include both practical and theoretical depth.
Accreditation: Stephen F Austin State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The Early Childhood Education program is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
The University of Colorado Denver is the largest public research university in Colorado, one of three universities in the University of Colorado system. It is also connected to the University of Colorado Hospital, a major teaching hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus, making it a leading university for medical education. The university has been ranked highly by US News and World Report, the Princeton Review, and Forbes.
Online Programs: The UC Denver College of Education and Human Development offers an accredited online Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education. This 40-credit hour provides working teachers with a flexible schedule, high-quality, personalized instruction, and networking opportunities. The ECE program follows a cohort model, so students work with the same peers throughout their program, providing students a sense of connectedness and support. Students will have practica in their own area. Classes are all online, but students are required to come to Denver in June for a 3-5 summer session to meet the other students and faculty in the program.
Accreditation: The University of Colorado Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). The College of Education and Human Development is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
#19. Walden University
Walden University was founded in 1970 as an experiment, originally proposed in a paper by Harold Hodgkinson, to provide working adults an opportunity to complete their higher degrees while also working toward positive social change. Eventually moving from Florida to Minnesota, Walden was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and grew into a unique and acclaimed online university.
Online Programs: Walden University offers an online Master of Arts in Teaching with specialization in Early Childhood Education (birth-3rd grade). The program is 43 credit hours, and students usually complete their degree in 20 months. With its emphasis on social change, Walden’s Early Childhood Education program stresses the importance of working with diverse children and families, understanding child development, and contributing toward children’s development through active participation in their lives. Students will take part in supervised fieldwork and complete an eportfolio to graduate.
Accreditation: Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association. Walden University’s teacher preparation program is approved by the Minnesota Board of Teaching for licensure in Minnesota.
#20. Rasmussen College
Rasmussen College was founded in 1900 by Walter Rasmussen in Minneapolis, Minnesota as a school of business. Through acquiring other schools over the 20th century, Rasmussen has grown into a college with campuses in Minnesota, Illinois, North Dakota, Florida, and Wisconsin, as well as an online campus founded in 2002.
Online Programs: Rasmussen College offers an online Business Management Associate’s Degree in Child Development. Students may specialize in Child Development, English Language Learner, Child and Family Studies, or Special Needs. In this program students will learn about family dynamics, child health, and curriculum/instruction in early childhood development. Students will also take part in a 2 hour field observation.
Accreditation: Rasmussen College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). However, the School of Education at Rasmussen College is not accredited by NAEYC.
#21. Removed from ranking by editor.
Arkansas Tech University is a comprehensive research university located in Russellville, Arkansas. Founded in 1909 as an agricultural high school, ATU gradually grew into a college and finally a university in 1976.
Online Programs: Arkansas Tech University’s College of Professional Studies offers an online Associate of Science with a specialization in Early Childhood Education. This accredited degree prepares students to work with children in the early years of development. The Tech Accelerated Degree program also offers an online Bachelor’s degree completion program for older students with at least 60 hours of college coursework. Most students can complete the 124-credit hour program in only 18 months.
Accreditation: Arkansas Tech University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Western Governors University is a private, nonprofit, accredited online university with corporate headquarters in Salt Lake City, UT. As a competency-based school, WGU has no academic requirements for admission beyond an admissions exam. WGU receives no state or federal funding, sustaining on tuition and corporate and non-profit grants, and has won numerous awards as an online university. WGU’s mission is to provide high-caliber online education for motivated students, and all academic operations are online.
Online Programs: Western Governors University offers an accredited Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education. This 122 credit program prepares students with Associate certification and no certification at all to teach children from birth to 3rd grade. Students will learn about early childhood education theory, practice, foundations, and general education, and the program includes supervised practice teaching in a real classroom environment. Students with Associate certification may waive some credits to complete their degree more quickly.
Accreditation: Western Governors University is nationally accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). WGU is also regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NCCU). The Teachers College is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). WGU is the first exclusively online university to receive NCATE accreditation for its degree programs.
National-Louis University is a private, non-profit university that specializes in education. Founded in 1886, NLU spearheaded the National Kindergarten Movement and became a model for early childhood education practice. Since its original founding as a preparatory school for kindergarten teachers, NLU has expanded to three school, but retains its commitment to early childhood education.
Online Programs: National Louis University offers an accredited online Master of Education in Early Childhood Administration. This degree is designed for experienced teachers who already have a Bachelor’s in Education and wish to move into leadership positions. Instruction focuses on curriculum development, assessment, and professional ethics, as well as further development of educational skills. NLU’s program is based on a cohort model, so online students receive the support and stability of having a unified, continuous group of peers to work with throughout the program. NLU’s history at the forefront of early childhood education practice in America extends even today to its online programs.
Accreditation: National Louis University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The M.Ed. in Early Childhood Administration is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
#25. University of Phoenix
The University of Phoenix was founded by John Sperling in 1976 to cater to working adults who wish to have access to higher education. It provides its educational programs through various campuses and learning centers located in at least forty (40) states and several foreign countries. It also uses the online portal to offer online programs to students worldwide while providing access to important resources such as an electronic library, textbooks, learning materials and software required for the assigned coursework.
Online Programs: University of Phoenix offers an online Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education. Even students without previous teaching experience will be prepared for certification and licensure with this program. In addition to coursework, students will engage in 100 hours of field experience in an early childhood education setting. The Phoenix online program can be used for licensure in a number of states; students will need to check to see if their own state is included. This program was developed according to standards set by the National Association for the Education for Young Children (NAEYC), with a mix of theory and practice, field work and student teaching, for a well-rounded education.
Accreditation: University of Phoenix is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association.