Early childhood education is focused on the learning and social development of children from preschool through third grade. This education field is a good fit for individuals who love working with young children, and like the idea of developing creative, age-appropriate activities that facilitate learning and prepare students for future grades. Accredited online colleges for early childhood education can equip students with the knowledge they need to be effective educators while allowing students to attend school from the comfort of their own homes.
The best online colleges for early childhood education offer programs that are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which accredits associate degree programs and works with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education to accredit baccalaureate and graduate programs.
Early Childhood Education Course Work Basics
Top rated online colleges offer early childhood education most commonly as an undergraduate major, although some award graduate degrees in the field. Undergraduate course work will help build a student’s understanding of how young children grown and develop, teaching through play learning, the family’s role in early childhood education, and effective teaching methods. Course work varies by specialization; for instance, a specialization in teaching would require different courses than a specialization in early childhood management. Undergraduate programs commonly include practicums or internships that help students gain experience working with children in approved educational settings. Some courses you may encounter in an early childhood education program include:
- Educational Psychology: In this course, students are introduced to the way school-aged learners develop cognitively throughout their childhood.
- Technology in Education: This course exposes students to the ways technology can be used to enhance the educational experience of young children.
- Children’s Literature for Early Childhood: In this course, students learn how to identify age-appropriate literature for early childhood learners that promotes increasing levels of literacy, as well as survey important authors and illustrators.
- Family and Social Systems: This course examines how a young child’s family and social environments impact their development.
- Assessment and Evaluation in Early Childhood: In this course, students learn established methods of assessing learning disabilities and deficits in young children.
Top online colleges for early childhood education may also offer graduate programs. These generally include course work designed to sharpen a student’s skills in producing developmentally appropriate curriculum for young learners, analyzing and conducting research in early childhood education, and fostering effective learning environments. Graduate programs also often include practicum requirements where students conduct observations within early learning centers and apply research-based techniques, keeping a log of progress toward learning goals. Students typically conclude a graduate degree with a scholarly project in which they conduct research into a real-world challenge in early childhood education and devise a strategy to address the challenge drawing from what they have learned throughout the program.
Careers for the Early Childhood Education Graduate
Students who graduate with degrees from top accredited online colleges often pursue work as preschool teachers or preschool and childcare center directors. Preschool teachers are responsible for providing educational activities that will help prepare young children for kindergarten. A college degree is not always required to be a preschool teacher, though most employers prefer to hire preschool teachers who have completed at least some postsecondary education, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Preschool teachers who want to work for the Head Start program must have a minimum of an associate degree, although the bachelor’s is quickly becoming the standard, the BLS explained. The median yearly salary for preschool teachers was $25,700 as of May 2010, and employment in the field is projected to grow by 25% between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the average for all occupations.
Preschool and childcare center directors are in charge of the financial and staffing responsibilities in a childcare center and provide oversight in how curriculum is delivered. Not all states require these professionals to have a college degree, though some do demand a minimum of an associate or bachelor’s degree in an area such as early childhood education, according to the BLS. Some states also require directors to be nationally certified. Preschool and childcare center directors reported a median yearly salary of $42,960 in May 2010, and the field is expected to grow by 25% between 2010 and 2020. Salaries and job prospects for both preschool teachers and preschool directors vary significantly based on an individual’s experience, the size and type of employer, and other factors.