A bachelor's in early childhood education explores the most developmentally important years of our lives, from birth to 8 years old. During those years, children gain lifelong skills such as walking, reading, and social interaction. Kids need skillful guidance to fully prepare for their future. Early childhood education professionals can provide that guidance.
If you feel passionate about educating children, excited about shaping the future generation, and eager to combine play and learning in unconventional learning environments, a bachelor's in early childhood education may suit you.
Early childhood education is a relatively new focus, which has only gained traction in the last couple of centuries. The field's focus appears bright. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for kindergarten and elementary school teachers to increase by 4% from 2019-2029.
Given the growing demand for employees working with our youngest society members, more colleges and universities are offering bachelor's degrees in early childhood education. The following guide details what prospective students should know about a bachelor's in early childhood education.
Why Get an Early Childhood Education Bachelor's?
Early childhood education can trace its roots back to the 1500s, when Martin Luther advocated for children's literacy and universal education. Since that time, multiple philosophers and educators, including John Locke and Maria Montessori, have impacted and shaped modern views on childhood education.
Now, the field of early childhood educators spans from preschool and elementary teachers to daycare workers and nannies. Each person who works directly with young kids influences their learning process.
a bachelor's in early childhood education can provide workers with a higher base salary, more diverse job opportunities, and a deeper understanding of the children's needs and behaviors.
Currently, the U.S. houses over 1.1 million jobs for childcare workers alone. This number excludes about 540,000 preschool teacher jobs and almost 1.6 million kindergarten and elementary school teachers. Teachers shape and instruct the future generation, and demand for these professionals remains strong. Plus, around two-thirds of U.S. families have two working parents, making childcare for young kids even more necessary.
Many people work in the childcare industry as babysitters and nannies without an applicable college degree. Still, a bachelor's in early childhood education can provide workers with a higher base salary, more diverse job opportunities, and a deeper understanding of the children's needs and behaviors.
- Higher Salary: Many childcare workers who do not hold degrees often receive minimum wage for their work. After earning their bachelor's, they can demand higher pay, apply for more prestigious positions, or ask for promotions due to their expertise.
- Future Job Opportunities: With bachelor's degrees, daycare workers can ask for raises, apply for director positions, or start their own centers. Likewise, degrees can open doors to teaching, counseling, and administrative positions in schools.
- Connect with Kids: People who love spending time with and being role models for children may study early childhood education to gain insight into how kids think and interact. With that information, workers can build deeper connections and make more powerful impacts in children's lives.
What To Expect From Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Programs
General education programs prioritize classroom learning. Early childhood education degrees prepare students to guide children in every learning aspect, both in and out of the classroom. For example, many core classes cover nutrition, safety, literacy, and social development for infants, toddlers, and young children.
A bachelor's degree in early childhood education teaches learners about children's social, physical, and cognitive development. These programs help learners assess children's progress, create appropriate activities and teaching strategies for each age, and implement common teaching methods.
These programs usually take about four years to complete, or 120 credits. The cost depends on the college and can range from under $100 to over $1,000 per credit. Enrollees who pursue specializations, such as English as a second language (ESL), nutrition, or special education, may need to take and pay for more credits.Read About an Online Bachelor's Degree in Education Explore Top Online Early Education Degrees
The application process for bachelor's programs in early childhood education varies among schools. Most institutions require a GED certificate or high school diploma and satisfactory ACT or SAT scores. Some schools ask enrollees to demonstrate a minimum 2.0 or 3.0 GPA.
The admissions process begins with an online application. Application fees cost around $44 on average. Many schools ask for a letter of intent, where the prospective student expresses their dreams and goals for the early childhood education program. To increase the chance of acceptance, enrollees may also include recommendation letters from instructors or employers.
Early childhood education degrees generally come as bachelor of science (BS) or bachelor of arts (BA) degrees. Enrollees usually apply directly to the bachelor's program. Some schools may require an associate degree, which takes around two years to complete..
Many students earn associate degrees to jump-start their careers in early childhood education. If enrollees with associate degrees wish to further their education, they may apply to transfer their credits to a bachelor's program.
Whether a transfer or first-time applicant, degree-seekers can easily apply to multiple schools using the Common App. Schools' individual application processes remain the same, but the Common App platform lumps all the applications into one place.
Degree and Concentration Options
Early childhood education learners may encounter both BS and BA programs.
A BA provides a well-rounded education, allowing students to take classes in all subjects. For early childhood education, a BA may not include any hands-on experience with children. Therefore, the degree would not fully equip enrollees to teach preschool or elementary school classes.
Students who complete a BA in early childhood education and want to teach in public or private schools must check their states' teaching requirements. These learners may have to pursue further certification.
A BS in early childhood education offers more focused instruction with multiple practicum requirements. Many BS programs include teaching certification as part of the course, fully equipping students to obtain teaching positions after graduation.
After degree-seekers choose between a BA and BS in early childhood education, they may select a specialization to improve their job prospects upon graduation. Common specializations include:
- Childhood nutrition
- Infants and toddlers
- Special education
- Administration and leadership
Comparing Early Childhood Education Degree to General Education Degrees
When degree-seekers pursue careers in education, they must choose between a degree in early childhood education and a degree in education.
Both degrees prepare enrollees to excel as educators and focus on childhood development. The early childhood education program focuses specifically on young children. The education program covers education as a whole, encompassing all ages and general teaching methods.
Students may opt for a bachelor's in education if they wish to teach or counsel all ages. The early childhood education major suits enrollees with a passion for teaching younger kids, especially those looking to teach outside of the traditional classroom.
|Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education||Bachelor's in Education|
|Length||Four years||4-5 years, depending on specialty|
|Course Load||120 credits||120 credits|
|Types of Classes||Language development, curriculum planning, play and young children, infant mental health, preschool behavior, early childhood literacy||Classroom management, child development, foundations in education, literature for children and young adolescents|
|Goal||To understand the development of children under the age of 8 and how to guide them in their learning process||To explore childhood education in general, from elementary to high school, and prepare future teachers for the classroom|
|Concentrations||Special education, administration and leadership, ESL, infants and toddlers, childhood nutrition||Elementary education, secondary education, TESOL, science education, special education|
|Available Jobs||Preschool or elementary school teacher, nanny, preschool director, school counselor, special education teacher||Elementary or secondary teacher, career counselor, education consultant, guidance counselor, juvenile corrections worker|
|Cost||$93-$1,033 per credit||$111-$1,240 per credit|
|Admission Requirements||SAT or ACT scores, recommendation letters, minimum 2.0-3.0 GPA||Official transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, minimum 2.0 GPA. Some programs may ask for specific high school courses from prospective students looking to teach a particular subject.|
Popular Early Childhood Education Courses
Early childhood education programs generally consist of three parts: core courses, electives, and a practicum. A BA program may not require teaching practice, instead offering a general, well-rounded education for various careers involving young children. A BS in early childhood education often entails a practicum.
Core requirements cover numerous topics, such as health and safety and literacy development in young children. Students choose their own electives. Ideally, electives should supplement core courses, such as sociology, psychology, and family studies. Common courses include:
Infant and Toddler Development
This core course delves into the details of children's development throughout the first three years of life. Students learn about how the environment and culture affect child development and how to analyze children's progress. This class prepares enrollees to work with and teach the youngest learners in daycare centers or as professional nannies.
Early Language and Literacy
This course explores how children develop oral and written language skills from birth to 8 years old. Students investigate various theories and methods of language development and how to implement these methods when working with young children. Graduates may work in the classroom, at home, or as administrators, since language development impacts every child's growth.
Anyone studying education needs real-life practice. This capstone course places enrollees with preschool students, allowing them to implement skills learned in previous classes. Students use teaching, observation, and guidance techniques as they learn what their future job may entail. Degree-seekers who want to work as elementary teachers or as infant caregivers still develop critical skills in this course.
Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder
This elective course presents students with general information on autism. Enrollees learn to identify the disorder, work with children with autism, and develop supportive curricula for students with ASD. As early childhood educators, graduates must understand how to successfully work with, teach, and engage children with special needs. They should also know how to approach the subject professionally with parents.
Introduction to Psychology
This elective explores psychology in general, not focused on small children. Still, it may help students understand how kids learn, what motivates them, and how they interact with others. This understanding can aid in creating healthy classroom environments and effective curricula.
How Much Will a Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Cost?
The cost of a bachelor's in early childhood education depends on the institution offering the program. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), total expenses for public postsecondary schools cost $18,383 per academic year on average, while private schools cost about $44,306.
Early childhood education is a standard four-year bachelor's program. NCES reports that tuition, fees, and housing for a four-year university costs $28,123.
Distance learners often enjoy lower costs as well. Taking courses online may eliminate expenses for room and board and transportation. The average cost of tuition and fees for a four-year university is just $16,318, according to NCES. Plus, many public universities offer subsidized, in-state tuition rates to all online learners, regardless of their home state.
Students may also apply for loans, grants, and scholarships. About 86% of college students receive financial aid to help pay for the cost. Degree-seekers may choose from dozens of financial aid options, such as governmental loans and third-party scholarships. For more information, visit the links below.Financial Aid Overview and Scholarships FAFSA Guide
Jobs for Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Graduates
Children's early development occurs mostly outside of the classroom, so the jobs available for professionals with degrees in early childhood education vary greatly. Common positions include nanny, elementary teacher, and preschool guidance counselor.
These opportunities pay diverse salaries as well. Some entry-level positions, such as daycare childcare providers and nannies, earn a median hourly wage of $12, according to the BLS. With experience and a bachelor's in early childhood education, this pay may increase. Childcare workers in the top 90th percentile earn a median of $13 per hour.Some of the best-paying jobs for graduates with degrees in early childhood education include elementary school teaching positions. The BLS projects demand for kindergarten and elementary teachers to increase on pace with the national average growth rate in coming years. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $59,240. With a master's degree, elementary teachers may become principals and earn $96,400 per year.
To get a better idea of available jobs, explore the popular career paths below.
Preschool teachers work with children under the age of 5, teaching them basic social, motor, and oral skills. These professionals prepare engaging activities to captivate and educate young learners. With excellent performance, preschool teachers can become head teachers or even school directors. Those with bachelor's degrees may teach at the elementary level.
- Required Education: Associate degree, bachelor's degree often preferred
- Job Outlook (2019-29): +2%
- Median Annual Salary: $30,520
Kindergarten or Elementary School Teacher
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct groups of students on various subjects. These professionals create lesson plans, grade assignments, and encourage appropriate classroom behavior. Some instructors teach core subjects to the same group of students, while others teach a few subjects to rotating classes. With experience and further education, kindergarten and elementary school teachers may become specialists, counselors, or principals.
- Required Education: Bachelor's degree
- Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
- Median Annual Salary: $59,670
Childcare Service Provider
These professionals work with children of all ages, providing them with quality care and guidance. They may work in daycares, run their own businesses, or offer nannying services in kids' homes. Depending on the children's ages, care may include homework help, changing diapers, or developmental guidance toward walking or learning colors. Many families and daycares do not require childcare service providers to hold a bachelor's, but this may help secure higher-paying positions.
- Required Education: High school diploma
- Job Outlook (2019-29): +2%
- Median Annual Salary: $24,230
Childcare Center or Preschool Director
Directors do not work directly with children on a daily basis. These professionals manage school budgets and schedules, and they hire new teachers and employees. Directors ensure quality communication between staff and parents and excellent education. With a master's degree, a director may qualify to become a principal or school administrator.
- Required Education: Bachelor's degree
- Job Outlook (2019-29): +1%
- Median Annual Salary: $48,210
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I major in to become an early childhood educator?
Most aspiring childhood educators choose to study early childhood education. Other valid options include elementary education, child psychology, and child development. For a future in teaching, make sure your state's board of education accepts your desired major for teacher preparation.
Can I get an early childhood education degree online?
Yes. Numerous prominent colleges and universities offer online childhood education degrees. Remote programs allow students increased flexibility and often lowered costs.
What can I do with a degree in early childhood education?
A degree in early childhood education can open the door to preschool and elementary teaching jobs. You can also pursue a career as a childcare worker, family resource worker, curriculum coordinator, paraprofessional educator, or childhood center director.
Is a degree in early childhood education worth it?
Yes, if you enjoy working with children and shaping their future. Job opportunities for graduates are numerous and varied, including teaching, directing childhood centers, and assisting families.