Why Pursue a Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education?
An online bachelor's degree in early childhood education trains professionals to teach children from birth through age eight. Students learn about child development, including the rapid cognitive, physical, and emotional changes that occur during a child's formative years. Coursework includes curriculum design and management, early literacy training, language development, and cultural studies. This coursework lays the foundation for future teachers to anticipate, understand, and adjust their teaching methods to meet the unique needs of each child.
There is a significant need for preschool teachers, as the field will increase by 10% from 2016 to 2026.
Early childhood education is a popular field for people who enjoy children. Teachers help students with hands-on activities, group work (or centers), and one-on-one tutoring. There is a significant need for preschool teachers, as the field will increase by 10% from 2016 to 2026. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers are also in demand, and the need for these professionals will expand by 7%. Those with childcare experience often expand their career opportunities by pursuing an early childhood education bachelor's degree online.
Early childhood educators positively impact children's lives and fill an important role by providing caring learning experiences for the youngest of children.
Choosing an Online Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Program
As you explore early childhood education bachelor's degrees online, it is important to fully understand program requirements. Programs typically require 120 credits and take four years to complete if taken full time. This period can be shortened if students hold associate degrees or have transfer credits.
Students can choose between bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degrees. BA programs, including the online bachelors in elementary education, have a strong liberal arts foundation, while BS degrees have a math and science focus and are typically designed for students seeking a teaching degree without prior childcare or teaching experience. Some bachelor's programs offer concentrations, including special education and ESL.
While students can obtain their early childhood education certificate online without needing to step in a classroom, some require student teaching or field experience. Some programs may also require a final project or practicum, which depend on state licensing requirements. Hybrid programs are available to students seeking both online and on-campus courses.
Be sure to check each program's accreditation status. The National Early Childhood Program Accreditation and the National Association for the Education of Young Children are two accrediting agencies. The college or university administering the program should also be regionally accredited to ensure the fulfillment of state licensing requirements and ease the transfer of credits for graduate school.
Earning a bachelor's degree in education online can be affordable. Some schools lock tuition rates for online students, while others offer entire programs for under $15,000 or less. Students can control cost by pursuing a degree part time, which also offers flexibility for working professionals. Students already working in childcare or education settings may be able to fulfill certain field requirements.
Admission requirements for an online bachelor's in early childhood education program vary by school, but all require a high school diploma or equivalent. Most schools also expect applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Some accept Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators (Reading, Writing, and Mathematics) scores in place of SAT and ACT scores.
Students with associate degrees in early childhood education can usually transfer their entire degree. Those with associate degrees in other majors can transfer applicable core or general education credits. Some programs require associate degrees or a set number of transfer credits for admission. Review these programs carefully, as many have specific requirements.
Early childhood education degree (online) applicants do not need previous teaching experience. However, experienced students can often speed the degree completion process.
Directory of Accredited Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Programs
Early Childhood Education Licensure and Certifications
Along with earning a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, prospective public school teachers need a teaching license. The process includes a written examination with additional subject exams required of those planning to teach specific subjects. A background check and student teaching experience are also necessary.
Licenses must be maintained with continuing education and renewed periodically. Requirements vary by state, with some states mandating teachers to earn their master's degree within a specific period of time after licensing is granted. As a result of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification Interstate Agreement, most states practice license reciprocity for those seeking to transfer licenses to another state. There may be additional requirements for transfer, including testing and background checks. Private schools usually do not require licensure.
Some states also require early childhood educators to obtain the Child Development Associate credential through the Council for Professional Recognition. This process includes classroom observation and an exam.
Preschool teachers may need prior experience working in childcare centers or as teacher assistants to be hired in some states. Individual state requirements for early childhood educators can be obtained on state department of education websites. Many programs are designed to prepare students for state licensing.
What Can You Do with an Early Childhood Education Degree?
An online bachelor's in early childhood education presents many career opportunities. After fulfilling state licensing requirements, graduates can work as teachers in preschool, kindergarten, or elementary schools (up to age eight). They can also work as childcare center administrators or other early childhood program directors, which provides increased income.
Graduates are positioned for additional career advancement if they pursue a master's degree in early childhood education.
These teachers assist children up to age five with language, social skills, and pre-reading development. They use centers (small group) activities, one-on-one instruction, and reading groups to instruct students. The curriculum assists students with understanding the world around them and with setting routines.
Median Salary: $28,990
Kindergarten teachers advance the communication, social, and developmental skills students acquired in preschool (or at home or daycare). They may teach new subjects, do classroom experiments, and introduce project work to prepare students for elementary school. They assist students with adhering to rules and schedules.
Median Salary: $54,230
Elementary School Teacher
Teachers in the early elementary grades help students learn language concepts, spelling, and phonics to advance literacy. They also teach specific subjects such as math, science, and social studies, and assist students with building critical thinking and communication skills. They may also be required to assist ESL and special education students.
Median Salary: $57,160
Childcare Center Director
These administrators oversee childcare centers and are typically involved in all facets of their operation. They also hire and supervise employees, and may teach class or care for children in addition to their duties.
Median Salary: $36,691
These professionals assist the lead teacher in childcare or school settings. They provide tutoring, instruction, organizational, and administrative aid in the classroom. They may grade papers, assist with lesson facilitation, and help students follow class rules. Teacher assistants may take the place of the teacher in times of emergency.
Median Salary: $22,958
Paying for Your Online Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education
Students seeking an online bachelor's degree in early childhood education can explore many types of financial aid, from loans and tuition reimbursement programs, to scholarships and grants. Working students can also pay out-of-pocket. Schools provide payment plans, which are usually interest-free. Each school has its own billing method, but payments are typically divided over a 12-month period.
Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for state, federal, and college financial aid. This form helps determine financial need and can be submitted online. Dependent students must include parent information, including tax data. Schools must be listed at least one so they can prepare award packages.
After students select a school and aid package, financial aid is disbursed at least twice per year. Timetables vary based on the student's status and type of aid. For example, first-time borrowers sometimes have a 30-day waiting period before their disbursement is processed.
Federal and private loan programs assist students with paying for college after scholarships and grants have been exhausted. Unsubsidized loans accrue interest when funds are disbursed, but are not based on need. Subsidized loans are awarded based on need, but interest doesn't accrue until the student graduates or attends school less than half time. Subsidized loans are only available to undergraduate students.
Interest rates are usually much lower with federal student loans than private ones. Loan repayment periods begin after graduation or when a student leaves the program. Deferment programs are available.
Public, in-state schools often provide better financial aid packages than private and public out-of-state schools. Each aid package is based on the student's individual financial situation, so outcomes vary.
The U.S. government funds the Federal Work-Study Program, which provides students part-time jobs on-campus or at approved companies and organizations to offset college costs. Students are paid hourly at rates that cannot fall below the minimum wage. Examples of work-study jobs include administrative assistance, library support, and tutoring.
Work-study awards are made based on financial need, and eligibility is determined when students submit the FAFSA. Students are paid directly, and earnings cannot exceed the total amount awarded. Students may spend the funds as they wish or request payments be made directly to their school.
Tuition Reimbursement Programs
Many companies provide tuition reimbursement programs as part of their employee benefits packages. The amount and requirements vary by company. Current employees qualify, and some companies provide funding for children of employees, too.
A common requirement for tuition reimbursement is a minimum letter grade or GPA per course. Some companies will only reimburse for courses directly related to the employee's current or future job function. There are federal limits to the amount of tuition that can be reimbursed before it is taxed. This typically amounts to the cost of two college courses annually.
Grants, Fellowships, and Scholarships
Grants, fellowships, and scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement and demonstrated financial need. These do not need to be repaid.
The federal government sponsors grant programs, including the popular Pell Grant for bachelor's degree candidates and the TEACH Grant Program for aspiring teachers. Organizations and higher education institutions also offer them. Fellowships are designed for graduate students and usually require dedicated research or residency in conjunction with the award.
In addition to academic merit, scholarship requirements often include participation in extracurricular activities, community service, or other field-specific accomplishments. They are provided by private companies, nonprofits, government agencies, clubs, colleges, and universities. Students can search online databases for scholarship opportunities. See below for a sampling of early childhood education scholarships.
Scholarships for Online Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Degrees
Bright Horizons Bright Futures Scholarship Program $1,000
Phi Delta Kappa Prospective Educator Scholarships $500 to $2,000
JAM Paper Teacher Scholarship $500
NEA-Retired Jack Kinnaman Memorial Scholarship $2,500
Isabel M. Herson Scholarship in Education $500 to $1,000
Resources for Online Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Students
- National Association for the Education of Young Children This professional organization boasts 60,000 early childhood education members. It works to advance the quality of early education programs through research, policy work, and accreditation administration.
- National Institute for Early Education Research This independent research organization studies programs and policies to provide informative and evaluative data that improves early education outcomes. Policymakers, journalists, and educators use the studies.
- PBS TeacherLine These professional development courses are designed specifically for early childhood education teachers. PBS also offers resources for classroom application.
- Education World This online community offers classroom ideas, lesson plans, professional development opportunities, and teacher resources, including articles, activities, and information on state and national standards.
- U.S. Department of Education - Early Learning Resources This online collection of reports, guides, and resources about early learning standards provides timely data and best practices about literacy, language development, dual language learners, and other topics.