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Getting an early childhood education degree online is the most convenient way for working adults in childcare and preschool careers to advance. Early childhood education is an unusual sort of education career in that, in most states, a bachelor’s degree is not a requirement; you can begin a job in preschool or daycare with only a high school diploma or associate’s degree. However, people working in early childhood education soon realize that there is a very hard ceiling, and that it approaches very quickly, without a bachelor’s degree specializing in early childhood education.

That’s why online early childhood education(online ECE degree) programs have become more and more common. Busy working adults in pre-K and other childcare settings don’t have the means to quit their jobs to go back to school, or the time to attend classes on a set schedule on-campus. Knowing the challenges career advancement presents to working people, many education schools at colleges and universities around the US have set up early childhood education bachelor’s degree online completion programs, giving busy adults the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degree on their own time.

Methodology: Ranking the Best Early Childhood Education Degree Online

To determine the best early childhood education online programs, Bachelor’s Degree Center first searched for CAEP and NCATE accredited online colleges for early childhood education. With a complete master list of every accredited program, we ranked early childhood education bachelor’s degree programs online with three criteria:

  • Cost (IPEDs data)
  • Reputation (Niche student reviews)
  • Salary Expectations (College Scorecard data)

With these three data points, BDC has triangulated the best online colleges for early childhood education, focusing on programs that have the best of all worlds – independent proof of excellence, student acclaim, affordable tuition, and a measurable return on investment. That’s what makes the best early childhood education degree online program.

1. West Virginia University

West Virginia University’s online Bachelor of Science in Child Development and Early Studies, from the College of Education and Human Services, is an early childhood education online program that prepares graduates for a successful career with young learners. The program also meets the requirements set forth by the West Virginia Department of Education for Pre-K certification. Students focus on the ways in which to implement early education leadership and advocacy. WVU’s online ECE degree curriculum for the early childhood education degree complies with the guidelines set forth by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

West Virginia University is a land-grant university that was established in 1867 by the Virginia Legislature. It is currently organized into 15 degree-granting schools. WVU graduates include 24 Rhodes Scholars and 22 Truman Scholars. The Professional Education Preparation Unit (at West Virginia University) has been accredited by the NCATE (The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education), carrying on the essential work of preparing West Virginia’s teachers for anything that comes their way.

Degree: BS in Child Development and Early Studies
Accreditation: NCATE

2. University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming early childhood education degree online program is a Professional Child Development Option (PCDO) offered through UW’s Department of Family & Consumer Sciences. This program is only available through UW’s distance-learning platform. The University of Wyoming’s early childhood education online prepares graduates as early childhood educators, administrators, or to work within agency referral networks and child advocacy. Several required courses satisfy the guidelines for the Early Childhood Program Director’s Certificate.

The University of Wyoming was established in 1886 by a congressional land grant. Its campus, at 7,220 feet above sea level, is actually (quite uniquely) written into the state’s constitution. The University of Wyoming’s Outreach School now offers degrees throughout Wyoming and beyond. The University of Wyoming has been accredited by the NCATE (The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education), and as Wyoming’s only public research institution, UW’s teacher education programs are essential to Wyoming’s public education system. That goes double for the online early childhood education program.

Degree: Professional Child Development Option
Accreditation: NCATE

3. Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University’s online BS in Early Child Care (BS-ECC), from their University College – the distance-learning arm of Texas Tech University – prepares graduates for careers in the many facets of early childhood education, especially for children whose families move frequently. Graduates find successful careers in infant/toddler programs, Head Start programs, childcare centers and after-school programs; a variety of programs dedicated to young children and their families. Tech’s online ECE degree is a collaborative effort of seven universities in the Texas Tech system.

Texas Tech University was established in 1923 and holds the distinction as the flagship school of the Texas Tech University System. Originally intended to provide education in technology and industry for West Texas – an area with no public higher education – Texas Tech became central to life, learning, and culture in the region. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has accredited Texas Tech University, and Tech stands as a critical part of the public education system through its programs like the early childhood education online degree.

Degree: BS in Early Child Care
Accreditation: NCATE

4. Florida International University

Florida International University’s online BS in Early Childhood Education (BS-ECE) comes from the College of Arts, Sciences & Education. FIU’s ECE degree, which focuses on development and learning for young learners, is completed entirely online. FIU’s online ECE degree program prepares graduates for careers in child development, early education and childcare for children from birth to five years of age. Florida International University’s early childhood education bachelors degree online allows graduates to shape a child’s future by introducing a love of learning.

Florida International University was established in 1965 and is currently one of Florida’s foremost graduate research institutes of higher learning. FIU is the largest university in Southern portion of Florida and is home to more than 56,000 students. In 2015, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ranked FIU as one of the top 10 best values in public universities. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits FIU’s bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education.

Degree: BS in Early Childhood Education
Accreditation: CAEP

5. Kansas State University

Kansas State University’s online Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education (ECE) is administrated by the KSU Global Campus, but it originated in the College of Human Ecology. Degree graduates are eligible for the Kansas State Department of Education licensure for children from birth through kindergarten. Students are required to complete 116 hours of distance education to complete this online ECE degree. Kansas State University’s online early childhood education degree combines early child education, special education and pedagogy concepts.

Kansas State University was founded in 1863, under the Civil War-era Morrill Land Grant Act, which gave each state federal funds to set up an agriculture and engineering school. It holds the distinction as being the oldest university in Kansas, and therefore a major force in shaping the state into what it is today. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has accredited Kansas State University. K-State’s graduates of the Early Childhood Education undergraduate degree maintain a 99% passing rate for licensure exams, making K-State’s name as one of the top accredited online colleges for early childhood education.

Degree: Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education
Accreditation: NCATE

6. University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The University of Nebraska, Lincoln online Bachelor Degree in Early Childhood Education in a Mobile Society (ECEMS) is one of the most unique and timely programs of its kind. This online early childhood education program is specifically designed to prepare graduates for service to immigrant families, military families, and as homeless families living in poverty. Program acceptance requires students to have completed at least 30 credit hours from an accredited 2 or 4-year institute of higher learning. The same faculty members who teach students on campus teach UNL’s online ECE degree program classes.

The University of Nebraska is Nebraska’s largest and oldest institute of higher learning, chartered in 1869 as a land grant school. UNL’s influence on the life of Nebraska has been incalculable – not only because of its research introducing modern agricultural science to the Midwest, but its work preparing the professionals who make modern life possible, including teachers. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits the University of Nebraska, Lincoln’s early childhood education degree online programs.

Degree: Early Childhood Education in a Mobile Society
Accreditation: CAEP

7. University of Massachusetts Amherst

The University of Massachusetts online Bachelor in Early Care and Education comes from their pioneering University Without Walls (UWW), one of the most significant nontraditional education programs in the US. UMass Amherst offers a generous transfer policy for credits and has developed cost-effective ways to earn degree credits. Graduates are prepared for a career as a childcare center owner, or within a private or public early childhood care program. UMass Amherst’s early childhood education degree online provides the flexibility needed for students who must balance their family, work and education responsibilities carefully.

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst was established in 1863 as a land-grant university near Western Massachusetts. It is considered the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ flagship campus and one of the highest-ranked public research universities in the nation. The UMass University Without Walls formed in 1971 to bring distance and experimental education opportunities to working adults and other nontraditional students. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has accredited the University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s online ECE degree program.

Degree: Bachelor’s in Early Care and Education
Accreditation: NCATE

8. Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University’s online BS in Child Development (BSCD) degree requires earned credit hours of 120, 60 of which must be taught at App State. Online ECE degree graduates are prepared to work with children, from infancy to kindergarten. BSCD graduates have the tools to guide children through a pivotal time in life that is filled with awe, discovery and growth. Appalachian State University’s online early childhood education degree includes field experiences in the form of a Clinical Internship.

Appalachian State University was established just before the turn of the 20th century as a teacher’s college with the crucial mission of preparing teachers for the underserved schools of the Appalachian Mountains. Today, App State consistently ranks in the Top Ten of Southern Master’s Universities by US News & World Report since 1986. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has accredited Appalachian State University, which is known as one of the finest teacher’s colleges in the South, including its early childhood education degree online program.

Degree: BS in Child Development
Accreditation: NCATE

9. Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University’s online BS in Elementary Education-Early Childhood Concentration mirrors the same coursework as on-campus students at the Department of Curriculum, Instruction & Special Education. Freshmen and sophomores begin by completing coursework entirely online. By the end of the senior year, online ECE degree students will be teaching full-time as an intern. The online early childhood education program offered by Mississippi State University provides a flexible and convenient platform that is accessible from just about anywhere in the world.

Mississippi State University was established in 1878 under a land grant and is recognized as Mississippi’s flagship university, the largest and most influential R1 research university in the state. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has accredited Mississippi State University’s online early childhood education degree programs, a key aspect of Mississippi’s education system.

Degree: BS in Elementary Education-Early Childhood Concentration
Accreditation: NCATE

10. Georgia State University

Georgia State University’s online BS in Education Birth through Five Years concentration prepares graduates to teach or administer early care and education for young children in a variety of settings.
Online ECE degree students can opt for a ‘teacher certification’ or ‘non-teacher certification’ path, depending on whether their career plans take them to the public school system, or into private preschools and child care facilities. Georgia State’s early childhood education bachelor’s degree online is reflective of both state and national standards.

Georgia State University was founded in 1913 as a night school, and is currently the largest institute of higher education based in the state of Georgia. It is estimated that GSU impacts the metropolitan Atlanta economy by nearly $1.5 billion annually. Georgia State University’s student population is the most diverse in the state of Georgia, an important factor in the success of GSU’s online early childhood education program. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has accredited Georgia State University’s early education degree programs.

Degree: BS in Education-Birth to 5 Years
Accreditation: NCATE

11. East Carolina University

East Carolina University’s online BS in Birth-Kindergarten Teacher Education (BSBK) degree, from the College of Health and Human Performance, prepares graduates to care and teach young children and those young learners with disabilities or at-risk situations. Online ECE degree students must be North Carolina residents. Students graduating with the East Carolina University BSBK degree are prepped for working in public schools, education centers, and facilities dedicated to early intervention. ECU’s early childhood education online includes practical real world experiences in schools near the student’s hometown.

East Carolina University was chartered in 1907 by an act of the North Carolina General Assembly as a teacher training school, and it remains North Carolina’s most acclaimed center for teacher education. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has accredited East Carolina University’s early childhood education degree online program. The oldest school is the College of Education. In 2016, US News & World Report classified ECU as a Top Tier school in their national rankings, as well as one of the best accredited online colleges for early childhood education.

Degree: BS in Birth-Kindergarten Teacher Education
Accreditation: NCATE

12. Ball State University

Ball State University’s online BS in Early Childhood Education coursework has been created to comply with the standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The distinguished faculty teaching on-campus at BSU’s highly acclaimed Teachers College also teach online ECE degree students. Ball State University’s distance-learning platform provides flexibility and convenience for students seeking an early childhood education degree online.

Ball State University was established in 1918 when the wealthy industrialist Ball Brothers bought a former teacher’s college and donated it to the state of Indiana. Ball State’s roots in teacher education remain strong; the Teachers College graduate program is ranked by US News & World Report one of the best in the nation. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits Ball State University, including the online early childhood education degree program.

Degree: BS in Early Childhood Education
Accreditation: CAEP

13. University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi’s online BS in Child and Family Studies (CFS) emphasizes early childhood development and qualifies each graduate an opportunity to obtain their Kindergarten or Pre-K teaching license. USM’s CFS program requires 124 credit hours in order to graduate. USM’s early childhood education bachelors degree online tuition is the same for all students, independent of their state of residency.

The University of Southern Mississippi was founded in 1910 and is located about 100 NE of New Orleans. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has accredited USM’s child and family studies degree. Forbes has ranked USM as an American Top College for 2018. The American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences accredits the University of Southern Mississippi’s online child and family studies, including the early childhood education bachelors degree online program.

Degree: BS in Child and Family Studies
Accreditation: NCATE

14. University of North Carolina at Greensboro

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro online BS in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) is an online early childhood education degree from one of the best online college for early childhood education in the nation. UNCG’s HDFS undergraduate degree takes an interdisciplinary approach that includes behavior and social sciences and early child special education. University of North Carolina’s early childhood education online degree tuition is priced lower than tuition for traditional classes, although tuition varies based on a student’s residency.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro was established in 1891 as a women’s college though a legislative act, with teaching as one of its main programs. From that origin as a normal and industrial school, focused on teacher education and practical training, UNCG has developed into a major public university still dedicated to the needs of North Carolina’s professional workforce. UNCG has ranked as #2 in The Princeton Review as a ‘Best Value’ public university. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has accredited the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, making it a model of accredited online colleges for early childhood education.

Degree: BS in Human Development and Family Studies
Accreditation: NCATE

15. University of Hawaii – West O’ahu

The University of Hawaii, West Oahu’s online BA in Social Sciences Early Childhood Education concentration (ESE) meets critical needs for Hawaii’s schools. Degree Candidates focus on educational theories and practices for children aged from birth to 8 years of age. UHWO’s early childhood education degree online offers distance instruction combined with teaching experiences in real world classrooms. A one-of-a-kind program, UHWO works with the Hawaii Community Colleges on this 2×2 articulation program; students in the community college complete an associate’s degree, then complete their bachelor’s in UHWO’s online program.

The University of Hawaii, West Oahu was established in 1976, the year of the US Bicentennial, originally as a degree-completion senior college. That background in adult education – and Hawaii’s unique status as a state made up of many islands – has led UHWO to develop a top-notch online education program. UHWO’s education programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), giving an added level of reputability to the early childhood education degree online program. The University of Hawaii – West Oahu has been recognized as a military friendly school, as well as embracing the traditional Native Hawaiian culture and its traditions.

Degree: BS in Social Sciences-Early Childhood Education Concentration
Accreditation: CAEP

Are Online Early Childhood Education Programs Respected?

Attending accredited online colleges for early childhood education is a priority for students who want licensure to teach in their state. Accreditation ensures the educational institution is providing quality education, following evidence-based standards, and meeting guidelines for faculty qualifications. Accredited online colleges for early childhood education should have regional accreditation from a Department of Education-approved agency (one of the six for each region of the US). Most state licensure boards will not recognize a degree that is not from a regionally-accredited institution.

Program accreditation applies to the education school or college itself; it is not necessary, as regional accreditation is, but program accreditation is an important sign of quality and accountability. The leading accreditation for education schools today is the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. http://www.ncate.org/ The CAEP began in 2013 with the merger of the NCATE and the TEAC, two older accrediting bodies. As programs accredited by the NCATE and TEAC come up for renewal, the CAEP will become the standard for teacher education programs.

When prospective students are looking at accredited online colleges for early childhood education and see either of these regional accreditations, they’ll know the program is reliable. When potential employers see that you’ve attended a college or university that’s received accreditation, they’ll trust the educational background you have. Instead of seeing that you attended an online school and questioning it, they’ll trust the foundations and values the college or university you attended.

Will Getting an Early Childhood Education Degree Online Increase My Salary?

Those earning their early childhood education degree online will not only experience additional job opportunities but also an increase in their pay. According to PayScale, the average early childhood education degree salary is between $30,078 and $67,595 for those working in fields including preschool teachers and executive directors. Specifically, a preschool teacher jobs salary is $30,078 annually. Preschool teacher jobs salary can experience increases with additional training and higher education. For example, according to GlassDoor, the average base pay for early childhood education degree salary is $52,097 annually. On average, those who are working as early childhood educators, they can earn a bachelor degree in early childhood education salary ranging between $68,000 and $83,000.

An early childhood education salary per hour depends on the career you decide to pursue. For example, Payscale indicates that preschool teachers will earn $13.08 per hour and daycare teachers will earn $11.55 per hour. Therefore, when researching which field you would like to work in, also look at the early childhood education salary per hour. In doing so, you may find that a bachelor degree in early childhood education salary in a teaching field may be more optimal. You’ll notice that the salary ranges will fluctuate based on how long careerists have been with the job, their location, and how well they’re meeting expectations. Those with higher pay rates may be in more favorable locations and working to meet or exceed expectations regularly.

Do I Need a Diploma or Associate’s Degree to Apply to an Early Childhood Education Online Bachelor’s Completion Program?

In most cases, those who would like to apply to an early education online bachelor’s completion program must have their associate’s degree in early childhood education. When students would like to earn their early childhood diploma online, on the other hand, they only need their high school diploma or GED. Earning their online early childhood education certification throughout a completion program, however, requires an associate’s degree in early childhood education because students will be furthering their education.

Students who haven’t completed this process yet can pursue an early childhood education associate’s degree through an accredited program. In many cases, colleges or universities that offer an online early childhood education bachelor’s completion program will have articulation agreements with the community college system in their state, so students earning their diploma or associate’s degree can be certain their credits will transfer to the four-year bachelor’s program.

Students also have the option of pursuing an online early childhood education certification or obtaining their early childhood diploma online. The benefits of doing so means being able to work in the field quicker. Completion programs typically take twenty-four months or less.

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