Best Online Early Childhood Development and Education Programs

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Graduate to a better career with one of the nation’s Best Master’s in Early Childhood Education Degrees.

Do you envision yourself in the classroom, inspiring young learners to pursue their curiosities? Are you interested in what causes a child to learn, grow, and develop? Then an advanced degree in early childhood development and education may be the next best career move for you.

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What kind of Master’s in Early Childhood Education degree should you get?

Earning a Master’s in Early Childhood Education degree can mean many things depending on the program experience and licensure you seek. For example, a MA won’t prepare you for state exams and licensure like a Master’s in Education (MEd) will, but it does provide a solid foundation in childhood development theory and practice.

If you hope to work directly in nurseries, pre-kindergarten, or kindergarten classrooms then a MEd is the best route to take. But if you would rather work in childcare settings or in early childhood administration, a MA or MS can help you get there.

Though most of these degrees are traditional on-campus programs, some can be completed fully online. We’ve been sure to note which. Because online education is not only a flexible way to advance your education and career, it’s affordable too.

So, be sure to check out College Choice’s Best Online Masters in Education degrees.

How much money do people make with a Masters in Early Childhood Education degree?

With an advanced degree in early childhood development and education you can acquire a number of exciting career roles that are both financially rewarding and economically stable.

For example, early education teachers make, on average, $55,490 annually. And special education teachers working in pre-kindergarten classrooms make nearly $58,000 a year.

And those numbers nearly double for those who go into early childhood administration. Administrators make $95,390 on average each year.

And while all of these job roles differ from one another, all are in high demand with projected growth rates of around 10 percent in the next few years.

What are the requirements for a Masters in Early Childhood Education degree?

Though our lists includes MEd, MS, and MA programs, each have similar requirements. So as a graduate student at any of these schools you can expect take a number of traditional core classes covering early literacy, diverse learning, family and child relationships, and more.

In addition to these, you’ll have the opportunity to specialize and gain hands-on experience through an internship or fieldwork. Some programs even require it. We’ve been sure to note which.

Finally, allocate between one and two years to earn your degree. Depending on the kind of degree and licensure you seek you may be able to graduate in just 12 months, though it could take longer.

What are the best Masters in Early Childhood Education degrees?

While some of these early childhood education (ECE) degrees are Masters of Education and others Masters of Arts, they all share on thing in common: they are the best early childhood education graduate programs in the country.

To determine the best programs we first examined every university and college around the nation that offers the degree. From there we looked at the school’s academic reputation, considering also the student retention rates—as those are a clear sign of student satisfaction. Finally, we factored in the affordability of the program and the early salaries of graduates.

After such exhaustive research and data collation, we found those programs that are the nation’s best at training educators. Our figures and information come from the university and colleges’ websites, PayScale, and nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.

Top 10 Best Master's in Early Childhood Education Degrees

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. SUNY at Albany

    Albany, NY




    The University at Albany, also known as SUNY Albany, is a public university located in Albany, NY. Founded in 1844, this school offers more than 120 different master’s programs, including many highly ranked offerings in the School of Education. The Early Childhood Education Master of Science at the University of Albany is offered by the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning in the School of Education. 

    Program Features

    Available on campus as well as online, this program helps learners build their expertise in teaching young children and preschoolers from birth through second grade. Designed for individuals who hold initial New York State teacher certification, this program prepares students for professional certification to teach infants through two-year-olds. The curriculum is regularly updated to reflect the best practices of working professionals, with required courses including:

    • Classroom Literacy Instruction
    • Language Acquisition, B-2
    • Strategic Intervention to Prevent Literacy Difficulties
    • Literacy in Society
    • Teaching Social Studies, B-6


    This program is ranked as the eighth-best online graduate education program in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. It is one of several different master’s degrees in education, among other options such as Special Education and Literacy, Literacy, Reading, and Childhood Education. Many of these programs are available online as well. Additional certificates are available for motivated students who wish to gain further credentials in topics like Teacher Leadership and Literacy. Both the online and on-campus programs are incredibly convenient, offering learners access to comprehensive support services like online tutoring, personal advising, and a 24/7 help desk.

  2. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

    Minneapolis, MN




    The University of Minnesota has multiple campuses, including those in Duluth and Minneapolis. This public university was founded in 1851 and offers learners a variety of on-campus and online degree programs. Want to earn a license to teach in early childhood classrooms in Minnesota? The Master of Education in Early Childhood Education at the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development prepares learners for birth through third-grade licensure.

    Program Features

    Developing a strong foundation in child development research, theory, and developmentally appropriate methodology, this program is designed for learners who are pursuing their first state teaching license. The curriculum is based on development theory, preparing teachers who can work with each child exactly where he or she is in his or her own unique educational journey. A capstone project is required in addition to two student teaching experiences. Other required classes include:

    • Foundations of Early Childhood Education
    • Social and Emotional Learning
    • Cognitive and Language Learning
    • Creative and Motor Learning


    While enrolled in this program, all individuals are given the opportunity to teach at the Shirley G. Moore Laboratory School, an on-campus preschool that is operated by the Institute of Child Development. This center serves as a living laboratory for early childhood curriculum development. This experience not only prepares individuals with the hands-on work they need for state teacher licensure, but it also grants them the pathways necessary to pursue additional career opportunities like moving into school or district administration.

  3. University of Alabama at Birmingham

    Birmingham, AL




    University of Alabama Birmingham is a public university that was founded in 1969. This school has a total undergraduate enrollment of 13,836 students and is located in the heart of Alabama’s largest city, Birmingham. All programs allow students to engage in a plethora of opportunities in internships, research, and resume-building work experience. Consisting of 11 schools and a large graduate school, the University of Alabama is home to multiple nationally-ranked programs. The School of Education at the University of Alabama Birmingham offers an exceptional Master of Arts in Education in Early Childhood Education.

    Program Features

    This program is for students who already have bachelor’s degrees in education and possess current Class B certification in the state of Alabama. Requiring 31-34 semester hours to complete, the curriculum includes core coursework in critical pedagogy, language development, and reading. A final practicum is also required. This program is an excellent pathway to a professional career as well as to a Ph.D. in education. Sample classes might include:

    • Current Issues in Education
    • Teaching Language Arts P-12
    • Primary Mathematics: A Constructive Approach
    • Pre- and Early-Reading Instruction
    • Literature for Grades P-12


    This department is comprised of a wide range of skilled professionals. Because the University of Alabama Birmingham’s School of Education offers a number of fully-online degree programs, there are plenty of ways for students to find the programs that best suit their needs. In addition to the Early Childhood Education program, the school also offers programs in community health and human services, educational leadership, counseling, kinesiology, and instructional design and development. A variety of certificates are available, too, including those in health education, reading education, and more.

  4. Mercer University

    Macon, GA




    Located in Macon, GA, Mercer University is a private university that was founded in 1833. This school has a small population of fewer than 5,000 undergraduate learners, offering programs in 12 different colleges and schools. Although business is the most popular major at Mercer, the university also offers a variety of education programs that are nationally-recognized. The Tift College of Education at Mercer University offers a superb Master of Arts in Teaching in Elementary Education.

    Program Features

    Designed specifically for learners who already possess a bachelor’s degree and are seeking initial certification at the master’s level, this program offers a comprehensive study of the knowledge and specialized skills that are needed to instruct and support young children from birth through age five. Courses are designed to build each student’s theoretical and pedagogical body of knowledge, while at the same time incorporating assessment, research, and technology integration. Several diverse field experiences are also scattered throughout the program’s curriculum. Other classes include:

    • Curriculum and Instruction in Early Childhood Education
    • Teaching Exceptional Learners
    • Child and Adolescent Development and Learning
    • Foundations of Education


    Each student is required to complete a sequential series of field experiences in diverse settings. These are coordinated through the Office of Field Placement and can often be arranged depending on a student’s location. The program admits students five times each year, offering students maximum flexibility in earning their degrees. Classes are presented one evening per week on a sixteen-week semester schedule. These courses can be pursued either part- or full-time to accommodate teachers who are already working at schools or are engaging in their required field experiences.

  5. Biola University

    La Mirada, CA




    Biola University is located in La Mirada, CA, and was founded in 1908. This school has a total undergraduate enrollment of 4,010 and, despite being a small private university, has some of the most impressive course and degree offerings in the country. Offered by Biola University’s well-respected School of Education, the Master of Arts in Teaching is a flexible and practical graduate degree that helps all individuals thrive as classroom teachers.

    Program Features

    The perfect program for both current and aspiring educators, this degree equips learners with the advanced knowledge and skills they need to become effective, impactful teachers. It comes with eight different concentration options, allowing learners to choose pathways that are perfectly tailored for their backgrounds and career interests. It can be completed either entirely online or on-campus, or as a blend of both. Students will be required to take core courses such as:

    • Philosophy and Values in School and Society
    • Research in Culture and Intercultural Instruction
    • Writing Literature Reviews
    • Introduction to Spiritual Formation for the Educator


    This degree requires all students to conduct action research studies within actual classrooms. Not only does this experience that involves choosing methodology, exploring literature, and reporting research-based findings allow individuals to become better teachers, but it also allows each learner to explore an area of interest. Available concentration areas include Early Childhood, Curriculum and Instruction, Special Education, and more. The degree is rooted in the Christian tradition and is designed with busy teachers in mind. Strong relationships with school districts, educational partners, and faculty are at the very core of this program, making it possible for every learner to succeed.

  6. Northern Arizona University

    Flagstaff, AZ




    Northern Arizona University, located in Flagstaff, AZ, is a public university that was founded in 1899. This large school has an undergraduate enrollment of more than 27,000 students, making it one of the largest universities in the country. The school is a high-research institution that strives to improve lives and to create a diverse learning environment for all students. The Master of Education in Early Childhood Education at NAU is housed within the respected Department of Teaching and Learning.

    Program Features

    As an Early Childhood student at Northern Arizona University, you will have multiple pathways to choose from, including a general emphasis, a leadership emphasis, a multiage emphasis, or a National Board preparation emphasis. Thirty credit hours are required for graduation, and each credit matters – every required course reflects an educational standard that learners are expected to be able to meet in order to be ready to work with young children. Sample classes include: 

    • Administration and Supervision of Reading Programs 
    • Parental Involvement in Education
    • Foundations of Reading Instruction
    • Special Topics in Early Childhood Education
    • Development of Children’s Logical Concepts


    With a 98% pass rate on the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessment exam, it’s clear that no degree prepares aspiring professionals better than this one. Classes are small, allowing learners to receive plenty of individualized attention from faculty and other peers. There are also myriad opportunities for individuals to engage in classroom teaching. A technologically-advanced, student-focused, and culturally-responsive program, this degree has produced leaders for America’s schools for many years. It is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

  7. University of La Verne

    La Verne, CA




    Located in La Verne, CA, the University of La Verne is a private university that was founded in 1891. A small private school with fewer than 3,000 graduates, this university has the perfect location just 35 miles east of Los Angeles. The Master of Science in Child and Adolescent Development at the University of La Verne improves students’ understanding of the intellectual, physical, and emotional development of young children. At the same time, the coursework improves students’ capacity to assume leadership roles in all aspects of child development.

    Program Features

    All learners are supported by accessible faculty and small class sizes. Offered both online and on-campus, this program is flexible and rigorous. Busy professionals can also take a combination of face-to-face and remote classes. A required 33 semester hours are needed for graduation. In addition, students must complete significant amounts of fieldwork and practicum hours to better prepare them for life inside the classroom. Courses are interactive and blend both theory and practice. Sample classes include:

    • Educational Psychology
    • Methods of Research
    • Human Development
    • Graduate Seminar


    In addition to the core courses outlined above, each student is also encouraged to research and take part in additional courses of concentration. Available concentration topics include Teaching Adults; Cognition and Brain Development; Assessment in Early Childhood; and Language, Reading, and Concept Development. The university offers several master’s degree programs along with a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership. All programs are supported by the Center for Educational Equity and Intercultural Research along with the Center for Neurodiversity, Learning, and Wellness, both of which offer workshops and other experiences to help learners become more proficient instructors.

  8. University of Dayton

    Dayton, OH




    With a main campus in Dayton, Ohio, the University of Dayton has one of the best locations for students who are planning on becoming leading educators. This private university was founded in 1850 and has a total enrolment of 8,617 undergraduate students. Students can choose from more than 80 different academic programs, many of which are offered through the School of Education and Health Sciences. The School of Education and Health Sciences at the University of Dayton offers a graduate program in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy.

    Program Features

    Program content can be utilized by teachers, teacher leaders, advocates, program administrators, supervisors, and others, making this degree one of the most flexible and applicable of its kind. All coursework is available online, making it ideal for learners who wish to partake in a web-based, part-time program. Some onsite courses are available as well. The curriculum enhances the skills and knowledge that instructors need to become effective leaders and includes core classes such as:

    • Becoming a Master Educator
    • Philosophical Studies in Education
    • School, Self, and Society
    • Perspectives on Educational Research
    • Educational Leadership


    The Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy program isn’t the only degree offered by the University of Dayton. The School of Education and Health Sciences boasts a variety of nationally-ranked programs and degrees. In addition to undergraduate and certificate programs in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy, the university also offers additional five-hour trainings through the Bombeck Institute. These are engaging and affordable and help students progress more quickly toward their degree completion. Trainings are available in topics like Intentional Teaching, Inclusion, and more.

  9. University of Toledo

    Toledo, OH




    The University of Toledo is located in Toledo, Ohio, and is a comprehensive research university. A four-year, regionally-accredited public institution, the University of Toledo has been serving students since 1872. This school offers more than 230 academic degree programs to students around the globe, including a variety of world-class offerings in the field of education and human development. The Judith Herb College of Education offers an exceptional Early Childhood master’s program.

    Program Features

    Best designed for aspiring early childhood teachers, this degree is suitable for those who already hold teaching licensure. The program reflects the latest theory, practice, and research to enable teachers to become more effective in the classroom. Faculty are nationally-renowned scholars who involve graduate students in their work on various papers, grants, and research projects. These instructors also work in schools and agencies all around the country as active teacher practitioners. They teach classes in core areas such as:

    • Social Foundations
    • Research Foundations
    • Psychological Foundations
    • Curriculum Foundations 


    Available both entirely-online as well as on-campus, this 36-credit-hour program includes an impressive 15 credit hours of specialization courses. Online and on-campus learners alike receive direct access to success coaches, advisors, and interactive faculty, along with resources like an IT Help Desk, eLibrary, and eTutoring. Each student is supported by a personal faculty mentor, and many students take part in scholarly work while collaborating with these mentors. The school is ranked as one of the top National Universities by U.S. News & World Report.

  10. Brenau University

    Gainsville, GA




    Located in Gainesville, GA, Brenau University is a private university that was founded in 1878. A small school with fewer than 1,754 undergraduate students, the university is regarded as one of the Best Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report. Here, students experience the liberal arts in an interactive way, as they are supported via personal instruction and a vibrant campus life. The Master’s in Early Childhood at Brenau is one of the best of its kind, providing students with plenty of opportunities for hands-on work.

    Program Features

    This program is an initial certification program for students who have completed non-licensure baccalaureate degrees. In order to be eligible for certification, all learners must pass the teaching Field Content Exams prior to placement with a school system to student teach. A variety of courses are required in core content areas like Professional Development, Methods and Content, and Clinical Experience. In fact, up to 12 hours of clinical experience is required. Sample classes include: 

    • Instructional Practices and Assessment
    • Computer Literacy in Education
    • Understanding and Managing Learners
    • Introduction to Special Education
    • Methods of Educational Research


    In addition to the Early Childhood Concentration, Brenau also offers concentrations in topics like Special Education, Secondary Education, and Middle Grades. This program features courses taught at two different locations, making coursework readily-available no matter where you are. Learners are encouraged to pursue internships with school systems while completing the program, and many of the courses are also offered online. Each student is assigned a faculty member to provide advisement throughout the program, and class sizes are capped at thirty students to ensure small classes and a close-knit feel.

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