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.
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.
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.
See our rankings methodology page.
University of Alabama at Birmingham
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $16,092
The top research university in the state, the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) is home to over 20,000 students. UAB is organized into a dozen academic departments through which it offers nearly 150 programs.
At UAB there are many ways to study child education. You can earn one of three traditional masters degrees, in early childhood studies, elementary education, or both. Or you can earn an educational specialist degree in either early childhood or elementary education. However you plan your graduate experience you will take classes such as:
- Programs, Policies, and Curriculum in ESL
- Teaching in a Diverse Society
- Critical Pedagogy Advocacy
- Studying the Child in School
UAB is the site of some of the nation’s most progressive research in the areas of health and development. In fact, the UAB Health System is one of the largest academic medical centers in the country. Not surprising then that UAB as a whole is well-ranked by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, ARWU, and much more.
University of North Dakota
College Choice Score: 97.60
Average Net Price: $14,693
The University of North Dakota (UND) is located in Grand Forks. It is the state’s oldest and most established university. Around 15,000 students attend UND and are enrolled in one of the University’s 225 academic programs.
At the University of North Dakota you can earn a MS in Early Childhood Education degree either on campus or online. Through this program you will learn how to encourage a child’s learning while developing your own teaching and leadership philosophies. You will also explore human diversity and community through classes such as:
- Curricular Foundations in Early Childhood Education
- Collaborative Relationships
- Language Development in Children
- Early Intervention for Children with Special Needs
UND is a flagship, space-grant school that is included in U.S. News & World Report’s top 100 best national universities ranking. It is the site of advanced research in aviation, aerospace, medicine, nutrition, and human development. Founded as a liberal arts school, UND still maintains that emphasis today.
University of Dayton
College Choice Score: 93.32
Average Net Price: $34,019
Based in Dayton, Ohio, the University of Dayton is a private, Catholic school. It was founded by the Society of Mary (Marianists) and still maintains those affiliations today. Around 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students attend the University of Dayton.
Through Dayton’s School of Education and Health Sciences you can earn a unique Transdisciplinary Early Childhood Education master’s degree. This program is ideal for those who want an interdisciplinary experience, one that combines special education with general education. Other options for study include adding specializations with:
- A pre-kindergarten special needs endorsement
- An early (childhood) intervention specialist certificate
Dayton’s campus is stocked with research centers, facilities, labs, and projects. For example, the University of Dayton Research Institute has performed over $2 billion in research expenditures. Engineering, life and social science, and biology are the leading areas of research at Dayton.
University of Colorado Denver
College Choice Score: 92.89
Average Net Price: $13,751
The Denver branch within the wider University of Colorado System is a public research school. With two campuses, one in downtown Denver and the other in Auraria, the University serves approximately 19,000 students. It is considered the largest research institution in the state of Colorado.
CU Denver offers graduate students a number of ways to earn an advanced degree in early childhood education. In fact, there are three distinct MA programs: in administration and leadership, diversity and inclusion, and teaching and learning. However you choose to specialize, you will take a number of ECE core courses, including:
- Curriculum in Early Childhood Education
- Working with Families and Communities
- Language and Literacy in Young Children
- Social Competence and Classroom Supports
CU Denver is a well-decorated university with many recognitions and rankings. For example, The Princeton Review calls it one of the “Best Colleges in the West.” And it is ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s top public schools.
Northern Arizona University
College Choice Score: 92.04
Average Net Price: $14,678
Northern Arizona University (NAU) is located in Flagstaff on the foothills of the San Francisco Peaks. NAU is a public research university with over 30,000 students and more than 150 academic programs.
At NAU you can earn a MEd in early childhood education that can be paired with one of three areas of specialization (below). Regardless of how you concentrate, you will take classes that cover curriculum, development of children’s logical concepts, international education, and educational sociology. You will also focus on building your research skills and teaching philosophies.
- Early Childhood Teacher
- Early Childhood Leadership
- Early Childhood National Board Preparation
Times Higher Education has ranked NAU as among the top 500 universities in the world. NAU is not only academically renowned but it is known for its low tuition rates. And it participates in the Western Exchange Program, which allows students from the Western U.S. to pay lower tuition costs.
University of Minnesota - Institute of Child Development
College Choice Score: 89.04
Average Net Price: $16,242
The Institute of Child Development is a department within the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at the University of Minnesota. CEHD was founded over 100 years ago and has a long and established history of providing education on human and child development.
Offered through one of the nation’s leading centers for child research and study, this MEd in Early Childhood Education degree will fully prepare you to work either in the classroom or doing research. Some of the classes you can anticipate taking while at the University of Minnesota include:
- Foundations of Reading
- Cognitive Development
- Diversity in Children’s Literature
- Technology for Teaching and Learning
The University of Minnesota’s CEHD is home to several prominent research centers. Among them are the Center for Early Education and Development, the Institute on Community Integration, and the Minnesota Center for Reading Research.
University of South Florida
College Choice Score: 87.33
Average Net Price: $11,398
The University of South Florida (USF) is located in Tampa, though it has campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee as well. USF is comprised of 14 colleges, through which it offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degrees. More than 50,000 students attend USF.
USF offers an MEd in Curriculum and Instruction degree that can be paired with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. This is the perfect program for students who want to focus on curriculum and literacy development. In addition to taking classes on the foundations of research, curriculum, and instruction, you will also take the following:
- Behavior Theory and Classroom Learning
- Human Development and Personality Theory
- Socio-Economic Foundations of American Education
- Learning Principles Applied to Instruction
USF is designated a top-tier research university by the Carnegie Foundation. It is also ranked among the top public schools and national universities by U.S. News & World Report. Its most renowned graduate programs are in education, library science, and public health.
West Chester University
College Choice Score: 85.62
Average Net Price: $18,651
West Chester University is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. It is located just outside of Philadelphia, in West Chester, and has around 15,000 students. Dozens of certification, professional, and academic degree programs are offered.
At West Chester you can earn an MEd in Early Childhood Education and concentrate in either teaching or administration. Or you can earn a MED in Applied Studies in Teaching and Learning. All programs are founded in early childhood education fundamentals. West Chester core courses include:
- Play as a Learning Medium
- Families, Communities, and Education in a Multicultural Society
- Trends and Issues in Early Childhood Education
- Integrated Curriculum and Assessment
West Chester University is part of a number of unique research and outreach programs, and it runs organizations like the Institute for Women. West Chester is also a part of the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium, which provides scholarship aid for and promotion of STEM undergraduate study.
University of La Verne
College Choice Score: 85.62
Average Net Price: $22,284
The University of La Verne (ULV) is located in La Verne, California, just east of Los Angeles. It is organized into four colleges that offer degrees in business, public management, education, law, and the arts and sciences. Around 8,000 students attend ULV.
La Verne offers a MS in Child Development degree that introduces students to the physical, intellectual, social, and emotional development of children. This program blends theory with practicum to give its students a balanced approach to education within the classroom and out. Classes cover:
- Educational Psychology
- Language, Reading, and Concept Development
- Assessment in Early Childhood
- Cognition and Brain Development
U.S. News & World Report includes La Verne among its national universities ranking. It also ranked the University among the top 10 best private schools in California and among the top 20 “Best Colleges.”
College Choice Score: 84.33
Average Net Price: $20,692
Mercer University is located in Macon, Georgia but has campuses in Atlanta and Savannah as well. Organized into a dozen schools and colleges, Mercer is a large, urban university with over 8,000 students. It is also Georgia’s oldest private university.
Mercer offers a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree in Early Childhood Education. This program gives a comprehensive overview of pre-kindergarten through grade five education. And at Mercer you’ll focus on both theory and pedagogy through core classes such as:
- Planning and Organizing Instruction in ECE
- Child Development and Learning
- Foundations of Education
- Teaching Exceptional Learners
Mercer is top-ranked by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report. In addition to its academic excellence, Mercer is also frequently praised for its affordability, its commitment to community service, and its research contributions.
Missouri State University
College Choice Score: 83.90
Average Net Price: $14,862
Missouri State University (MO State) is a public university located in Springfield, Missouri. It was founded as a teacher’s education school but today offers nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate degrees. Over 23,000 students attend MO State.
At Missouri State when you earn a degree in early childhood and family development you will be able to customize up to a third of your experience through electives. You can also complete the degree in a four-semester format, a three-semester format, or through an accelerated program. All options require completion of the core, which covers:
- Inquiry in Early Childhood and Family Development
- Children and Families in a Diverse Setting
- Advanced Human Development STudies
- Educational Research Methodologies
MO State is regionally ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Similarly, it is also ranked among the top 30 best public schools in the nation. And its online graduate programs are consistently included with listings of the best distance programs.
Stephen F. Austin State University
College Choice Score: 83.33
Average Net Price: $11,987
Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) is a public school located in Nacogdoches, Texas. It was founded as a teacher’s college and is still known for its excellence in preparing future teachers. Though today, SFA offers over 120 academic programs.
SFA’s MEd in Early Childhood Education degree can be earned in the classroom or online. This program specifically focuses on children ages birth to eight. Students explore child growth and development, the theoretical foundations of successful classrooms, and the sociological and psychological factors in development. You can even pair the degree with supplemental certification, in:
- English as a Second Language
- Bilingual Teaching and Assessment
SFA is known for is academic excellence and teacher training. But its campus is equally renowned. It is home to an arboretum, and old fort museum, a planetarium, an observatory, and several art galleries.
College Choice Score: 82.19
Average Net Price: $35,870
Located in Chicago, Illinois, the Erikson Institute is a specialist in child development education. It is solely a graduate school and was named after the prominent psychoanalyst and developmental psychological, Erik Erikson.
The Erikson Institute offers a MS in Child Development degree that combines course work with small group seminars and a cohort program. On top of these community-centric parts of the program, you will also gain hands-on experience through internships and field experience. You can even supplement the degree with specialization in one of several areas:
- Children with Special Needs
- Children’s Law and Policy
- And more
The Institute was founded to provide training specifically for teachers within Head Start programs. Today, the school is organized into four categories of education: early intervention, teaching and learning, supervision and leadership, and infant studies.
College Choice Score: 81.05
Average Net Price: $32,273
A private Christian university, Biola is located just outside of downtown Los Angeles in La Mirada, California. It is an evangelical university organized into six schools. Approximately 5,000 combined undergraduate and graduate students attend.
Biola offers a MA Teaching degree that can be paired with a concentration in Early Childhood studies. This program is for those who want to work with children ages birth to third grade in either private or public settings. Students take a number of classes (listed below), including those on theology and spiritual development.
- Philosophy and Values in School and Society
- Spiritual Formation for the Educator
- Childhood Development: Birth through Adolescence
- Classroom Management
Biola has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best National Universities. It is has also been noted as an up-and-coming university.
College Choice Score: 79.62
Average Net Price: $16,060
Mercy College is a private research university based in Dobbs Ferry, New York. However, there are also campuses in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Yorktown Heights. Mercy offers nearly 100 academic programs, in an array of subjects, to its 12,000 students.
Mercy College’s MS in Early Childhood Education degree focuses on children ages birth to second grade. This program fully prepares students through field practicums, rigorous coursework, clinical practice, and student teaching. You’ll also take classes such as:
- Teaching English as a Second Language
- Educational Foundations from Diverse Perspectives
- Language Arts in Childhood
- Foundations of Educating Students with Disabilities
Mercy College has a number of accolades to its name. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks its online education programs among the best. They also designate campus as one of the best for diversity. And Mercy is frequently praised for its affordable tuition.
Southern New Hampshire University
College Choice Score: 79.20
Average Net Price: $34,984
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is located near Hooksett and has more than 4,000 students. However, SNHU also has a sprawling distance education program through which 70,000 students are enrolled. SNHU is comprised of six academic colleges.
Southern New Hampshire University offers a MEd in Early Childhood and Special Education degree that is comprised of 36 credit hours and 44 weeks of clinical experience. This program can be completed in as few as 15 months. Through this program you’ll learn how to:
- Fully assess a child’s play and interaction with other children and family
- Utilize technology to improve student learning
- Support children with disabilities
- Prepare effective learning experiences that promote exploration and curiosity
U.S. News & World Report calls SNHU one of the “Most Innovative Schools” in the nation. SNHU has earned this reputation through a number of its unique programs. For example, the Honors school allows students to earn accelerated degrees.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
College Choice Score: 77.34
Average Net Price: $11,567
Northwestern State University of Louisiana (NSU) is located in Natchitoches. It is part of the wider University of Louisiana System and a public university. Around 11,000 students are enrolled in one of NSU’s 50 degree programs.
Northwestern State University offers the only MEd in Early Childhood Education degree in Louisiana. The program is organized into research and theory courses which cover child development from ages birth to eight. NSU also requires a practicum experience. Courses include:
- Curriculum Development for School Improvement
- Instructional Improvement and Assessment
- Educational Research and Evaluation
- Early Childhood Development and Diversity
NSU is regionally ranked by U.S. News & World Report and Washington Monthly. Because NSU was originally founded as a teacher’s training school, its education department and degrees are especially renowned. In fact, for a long time it was the only state-supported education school in Louisiana.
The University of Toledo
College Choice Score: 77.05
Average Net Price: $15,919
The University of Toledo (UT) is located in Toledo, Ohio and is a prominent research university. It has a renowned health sciences campus, plus an art museum, multiple research facilities, and a medical center. Around 23,000 students attend UT.
The University of Toledo offers a Master’s in Early Childhood Education degree that can be completed in the classroom or fully online. Both programs combine the latest in childhood development theory and research. This balance between concept and practice is reflected in their curriculum:
- Child Behavior and Development
- Atypical Early Childhood Development
- Infant/Toddler Curriculum
- ECE: Philosophy and Practice
Known for its research, UT campus is home to the University of Toledo Research Enterprise, the UT Polymer Institute, and much more. Furthermore, the UT campus is the site of several sustainability programs, including the “Green Stakes” campaign.
Concordia University Chicago
College Choice Score: 77.05
Average Net Price: $19,980
Concordia University Chicago is a Lutheran liberal arts school. It is located just outside of Chicago in River Forest. Around 5,000 students attend Concordia, most of whom are graduate or postgraduate students.
Concordia University Chicago offers a MA in Early Childhood Education degree that can be completed fully online or on campus. This program can take as few as 12 months to complete but gives students an exhaustive understanding of child and language development. Some of the classes you’ll take as a Concordia student include:
- Child Development and Ethics in ECE
- Infant and Toddler Curriculum
- Developmentally Effective Instruction for Diverse Learners
- Child, Family, and Multicultural Community
Though located just west of the city, many of Concordia’s programs take advantage of their proximity to the cultural and intellectual atmosphere of Chicago. Many students actually attend campus in and around the metro area rather than on the River Forest campus.
Kennesaw State University - Bagwell College of Education
College Choice Score: 75.77
Average Net Price: $17,441
Kennesaw State University (KSU) is part of the University System of Georgia. KSU is located in Kennesaw, Georgia and offers over 50 degrees in business, education, sports management, engineering, nursing, physical science, and criminal justice. Around 35,000 students attend KSU.
The MEd in Elementary and Early Childhood Education program at KSU is offered entirely online. It is organized into four semesters over the course of a year, with three classes required each semester. The opportunity for endorsement or advanced certification include the following:
- Reading Endorsement
- ESOL Endorsement
- Special Education Certificate
- Pathway to Tier 1 Leadership Certification
- And more
KSU is known for its vision for accessible and affordable education. It has therefore earned a reputation for being one of the best schools in the countries for adult learners and veterans. Similarly, KSU is often named one of the country’s top “up-and-coming” universities.
California University of Pennsylvania
College Choice Score: 74.06
Average Net Price: $17,819
California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U) is part of the wider Pennsylvania State System. It is a public university with around 10,000 students. Cal U offers over 150 academic programs at all degree levels.
California University of Pennsylvania offers a MEd in Elementary Education degree that specializes in pre-kindergarten through grade four. This program is best suited for those who want to work in the classroom as it provides exhaustive practical training. In addition to student teaching internships and fieldwork, you will take classes on:
- Literacy Development
- Introduction to Behavior Analysis
- Leadership and Management in Early Childhood
- Standards Aligned Curriculum
California University is known for its innovative Outreach Mission program, which many of its students participate in. This program promotes and provides professional development opportunities, giving students a way to develop their leadership skills.
University at Albany, State University of New York
College Choice Score: 73.63
Average Net Price: $15,114
The Albany member of the larger State University of New York (SUNY) system is a public research university. The University of Albany is home to around 20,000 students and over nearly 200 academic programs. It also has campuses in Guilderland and Rensselaer, New York.
The University of Albany’s MS in Early Childhood Education degree is housed in the Literacy Teaching and Learning Department. You will therefore equally study pedagogy as you will effective literacy strategies. This focus on literacy is reflected in Albany’s curriculum, as some of the classes you’ll take include:
- Classroom Literacy Instruction
- Literacy in Society
- Strategic Intervention to Prevent Literacy Difficulties
- Language Acquisition
The University of Albany is ranked among the top 20 nationally for research expenditure and funding. It has sought to expand its research endeavors even more in recent years through new academic programs. The University now offers degree and research opportunities in informatics, biotech, documentary studies, and more.
College Choice Score: 72.77
Average Net Price: $19,650
Brenau University is located in Gainesville, Georgia. Though it has multiple other campuses plus an online learning division. Around 3,500 students attend Brenau, enrolled in one of the University’s four colleges. Brenau offers many flexible and innovative learning opportunities, including evening and online education.
Brenau offers a MAT in Early Childhood Education degree that is a certification program. This means you will graduate ready to ace the Teaching Field Content Exams. In addition to completing either nine hours of student teaching or 12 hours of an internship, you will take 45 credit hours worth of coursework covering:
- Understanding and Managing Learners
- Computer Literacy in Education
- Social Studies for Teachers
- Assessment for Literacy Instruction
The Brenau experience is a distinct one. The University uniquely combines liberal arts education with professional preparation and career training. For this, among other, reasons, Brenau consecutively makes U.S. News & World Report’s list of “America’s Best Colleges.”
Pacific Oaks College
College Choice Score: 70.21
Average Net Price: $21,300
Pacific Oaks College is located in Pasadena, California. It is a private school known for its commitment to and education of social change, human development, and child development. Around 1,000 combined undergraduate and graduate students attend Pacific Oaks.
Pacific Oaks’ MA in Early Childhood Education degree can be completed in the classroom or online. It prepares students for leadership roles in an array of settings, from public schools to non-profits. You can even concentrate in Trauma Studies, a specialization offered at few other universities. Some of the classes you’ll take at Pacific Oaks include:
- The Impact of Privilege and Oppression in Early Childhood Educational Settings
- Public Policy and Its Impact on Children and Families
- Creating Responsive Communities for All Families
- And more
Pacific Oaks’ core programs are in human development, cultural and family psychology, and education. Chartered in the middle of the twentieth century, Pacific Oaks was founded on Quaker values of inclusion and social justice. Campus is still marked by its commitment to these values.
University of South Alabama
College Choice Score: 67.21
Average Net Price: $12,963
The University of South Alabama (South) is a public research university. It is located in Mobile and has around 17,000 students. South is organized into ten colleges and schools, through which it offers hundreds of distinct degree programs.
The University of South Alabama offers a MEd in Early Childhood Education program that is fully online. Whether you hope to teach math, science, reading, or the arts, this degree fully prepares you for Class A Certification. Some of the classes you’ll take at South include:
- Early School Curriculum
- Trends and Practices in Teaching Reading
- Language Development in Elementary School
- Teaching Science
The University of South Alabama is nationally ranked by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and Washington Monthly. In addition to these academic accolades, South is known for its low student-to-teacher ratio of 22:1 and for having half of its classrooms with fewer than 20 students.