Make a commitment to working with children by earning a master's degree in education in early childhood education. Whether you choose to earn a master's degree online or attend an on-campus master's degree program, it's important to fully research your options.
How to Earn a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education
Before you begin your first application, you must learn more about the master's degree in early childhood education. From your learning options, to potential coursework, to accreditation and admission requirements, learning more about your early childhood education training options helps you gain a fuller picture of your academic career.
The research process is essential to your success as a student. Though it can be a time-consuming process, the rewards make research worth the effort. The first step of the process is to learn your basic options for your master's degree in early childhood education.
Step 1: Learn Your Major Degree Options
Learn the basics of an early childhood education master's degree as you begin your research. You may choose one of three paths towards a master's degree in early childhood education. Consider the similarities and differences between the three major degree distinctions:
- Master of Education (MEd): Considered the standard for the business and administrative side of early childhood education, the MEd degree is not a teacher credential program. Graduates typically go on to become administrators, program directors, or curriculum developers.
- Master of Science (MS): This research degree considers the scientific implications of graduate study in early childhood education. Graduates may go on to teach, research, work in public policy or education departments of government, or continue on to earn more education.
- Master of Arts (MA): This broad and flexible degree gives you the training you're looking for without the requirements of an MEd or MS. Your specialization within the MA degree can help prepare you to stay in the classroom or move into administration--whichever you would prefer.
There is some overlap between degrees, and no degree program sets your career path in stone. Earning a MS in early childhood education instead of an MA would likely not prevent you from working as an administrator, for example.
Step 2: Consider Early Childhood Education Coursework & Degree Requirements
The coursework and specializations you take within a master's degree in early childhood education can help shape your career path. Each master's degree program should include both required and optional courses for students, and it's your responsibility to match a program with your personal requirements.
Take a look at sample coursework from an MEd in early childhood education:
- Curriculum Development in Early Childhood Education
- Integrated Constructivist Curriculum in Early Childhood Education
- Advanced Studies in Play and Child Development in Early Childhood Education
- Literacy and Young Children
Check out this sampling of coursework requirements for an MA in early childhood education:
- Impact of Home, School, Community Interaction in Early Childhood Education
- Managing the Early Childhood Environment
- Curriculum/Methods of Teaching Language Development in Early Childhood Education
- Child Development Theories Early Childhood Education
See sample coursework for a MS in early childhood education:
- Foundations of Educational Leadership
- Survey of Research Methodology
- Assessment and Improvement of Instruction
- Standards-Based Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
No two schools offer the exact same courses and degree requirements. Even between the major types of master's degree programs, you may find some overlap in the content presented. It's up to you as a prospective student to research different programs and consider what training will work best for your career path.
Step 3: Choose a Campus-Based or Online Learning Environment
With the increased popularity of online education, it has become easier to find online master's degrees in early childhood education and other education specializations. Because of that, it's important for you to decide if you'd rather pursue an online, campus-based, or hybrid master's degree. Consider the benefits of each type of learning environment:
- Online Master's Degree: Students who choose to enroll in an online master's degree program appreciate the convenience and accessibility of the degree. Many even choose to remain employed, teaching or working as they complete their degree.
- On-Campus Master's Degree: Students of campus-based master's degree programs appreciate the chance to interact one-on-one with instructors and peers. Hands-on access to research materials and libraries is another draw for this learning style, which includes physical classroom requirements.
- Hybrid Master's Degree: Offering a mix of campus-based coursework and online education, a hybrid master's degree program in early childhood education is designed for teachers who wish to continue teaching as they pursue a degree. Some schools require classroom attendance during summer session, making it easier on a teacher's schedule.
Early childhood education master's degree programs are popular in both campus-based and online forms. Use your own learning style and preferences as a guide to determine which type of degree would be ideal. WorldWideLearn.com's guide to online degree programs can help give you a more complete idea of what to expect when you earn a master's degree online.
Step 4: Create a List of Potential Early Childhood Education Programs
After you've considered the type of master's degree you may want to pursue as well as your options for how you want to earn that degree, it's time to create a list of potential master's degree programs in early childhood education. Use these resources as you begin your search:
- Learn more about online early childhood education degree programs with a helpful guide from WorldWideLearn.com.
- Browse WorldWideLearn.com's listing of campus-based early childhood education master's degree programs and make first contact with the schools in one easy step.
- U.S. News and World Report maintains rankings of the top education schools nationwide. Narrow rankings by elementary teacher education, education policy, and education administration and supervision.
- The National Association for Education of Young Children maintains a listing of accredited bachelor's and graduate degree programs. Search programs by location or look at the complete list for more information.
Whether you've been away from higher education for a while or you're continuing directly from a bachelor's degree or teaching certification, you should be prepared to fully research your options before you submit any applications to schools. The tools above can help you compile a long list of prospective programs, which you can use to further define your requirements as a student.
Step 5: Determine Early Childhood Education Program Accreditation
Take control of your educational future by ensuring each prospective master's degree program holds current accreditation. The process of accreditation involves a third-party agency reviewing the credentials, faculty, and academics of a master's degree program and making its finding public.
Confirming that your early childhood education holds accreditation helps ensure the quality of your degree, the possibility that you'll receive federal financial aid, and the standard with which your degree is measured by hiring managers in early childhood education. Use these tools to ensure the accreditation status of your degree-granting institutions:
- The accredited program database at the National Association for Education of Young Children lists colleges and universities approved by this subject-specific agency.
- For a full search of all accredited institutions, see the searchable database at the U.S. Department of Education. Programs may be searched by name, location, or accrediting agency.
Confirming a program's accreditation is relatively simple, and it's essential to your success as a student in an early childhood education master's degree program. Browse to WorldWideLearn.com's Accreditation Answers page for more information about the importance and process of accreditation for master's degree programs.
Step 6: Focus Your Accredited Master's Degree Programs
By this point, you should have a long list of accredited master's degree programs in early childhood education. Whether you're considering an MA, MS, MEd, or a combination of degree programs, your options should be many and varied. Fortunately, it's simple to narrow down your potential colleges and universities to the strongest candidates. Use these categories to help focus your search:
- Region: If you choose to work in the region while you complete your degree or after you've graduated, it's important to think about the job prospects you may face in education. Approach the region as if you are looking for a job in the field.
- Requirements: Each master's degree program application is typically different. Some programs may require you submit a current teaching certificate, scores Graduate Record Exam (GRE), and other requirements. International students must typically pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam to be considered for admission.
- Program Rank: Think about rankings, like the ones published by U.S. News & World Report. The highest-ranked schools may be viewed in the most favorable light by hiring managers who review your transcripts, but they may also come with the highest tuition rate. Balance a school's ranking with other qualities that would make it attractive to you as a student.
- Financial Aid: Funding promises are often made by schools in order to appeal to potential applicants. Find out which master's degree programs in early childhood education offer the most promising teaching stipends, grants, and other funding.
- Professors: Read professional publications in early childhood education, and find out where article authors teach. Remember to base your application on the general strength of a school's faculty, and not the contributions of one singular professor who may leave before you have a chance to enroll.
- Extras: Think about the perks offered by each potential early childhood education program. You might be encouraged to complete community internships, travel in order to attend conferences or do research, or enjoy a partnership with a career placement services. These extras should be the last category you consider.
The research process does take time and effort, but creating a short list of degree programs has many benefits. Save time and money on applications, increase your chances of acceptance with a school that is a good fit, and attend your early childhood education master's degree program with the confidence that you've made a smart choice for your academic future.
Step 7: Begin the Master's Degree Application Process
Once you've condensed your long list of MA, MS, and MEd programs in early childhood education down to the strongest few, the application process should become much less complicated. Keep the following in mind to further streamline the process and help improve your chances of being accepted to your dream school:
- Requirements: Each master's degree program in early childhood education typically requires different things from prospective students. Transcripts, teaching certificates, and resumes are typically required, and GPA minimums and letters of recommendation are a popular option.
- Personalization: After you've met the basic requirements, it's time to stand out from the crowd with a personalized application. Write each letter of intent with the specific school in mind, taking the school's personality into account as you convince the application readers why you would be a good fit.
- Deadlines: Stay organized with deadlines for applications, transcripts, and financial aid. Each school will keep different deadlines, so organization is key to your success. A calendar or day planner is a good way to keep on top of things.
Use this guide as a way to begin the essential research process that ends in applying for master's degree programs in early childhood education. Enjoy the confidence of applying to only the strongest prospective early childhood education degrees, and thrive within your chosen degree program.
- Accreditation of Baccalaureate and Graduate Degree Programs National Association for Education of Young Children
- Accreditation Search U.S. Department of Education
- Best Education Schools U.S. News and World Report
- MEd Early Childhood Education University of Alaska Southeast
- MA in Early Childhood Education University of the District of Columbia
- Master of Science (MS) in Education Capella University
- NCATE Accredited Schools, Colleges, and Departments of Education National Association for Education of Young Children