20 Best Online Schools for Early Childhood Education

Whether you are a single parent or work a full-time job, some lifestyles simply do not allow you to attend an on-campus associate’s or bachelor’s program. But just because you can’t make it for in-person attendance doesn’t mean you don’t deserve the opportunity to get your degree.

Early childhood education is an important field of study that produces professionals who have proven crucial in a child’s overall educational and social development. To facilitate quality online learning for those who can’t attend traditional campuses, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best online schools for early childhood education, and they include a mix of schools offering remote undergraduate and graduate level programs.

As a student of this field, you will learn key activities and experiences that impact children’s developmental stages prior to elementary school. These programs can include childcare, preschool, and kindergarten groups and serve as the fundamentals for an educational career. 

Many individuals who have discovered a passion for education and love working with young children decide to explore early childhood education as a major. If you’re considering this educational pathway for yourself, check out these excellent online programs. 

20 Best Online Schools for Early Childhood Education 2017-2018


We used the ranking methodology to rank the following schools to find top colleges and universities with online early childhood education programs. We collected data and information from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) based on in-state graduate tuition, percentage of applicants admitted, and graduation rate. 

After sifting through a large pool of contenders, we were able to narrow our list down to a top 10 selection. We’ve listed each of these top choices below, starting with number ten and working our way up to our top option based on the outlined methodology. 

Any two schools whose points resulted in a tie were ranked according to their tuition. Higher placement was awarded to the school with a lower tuition rate.

You can see out point system below: 

Graduate Tuition/Fees

Less than $10,000/year – 3 Points

$10,001 – $20,000/year – 2 Points

More than $20,000/year – 1 Point

Applicants Admitted

Less than 25% – 1 Point

25% – 50% – 2 Points 

More than 50% – 3 Points

Graduation Rate

50% of Greater – 3 Points

25% – 49% – 2 Points

Less than 25% – 1 Point 

SchoolTuition Admission PercentageGraduation PercentagePoints
Arkansas State University$6,24480%54% 9
Georgia Southern University$7,06954%50%9
University of Nebraska$7,57578%66%9
Valdosta State University$6,78457%40%8
Kennesaw State University$7,33475%46%8
Liberty University$8,40051%47%8
University of Missouri$10,47881%71%8
Northern Arizona University$11,12185%57%8
University of North Dakota$12,05881%61%8
Arizona State University $12,60886%63%8
Florida International University$18,96358%63%8
University of Montana $17,18756%49%7
University of Toledo$20,01096%50%7

Saint Mary-of-the-

Woods College 

California Baptist University $34,88278%63%7
Mercer University $37,80874%66%7
University of Washington $38,16652%84%7
Brenau University$31,08458%46%6
Southern New Hampshire University $31,13688%44%6
University of West Alabama$20,09035%35%5

Let’s have a closer look at the 20 best online schools for early childhood education listed above.

University of West Alabama

Livingston Alabama

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $20,090

Points: 5


The University of West Alabama is one of our top online early childhood education degrees schools. Established in 1885, UWA is accredited and offers affordable online bachelor’s degrees in Early Childhood Development, Elementary Education, and Special Education. The latter two degrees also come with certification and licensure.


Students can also select from several Online Education Specialist Degree Programs, including:


  • Ed.S Counseling
  • Ed.S Early Childhood Education, P-3
  • Ed.S Elementary Education K-6
  • Ed.S Instructional Leadership
  • Ed.S Library Media
  • Ed.S School Counseling
  • Ed.S Special Education Collaborative Teacher
  • Ed.S Teacher Leader


Educators who want to further their education can also get a fully online early childhood development master’s degree and get advanced training in how to meet the emotional and educational needs of young children. The program touches on technology, psychology, planning, and more. 

Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, New Hampshire

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $31,136

Points: 6


Southern New Hampshire University earns a spot on our list of best online schools for early childhood education degrees due to its relatively high graduation rate and reasonably affordable graduate tuition. The school offers master’s degree programs in early childhood education with minimal admission requirements. No GMAT or GRE is required for acceptance to the program. 


All classes are taught online by qualified university professors. Some of the courses include assessment for learning, family and culture, learning through technology, and students with exceptionalities. Concentrations include:


  • Dyslexia & Language Based Learning Disabilities
  • Educational Leadership
  • Online Teaching
  • Reading
  • Special Education
  • Technology Integration


Brenau University

Gainesville, Georgia

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $31,084

Points: 6


Brenau University is one of our top picks for best online early childhood education schools due to the low student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1 and highly affordable tuition costs for graduate students. The school offers both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in early childhood education that can be completed online.


Designed with the working student in mind, classes are delivered via distance learning and scheduled conveniently and flexibly. Students gain access to coursework and content at all hours of the day. Brenau is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the 52nd best regional university in the South and the 30th best value school.


You can also pursue several enhancements to your degree, called Educational Certification Endorsements. These include:


  • Autism Endorsement
  • ESOL Endorsement-Graduate
  • ESOL Endorsement-Undergraduate
  • Math K-5 Endorsement
  • Reading Endorsement
  • Science K-5 Endorsement


University of Washington

Seattle, Washington

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $38,166

Points: 7


At the University of Washington, undergraduate students can pursue a degree in Early Care and Education entirely online. This innovative program is offered by the UW College of Education and goes beyond theory by teaching practical skills and knowledge that you will apply in your career and everyday life.


The excellent program began in 2013 and was designed to provide equitable access to an education degree at a leading university. It is particularly well suited to non-traditional learners. 


The ECE online program utilizes an Intentional Teaching Framework that helps students gain knowledge through observation, action, and reflection. It also includes service learning courses where you can apply what you’ve learned by working alongside education professionals in the field. Part-time students typically finish the program in three years, and full-time students often finish it in just two years. 


Mercer University

Macon, Georgia

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $37,808

Points: 7


Mercer University is one of our top online early childhood education degrees schools due to its affordable tuition prices, low student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1, and higher than average graduation rate. The Tift College of Education offers a 30-semester hour early childhood education master’s degree program that can be completed fully online and in just 12-16 months depending on student pace.


The program is designed for working teachers and certified educators who want to complete a specialty program in early childhood education. Upon completion, educators with a Level 4 certification can upgrade their Elementary Education teaching certificate to a master’s level 5 with the Georgia Professional Standards Committee. 


At Mercer, students also have the opportunity to pursue up to two of the following endorsements:


  • Autism
  • English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
  • Mathematics
  • Reading
  • Science 
  • STEM 


California Baptist University

Riverside, California

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $34,882

Points: 7


At California Baptist University provides distance learning in 37 US states, and students can select from over 40 fully remote bachelor, master and doctorate degree programs.

Undergraduates can pursue an online bachelor’s in early childhood education that focuses on the social, cognitive, and emotional growth of young children. Most students can complete this 48-credit program in just 16 months. All coursework is done asynchronously via Blackboard.


For those who are looking to continue their education, the school offers online master’s degree programs in 


  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Early Childhood
  • Leadership
  • Special Education
  • Transitional Kindergarten


Students who are put off by the tuition prices at California Baptist should know they offer a variety of financial aid programs, and the school is a Yellow Ribbon Military Friendly School,

as well.


Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Saint Mary of the Woods, Indiana

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $30,500

Points: 7


Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is a private, Catholic liberal arts school in Indiana accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Established in 1846, the school offers both traditional on campus programs as well as fully remote options. The school’s Early Childhood Education program consists of several programs, including:


  • Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.) Preschool – Grade 3
  • Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.) Kindergarten – Grade 6 
  • Education Pedagogy Minor
  • Special Needs and Transition to Teaching Programs


For students who want to make themselves more marketable candidates in the field of education, the school offers several add-on licensure areas to help you expand your opportunities, including:


  • Early Childhood/Mild Intervention
  • Elementary Generalist (Kindergarten-Grade 6)
  • Intermediate to Preschool – Grade 3/Mild Intervention
  • Mild Intervention: Early Childhood
  • Mild Intervention: Kindergarten-Grade 6


University of Toledo

Toledo, Ohio

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $20,010

Points: 7


University of Toledo is another one of our top picks for early childhood education schools online. Students can earn a master’s in early childhood education through the non-licensure track. This program is designed for childcare, preschool, and early learning educators and administrators. Admission requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and work experience related to the advanced degree program. 


For undergraduates, the online early childhood education fast track bachelor’s degree program is a popular choice. This 100 percent online non-licensure program can be completed in two years if you already hold an associate degree in early childhood. While the program will not allow you to teach in public schools, it will prepare you for a position working with at-risk or special needs infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.  


University of Toledo offers affordable tuition and a reasonably low student-to-faculty ratio. Plus, the school awards over 60 endowed scholarships each year to education majors.


University of Montana

Dillon, Montana


Tuition/Fees: $17,187

Points: 7


The University of Montana Western offers Associate’s, BA’s, BS’s, and an impressive selection of over 20 minors in Education. The school’s bachelor’s in early childhood education is designed to prepare students for roles as early childhood teachers, program administrators, trainers, and parent educators. Classes can be taken almost entirely online. The curriculum includes a wide range of topics like:


  • Meeting The Needs of Families
  • Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood 
  • Infant/Toddler Development & Group Care 
  • Creative Curriculum and Development for Young Children
  • Math & Science for Early Childhood
  • Fostering Movement in Young Children 
  • Social/Emotional Development in Young Children 
  • Mentoring & Coaching in Early Childhood Education


There are three specific gateways students need to pass through before advancing to the next level, and this is one of the most comprehensive online programs in early childhood development we have seen. You’ll need 120 credits to complete the program. The school offers many scholarships, including one specifically for residents of Montana.  

Florida International University

Miami, Florida


Tuition/Fees: $18,963

Points: 7


The Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Development Track at FOI is a completely online program offered through one of the leaders in distance education. While the school is based in Miami, students from anywhere may attend this innovation 120-credit program. Its designed to give students an in-depth learning experience of the emotional, social, language and cognitive development of young children.


A sampling of some of the coursework includes:


  • Classroom Management
  • Art in Early Childhood
  • Special Needs of Children and Families
  • Children’s Literature
  • Play and Development of Social Competence 

Arizona State University

Tempe, Arizona

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $12,608

Points: 8


Not only does Arizona State University make our list of best online schools for early childhood education, but it also sits high in the rankings for best online schools for graduate degrees overall. 


ASU delivers the ideal combination of an affordable tuition fee coupled with an impressive graduation rate. This 100% online program allows students to earn their master’s in education with an early childhood education certification and endorsement. 


Some of the featured courses include:


  • Foundations of Early Childhood Education
  • Emergent Literacy
  • Mathematics in Early Childhood Education
  • Foundations of Diversity, Human Development, and the Young Child
  • Assessment of Young Children


This 30-credit program (45 with certificate) includes ten total classes with a fully online experience that drives home the idea of flexibility through academia. The only potential drawback is the cost of tuition.

University of North Dakota  

Grand Forks, North Dakota

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $12,058

Points: 8


University of North Dakota’s 2-year, 32-credit, online master’s program for early childhood education is a non-licensing degree that educates graduate students for children under the age of eight. 


The program combines both theory and research and couples them with practical, real-world experience to help you become an effective educator. UND’s program focuses on three critical components to educating young children: family, culture, and community. 


UND is also partnered with the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, which allows them to offer Aim4Excellence. This is an online national Director Credential for Early Childhood Administrators. 


Their Teacher Education programs are also accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation and follow the guidelines of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. 

Northern Arizona University 

Flagstaff, Arizona

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $11,121

Points: 8


The online Master of Education program at Northern Arizona University comes prepared to offer four different areas of emphasis: 


  • Early Childhood Teaching
  • Early Childhood Leadership
  • Early Childhood Multiage
  • Early Childhood National Board Preparation


These four areas all focus on the importance of educating young minds as well as shaping character and future development. It’s geared to help you succeed so that the children of the world can succeed in their lives. 


The program comprises 12 to 15 core requirements, while the remaining 16 to 18 credits are fleshed out in your chosen area of emphasis. Northern Arizona University has maintained a strong reputation in the field of education for over a century. 

University of Missouri 

Columbia, Missouri

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $10,478

Points: 8


The online education master’s degree program at the University of Missouri is one that specializes in early childhood special education. This program will prepare graduate students to effectively work with young children who are both at risk for school failure and who have a variety of disabilities.


The 30-credit program places an emphasis of importance on special education, which has become a beneficial component to add to an educator’s career in recent years. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Teacher Education Accreditation Council and comes at an affordable cost. 


With just one or two classes per semester, this program is easy to manage even with a busy lifestyle. It’s designed to take two years to complete and focuses on some of the following concepts: 


  • Assessment Methods
  • Language and Early Literacy Development
  • Research-Based Intervention Strategies
  • Problem Behavior and Positive Behavioral Supports
  • Creating Inclusive Classrooms


The University of Missouri’s program is an excellent choice for someone interested in childcare center work, early interventionism, and special education and counseling. 

Liberty University 

Lynchburg, Virginia

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $8,400

Points: 8


The Master of Education program at Liberty University is concentrated on curriculum and instruction. It offers graduate students better tools so they can improve how they serve the young children of today. 


The curriculum and instruction program delivers advanced theory and practical skills through a highly affordable program. With courses 100% online at just $415 per credit, the institution makes it easy for anyone to continue their education. 


Liberty University also offers several specializations through the program: 


  • Educational Technology and Online Instruction
  • Elementary Education
  • English
  • History
  • Leadership
  • Urban Education
  • Special Education
  • Student Services


They also offer two add-on endorsements: early childhood education and gifted education. This diverse program offers everything an education professional needs to further their career, and the early childhood education add-on endorsement provides you with up-to-date education techniques.   

Kennesaw State University 

Kennesaw, Georgia

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $7,334

Points: 8


If you’re already a certified early childhood education teacher, then the Kennesaw State University online master’s program might be the best choice for you. Coming in midway down our list, this very affordable institution lets certified teachers earn their M.Ed. in as little as 13 months.


Because the program is entirely online, many teachers find it easy to complete their degrees while remaining in a teaching position. Students take just three courses per semester for 36 total credit hours. 


Kennesaw State University makes the program flexible and easy to follow, and each student receives continual support from a cohort coordinator and a graduate faculty member. 

Valdosta State University 

Valdosta, Georgia

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $ 6,784

Points: 8


While not quite number one on the overall list, Valdosta State University does rank high, and it’s actually the most affordable school we have for you for early childhood education online. The Department of Elementary Education at this university offers bachelor graduates the early childhood education master’s program. 


This program is designed to expand a professional’s existing knowledge and expertise of early education by refining skills and exploring deeper aspects of teaching. It’s fully online and requires students to take either six or nine credits per semester, which can help students meet their time or financial goals.


It also features the Tier 1 Add-on program, which applies coursework leading to a Tier 1 Georgia certificate in Educational Leadership. Applicants must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 and an MAT score of 380. 

University of Nebraska 

Lincoln, Nebraska

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $7,575

Points: 9


The University of Nebraska has long been known as an affordable institution, but it’s received even more praise for lowering its graduate tuition and fees. UN Lincoln’s Master of Education program offers three concentrations:

UN Lincoln’s Master of Education program offers three concentrations:

  • Educational Administration
  • Special Education
  • Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education

Within the Special Education program, graduate students can specialize in early childhood special education. This certification is a 12-credit hour program that guides students through specialty coursework focused on young children with developmental disabilities. 


While the course does not result in a teaching endorsement in ECSE, it is an excellent program for any educators or educational professionals looking for additional training and qualifications. 

Georgia Southern University 

Statesboro, Georgia

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $7,069

Points: 9


Georgia Southern University is another institution that has earned bragging rights over its affordable tuition fees for graduate students. Their elementary education master’s program covers P-5 and is based entirely on developmentally appropriate practices. 


The university also puts a large emphasis on diversity and inclusion, both of which are critical in the field of early childhood education. 


Through four continuous semesters, graduate students can complete this online course in as little as one year. The curriculum is approved by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission and meets all certificate upgrade requirements. 


The 36-credit hour program includes these core requirements:


  • Learning Theories and Assessment
  • Action Research in Elementary Settings
  • Transforming Learning with Technology


From there, graduate students can move onto specialized content such as:


  • Advanced Language Arts Methods
  • Teaching Writing in the Elementary School
  • Teaching Communication Across Cultures 


These courses and more, along with electives towards endorsements or certificates, will total 36 hours and can include a Reading Endorsement, English for Speakers of Other Languages Endorsement, Online Teaching, and Learning Endorsement, and more.  

Arkansas State University

Tempe, Arizona

School Profile 


Tuition/Fees: $6,244

Points: 9


Arkansas State University comes in at number one on our list for early childhood education online master’s program. With a low tuition fee, a high acceptance rate, and an impressive graduation percentage, it checks off all of the boxes. 


This 30-credit hour program can be completed in a little as one year and serves to advance your knowledge of early childhood education. The online program makes it easy to learn as you continue your career. 


Arkansas State describes their program as the ideal choice for anyone looking to serve in an early childhood education role, such as the following: 


  • Preschool Teacher
  • Kindergarten Teacher
  • Elementary School Teacher
  • Child Care Director
  • Early Learning Specialist


The online format is completely flexible to your schedule, and the school comes nationally accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. 

Best Careers for Early Childhood Education Majors

If your major of choice is early childhood education, you are likely someone who enjoys working with children, helping them thrive in their environment, and guiding them through critical developmental stages. 


Early childhood education majors are some of the most caring, intuitive, and instrumental individuals when it comes to the growth and learning that a child goes through. It can offer an incredibly rewarding career, whether you’re looking to lead a classroom or work one-on-one with young kids. 


Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a teacher if you have your degree in early childhood education. While that is a common goal among master’s students, there are several other career paths you can take with this area of study. 


Below are a few of the top career choices for early childhood education majors.  

Preschool Teacher

Average Annual Salary Range: $25,999 to $43,170


It’s a preschool teacher’s job to start building fundamental skills in young children, as they are often the first step in formal education. These teachers begin educating kids in the basics of reading, math, spelling, and more. They present children with a fun, safe, and creative environment where they can expire their social skills and prepare for elementary school. 

Kindergarten Teacher 

Average Annual Salary Range: $38,854 to $80,615


Many parents and professionals place the same amount of importance on kindergarten teachers as they do preschool teachers. Kindergarten teachers play a critical role in children ages 5 to 6, delivering curricula on slightly more advanced math, reading, spelling, and counting skills. As a kindergarten teacher, you lay the foundation for the rest of your school career. 

Childcare Center Director

Average Annual Salary Range: $34,993 to $45,994


While early childhood education majors most often see themselves managing a classroom, some can find opportunities managing more. Childcare center directors, also known as preschool directors or education coordinators, oversee and guide the daily operations of a childcare center. 


Though your main tasks involve administrative work such as budgeting and staffing, many center directors still get the opportunity to teach and interact with the students. 

Childcare Worker

Average Annual Salary Range: $29,903 to $39,242


Do you love hanging out with children and taking care of them but don’t quite see yourself as a teacher? If that’s your case, you can still choose an early childhood education major and find yourself a great career as a childcare worker. 


Childcare workers can often function in these roles sans a degree, but having your degree makes you more qualified for the job and, in some instances, can help you secure a higher salary. 


As a childcare worker, you can work for a childcare center or privately in the homes of individual children to oversee their daily activities and ensure a safe environment. This role involves the basic care of a child and can also incorporate various learning activities.

Curriculum Writer

Average Annual Salary Range: $21,000 to $109,000


Anyone who has extensive experience in early childhood education can become a curriculum writer. Whether for a specific school district or for a larger company, curriculum writers prepare school, state, and national curriculums to support early childhood development. 


With a master’s in early childhood education, you could automatically jump to the top of any recruiter’s list. Your experience, coupled with your degrees, makes you highly qualified to impact young children’s education on a larger scale.


As a specialized professional, you align curriculum framework for state and national standards, designing materials and training others to follow. 


Family Support Specialist

Average Annual Salary Range: $35,939 to $46,827


Family support specialists work through home-based intervention programs, specifically with families who have infants, toddlers, or children with developmental disabilities. Anyone who has a master’s degree in early childhood education could qualify for one of these roles, though specific companies may request additional certifications or training.


As a family support specialist, you would conduct regular assessments of family, child, and situational needs. Your mission would be to develop strong bonds with families and their children, coordinating proper services, support, and training to meet a child’s needs. 


In this position, professionals strive to positively influence childhood education and development. They work to meet family goals through individualized plans and success strategies. It’s a tough but rewarding career that helps childhood education in a setting outside of school buildings. 


Average Annual Salary Range: $48,000 to $80,000


If you’re someone who doesn’t necessarily want to work directly with children or who wants to move on from classroom work to influence education on a larger scale, consulting might be a good choice for you.


Consultants in the early childhood education sector work to promote the effective development of children. In this position, you strive to cultivate environments that are both appropriate and helpful to children in this stage. 


Consultants work with both public and private organizations to help develop policies, regulations, and programs that improve and regulate child care. These positions often involve travel, where the first duty is to evaluate an organization and identify its core needs. 


Consultants may also work with non-education-related organizations who are looking to provide childcare on their premises, such as gyms that have childcare centers. 

Education Researcher

Average Annual Salary Range: $32,264 to $136,659


A lot of research, data, and analytics have gone into childhood development over the last several decades. However, there is still so much to learn. In an educational research position, you can design and execute helpful studies that serve to improve the overall education of young children. 


Some researchers work directly with clients, while others work independently and publish scientific literature to impact the overall community. You can work for the government, for nonprofits, and even for universities. 


While you can begin a researcher role with a master’s degree, many individuals in this area go on to secure their Ph.D. in early childhood education as well. 


Job TitleAverage Salary
Preschool Teacher$25,999 to $43,170
Kindergarten Teacher$38,854 to $80,615
Childcare Center Director$34,993 to $45,994
Childcare Worker$29,903 to $39,242
Curriculum Writer$21,000 to $109,000
Family Support Specialist$35,939 to $46,827
Consultant$48,000 to $80,000
Education Researcher$32,264 to $136,659