Master’s in Early Childhood Education Degrees & Programs Guide

Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education Career Options & Salary

Nothing is as important as the healthy molding of young minds. In essence, that is the purpose of early childhood education. Each child should have the opportunity to learn in the way that best suits his or her needs, guided by instructors and materials that help them attain their educational and social goals. There is great satisfaction in knowing you have helped children achieve their best and giving them all the tools possible for success.

A master’s degree in early childhood education varies from a similar degree in child development, which steers the candidate more specifically into classroom-related learning. However, earning a master’s degree in early childhood education allows a person dedicated to the welfare of children to work in a variety of related fields. That includes advocating for children at the local, state, and federal level. This degree provides entry into leadership roles for the education of children from infancy into nursery school, kindergarten, and the primary grades.

Education Degrees & Career Paths


PROS

  • Earning a master’s degree in early childhood education opens up more job opportunities in the field, along with higher salaries. No one goes into early childhood education to get rich, but a master’s degree does allow a candidate to qualify for higher-paying jobs. A person with only a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education can teach, but their abilities to further their career are limited without additional education. Because someone with a master’s degree is better qualified, they should also have greater job stability.

CONS

  • The downside of earning a master’s degree in early childhood education is that pursuing such a degree can involve a considerable amount of time and money. Before undertaking a master’s degree program, the candidate should have definite career goals in mind. If the person has no real desire to go beyond the early childhood education classroom and advance the career ladder, it may not make sense to obtain a master’s degree.

Overview of a Master's in Early Childhood Education


What Early Childhood Education Master’s Degrees are Available?


Available master’s degrees in early childhood education usually include a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS), but there are variants. Some schools offer degrees that are equivalent to an MA or MS but have a specific title.

  • Master of Arts (MA) in Early Childhood Education:
    The MA is usually an end degree unto itself. It may prove a good choice for those who do not intend to pursue a further degree.
  • Master of Science (MS) in Early Childhood Education:
    Anyone considering the eventual pursuit of a PhD in early childhood education may earn an MS, as coursework prepares them for even higher learning.
  • Master of Education (Med) in Early Childhood Education:
    This degree is geared for those seeking a higher role in the classroom setting.
  • Master of Science in Education (MSEd):
    This degree is awarded to educators seeking advancement in a specific field, such as curriculum development, counseling, or administration.
  • MS in Early Childhood Services:
    Although this is not an educational degree per se, this master’s degree program is geared toward those seeking an administrative role in early childhood programs, including Head Start and child and family social workers.
  • Master's Degree in Early Childhood:
    Inclusive Education and Curriculum & Instruction – This degree is a specialization on a particular concentration in early childhood education.

Admission Requirements to Enter a Master’s Early Childhood Education Degree Program


While admission requirements can vary by institution, candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a similar field from an accredited school. Universities usually require a minimum 3.0 GPA for a master’s degree applicant. Often, a teaching license is a prerequisite, or at least certification to teach. Most schools also require a GRE or GMAT score, along with official transcripts from schools attended. Candidates should also expect to provide letters of reference, a resume or Curriculum Vitae, a personal statement, and a writing sample. Some schools even mandate a departmental interview.

How long does it take to earn a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education?


Students attending full-time will generally complete a master’s degree in about two years. However, those going the part-time route might expect to receive their degree in three to four years. Accelerated programs are also available. Or, by taking classes during the summer and completing a significant portion of classes online, students could complete their degree in 18 months or less.

Another option is attending a school offering a combined bachelors and master’s degree in early childhood education. These students may earn a combined degree in five years or less. Most schools require completion of a practicum or student teaching to receive your degree and certification. This also means candidates are able to apply what they are learning right away, allowing them to quickly experience the transition from theory to practice.

Potential Careers in Early Childhood Education with a Master’s Degree


  • Elementary School Teacher:
    Elementary school teachers teach first through fifth grades. They teach subjects including reading, math, social studies, and science but also help students develop appropriate social and behavioral skills. Work does not end with the school day, as teachers must develop lesson plans, grade papers, and schedule meetings with parents. Elementary school teachers are also required to complete mandatory continuing education. The average salary of an elementary school teacher is $45,700.
  • Special Education Teacher:
    Special education teachers work with children diagnosed as mentally, emotionally, or socially challenged. The nature of the work means that the teacher interacts more with parents than in a standard classroom. These teachers collaborate with other professionals, such as therapists and healthcare providers. They determine each student’s educational goals and monitor their progress. Special education teachers must continually remain cognizant of the disabilities their students experience. This involves knowledge of medical needs, including medication and potential side effects. The average salary for a special education teacher is $48,000.
  • Elementary School Principal:
    This is the top administrative position in an elementary school. The principal is in charge of the school’s overall operation. State statutes outline all elementary school principal duties. Before becoming a principal, the individual must teach for several years. Candidates must attend an accredited program for those pursuing a career in school administration and pass the state’s licensing examination. The average salary for an elementary school principal is $82,000.
  • Instructional Coordinator:
    Instructional coordinators help design educational curriculum. Excellent written and oral communications skills are necessary for this position. They often work with boards of education or board of directors in private schools, as well as with teachers and students. They work on curriculum and professional development for teachers, and develop training strategies. The average salary for an instructional coordinator is $60,600.
  • Director of a Childcare Center:
    A childcare center director oversees the facility’s daily operations. Duties include hiring and training staff, preparing budgets, managing finances, and creating learning programs. In many cases, the director must also oversee the maintenance of the property. It is the director’s responsibility to ensure the center is in compliance with all local, state, and federal laws regarding such facilities. The average salary for a childcare center director is $40,000.

Options to Advance


After earning a master’s degree in early childhood education, some graduates may want to pursue a PhD in the field. Once you receive a doctorate in early childhood education, you may be able to find work in academia, school administration, curriculum development, or other pursuits in the field. You could conduct research into child development and education or teach on a university level.

However, a PhD is far from the only option for those who want to advance in their careers after receiving a master’s degree. Those who want to open their own early childhood learning center may want to take business classes, as the success of the endeavor depends not only on knowledge of educating young children but also on sound business practices.

Colleges That Offer Traditional Master’s Degrees in Early Childhood Education


  • Bank Street College of Education
    New York, New York

    Bank Street’s Graduate School of Education offers graduate students the ability to learn to create environments fostering children’s development in a broad sense. Such environments provide opportunities for “physical, social, emotional, and cognitive growth.”

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science (MS)
    • Master of Science in Education (MSEd)
    • Advanced Master of Education (EdM)
    • Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction
    • Master’s in Early Childhood Education and Teaching
    • Master’s in Elementary Education and Teaching
    • Master’s in Reading Teacher Education
  • California State University - Fresno
    Fresno, California

    This university offers an MA in Education with an Early Childhood Education specialization. The program is designed to meet the needs of candidates with varying educational and experiential backgrounds and individual career objectives. Courses include Cultural Contexts of Teaching and Learning, Trends and Issues in Early Childhood Education, and Disciplinary Literacies and Integrated Curriculum.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MA in Education Option: Early Childhood Education
    • Master’s in Reading Teacher Education
  • Kean University
    Union, New Jersey

    This program offers an advanced curriculum and teaching option for those who want to become primary grade administrators. Courses include School Supervision and Organizational Theory, Theory Into Practice, and Creating Partnerships with Families Parenting Education. There is also a non-degree alternate route to the MA for those whose undergraduate major was not in early childhood education.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts (MA) in Early Childhood Education
    • Master’s in Elementary Education and Teaching
    • Master’s in Kindergarten/Preschool Education and Teaching
    • Master’s in Reading Teacher Education
  • Temple University
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Classes are held in the evening for working students. There are also hybrid programs combining in-class and online instruction available. Students may attend full-time or part-time. The 37 credit requirement includes complete 15 credits on early childhood instruction along with nine credits in special education and English language learner instruction.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Early Childhood Education MEd 
    • Master’s in Education/Teaching of Individuals in Early Childhood Special Education Programs
    • Master’s in Elementary Education and Teaching
  • Texas A&M University - Commerce
    Commerce, Texas

    Graduate courses include Child Development, Classroom Management for Teachers, Inquiry-Based Learning, Early Childhood Curriculum Design, and Literacy Development in the Early Years. Graduates gain knowledge of effective instructional strategies as well as best practices for classroom and facility management for this age group.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Early Childhood Education
    • MA in Early Childhood Education
    • MED in Early Childhood Education
    • Master’s in Elementary Education and Teaching
    • Master’s in Reading Teacher Education

Colleges That Offer Online Master’s Degrees in Early Childhood Education


  • Arkansas State University
    State University, Arkansas

    Founded in 1909, this university offers two online master’s programs for those working in the early childhood field. Courses offer multiple start dates for student convenience and flexibility. The interactive instruction is designed to maximize student and professor communication.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Early Childhood Education
    • MS in Early Childhood Services
  • Jacksonville State University
    Jacksonville, Alabama

    Candidates at this online school will take courses in early childhood teaching methods and trends and specialty courses in children's literature, intervention, reading, and writing. All candidates require certification in early childhood education.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MA in Early Childhood Education
  • Northwestern State University of Louisiana
    Natchitoches, Louisiana

    The program leading to a master’s degree in early childhood education consists of education courses as well as a practicum. The latter meets the standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Classes include Curriculum and Spaces for Infants and Toddlers, Positive Relationships with Children, Families and Communities, and Trends and Issues in Contemporary Early Childhood/ Primary Programs.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MEd in Early Childhood Education
  • Pacific Oaks College
    San Jose, California

    This online graduate program teaches candidates how to create and support childhood educational experiences centered around inclusion. The curriculum focuses on diverse, real-world environments and the programs help students develop an in-depth understanding of “staff development and administration collaboration” along with a holistic approach to working with children and families.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MA in Early Childhood Education
  • Portland State University
    Portland, Oregon

    This university combines a master's degree core with a special focus on the critical area of early childhood education, that of inclusive education and curriculum and instruction. Students choose a concentration in either early childhood special education, infant and toddler mental health, or constructivism in early childhood.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master's degree in Early Childhood: Inclusive Education and Curriculum & Instruction