Associates in Early Childhood Education Online Degree Programs for 2022

Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education Career Options & Salary

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Early childhood education is important business. While many parents rely on childcare workers and early childhood educators to keep their child happy and safe during the workday, research increasingly shows that those preschool teachers, childcare workers, leaders of childcare centers, and other childhood educators are vital to creating healthy, happy, and successful adults. Some economists have shown that, when communities invest in ECE, they reap a 15% return on that investment over the course of each student's life. Thus, pursuing an early childhood education degree after you gain your high school diploma will not only let you work with pre-k students and very young children as a preschool or other K-12 teacher, it will also provide added benefits for whatever community you choose to be a part of.

During their time in college, students who become education majors will take coursework that will help them learn about child development (physical and emotional development of young children), curriculum building focused on student-centered learning, and vital topics such as mathematical skills, nutrition, and the importance of exercise. Once you graduate, you can move on to focus on a specific learning modality, either before or while working for a school that specializes in Montessori or Reggio-Emilia. Since completing an early childhood education associate degree program means that students will have two years of college under their belt, they could choose to return to college later and complete a four-year bachelor degree completion program. This will allow them to complete the rest of their education core curriculum from a community college or university with accreditation, and take their certification exams.

There's no better time to get started than the present. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about these early childhood education programs.


  • An associate in early childhood education degree can be a great way to launch a K-12 teacher career. This approach allows you to get to work in only two years, after a stint in your local community college, and you'll have completed the early education core curriculum and coursework for a bachelor degree completion program. Though this doesn't meet the education requirement for a state teaching license, you may still be able to work as a teacher in a preschool or a private kindergarten until you take your certification exams.
  • Your state might also acknowledge your associate degree and allow you to earn a paraprofessional license. That credential will allow early childhood education students to work in a public-school classroom as teaching assistants. Paraprofessionals can work exclusively with special needs children or as general assistants in larger classrooms. Thus, your associate early childhood education degree can pave the way to valuable experience in a great job.


  • The downside to only having a two-year degree is that you will still need a bachelor's degree to attain a full teaching license from your state. Though you may be able to start working as a preschool teacher, your career might be capped at that level since your two-year degree isn't likely to allow much upward mobility. Teachers with a bachelor's degrees, or even master’s, are more likely to rise into supervisory positions, including lead teacher.
  • Since your status isn't likely to improve very much, you are unlikely to see your salary improve, either. Furthermore, if you decide to start your own preschool, you might not be able to secure the best business loan with a limited education. Furthermore, your clients will likely prefer to find a school that is run by someone with a higher degree and higher-status experience.

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What are the Best Online Associate in Early Childhood Education College Programs?


Purdue University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $9,992
    • Out-of-state: $28,794
  • Net Price: $12,294
  • Retention Rate: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 83%
  • Total Enrollment: 46,655
  • Undergrad Students: 35,706
  • Graduate Students: 10,949
  • Diplomas Awarded: NA
  • Student-to-faculty: 13:1
  • Purdue University

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $28,184
    • Out-of-state: $28,184
  • Net Price: $21,827
  • Retention Rate: 81%
  • Graduation Rate: 72%
  • Total Enrollment: 3,108
  • Undergrad Students: 2,677
  • Graduate Students: 431
  • Diplomas Awarded: 28
  • Student-to-faculty: 13:1
  • Indiana Wesleyan University

Saint Francis University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $39,278
    • Out-of-state: $39,278
  • Net Price: $29,393
  • Retention Rate: 96%
  • Graduation Rate: 63%
  • Total Enrollment: 2,769
  • Undergrad Students: 2,279
  • Graduate Students: 490
  • Diplomas Awarded: 6
  • Student-to-faculty: 14:1
  • Saint Francis University

Concordia University-Saint Paul

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $23,400
    • Out-of-state: $23,400
  • Net Price: $16,521
  • Retention Rate: 68%
  • Graduation Rate: 48%
  • Total Enrollment: 5,585
  • Undergrad Students: 3,578
  • Graduate Students: 2,007
  • Diplomas Awarded: 1
  • Student-to-faculty: 20:1
  • Concordia University-Saint Paul

Charter Oak State College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $8,553
    • Out-of-state: $11,166
  • Net Price: $11,872
  • Retention Rate: 50%
  • Graduation Rate: 51%
  • Total Enrollment: 1,634
  • Undergrad Students: 1,538
  • Graduate Students: 96
  • Diplomas Awarded: 4
  • Student-to-faculty: 13:1
  • Charter Oak State College

Oakland City University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $24,990
    • Out-of-state: $24,990
  • Net Price: $12,481
  • Retention Rate: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 57%
  • Total Enrollment: 1,241
  • Undergrad Students: 1,100
  • Graduate Students: 141
  • Diplomas Awarded: NA
  • Student-to-faculty: 12:1
  • Oakland City University

University of Alaska Fairbanks

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,176
    • Out-of-state: $21,312
  • Net Price: $10,778
  • Retention Rate: 78%
  • Graduation Rate: 39%
  • Total Enrollment: 6,813
  • Undergrad Students: 5,850
  • Graduate Students: 963
  • Diplomas Awarded: 12
  • Student-to-faculty: 11:1
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks

Northeast Community College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $3,750
    • Out-of-state: $4,395
  • Net Price: $8,813
  • Retention Rate: 68%
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Total Enrollment: 5,105
  • Undergrad Students: 5,105
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Diplomas Awarded: 16
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Northeast Community College

Clarion University of Pennsylvania

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $11,199
    • Out-of-state: $16,078
  • Net Price: $19,526
  • Retention Rate: 77%
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Total Enrollment: 4,465
  • Undergrad Students: 3,587
  • Graduate Students: 878
  • Diplomas Awarded: 5
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Chaminade University of Honolulu

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $26,914
    • Out-of-state: $26,914
  • Net Price: $24,933
  • Retention Rate: 81%
  • Graduation Rate: 59%
  • Total Enrollment: 2,208
  • Undergrad Students: 1,634
  • Graduate Students: 574
  • Diplomas Awarded: NA
  • Student-to-faculty: 10:1
  • Chaminade University of Honolulu
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Certificate Vs. Associates in Early Childhood Education

A certificate in early childhood education is a good preliminary credential to have on your resume. If your goal is to work as an educator and you are eager to get to work immediately, you can earn a certificate in a single year. Depending on your local community college, or online college, you could start working on a certificate right away.

Unlike an associate degree, certificate programs often are exclusively focused on ECE and thus you won't need to take any core curriculum classes, such as algebra or composition. You can focus on what matters most to you and quickly add a valuable credential to your resume in no time at all.

However, you need to remain aware of the fact that a certificate will not prepare you to move forward and earn your bachelor’s degree. Unlike an associate degree, which is basically the first two years of the curriculum at a four-year college, you will have to start from the beginning to earn an online bachelor’s, even if you earned you certificate with flying colors.

What Early Childhood Education Associate Degrees are Available?

  • Associate of Science (AS):
    Though this degree might be less common for early childhood education, it will reflect not only two years of hard work but also a focus on research and social science data.
  • Associate in Applied Science (AAS):
    This degree is very similar to an AS degree. It can sometimes be distinguished by a focus on practical processes and outcomes rather than peer-reviewed scientific data. For that reason, credits from an AAS program can sometimes be harder to transfer.
  • Associate in Applied Arts (AAA):
    Much like an AAS degree, an applied arts degree focuses on practical matters you are likely to face in the workplace. You are less likely to encounter peer-reviewed research and you might find that some credits are harder to transfer to a bachelor's program. However, discuss this matter with your admissions counselor or department head to determine the actual facts related to any specific program.
  • Associate of Arts (AA):
    This is a more typical degree that is likely to be easy to find in nearby community colleges. If you earn an AA degree you will likely have an easier time transferring to a four-year program and achieving a bachelor's degree. Regardless, if your goal is to eventually complete a baccalaureate degree, you should discuss your plans with an academic adviser who will help you plan your academic career accordingly.

Admission Requirements to Enter an Online Associates Program

Community colleges often operate on an open enrollment policy. Thus, you can often sign up for classes without having to undergo the competitive admissions of other colleges. However, if you intend to attend a four-year college for your associate degree, you may have to provide full high school transcripts as well as SAT or ACT scores.

However, most online two-year programs will have some minimum standards for admission. You should be able to show that you graduated from high school or that you achieved a general equivalency degree (GED.) Upon admission, you may also be asked to take competency exams so that the school can place you in appropriate classes. This means that you may need to take remedial courses so you can brush up on core skills like math and writing prior to diving into your degree program.

How long does it take to earn an Online Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education?

Online associate degree programs for early childhood education are typically structured so that you can graduate in two years. That assumes full-time enrollment and that you stay on track with your required courses. However, most two-year programs assume that you will take a break in the summer. Thus, if you attend classes even as a part-time student during the summer you may be able to finish in less than two years. This is a great option to consider, since summer terms tend to be less popular and might allow you extra time with your instructor. Try to take whatever steps you need to finish in two years or less. That way you can launch your career as soon as possible.

Potential Careers in ECE with an Associates

  • Preschool Teacher:
    Your online associate degree in early childhood education will help you launch a career as a preschool teacher. Though this position doesn't necessarily require a degree, you can use it to apply to those programs that have more advanced curriculum, such as Montessori schools or those using the Reggio-Emilia approach. The average salary for this position is $32,300.
  • Educational Paraprofessional:
    In this position you will help students learn by providing hands-on assistance. You will work under the lead classroom teacher and may be asked to perform administrative tasks such as making photocopies or preparing the classroom for activities. Some special education paraprofessionals work with a single student all day, every day. The average salary for this position is $20,200.
  • Substitute Teacher:
    This is a great way to earn a little bit of money while getting your feet wet as a classroom teacher. Not every school district will recognize an associate degree, but many do, especially if you have completed a degree in education. If you are lucky, you might land a long-term position as a substitute for a teacher on maternity leave. The average salary for this position is $26,500.
  • Private School Teacher:
    Private schools are not required to hire fully licensed teachers, so you might be able to take over an elementary classroom with your associate degree. Your chances for success are greater if you have some special experience or have a specialty that is rare. If you do take on a classroom, you should start thinking of completing a four-year degree. The average salary for this position is $45,000.
  • Nanny:
    Families often want a professional who can not only see to their children's basic needs for transportation, food, and general oversight, but who can offer a more rounded, educational experience for their young ones. Your associate degree will certainly pave the way to this rewarding work. The average salary for this position is $33,000.

Salary by Occupation

Occupations Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Preschool Teacher $30,700 $31,700 $34,000
Tutor $30,000 $38,500 $42,300
Elementary School Teacher $39,700 $45,400 $58,400
Preschool Director $34,400 $41,100 $48,200
Childcare Center Director $40,900 $42,200 $48,700
Special Education Preschool/Kindergarten Teacher $40,500 $49,200 $60,800
Daycare Teacher $29,000 $29,700 $29,800
Elementary School Principal $67,600 $81,200 $92,700

Options to Advance

Once you begin your career in early childhood education, you may start to desire advancement. Your first step toward career development should be to do the best job you can in your current situation. If you are working in a preschool, you can work on developing new curriculum or new activities for the children. You might even be able to work your way up to being a lead teacher.

Eventually, it will be to your best interest to return to school for a special certificate or an online bachelor's degree. If you choose to enhance your education with a certificate, make sure the courses you take can apply to an online bachelor's degree later. A bachelor's degree will provide the most opportunities for you in the long-term. That's because a four-year degree will open the door to full state licensure and a position with a public school. You might even pursue a master's degree and then work as a school administrator or as an educational consultant.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an early childhood education degree still going to be useful in the next few years?

Not only will this degree still be useful, it may be even more of a requirement for those who wish to work with children. Studies keep being released that show that children’s early years are even more important than we knew, and this has prompted many states to increase the requirements for those who teach children at a young age. A bachelor’s degree will put you in a good position to get into teaching and move into a higher position once you begin or finish earning a master’s degree. No matter what level of education you wish to be a part of, you are going to need some kind of degree.

What are the struggles in early childhood education?

There are several issues that those working with children are dealing with these days. These include a lack of workers in the area, lower pay than others, a dearth of development opportunities making it somewhat more difficult to complete your continuing education requirements at this level, an excess of administrative work (especially for special needs students, and more. This can make it difficult to work in this field for long, and many teachers move up to higher grades or into other fields every year. However, there will always be a need for early childhood educators, and those who feel called to fill these roles often gain a great deal of enjoyment from their work.

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