Best Online Masters in Early Childhood Education Degrees for 2023

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

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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 an online or traditional 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.


  • Earning an online or in-person 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. Aditionally, teachers must take courses in order to maintain their licensure. If you take master's courses online that will count toward licensure, you could naturally earn a master's through online courses without adding much extra effort to your schedule.


  • 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. Even those who attend online or hybrid (online and in-person) programs spend quite a bit of time working on their degree over the course of two to three years. 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.

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What are the Best Online Master's in Early Childhood Education College Programs?


University of Dayton

  • Net Price: $32,768
  • Retention Rate: 91%
  • Graduation Rate: 81%
  • Total Enrollment: 11,650
  • Undergrad Students: 8,644
  • Graduate Students: 3,006
  • Diplomas Awarded: 9
  • Grads Salary: $75,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 15:1
  • University of Dayton

Arizona State University

  • Net Price: $14,653
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Total Enrollment: 74,795
  • Undergrad Students: 63,124
  • Graduate Students: 11,671
  • Diplomas Awarded: NA
  • Grads Salary: $72,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Arizona State University

University of Missouri-Columbia

  • Net Price: $16,930
  • Retention Rate: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 73%
  • Total Enrollment: 31,089
  • Undergrad Students: 23,383
  • Graduate Students: 7,706
  • Diplomas Awarded: NA
  • Grads Salary: $69,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • University of Missouri-Columbia

University of Michigan-Dearborn

  • Net Price: $12,639
  • Retention Rate: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 55%
  • Total Enrollment: 8,783
  • Undergrad Students: 6,725
  • Graduate Students: 2,058
  • Diplomas Awarded: 14
  • Grads Salary: $74,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 16:1
  • University of Michigan-Dearborn

CUNY Queens College

  • Net Price: $5,594
  • Retention Rate: 83%
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Total Enrollment: 19,700
  • Undergrad Students: 16,702
  • Graduate Students: 2,998
  • Diplomas Awarded: 56
  • Grads Salary: $69,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • CUNY Queens College

University of Alabama at Birmingham

  • Net Price: $16,978
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 61%
  • Total Enrollment: 22,563
  • Undergrad Students: 13,878
  • Graduate Students: 8,685
  • Diplomas Awarded: 4
  • Grads Salary: $71,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 20:1
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham

University of North Florida

  • Net Price: $9,789
  • Retention Rate: 84%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Total Enrollment: 16,926
  • Undergrad Students: 14,550
  • Graduate Students: 2,376
  • Diplomas Awarded: NA
  • Grads Salary: $64,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 19:1
  • University of North Florida

University of North Dakota

  • Net Price: $16,780
  • Retention Rate: 81%
  • Graduation Rate: 61%
  • Total Enrollment: 13,615
  • Undergrad Students: 9,796
  • Graduate Students: 3,819
  • Diplomas Awarded: 16
  • Grads Salary: $70,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • University of North Dakota

Touro College

  • Net Price: $22,711
  • Retention Rate: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 63%
  • Total Enrollment: 11,699
  • Undergrad Students: 5,520
  • Graduate Students: 6,179
  • Diplomas Awarded: 275
  • Grads Salary: $71,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 11:1
  • Touro College

University of Houston-Clear Lake

  • Net Price: $14,667
  • Retention Rate: 77%
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Total Enrollment: 9,053
  • Undergrad Students: 6,582
  • Graduate Students: 2,471
  • Diplomas Awarded: 7
  • Grads Salary: $73,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 17:1
  • University of Houston-Clear Lake
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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. These are also some of the most accessible degrees for online study.
  • 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. As teaching doesn't include much hands-on science, even MS degrees are easy to find through online 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. This is another excellent option for those interested in earning their degree through online learning.
  • Master's Degree in Early Childhood:
    Inclusive Education and Curriculum & Instruction – This degree is a specialization on a particular concentration in early childhood education and can be found online from some educational institutions.

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. No matter what your school requires, prospective students for online learning can expect to provide the same admissions items as those who are not attending through online platforms.

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, such as those taking master's courses online to maintain their license, 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 and may contain some online courses. 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.

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

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is getting a master’s in education worth it?

The short answer to this question is yes. There are many reasons why earning a master’s degree could boost your career. When you consider earning a master’s in education, the benefits only increase. For one, you cannot teach at the college level without at least a master’s-level degree. Additionally, the pay scale for educators is often heavily focused on how much education that educator has. So, those who have earned master’s degrees may earn an automatic pay increase if they work within the public education system. Those in private education institutions may also earn higher pay, but this depends on their particular employer’s policies. And a master’s degree in education is broader than one in teaching. With this degree, you could also move into a role in administration rather than continue teaching throughout your career. So, this degree gives you better pay, more options, and many opportunities.

What is the highest paying job in early childhood education?

Early childhood education isn’t a field where most people join for the chance to make lots of money, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t well paying jobs in the field. For example, a special education teacher may make more than a regular preschool teacher and a college professor of education may make more than a high school teacher. However, when it comes to the highest paying roles, these are usually outside the classroom, though they are still focused on education and learning. Generally, instructional specialists are usually the highest paid workers who have a role in education and may have a master’s in early childhood education. These specialists work to create curriculums and textbooks for early grades and educational institutions to use. They know everything about childhood development and aim to create curriculum that will work with the natural development of a child to infuse their growth with new knowledge. It requires a lot of education to hold one of these roles and a master’s is the perfect degree to get into this field.

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