Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina
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For students who want to support the development of young children, an online bachelor’s in early childhood education leads to many career possibilities. These programs equip learners with a diverse skill set that they can apply to both teaching and administration positions, including education administrator and childcare center director.
This page explores online bachelor’s in early childhood education programs in more detail, highlighting course requirements, career options, and the most affordable study options available.
Finding an affordable early childhood education degree online doesn’t need to be hard. It’s no secret that early childhood education is not the most lucrative career choice; working professionals in preschool, Head Start, and other education and childcare centers cannot afford to spend a fortune getting their bachelor’s degree. Plus, the schedule of a conventional on-campus degree program doesn’t generally mesh well with a teacher’s schedule; days are spent at the job, while nights are critical for preparation.
That’s why online bachelor’s completion programs in early childhood education have become so common, but working adults looking for advancement in the field should be careful. There are plenty of affordable early childhood education degree online programs from regionally accredited, trustworthy colleges and universities all over the US. The best deals usually come from regional public universities, many of which started out as teacher’s colleges and maintain a commitment to the highest standards of teacher education in their online ECE programs.
Next in our series of affordable online degrees is our ranking of the best cheap online early childhood education degree programs. People who want jobs as early childhood educators have a special responsibility in society. They take on the sometimes rewarding, sometimes frustrating task of getting young people interested in education and preparing them for many more years of schooling. Not everyone has the patience or compassion to work with small children, but for the right person, it is the best job in the world.
If you’re interested in Early Childhood Education, you might be wondering how to go about getting a job in the field. A bachelor’s degree in child development or education can help. Think you don’t have time to go back to school? Don’t worry! Thanks to the increasing use of technology on college campuses, it is now possible to earn a bachelor’s degree entirely online. For more general information regarding best value online education programs visit our ranking of the best online colleges.
The 2020 Best Online Early Childhood Education Programs Ranking Methodology
For this ranking, we focused on public and private (non-profit) colleges and universities that offer early childhood education bachelor’s degrees online. Because the focus of this list is on affordability, we only considered programs with average* tuition rates of $25,000/year or less.
*For public schools, we calculated the average value of their in-state and out-of-state rates.
After compiling a list of all the colleges that offer early childhood education degrees online, we then collected data in five categories:
- Program Demand: How much demand is there for the program relative to other majors? To find out, we calculated the percentage of all 2015-16 graduates at each school who earned their degree in early childhood education (ECE).
- Accreditation: Is the program accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)? If so, does CAEP specifically recognize the ECE degree as an accreditation-worthy program? Is the program also recognized by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)?
- Certification/Licensure: Does the program prepare students for teacher certification/licensure as ECE educators?
- Delivery: What percentage of the program is available online? Does the school offer a full four-year curriculum or only a “degree completion” option?
- Affordability: What is the average annual cost of attendance?
After collecting and sorting all the information, we ranked the candidates according to their performance in each area (all categories received equal weight in the calculation). Finally, we summed up the results and gave each school a final score using a curve so that the top-scoring program earned an even 100 points.
Read more about the best cheap online early childhood education degrees below!
Note: This article may contain sponsored links. These are designed to help you connect with programs easily.
|University of Washington||Seattle, WA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 84%||UW offers an online bachelor of arts in early care and education that prepares students for careers in education, social and mental health services, and childcare. Learners take classes completely online with asynchronous delivery. To graduate with a bachelor’s in early care and education, students must earn a total of 180 quarter credits. However, students must hold at least 70 credits before entering the program. Major core courses include equity in early care and education, engaging interactions and environments, early childhood curriculum, and child observation and assessment. The curriculum also includes service learning courses, where students can work alongside early childhood education professionals. Applicants can gain more information about the admissions process by attending a virtual information session. UW is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Tweet this Share this|
|2||Florida International University||Miami, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||FIU offers an online bachelor’s in childhood education that prepares students for careers in child development, childcare, and education for children from birth to age eight. Learners can pursue the degree entirely online. This BS in early childhood education degree requires 120 credits, including 30 credits in major-specific courses. It takes full-time participants four years to complete. Courses include issues in early childhood education, early social and emotional development, family literacy and the young child, and language and literacy development. Each applicant must hold a high school diploma, possess a minimum 2.5 GPA, and submit competitive SAT or ACT scores. FIU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Tweet this Share this|
|3||University of Nebraska Lincoln||Lincoln, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||UNL offers an online bachelor’s in early childhood education in a mobile society that prepares students to work in childhood education settings with families who are highly mobile — particularly military families, immigrant families, families that travel for a living, and families living in poverty. This program is part of the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance, which utilizes coursework provided by seven universities. This BS in early childhood education degree requires 120 credits, which degree-seekers can complete in four years. Courses are delivered entirely online in an asynchronous format. Core courses include child development, child guidance and classroom environments, development of curriculum for children, and understanding and adapting for developmental differences. Applicants must have a high school diploma and a minimum 2.5 GPA. All distance learners pay the same tuition, regardless of residency. UNL is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Tweet this Share this|
|4||National University||La Jolla, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||NU offers an online bachelor of arts in early childhood education that provides students with a foundation in child development and learning, including topics such as brain development, parent empowerment, early cognition, emerging literacy, and child advocacy. The program is available online or on campus. This BA in early childhood education requires 180 quarter credits — with 45 major-specific credits — and takes four years to complete. Core major courses include early cognition, early language and literacy, designing emergent curriculum, and play as pedagogy. The curriculum also includes field experience courses that meet requirements for teacher licensure in California. Each applicant must possess a high school diploma and a minimum GPA of 2.0. Students without prior college-level English or math credits must take the ACCUPLACER exam. NU is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. Tweet this Share this|
|5||University of Nebraska Kearney||Kearney, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||UNK offers an online early childhood inclusive bachelor of arts program designed for those who want to teach children from birth through age eight in educational settings, as well as children from birth through age five in special education settings. This BA requires 120 credits and takes four years to complete. Courses are delivered online with in-person supervised student teaching and school-based experiences in a participant’s community. Enrollees can specialize in birth through kindergarten or age three to grade three. Courses include phonics and word study, literacy assessment, primary grade literacy, and serving young children with special needs. Each applicant must hold a high school diploma, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and an SAT score of 1040 or higher or an ACT score of 20 or higher. UNK is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Tweet this Share this|
|6||Wichita State University||Wichita, KS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||WSU offers an online bachelor’s in early childhood education/elementary education for students who want to work with young children in educational settings. The program leads to licensure in Kansas but does not guarantee licensure outside the state. Licensure options include early childhood unified (birth through third grade), elementary education (K-6), and early childhood unified and elementary education. This online bachelor’s degree in early childhood education degree requires 120 credits and takes four years to complete. Courses include creating a production-centered classroom, social and emotional learning in the school community, and universal design for learning. Each enrollee must serve as a paraeducator during the program and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA to graduate. WSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Tweet this Share this|
|7||The University of North Carolina at Greensboro||Greensboro, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||UNCG offers an online bachelor’s degree completion program in early childhood education as part of the UNCG 2 Plus program for students who earned associate degrees from participating North Carolina community colleges. Participants choose to follow one of two degree pathways: birth through kindergarten online teacher licensure or early care and education online. To graduate, students must earn 60-66 credits beyond their associate degree. Core courses include school-age development, infant and child development, and assessment and planning for inclusive birth through kindergarten programs. Applicants to the 2 Plus program must have completed an associate degree. UNCG accepts up to 64 transfer credits from other institutions. The university is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Tweet this Share this|
|8||West Virginia University||Morgantown, WV||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 60%||WVU offers an online bachelor of science in child development and family studies for students looking to work with preschool children in childcare and educational settings. This program meets the West Virginia Department of Education’s requirements for pre-K certification. This BS in child development and family studies requires 120 credits, which learners can complete in four years. Core courses include families across the lifespan, introduction to marriage and family, infant development, and research methods and data analysis. WVU also offers a certificate in early childhood education. Each applicant must possess a high school diploma and a minimum 2.5 GPA. WVU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Tweet this Share this|
|9||University of Wisconsin River Falls||River Falls, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||UWRF offers an online bachelor of science in early childhood with a teaching certificate option for students who want to pursue employment as administrators or teachers in childcare centers and preschools. Teaching in early childhood classrooms at public schools requires licensure, and the certificate option allows students to meet state licensure requirements. Students can enroll primarily online but must occasionally visit campus for in-person Saturday sessions. The curriculum of this online BS in early childhood allows students to complete field experience and student teaching requirements in their local areas. Each applicant must possess a high school diploma (or the equivalent), a minimum 2.75 GPA, and satisfactory scores on a basic skills test. UWRF is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Tweet this Share this|
|10||University of Alabama||Tuscaloosa, AL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 72%||UA offers an online bachelor of science in human environmental sciences, early childhood education for students who want to work with children from birth through age eight in childcare settings or as non-licensed teachers. Students can choose a concentration in early childhood development or early childhood practitioner. This program is not a teacher certification program. This early childhood education degree requires 120 credits and takes four years to complete. Core courses include human lifespan development, infancy and toddlerhood, preschool development, and child development. Degree-seekers can transfer up to 60 credits. Each applicant must possess a high school diploma (or the equivalent), acceptable ACT or SAT scores, and a minimum 2.0 GPA. Students who have been out of high school for more than four years are not required to submit standardized test scores. UA is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.|
1. Winston-Salem State University
When you’re looking for an affordable early childhood education degree online, Winston-Salem State University’s online BS in Birth-Kindergarten Education teaches students to handle the needs of children from infancy until they are five years old and ready to move into traditional education. It discusses different strategies to handle the needs of typical and atypical children who may be in the care of adults in a daycare or similar program. Students qualify for licensure after completing their online ECE programs.
Winston-Salem State University is an HBCU in the Triad region of North Carolina. WSSU had its beginning in 1892 as a teacher’s college to train African-American teachers for the segregated schools of the era. Today, Winston-Salem State is one of the most acclaimed public HBCUs in the nation, and remains a leader in teacher education for the South. The college is also known as a force for social mobility, ranking in the top 10 of the Social Mobility Index. The program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the North Carolina State Board of Education.
2. Western New Mexico University
The Western New Mexico University online BS in Early Childhood Education is one of the most affordable early childhood education degree online programs in the nation. WNMU prepares students to work in a daycare or program designed for the needs of young children. The program focuses on a variety of important aspects of a child’s life, including health and nutrition, child development, and family collaboration. By learning how to get parents and family members involved in a child’s early education, teachers set the child up for success when he or she moves into a traditional class environment at the elementary level. The online ECE programs teach students to handle the challenges of a child’s initial growth and development, as well as to prepare a child for their education.
Western New Mexico University was founded in 1893 as a normal school, training teachers for the territory’s schools. While WNMU has become a comprehensive university, it has retained the focus on excellence and teaching. The online BS-ECE program allows students to practice teaching before they complete their degree and it requires a teacher assessment using the National Evaluation Series to ensure that teachers are able to handle the challenges of educating young children. The high standards help students prepare for their role as an educator and caregiver to young children, with the affordability of one of the Southwest’s cheapest early childhood education degree programs.
3. University of Montana Western
Working adults searching for the cheapest early childhood education degree should look to the University of Montana Western’s online BS in Early Childhood Education program. The BS degree in Early Childhood Education focuses on understanding the needs and behavior of children before working with them in an educational setting. Students have a chance to take their online ECE programs in a traditional classroom setting or online, so it offers flexibility for students who cannot attend traditional classes.
The University of Montana Western began in 1893 as the Montana Territorial Normal School, preparing teachers for the schools system even before Montana became as state. UMW’s online programs provide greater flexibility for students than traditional programs, building on years of experience in distance education. Students never need to go to the campus to take classes and can complete their degree entirely online. It also uses a gateway system that assesses students’ abilities at different stages of the degree program to ensure that they are prepared to handle the challenges of caring for young children.
4. North Carolina Central University
North Carolina Central University’s online BS in Birth-Kindergarten Teacher Education programs is an affordable early childhood education degree online program focusing on the needs of children from infancy until kindergarten. The B-K online ECE programs prepare students to work in a daycare or in any position focusing on the needs of young children. The online program allows students to work from any location and gives working adults the flexibility to focus on accomplishing their goals as a student. It also qualifies graduates for state licensure, or a specialized certification for working teachers and second-career teachers.
North Carolina Central University has been a leader in African-American education for generations, since its beginning as a private school for black youth in 1910, then as a public teacher’s college in 1923. Teacher education has remained a priority for over a century, and remains one of the best teacher’s colleges among HBCUs. Since the program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, or NCATE, it does comply with the standards of the council. It’s also one of the cheapest early childhood education degree programs to be found in an online format, making NCCU a real value for North Carolina teachers.
5. Lewis-Clark State College
The Lewis-Clark State College online BAS in Early Childhood Education for students who want to work with young children. The program allows you to take on positions in educational programs for children at an early age, including a head teacher in a Head Start program or an Early Head Start program, or to work as a consultant, in family support programs, or a variety of positions focusing on the needs of young children. LCSC’s online ECE programs help with licensure and certification by running all students through a background check and fingerprinting to ensure they are qualified to work with young children.
Like many regional public institutions, Lewis-Clark State College began as a normal school, training teachers for the school system in the “normal” method of experiential learning in a real classroom. LCSC began just a few years after Idaho’s statehood, in 1893, and over a century later remains committed to the highest standards in teacher education, even after expanding to a more comprehensive college. To reach Idaho’s rural residents, LCSC has also become a leader in online education, including one of the most affordable early childhood education degree online programs in the nation.
6. University of Southern Mississippi
If you’re looking for an affordable early childhood education degree online, then the University of Southern Mississippi’s online BS in Child and Family Studies program prepares students to work with children and their families in a wide variety of settings. Since the program stresses the inclusion of family in the education of young children, graduates have many more options than simply pre-K or Head Start programs, including family counseling centers and other social services careers. Southern Miss’ online ECE programs recognize that educators are only part of the process and takes time to prepare students for the integration of family support in a child’s early development.
Since its founding as a normal school in 1910, the University of Southern Mississippi’s focus on teacher training and education has remained firm. Southern Miss’ online early childhood education program is accredited by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. The high standards set by the association ensure that you have the skills to handle the needs of families and their children. Southern Miss’ commitment to accessibility has also made it one of the cheapest early childhood education degree programs in the US.
7. Fort Hays State University
The Fort Hays State University online BS in Early Childhood Unified prepares students for licensure teaching both conventional and special education from birth to 3rd grade. The online degree program allows graduates to take on positions as an administrator, a coordinator or an early childhood educator. Since it takes a unified approach to teacher education, it allows you to take on more roles as a professional working in childhood education. The Fort Hays online ECE programs offer student teaching opportunities and internships to help prepare students for the tasks they will face when working in early childhood education.
Fort Hays State University had its origin as a branch campus of the Kansas State Normal School, before growing into its own independent teacher’s college. Built on a former military garrison, and originally set up as an agricultural research station, FHSU has always been in tune with Kansas’ needs. That continues today with some of the bst and most affordable online degree programs in the nation, including its affordable early childhood education degree online program.
8. Mayville State University
If you’re looking for the cheapest early childhood education degree, Mayville State University may offer the program you need. Mayville State’s online early childhood education programs include a BS in Education with an Early Childhood Education concentration, and a BA in Early Education. Both online ECE programs focus on meeting the needs of children at an early age. They also allow you to transfer in credits from other programs so that students can complete their undergraduate program in a short amount of time.
Mayville State University began in the same year North Dakota became a state, organized as a normal school to train teachers by the new legislature. With the special needs of North Dakota’s working adults – in a state with vast rural areas that can be difficult to travel in winter months – Mayville State has become a national leader in online education. Reasonable tuition rates have also earned MSU a reputation as a best value, a status that extends to their affordable early childhood education degree online program.
9. Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University’s online Child and Family Studies: Child Development bachelor’s degree offers the education professional educators need to work with young children. The program specifically focuses on the development of children and providing the education they need to handle challenges as they move forward into their elementary education. In eight-week terms, with a flexible schedule, the online program allows you to work on your degree when it fits your schedule and the affordable cost allows you to work on accomplishing your goals while staying in a budget.
Eastern Kentucky University has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s top online educators, with U.S. News & World Report ranking as one of the top online undergraduate educators in the nation. EKU began in 1906 as a state normal school, when the former Central University was bought out by the Commonwealth. EKU’s roots in teacher education continue to shine through its education programs, including one of the most affordable online ECE programs anywhere.
10. Jackson State University
Jackson State University’s online BS in Child Care and Family Education is one of the most affordable early childhood education degree online programs in the nation. The program is a non-licensure program, so it does not give students a licensure exam. While it does not give students a teaching license, it does qualify graduates to work as teacher’s assistants, Head Start administrators, pre-school directors, and other related careers. JSU’s Child Care and Family Education program focuses on early childhood development and the integration of family into a child’s early development and education.
Jackson State University is one of the largest HBCUs in the nation, and a leader in education in Mississippi. Founded in 1877, JSU has been meeting the needs of African-American students in Mississippi for more than a century and a half, especially through professional education in crucial areas like teacher education. The online Child Care and Family Education program offers field experiences that help you prepare for your career in early education before you start working as a teacher’s aide, a coordinator or a similar role in childhood education. With JSU’s emphasis on affordability, it’s one of the cheapest online ECE programs anywhere.
What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education Program?
Bachelor’s in early childhood education programs offer various pathways that can impact students’ career options. Choosing the right route depends on each person’s interests and goals.
Generally, these programs require 120 credits and take four years to complete. Many of the best programs also feature an internship that helps satisfy licensure requirements.
Curricula and career possibilities vary considerably by school, and specializations can open new doors. Compassionate and patient degree-seekers with an interest in working with children may consider pursuing concentrations in language development or specific age groups. Detail-oriented aspiring administrators and directors may prefer a curriculum development or leadership concentration.
Some schools also offer a choice between a BA and a BS. While a BA provides more general training and can lead to non-teaching careers, a BS tends to provide more focused teacher training and prepares graduates for a teaching license.
After graduation, learners often choose between certifications and licenses, which has a major influence on career pathways. For example, most teaching positions require licensure, so students need to understand their specific state requirements. Childcare directors may also require certification, such as the child development associate credential.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education Program?
The list below details some of the most common courses early childhood education degree-seekers may encounter, along with some courses that may appear in all education programs.
In this class, students learn about how children develop mentally, physically, and socially. The class covers various environmental factors that influence development, assessment, and identification processes. Learners also discuss how to help children manage different developmental issues. Degree-seekers assess how to support children based on their unique situations and needs.
Students in this course learn how to create and facilitate play-based lesson plans. Learners also explore how and why play has such a strong impact on mental, physical, and social development.
This course teaches students how to create lesson plans that encourage discovery and engagement with peers, instructors, and various environments. Common topics include play-based learning, imagination, and physical interactions. Students also learn how to evaluate children’s knowledge
Assessment and Evaluation for Young Children
In this course, students examine tools and methods for evaluating children in various educational settings. They look at ways to improve student outcomes through motivational techniques and challenges. Degree-seekers also learn how to identify special needs and overcome linguistic and learning barriers.
This course teaches learners how to manage a childcare center, including finance and budgeting, staff training and development, and human resources. Students explore ways of livening up program design and community involvement.
What skills do you need for early childhood education?
Early childhood educators who work in classrooms typically need problem-solving and communication skills, along with patience, resourcefulness, and creativity. Administrators and directors need leadership and organizational skills. All professionals should be able to design programs and evaluate students.
How much money can I make with a bachelor’s in early childhood education degree?
According to the BLS, the top 10% of childcare center directors and education administrators make more than $82,000 annually. Childcare directors earn a median annual salary of $48,210, while education administrators earn an average annual salary of $53,690.
What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education Degree?
Graduates with a bachelor’s in early childhood education can access many careers across educational settings. Teaching careers provide the highest-paying positions in the field and the largest workforce. However, licensure requirements vary by state, and these positions often require additional training.
Additional careers include childcare center director and educational administrator, which also feature strong salaries but much smaller workforce. Job growth projections for educational administrators in childcare settings are nearly double the average rate for all occupations.
Learn more about child development careers on this page.
Childcare directors manage childcare centers and programs, ensuring that staff and educators follow procedures and protocols and meet the standards of the organization. They also handle budgeting, develop policies, and design programs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 65% of these professionals work in childcare centers, 12% work in religious organizations, and 6% work in schools.
Education administrators work in various schools and centers to manage tasks like finances, program admission, and staff support. They may also work in program design and communicate with families and the community. Most childcare administrators work directly in childcare services, but some work in the elementary school system or family services.
Kindergarten teachers design and implement lesson plans that teach basic skills to young students. They assess and address student needs and evaluate learners in various ways. Most kindergarten teachers work in the public school system.
Preschool teachers support the development of students before they enter kindergarten, helping them with social skills and self-confidence. They observe students in various settings, looking for potential developmental concerns while developing programs that help children learn about the world and themselves. Preschool teachers typically find work in childcare centers, religious organizations, and public and private schools.
Childcare workers take care of the children in various educational centers, feeding, cleaning, supervising, and recording their activities throughout the day. They may also create lesson plans and activities based on observations and child interests. Most childcare workers are employed in childcare centers, although many are self-employed or work in private residences.