Employer requirements for a career in early childhood education vary by facility and state. Whether hiring a daycare worker, preschool teacher, or elementary school teacher, though, most employers require at least an associate’s degree in early childhood education.
Teacher licensure requirements vary from state to state, but states typically require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree of early childhood education teachers. Obtaining early childhood education degrees at the Master’s or Doctoral level will open up further career opportunities and the potential for increased income. More advanced early childhood education degrees can lead to careers outside of the classroom in policy and administration.
Early Childhood Education Degrees: Associate’s
An Associate’s degree, sometimes referred to as a two-year degree, is a course of study that requires at least a high school diploma or a GED as a prerequisite. Typical coursework is in child growth and development and methodology in teaching of the young child. Students who earn this degree may work in childcare facilities, day cares, or as teaching assistants.
Early Childhood Education Degrees: Bachelor’s
Public schools, and many private schools, require that those who teach have a bachelor’s degree at the minimum. Regulations regarding licensure vary from state to state, though. Early childhood education degrees at the bachelor’s level usually take 4 years to complete, and the prerequisite for this degree is a GED or a high school diploma. Early childhood education bachelor’s degrees entail general education coursework (typically for the first 2 years of study) followed by courses in early childhood education. Coursework generally covers classes in classroom issues, psychology, and pedagogy. Instructional methods for pre-Kindergarten through grade 3 are usually the focus of these degrees.
Early Childhood Education Degrees: Master’s
A bachelor’s degree is a necessary prerequisite for earning early childhood education degrees at the Master’s level. Usually, the Master’s degree in early childhood education is an M. Ed. (Master of Education). Some schools offer the Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree as well. Usually, with the Master’s degree comes a higher salary, and often increased career opportunities. Coursework for the Master’s of Early Childhood Education develops an in-depth practical and theoretical knowledge of pedagogy appropriate for very young children. Childhood development is also emphasized. The thesis requirement varies by institution, but the degree generally takes about 2 years to earn.
Early Childhood Education Degrees: Doctorate
Following the completion of a Master’s degree, some students may opt to further their studies by earning a Ph. D. in Early Childhood Education. Just as a Master’s degree opens more career opportunities, a Ph. D. may lead to career opportunities in postsecondary education or administration. Generally, Ph. D. programs in early childhood education involve intensive and extensive research in the way children learn. Students in these programs study curriculum development and classroom methodology as well as facets of administration and psychology of the learner courses, to name a few.
This degree typically takes 3 to 5 years to complete. Those who hold the Doctorate in early childhood education may pursue careers in leadership within early childhood education facilities or take jobs shaping policy as it pertains to early childhood education.