Early childhood education refers to the formal instruction of infants through children in pre-kindergarten. Early childhood educators have completed the necessary level of education and training needed to work with kids under the age of six. At the associate degree level, students will receive a comprehensive introduction to the field of early childhood learning and develop important instructional methods and classroom management skills. The associates in early childhood education online is the ideal degree route for first-time college students and those who want to start at a lower level and work their way up to more advanced teaching or administrative positions.

Why an Associate Degree?

Earning an associate degree is one of the quickest and most affordable ways to break into early childhood education. Although an associate degree does not qualify you to teach elementary or higher grade levels in the U.S., it does provide the knowledge and skills needed to work with infants to pre-k aged children. Completion of this degree makes you eligible to work as a preschool teacher or teacher assistant in preschool, daycare, and other learning centers. If you decide to go back to school and pursue a higher degree, such as the bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, you will be well prepared for the advanced course work and demands of this four-year degree.

Getting Into an Associate Degree Program

If you’re interested in the associate degree in early childhood education, you need to make sure you meet the minimum educational requirements. Admissions criteria vary from school to school, but most associate degree seekers are expected to have the following:

  • High school diploma or its equivalent
  • Minimum required GPA
  • Desired score on the SAT, ACT, and/or entrance exam

Inside an Early Childhood Education (Infant-PreK) Associate Degree Program

The online early childhood education associate degree program usually takes two years to complete, depending on you individual program, course load, and pace. While in training, students will take a variety of courses, including health, safety, and nutrition for young children, essentials of psychology, child growth and development, infant and toddler care, and working with children with special needs. In addition to the core courses, most associate degree programs also require students to take general education courses in English, science, and math.

Online students can access their courses, lectures, assignments, and grades on a learning management system, such as Blackboard or Moodle. These sites also provide instant messaging, e-mail, and discussion forums for communicating with instructors, classmates, and faculty members. Be sure to take advantage of the academic, financial, and career resources at your school.

What’s Next for Early Childhood Education (Infant-PreK) Associate Degree Holders?

Graduates of the associate in early childhood education online are prepared to do a number of exciting jobs in education. Common career paths for graduates include preschool teacher, childcare worker, and teacher assistant. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of preschool teachers is expected to grow 25% by 2020, childcare workers are projected to grow 20% by 2020, and teacher assistants could increase 15% by 2020. In addition to having optimistic job outlooks, all three occupations also have favorable salaries. According to the May 2012 Occupational Employment Statistics, preschool teachers, except special education made an average annual salary of $30,750, whereas childcare workers made $21,310, and teacher assistants made $25,310, annually.

Associate degree holders are equipped to do many entry-level jobs, but it’s not uncommon for some employers to require early childhood educators to have at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. Earning a four-year degree in early childhood education can expand your teaching options beyond the infant-pre-k level, as well as increase your earning potential. A bachelor’s degree also meets the minimum degree requirements for most other industries, so you will have more career flexibility if you decide to switch fields later on.