Early childhood education is a specialized teaching discipline that focuses on the social and cognitive development in young children, from infancy to pre-kindergarten. Early childhood educators teach in preschools, nurseries, day cares, after-school enrichment programs, and other learning facilities. To obtain early childhood teaching positions, educators must have a college degree, a teaching certificate, and other requirements defined by their state of residence. At the master’s degree level, students will take advanced courses in child development, classroom management, and other early childhood learning topics, as well as enhance their teaching strategies and higher-order thinking skills through research assignments and practicums.

Why a Master’s Degree?

The first step in becoming an early childhood educator is completing the proper level of education and training. Although the minimum requirement for infant to pre-K educators is usually a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, there are plenty of reasons to pursue a graduate degree, such as expanding your teaching skills or advancing you career. The online master’s in early childhood education provides a specialized overview of understanding, instructing, and leading young children. Students will build on their current knowledge of learning theories, curriculum design, and instructional development, while focusing more on child development stages, learning environments, caregiving.

Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program

To enroll in the master’s degree program in early childhood education, you need to make sure you meet the school’s educational requirements. Although admissions criteria vary from school to school, most master’s degree seekers are required to have the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree in
  • Desired score on the GRE or GMAT
  • Minimum required GPA
  • Submission of references/letters of recommendation

Inside an Early Childhood Education Master’s Degree Program

The online master’s degree in early childhood education can take as little as 10 weeks or two years to complete. Completion times often vary based on an individual’s program, course load, and pace. Students can expect to take a variety of courses, including foundations of educational leadership, curriculum, instruction, and assessment, classroom management strategies, survey of research methodology, child psychology, and reading and literacy instruction.

In addition to taking core courses, graduate students are also required to complete specialization courses and electives in their area of interest or expertise. Distance courses, lectures, assignments, and grades can be accessed on a learning management system, like Blackboard or Moodle. Students can also use these sites to communicate with their instructors, classmates, and faculty though e-mail, instant messaging, discussion forums, and more.

What’s Next for Early Childhood Education Master’s Degree Holders?

Graduates of the master’s degree in early childhood education are prepared to work as instructional coordinators, preschool and childcare center directors, and education administrators. These leadership positions generally require a master’s degree and a few years of experience in this field or a related occupation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, all three professions are expected to have good employment projects for the next few years. Employment of instructional coordinators is expected to grow 20% by 2020, preschool and childcare center directors are projected to increase 25% by2020, and education administrators could see a 10% growth in employment by 2020. In addition to having optimistic job outlooks, all three occupations also have excellent salaries. According to the May 2012 Occupational Employment Statistics, instructional coordinators made an average annual salary of $62,420, preschool and childcare center directors earned $51,060, and education administrators made $90,800 at the elementary level.

Although master’s degree holders have optimistic prospects and are considered strong job candidates, they may need additional education and training if they want advance their career or work in competitive schools. If you want to go back to school for early childhood education, there are a couple degree and graduate certificate options to consider. Graduates can choose from the post-master’s certificate or doctorate degree in early childhood education. Both post-master’s options provide advanced instruction and specialized skills training that can significantly increase your job options and earning potential.