Best Online Early Childhood Education Bachelor's Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 9/20/2021
Quick Facts
Accreditation: CAEP, MACTE, NAEYC, NCATE
Average Tuition: $24,160
Alumni Salary: $35,830

In today’s society, many parents or guardians work time-consuming jobs, leaving their young children in the care of educators and caregivers. This creates tremendous job opportunities for those who enjoy working with youth that range in age from infancy to eight years old. Preschool teachers and caregivers with associate degrees earn about $30,000 a year, while elementary school teachers with bachelor’s degrees earn closer to $60,000 annually.

The following list presents the best schools for online bachelor's degrees in early childhood education. We also discuss some key related topics below, including common online courses, the importance of accreditation, relevant licensure, and potential career paths.

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Online Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education with the Highest Return on Investment

2021 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's Degrees in Early Childhood Education Badge

The schools on this list offer the top online bachelor's degrees in early childhood education by return on investment (ROI). To compare programs, we calculated ROIs based on projected 10-year alumni earnings after paying off student debt. Since ROI takes both earnings and debt into account, it can help prospective students decide if the price of tuition is worth it for the online degree they are considering. Every program on this list has a higher-than-average ROI compared to all bachelor's degrees in early childhood education (online or not) in the United States, which average at $337,200.

ROI amounts are based on data reported by the U.S. Department of Education. Tuitions are manually researched in order to determine tuition amounts specific to online degrees. Read our methodology for more details.

RankSchool Annual Tuition Median Starting Salary Median Debt 10-year ROI
# 1 #1 Wilmington University $11,811 $41,808 $19,678 $405,900
# 2 #2 Florida International University $10,376 $40,429 $16,903 $395,200
# 3 #3 St. Petersburg College $12,773 $40,643 $21,823 $391,200
# 4 #4 Drexel University $23,850 $41,007 $27,000 $388,500
# 5 #5 Arizona State University $18,138 $39,304 $17,500 $382,800
# 6 #6 Iowa State University $12,600 $39,344 $23,000 $376,400
# 7 #7 University of Nebraska-Lincoln $25,950 $39,060 $22,500 $374,100
# 8 #8 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater $11,130 $38,810 $24,875 $368,600
# 9 #9 University of Arizona $15,000 $37,865 $19,490 $365,500
# 10 #10 Northern Arizona University $13,650 $37,703 $18,750 $364,800
# 11 #11 University of North Carolina at Greensboro $8,963 $37,904 $21,841 $363,000
# 12 #12 Kansas State University $12,075 $37,888 $22,500 $362,000
# 13 #13 University of Alabama $11,250 $37,738 $23,500 $359,200
# 14 #14 St. Catherine University $14,550 $38,597 $31,000 $358,700
# 15 #15 Mayville State University $10,383 $37,478 $22,250 $358,100
# 16 #16 National University $16,650 $38,559 $31,250 $358,000
# 17 #17 East Carolina University $22,409 $37,455 $23,000 $357,000
# 18 #18 Wilkes University $36,888 $37,856 $27,000 $356,100
# 19 #19 Oklahoma State University-Main Campus $12,600 $37,149 $21,688 $355,400
# 20 #20 Ball State University $15,584 $37,392 $24,250 $354,700
# 21 #21 Winona State University $14,042 $37,006 $22,500 $353,000
# 22 #22 North Carolina Central University $17,559 $38,072 $31,398 $352,800
# 23 (tie) #23 (tie) Appalachian State University $7,722 $36,410 $20,500 $349,300
# 23 (tie) #23 (tie) Purdue University Fort Wayne $20,961 $36,591 $22,000 $349,300

Best Bachelor's Degrees in Early Childhood Education Rankings Details

#1

Wilmington University

New Castle (DE)
  • 10-Year ROI: $405,900
  • Median Salary: $41,808
  • Annual Tuition: $11,811
  • Median Debt: $19,678

Wilmington University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education-Preschool. The College of Education is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). While this program does not lead to licensure, it prepares students for teacher and assistant teacher positions in preschools, daycare centers, or private school classrooms.... The core curriculum includes classes in creating environments for learning, differentiated methods of teaching infants and toddlers, family, community, and school partnerships, and instructional technology. Students must complete an internship to graduate.

Asynchronous online courses are hosted on the Canvas platform, where students must complete weekly readings and assignments. Out-of-state students are charged the same per-credit tuition rate as in-state students. Wilmington University students and alumni can benefit from Handshake, a virtual career development tool that includes networking services, opportunities for resume review, and job boards. Ten of the last twelve Delaware Teacher of the Year were graduates of Wilmington University.

Applicants to submit an online application. Academic advisors are prepared to assist prospective students in the enrollment process and provide support to enrolled students.

Cost per Credit: $381
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 124
Graduation Rate: 21%
Financial Aid Recipients: 63%
Accreditation: MSCHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 5,064

#2

Florida International University

Miami (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $395,200
  • Median Salary: $40,429
  • Annual Tuition: $10,376
  • Median Debt: $16,903

Florida International University (FIU) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Development. Students in the program take classes in foundational lessons in classroom management, decision-making, educational psychology, cultural/social aspects of education, and language and literacy development. The degree program does not culminate in a teaching license; however,... graduates of the program will be prepared for careers as early childhood specialists.

Online students have 24/7 access to course materials and the ability to communicate with instructors and classmates. FIU offers several undergraduate scholarships based on need or academic merit. Online students can join the Honors College that involves seminars, study abroad and research opportunities, personal advising, and access to exclusive internship and job listings.

Prospective students can submit an online application for the fall, spring, or summer. Once admitted to the program, students are paired with an academic success coach to guide them throughout the program.

Cost per Credit: $346
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 62%
Acceptance Rate: 54%
Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
Average SAT Scores: 1110 - 1280
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 10,922

#3

St. Petersburg College

Clearwater (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $391,200
  • Median Salary: $40,643
  • Annual Tuition: $12,773
  • Median Debt: $21,823

In the B.S. in Educational Studies and Community Leadership - Early Childhood Education at Saint Petersburg College, students gain the knowledge to work with children from birth to age four. The program is completely online, but some classes have synchronous components. Courses cover education and public policy, business communication, cultural diversity, and learning styles.

Students... complete courses on the D2L Brightspace platform and use Zoom and Workplace. This program gives students a competitive edge to pursue careers in Head Start programs. On average, preschool teachers in Florida earn over $25,000 per year, and the industry is expected to grow by 14% between 2018 and 2028. In addition to traditional financial aid packages, St. Petersburg College also offers an interest-free monthly payment plan and scholarships such as the Last Mile scholarship for students who only have 12 credits left to graduate.

Students can apply online for the fall and spring semesters. To support students, the school offers Optimal Resume for online job searching, Hire SPC Titans by Handshake to facilitate career and internships, and a Virtual Learning Commons center.

Cost per Credit: $426
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 33%
Financial Aid Recipients: 73%
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 10,306

#4

Drexel University

Philadelphia (PA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $388,500
  • Median Salary: $41,007
  • Annual Tuition: $23,850
  • Median Debt: $27,000

The Bachelor of Elementary Education at Drexel University offers concentrations in either PreK-4 education or special education. Up to 90 quarter credits, equivalent to 60 semester credits, can be transferred. In total, the program takes 10 terms to complete for a total of 180 credit hours, which can be completed in 2.5 to 5 years culminating in 12 weeks of student teaching. The... skills acquired in this degree program can lead students to become teachers and other jobs in education such as counselors, curriculum designers, or librarians.

Online courses in the program are asynchronous; students access Blackboard to view weekly lectures, complete discussion posts, and turn in assignments. The courses are designed to fit certification requirements for the Pennsylvania Instructional I Certificate, and through Interstate Reciprocity Agreements, that certification will also transfer to many other states. Drexel offers study abroad options for online students and 24/7 tech support, an online library, writing center, and career center.

Applications can be completed online with no application fee, and the next application deadline is March 5th for the spring term. Dedicated enrollment counselors are ready to help online students take advantage of all the university has to offer.

Cost per Credit: $530
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 180
Graduation Rate: 69%
Acceptance Rate: 79%
Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
Average SAT Scores: 1190 - 1390
Accreditation: MSCHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,492

#5

Arizona State University

Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
  • 10-Year ROI: $382,800
  • Median Salary: $39,304
  • Annual Tuition: $18,138
  • Median Debt: $17,500

Arizona State University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Educational Studies - Early Childhood Education degree that prepares students to work in educational settings with young children. Students in the program learn how to work with English language learners and use technology in the classroom in innovative ways. The core curriculum includes topics in child and adolescent... development, collaborating, planning, and implementing instruction in diverse contexts, and foundations in typical/atypical child development. In addition to coursework, students also complete fieldwork in educational settings, including a part-time internship during junior year and a year-long, full-time internship in their senior year.

Online programs contain custom-designed content and utilize state-of-the-art technology and tools. Students can access lectures, videos, and simulations on the online learning platform and participate in discussions and interactive activities. More than 80% of ASU students receive financial aid. Merit-based scholarships and tuition assistance for veteran and military students are available. ASU courses are taught by renowned and award-winning faculty.

Students interested in applying must submit an online application. Online students have access to various student resources, including counseling, wellness support, advisors, and technical resources.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 54%
Acceptance Rate: 76%
Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
Average SAT Scores: 1091 - 1301
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 33,410

#6

Iowa State University

Ames (IA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $376,400
  • Median Salary: $39,344
  • Annual Tuition: $12,600
  • Median Debt: $23,000

The Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and Programming (ECEMS) degree at Iowa State University (ISU) prepares students to work in childhood education programs in the community and on military installations. The program does not lead to licensure but prepares students for job opportunities in childcare centers, infant/toddler programs, preschools, Head Start programs,... and other educational settings for children from birth to age 8. Students must complete three practicum experiences in different settings with a range of age groups in addition to completing coursework. The curriculum covers topics in child development, the assessment of young children and their environment, understanding developmental differences, and working with families.

Online classes are delivered through the Canvas learning management system. Students may complete the OneApp scholarship application to be considered for all ISU scholarship awards. The College of Human Sciences offers career services to students and alumni that include job listings, resume and personal statement review, interview preparation, and career fairs.

Prospective students must be accepted into Iowa State University before applying to the ECEMS program. Resources for online students include the ISU virtual library, tutoring center, advising, and enrollment and registration assistance.

Cost per Credit: $420
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 74%
Acceptance Rate: 89%
Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
Average SAT Scores: 1100 - 1340
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 260

#7

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Lincoln (NE)
  • 10-Year ROI: $374,100
  • Median Salary: $39,060
  • Annual Tuition: $25,950
  • Median Debt: $22,500

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers an online Bachelor of Science in Child, Youth & Family Studies - Early Childhood in a Mobile Society degree completion program. This program is offered through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (IDEA) partnership and prepares students to specifically work with young children whose families are impacted by unique job... demands, poverty, or homelessness. Students take classes in developmental differences, assessing young children, and technology in the classroom. Students also participate in three practicums in professional settings to get hands-on experience in the classroom.

The university accepts transfer credit from other institutions, credit by examination, and military credit. Online courses are taught by the same award-winning faculty who teach the on-campus program. Career services include career counseling, resume and cover letter review, interview preparation, job and internship search, and networking opportunities.

To apply to the BS program, students must first be accepted to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln by submitting an online application. Enrolled students have access to tutoring, writing support, and career services.

Cost per Credit: $865
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 65%
Acceptance Rate: 64%
Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
Average SAT Scores: 1120 - 1360
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 228

#8

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Whitewater (WI)
  • 10-Year ROI: $368,600
  • Median Salary: $38,810
  • Annual Tuition: $11,130
  • Median Debt: $24,875

The Bachelor in Early Child Care and Education program at the University of Wisconsin -Whitewater is a non-licensure degree completion program for students with at least one credential. The program is available in part-time or full-time formats and is prepares students to work in childcare centers, preschools, or head start programs. Classes focus on classroom management, teaching... children with special needs, infant and toddler development, preschool behavior, and more. While studying, students gain the skills they need to prepare young children for elementary school.

Online coursework is delivered through the Canvas learning management system. Students can transfer up to 90 credits into the program. UW-Whitewater helps students access financial aid packages. The school also offers a Warhawk Emergency Fund for students at risk of quitting their programs due to financial emergencies. As students near the end of the program, they can access career advising services such as resume reviews, interview preparation, and the Handshake job and internship search tool.

Students can apply online. There are rolling admissions for the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Before applying, interested students can request an unofficial transcript review to determine how many credits are likely to transfer. Resources for online students include advising services, support for veterans, tech support, and research and library support.

Cost per Credit: $371
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 62%
Acceptance Rate: 70%
Financial Aid Recipients: 76%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 504

#9

University of Arizona

Tucson (AZ)
  • 10-Year ROI: $365,500
  • Median Salary: $37,865
  • Annual Tuition: $15,000
  • Median Debt: $19,490

The online Bachelor of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education at the University of Arizona is a degree completion program for students who have already earned an associate degree. The program aims to develop students' critical thinking, leadership, organization, communication, and educational technology skills. Classes cover early childhood language and literacy, early childhood... creative arts and physical education, and developmental differences in children. While this early childhood education degree does not lead to teacher licensure, it does provide the skills necessary for careers in preschools, childcare centers, and Head Start programs.

Online coursework is delivered through the Desire2Learn learning management system, allowing students to access course materials and communicate with professors and classmates. ASU students may apply for scholarships available through Scholarship Universe. There are no out-of-state tuition rates. According to Payscale, ASU was ranked number one out of all Arizona public universities in alumni earning potential.

Prospective students must submit an online application to be considered. Online students have access to many resources, including academic tutors and coaches, a disability center, and alumni mentors.

Cost per Credit: $500
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 65%
Acceptance Rate: 84%
Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
Average SAT Scores: 1110 - 1360
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,558

#10

Northern Arizona University

Flagstaff (AZ)
  • 10-Year ROI: $364,800
  • Median Salary: $37,703
  • Annual Tuition: $13,650
  • Median Debt: $18,750

The online Bachelor of Applied Science in Early Childhood and the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Childhood programs at Northern Arizona University (NAU) prepares students to work with preschool and primary-age children. Students take specialized courses in early childhood education, but they must also complete classes in computer literacy, communication, language,... and science. The programs are flexible, and students can choose between traditional online learning, which requires them to complete courses on a certain schedule, or the competency-based program, which lets them work at their own pace.

NAU uses Blackboard Learn as its learning management system, where students can participate in online discussions, submit assignments, and ask questions 24/7. The school's Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid helps students create a financial aid package. Online students have access to the same scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities as on-campus students. Students may transfer up to 90 credits into this 120-credit degree program, and they can save money with the competency-based format, which offers a six-month, flat tuition rate.

NAU offers an online application, and the school hosts regular virtual events to help students learn more about their programs. Support services for students include mentorships, tech support, online tutoring, and access to an advisor.

Cost per Credit: $455
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 57%
Acceptance Rate: 81%
Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 4,346

#11

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Greensboro (NC)
  • 10-Year ROI: $363,000
  • Median Salary: $37,904
  • Annual Tuition: $8,963
  • Median Debt: $21,841

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro offers an online Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies - Early Care and Education. This degree completion program blends social and behavioral studies with early childhood special education. Students can select one of two concentrations: early care and education, or birth through kindergarten teacher licensure.... For both concentrations, students take core classes in human development, families and children in a global perspective, social-emotional competence in inclusive settings, and diversity in inclusive early care and education. Although this program does not result in licensure, it prepares students to become licensed or work as a school administrator at nonprofits or governmental agencies.

Classes are primarily asynchronous. However, some classes have set meeting times in the evening. Transfer students may be eligible for additional scholarships. Online instructors are experienced and respected within their fields. Students have access to career development services, including career advising, presentations, employer research, and job placement.

To apply to the online degree program, students must have an AAS degree from a North Carolina community college and submit an online application. Matriculated students have access to the same resources as on-campus students, including academic advising, tutoring, and IT support.

Cost per Credit: $299
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 59%
Acceptance Rate: 78%
Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
Average SAT Scores: 1010 - 1180
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,155

#12

Kansas State University

Manhattan (KS)
  • 10-Year ROI: $362,000
  • Median Salary: $37,888
  • Annual Tuition: $12,075
  • Median Debt: $22,500

The Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education degree at Kansas State University is designed for individuals interested in working with young children from birth through kindergarten in various educational settings. This program equips students to work with children with developmental delays, learning disabilities, or special needs. In addition to coursework, students must... also complete a field experience at a school in their community. Graduates of this program can apply for a Kansas State Early Childhood Unified (birth–K) teaching license.

Online coursework can be completed asynchronously on Canvas and the Kansas Student Information System (KSIS). Students can enroll in classes, communicate with classmates and professors, submit assignments, take quizzes, and access class materials. Online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of their location. The K-State Global Campus Scholarship is offered specifically to distance learners. The career center provides resume and cover letter review, job and internship search strategies, interview preparation, and networking opportunities.

The admissions process requires students to submit an online application. Online learners have access to IT support, career resources, academic advising, tutoring, online test proctoring, and mental health counseling.

Cost per Credit: $403
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 65%
Acceptance Rate: 94%
Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 961

#13

University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa (AL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $359,200
  • Median Salary: $37,738
  • Annual Tuition: $11,250
  • Median Debt: $23,500

The Bachelor of Science (BS) in Early Childhood Education at the University of Alabama offers a completely online experience through Bama by Distance. In this program, students learn about the development and learning styles of children from birth to age eight and gain the skills needed to guide and support children. Courses focus on conceptual creative experiences for children,... family development, and working with children with special needs.

While taking these courses, students use the Blackboard learning management system. The College of Continuing Studies has scholarships available to online students and offers financial assistance to veterans or members of the military.

The school offers an online application with deadlines for the fall, spring, and summer sessions. Typically, students need to submit scholarship applications by the deadline for the fall semester application. The school's virtual discussions to help aspiring students learn more about their programs, and once accepted, students get to work with LifeTrack advisors throughout the length of the program.

Cost per Credit: $375
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 71%
Acceptance Rate: 53%
Financial Aid Recipients: 79%
Average SAT Scores: 1080 - 1340
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,856

#14

St. Catherine University

Saint Paul (MN)
  • 10-Year ROI: $358,700
  • Median Salary: $38,597
  • Annual Tuition: $14,550
  • Median Debt: $31,000

At Saint Catherine University, the Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education is a degree completion program for Montessori-credentialed students. This online program trains students to be more socially-aware, better informed, and innovative Montessori teachers for kids from birth to age eight. Courses focus on social justice, personal transformation, innovative pedagogy, holistic... teacher education, and community engagement. Students typically finish their degree in two to four years. While Saint Catherine's is traditionally an all-girls school, people of any gender are encouraged to apply to their online programs. To graduate, students must complete a field experience in their community.

The program relies on the Brightspace learning management system. The school awards 25 credits to students who have already earned a Montessori teacher education credential. Students can apply for financial aid in the form of grants, loans, or merit scholarships, including the Minnesota TEACH scholarship and the Jeri Grant Miller scholarship.

Saint Catherine's has three start dates during the year. Typically, classes start in September, February, and May, and students should apply at least four weeks before the start date. There are admission counselors available to help students with the process.

Cost per Credit: $485
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 58%
Acceptance Rate: 70%
Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
Average SAT Scores: 1080 - 1270
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 806

#15

Mayville State University

Mayville (ND)
  • 10-Year ROI: $358,100
  • Median Salary: $37,478
  • Annual Tuition: $10,383
  • Median Debt: $22,250

Mayville State University offers a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education program with concentrations in administration, special needs/paraprofessional, infant/toddler, or after school. The specialized concentrations allow students to adjust the coursework to fit their career aspirations. Students can complete their entire 120-credit hour degree at Mayville State or transfer credits... from another school. The university works with community and technical colleges in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Arizona, and Washington to ensure that associate degrees obtained at those schools will transfer into the Bachelor of Early Childhood Education program. The online program may not be available to residents of all states, and students outside of North Dakota will need to contact an advisor to determine eligibility.

Many of the courses for this program are synchronous classes over Zoom, and Blackboard is also used in many classes. The school offers various scholarships, including honor scholarships available to North Dakota and Minnesota residents based on academic performance in high school. Tuition discounts are available to residents of North Dakota, Minnesota, and nearby states.

Mayville State accepts applications year-round, and students can apply online through the school's application portal. Online students can take advantage of many of the school's programs, including library services and specialized technical support for online learners.

Cost per Credit: $315
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 132
Graduation Rate: 34%
Acceptance Rate: 48%
Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
Average SAT Scores: 900 - 1230
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 576

#16

National University

La Jolla (CA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $358,000
  • Median Salary: $38,559
  • Annual Tuition: $16,650
  • Median Debt: $31,250

The Bachelor in Early Childhood Education online program at National University is designed to meet California's teacher licensing requirements. The program focuses on teaching theories and concepts for children ages eight and younger. Students complete 180 quarter units, and credits can be transferred from other schools. Coursework will culminate in-field experience designed to... put theory into practice, solidifying the foundation for graduates to work with young students and their families in an educational setting.

The early childhood development program can be completed in accelerated 4-week classes, and all work is asynchronous so that students can study around their schedule. National University's online resources allow students to view virtual lectures, participate in threaded discussions, and interact with professors individually. As a Yellow Ribbon school, National University offers tuition discounts to military personnel and their dependents.

Applications can be completed online, and rolling application deadlines mean students can apply at any time. Students have one advisor who assists with everything from financial aid to academics, and the Student Concierge Services help make sure every student has the support needed to succeed.

Cost per Credit: $370
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 180
Graduation Rate: 29%
Financial Aid Recipients: 33%
Average SAT Scores: 750 - 1170
Accreditation: WSCUC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,849

#17

East Carolina University

Greenville (NC)
  • 10-Year ROI: $357,000
  • Median Salary: $37,455
  • Annual Tuition: $22,409
  • Median Debt: $23,000

East Carolina University's (ECU) Bachelor of Birth through Kindergarten Teacher Education program offers students the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to teach preschool or kindergarten, work in an early intervention program, or work with families of young children. The full degree can be completed at ECU, or credits can be transferred from other schools. A typical student... can expect to take 15-16 credit hours per semester for four years, incorporating a year-long internship program their senior year. The fully operating preschool on campus allows local students to gain real-world experience as they earn their degrees.

Online students will use Canvas, Webex, and Blackboard to attend classes and manage assignments. Once accepted to the school, students can apply for scholarships through an online scholarship portal. North Carolina residents can take advantage of lower in-state tuition rates fixed based on the date of enrollment. Lower tuition rates may also apply to military personnel. ECU participates in the Uniform Articulation Agreement, which guarantees credit transfers for students who have completed an associate degree in early childhood education in the North Carolina Community College System.

Applicants can apply through the school's online application portal. For fall 2021, first-year students must apply by April 1, and transfer students must apply by April 26. Online students can access many of the school's resources online, including virtual library access, virtual academic advising, and online technical support.

Cost per Credit: $700
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 128
Graduation Rate: 66%
Acceptance Rate: 79%
Financial Aid Recipients: 79%
Average SAT Scores: 1040 - 1190
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,928

#18

Wilkes University

Wilkes-Barre (PA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $356,100
  • Median Salary: $37,856
  • Annual Tuition: $36,888
  • Median Debt: $27,000

The Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Early Childhood Education program at Wilkes University is a degree completion program designed for working adults. The program accepts students who have at least 55 credits or an associate degree. In this 100% online program, students are prepared to teach grades pre-K through four and can obtain an 18-credit minor in reading education.... Students take courses titled School, Family, and Community; Integrating Tech in the Classroom; Child Development and Cognition; and Teaching Students with Special Needs.

Students use the D2L platform to access their online courses. Students who earn a BA in elementary and early childhood education have the chance to join a field that is expected to grow by about 7% in the next 10 years, and on average, early childhood and elementary teachers earn $55,490 per year. The school offers various financial aid packages, and the Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (TEACH) scholarship offers financial assistance to people who work in Keystone STARS facilities.

Students can apply for admission and the TEACH scholarship online. To learn more about the school, they can attend a virtual lunch, schedule a personalized on-campus visit, or set up a transfer credit evaluation.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 63%
Acceptance Rate: 75%
Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
Average SAT Scores: 1020 - 1218
Accreditation: MSCHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 57

#19

Oklahoma State University-Main Campus

Stillwater (OK)
  • 10-Year ROI: $355,400
  • Median Salary: $37,149
  • Annual Tuition: $12,600
  • Median Debt: $21,688

The Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Sciences - Early Childhood Education at Oklahoma State University (OSU) provides students with a degree to help them pursue careers in childcare centers, preschools, or Headstart programs. The 120-credit degree is offered completely online. Courses focus on classroom management, ethics of early childhood education, and effective pedagogical... methods. Students must complete a hands-on practicum to complete this degree.

OSU uses Canvas as the school's learning management system. While students can work at their own pace, they must take classes on a semester schedule and meet assignment deadlines. Students can also transfer credits from other universities, but they must complete the final 51 credits at OSU. Students are encouraged to apply for financial aid, and the school awards nearly 500 scholarships worth over $750,000 to students every year.

Students can apply online for the fall or spring semesters. They must first be admitted to OSU, and then they can apply to this program. The school offers academic advising, student development opportunities, and a career development department to help students find internships and jobs.

Cost per Credit: $420
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 65%
Acceptance Rate: 74%
Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
Average SAT Scores: 1060 - 1280
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 821

#20

Ball State University

Muncie (IN)
  • 10-Year ROI: $354,700
  • Median Salary: $37,392
  • Annual Tuition: $15,584
  • Median Debt: $24,250

Ball State University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education with a Minor in Early Childhood Special Education taught by faculty from the Teacher's College. Although this program does not lead to licensure, graduates are prepared for leadership or administrative positions in private school classrooms, preschools, after-school programs, and daycare centers.... Students can expect to take courses in early childhood curriculum and instruction, culture and language in teaching and learning, administration of early childhood programs, and early emergent literacy.

Students may transfer up to 70 credits from a previous academic institution to satisfy the university's general education requirements. 80% of BSU students qualify for financial aid. The school also offers various scholarships to early childcare professionals in Indiana. The program is nationally accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and the same faculty teach both the online and on-campus formats.

To be considered for admission, students must submit an online application. Online learners have access to various resources, including peer mentoring, technical support, academic advising, and career development resources.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 66%
Acceptance Rate: 62%
Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 759

#21

Winona State University

Winona (MN)
  • 10-Year ROI: $353,000
  • Median Salary: $37,006
  • Annual Tuition: $14,042
  • Median Debt: $22,500

The Bachelor of Science in Teaching - Early Childhood Education program at Winona State University is a completion program for early education professionals who already have some credits or an associate degree. This online program includes the courses students need to obtain an early childhood education license and prepares them to teach literacy and numeracy to young children.... The program requires 60 credits and takes four semesters to complete, including one semester of student teaching.

The school uses Brightspace to facilitate online learning. Students can obtain financial aid, and they may be able to offset tuition costs with a TEACH grant through the federal loan forgiveness program. Typically, graduates from Winona State have an excellent placement rate in highly regarded districts in Minnesota and the rest of the country. Although the program is available completely online, students can enhance their education with in-person learning experiences through Miller Mentoring, Kids First, or the St. Paul Immersion Experience.

Students can apply twice per year in the spring and fall for the upcoming semesters. The Center for Teacher Success offers students assistance as they pursue this degree and launch a career as an early educator.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 59%
Acceptance Rate: 66%
Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
Average SAT Scores: 1000 - 1210
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 278

#22

North Carolina Central University

Durham (NC)
  • 10-Year ROI: $352,800
  • Median Salary: $38,072
  • Annual Tuition: $17,559
  • Median Debt: $31,398

North Carolina Central University's Bachelor of Science Birth-Kindergarten Teacher Education online program is designed to prepare students for careers in teaching or child development. Most students complete the degree as a full-time four-year program, but those who have a bachelor's degree in a different field or already licensed teachers can complete the degree in two semesters.... Upon completing the program, students will be prepared to pursue careers in elementary teaching, childcare, or childhood early intervention programs.

Online students use Blackboard to complete coursework on their own schedule with no set class times. North Carolina residents can take advantage of lower tuition rates, and online students enjoy access to career services and a large alumni network.

Applications can be completed online. The fall semester application deadline is July 15, the spring semester deadline is November 15, and the summer semester deadline is May 1. Online students can access library services online along with online tutoring, career services, a counseling center, and a dedicated veterans center that helps military personnel transition to college life and a new career.

Cost per Credit: $585
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 49%
Acceptance Rate: 83%
Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
Average SAT Scores: 890 - 1050
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 782

#23 (tie)

Appalachian State University

Boone (NC)
  • 10-Year ROI: $349,300
  • Median Salary: $36,410
  • Annual Tuition: $7,722
  • Median Debt: $20,500

The online Bachelor of Science in Child Development - Birth through Kindergarten at Appalachian State University allows students to complete their degree in the early childhood field and help them obtain a certificate to teach preschool and kindergarten in the state of North Carolina. Students must transfer a minimum of 30 credits into the program and take six to eight credit hours... per semester for seven semesters. After those seven academic semesters, students will complete one semester of student teaching.

Courses are a combination of synchronous and asynchronous classes using the AsULearn platform, and classroom work is combined with hands-on experience. Students can save money by transferring credits into the program, although courses taken over ten years ago can only be transferred for students who have been working in the field recently. Local students will save money by qualifying for in-state tuition, and the school offers scholarships and financial assistance.

The Child Development - Birth through Kindergarten program begins each fall, and students must apply by July 1st. Applications can be completed online via the College Foundation of North Carolina website. Online students can take advantage of academic resources, technical support, the bookstore, and wellness resources.

Cost per Credit: $644
School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 73%
Acceptance Rate: 70%
Financial Aid Recipients: 70%
Average SAT Scores: 1100 - 1270
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 399

#23 (tie)

Purdue University Fort Wayne

Fort Wayne (IN)
  • 10-Year ROI: $349,300
  • Median Salary: $36,591
  • Annual Tuition: $20,961
  • Median Debt: $22,000

At Purdue University Fort Wayne, the Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education program is a degree completion program for students with associate degrees. Students may select from several tracks in the program: Birth to Age 5; Preschool to Grade 3; and Preschool to Grade 6. The preschool to grade six program track takes eight semesters and at least one summer to complete.... This program offers a hybrid of online and face-to-face learning. The birth to age five and preschool to grade three tracks are available completely online, and they take four to five semesters to complete if studying full-time. In all these programs, students studying pedagogical approaches and learning styles.

Purdue University Fort Wayne uses the Brightspace platform as its learning management system. Students can watch lessons, take quizzes, and engage with educators and fellow students on the forum. The school offers mentored field experiences and practicums to students to gain practical experience. About 70% of students receive financial aid, and banded tuition rates help keep costs low. The Student Sucess Center gives students access to advisors who will guide them through the program and help them obtain their license after graduation.

Interested students can apply online. The school has application deadlines for fall and spring semesters and accepts applications on a rolling basis from the deadline to the first day of classes.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 40%
Acceptance Rate: 94%
Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
Average SAT Scores: 970 - 1190
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 465

Online Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education Program Overview

An online early childhood education degree explores the cognitive and physical changes that children through age eight may experience. Several types of programs are available. Bachelor of Science programs emphasize the science of child development, while Bachelor of Arts programs include more coursework on pedagogy and learning activities that engage children. Since some schools' curricula specifically lead students to become certified teachers in their state, check each program's webpage for teacher certification details.

Bachelor's programs in this field usually include the following:

  • General education requirements
  • Core courses of an early childhood education major
  • 9-15 credit hours that students can fill with their choice of major electives
  • Internship or student teaching assignment

Most bachelor's degrees in early childhood education include 120-124 credit hours and take four years of full-time study. Applicants who've taken courses at an accredited community college or four-year school may complete their degree requirements in as little as two years if their credits are transferable. When applying to a bachelor's program, prospective students usually need to provide the following:

  • Official high school transcripts or GED, plus transcripts from any post-secondary schools they've attended
  • ACT or SAT scores
  • Personal essay or answers to a series of essay questions
  • Nonrefundable application fee

Online programs usually feature asynchronous classes, where enrollees watch recorded lectures, post in discussion forums, and complete assignments at their convenience. However, each online program includes an in-person fieldwork component as well, where students hone practical skills by teaching or supervising preschool classes in their community.

Each online program includes an in-person fieldwork component ... where students hone practical skills by teaching or supervising preschool classes in their community.

What Degree Is Best for Early Childhood Education?

Most early childhood education teachers at public schools — which usually pay better than private schools — need a bachelor's degree to enter the field. It may be possible to begin a career in a parochial school or daycare center with an associate degree, but a bachelor's degree improves your chance of employment and earning a higher salary. No matter where you want to work, it's possible to secure a job with an online bachelor's degree as long as it's accredited and you have student teaching experience.

If you want to teach, it may be helpful to enroll in a degree program that guides students to become certified teachers in the state where they want to teach. Completing a licensure degree program allows graduates to take a licensure exam, which determines eligibility for teaching in preschools, federal Head Start programs, and elementary schools through third grade. On the other hand, you may prefer an administrative or leadership role. In that case, you can choose from any non-licensure degree.

Completing a licensure degree program allows graduates to take a licensure exam, which determines eligibility for teaching in preschools, federal Head Start programs, and elementary schools through third grade.

Accreditation for Online Early Childhood Education Degrees

Colleges earn accreditation by meeting standards established by independent, authoritative agencies. These agencies evaluate schools to verify the quality of their curricula, the faculty’s qualifications, and the availability of research programs and other student resources. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes national accrediting bodies. Meanwhile, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation authorizes the more prestigious regional accrediting agencies, which have higher evaluation standards.

When researching early childhood education programs online, verify the school’s precise accreditation details, as required by the relevant regulation boards in your state. You'll likely need to graduate from an accredited program to gain an early childhood license. It also helps with transferring credits to other schools and makes it possible to apply for federal financial aid.

You'll likely need to graduate from an accredited program to gain an early childhood license.

While national and regional accreditation applies to colleges, individual programs can also apply for programmatic accreditation. Specifically, the National Association for the Education of Young Children sets the national standard for higher education programs in early childhood education. They work with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation to accredit bachelor's and master's degree programs. Use the council's Nationally Recognized Program Search tool to determine the accreditation status of specific programs.


How to Choose an Online Early Education Degree Program

Deciding where to apply is ultimately up to you, but we've included some questions to ask yourself as you research degree options:

  • What will it cost? Annual tuition ranges from about $7,700 to $36,900 at the schools ranked on our list of the Best Online Early Childhood Education Bachelor's Degrees. In general, the cost of an online degree is lower than the cost of an on-campus degree, and online students can also use financial aid to help reduce costs.
  • Is it accredited? An institution's accreditation status is important, but a program's accreditation may also be crucial for licensure in your preferred state.
  • Do I want to study online? Distance learning provides the convenience of asynchronous coursework, and it doesn't require uprooting your life or choosing a nearby school. However, some students learn better during in-person courses, where they can ask questions, form study groups, and take advantage of networking opportunities.
  • Do I want a specialized degree track? Some of the best online colleges for early childhood education offer concentrations to help you tailor your studies. For example, you could focus your studies on special education in early childhood, or you may prefer a general major with a minor in administration.
  • What do alumni think of their experience? A potentially helpful exercise is to read student reviews of a prospective school. Program graduates may describe some of the challenges they faced with coursework, the effectiveness of administrative support for online students, and even their ability to secure a job after graduation.

Common Online Courses in Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education programs should ensure that graduates understand normal and exceptional childhood development, effective teaching strategies for young learners, and how to mitigate behavioral problems in the classroom. Although B.S. and B.A. programs differ in emphasis, many online child education degrees feature similar core courses, including the following:

  • Child Development: This course investigates how children's brains and bodies grow during their early years. Topics may include childhood learning, thought processes, emotional range, and reactions to challenges. The environment’s role in a child’s development — including familial and cultural expectations — is a key theme when discussing these issues.
  • Early Childhood Learning Environment: Enrollees learn to create an environment where children feel comfortable, encouraging them to reach their learning potential. Professors may discuss sensory stimuli, movement and play, and unconscious bias in the classroom.
  • Early Literacy and Reading: Students learn established methods regarding how to teach new readers. The course may cover children's literature and how to choose culturally sensitive material for different reading levels. The discussion topics may also include language acquisition, literacy development, and age-appropriate instructional methods.
  • Educational Psychology: This course provides a foundation for understanding how people learn new information and skills. The latest research on neuromotor development, social influences, and the complexities of human motivation are just some of the course’s potential topics. Typically, the history of educational psychology will be laid out, from behaviorism to constructionism.
  • Standards-Based Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment: This class covers some of the tools teachers use in curriculum development. Enrollees learn both state and district standards to understand how lessons fit into broader curricula. During this process, each student creates multiple lesson plans, which are distributed to classmates for constructive feedback.
  • Topics in Special Education: Future educators should understand the range of cognitive and physical impairments they might encounter, even if they're not seeking a special education credential. Lessons will likely delve into the autism spectrum, including ideas about how this concept evolved. Students learn how to create and teach an individualized education plan. They also devise strategies for partnering with special education aides.

Early Childhood Education Specializations

When pursuing an early childhood education degree, you may either choose a general course of study or a program that offers a concentration. A program with a concentration may help prepare you for applying to jobs with specialized criteria. A few early childhood specializations are listed below for your consideration:

  • Administration: Schools, daycares, and other early childhood education spaces need administrators and managers to function. Since it's useful for these employees to understand children's learning needs, courses in this specialty cover team leadership, project management, safety/wellness requirements, and family/community relations. Classes on budgeting may also be cross-listed with other departments, like accounting or finance.
  • Applied behavior analysis: This scientific subdiscipline within special education focuses on modifying children's behavioral problems, including those with cognitive and autism spectrum disorders. Graduates in this specialization use positive reinforcement to encourage constructive behaviors. Some programs even prepare alumni for the Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst exam.
  • Educational technology: A growing body of research stresses technology's impact on child development. Education technology specialists utilize these insights to foster literacy, numeracy, and constructive behavior in the classroom or care center. The coursework may include lessons on educational media, the Internet of Things, digital assessment tools, and online learning.
  • Infant and toddler education: It takes special knowledge and dedication to care for and teach the youngest learners. Students focus on developmental psychology and physiology, learning how to instill knowledge and encourage positive behavior among this population. Infant and toddler specialists also gain insight about the importance of closely partnering with parents and guardians from various backgrounds, which develops soft skills like patience and diplomacy.
  • Special education: This is one of the most common specializations in early childhood education. Special education courses describe a wide range of physical, cognitive, and behavioral issues that educators may encounter alongside strategies for teaching students with special needs. A major takeaway involves learning how to assess individual students for placement in inclusive settings, like special-needs classrooms.

Careers in Early Childhood Education

The term “early childhood education” is broad, encompassing a variety of careers and education levels. The connecting thread is a desire to help children learn during their most impressionable years, as they discover who they are and how they relate to others. The following list represents some career options for graduates of early childhood education programs, including salary and job outlook data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Childcare worker

Median Annual Salary: $25,460

Job Growth Rate: 8%

Caregivers work with young children in public and private day care settings. Their responsibilities include providing and supervising safe places away from home for children to play, learn, and socialize. A childcare worker earns a median annual salary of $25,460. Those considering this position can expect an 8% job growth through the end of the decade.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers

Median Annual Salary: $60,660

Job Growth Rate: 7%

Educators at these levels are considered early childhood teachers. They're responsible for helping students begin reading, writing, developing basic math skills, and understanding the fundamentals of modern science. With a median wage of $60,660 per year, kindergarten and elementary school teachers are the highest paid professionals in the early childhood education field. The number of licensed elementary teachers is projected to grow by 7% through 2030.

Preschool and childcare center director

Median Annual Salary: $49,160

Job Growth Rate: 11%

High-level administrators are not only found in schools but also private childcare and education settings. They manage their organization's employees, draw up budgets, stay updated on state requirements concerning safety and certification, and converse with children's parents/guardians to solve any issues that may arise. The median annual salary for this position is $49,160. Through 2030, occupations in this field will grow by 11%.

Preschool teacher

Median salary: $31,930

Job Growth Rate: 18%

Preschool teachers provide developmentally appropriate activities and exercises to help young children learn. As with kindergarten and elementary school teachers, these professionals must obtain a state teaching license and degree. The median salary for this position is $31,930 a year, but this reflects a large percentage of preschool teachers who hold an associate degree rather than a bachelor's degree. The BLS projects a growth of 18% in these roles over the next ten years.

Teacher assistant

Median salary: $28,900

Job Growth Rate: 9%

Many begin their career in early childhood education as teaching assistants. These professionals work under the guidance of teachers to support individual students or small groups who need extra encouragement, tutoring, or supervision. Teaching assistants without a bachelor's degree can gain valuable classroom experience before committing to a four-year degree and teacher certification. The median annual wage for a teaching assistant is $28,900, and the field will likely grow by 9% from 2020 to 2030.


Certification & Licensure for Early Childhood Education

Prospective early childhood educators and caregivers must abide by their state’s legal requirements before they seek employment. Some states simply require a high school diploma and experience, while others require a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject.

For example, most U.S. states require that public preschool instructors pass a national examination and procure continuing education units. Instructors may even be required to complete a teacher training program, but this can usually be skipped by those who majored in early childhood education development. Therefore, prospective preschool educators should verify their individual state requirements before enrolling in a degree or certificate program.

Professional certification for early childhood educators and caregivers may be beneficial for those wishing to advance in their career, but it may even be required for employment in some settings. Earning a recognized credential informs families and employers of one’s competence, knowledge, and dedication.

Professional certification for early childhood educators and caregivers may be beneficial for those wishing to advance in their career, but it may even be required for employment in some settings.

The Council for Professional Recognition offers one of the most popular forms of professional certification for this field: the Child Development Associate Credential (CDA). Students earn this designation by completing a certain number of hours of professional education and work experience. The CDA is available for professionals working in the following settings:

  • Family childcare
  • Home visits
  • Preschool
  • Infant and toddler environments

Another professional agency that issues certifications for early childhood educators is the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. This organization issues the Certified Childcare Professional credential to those with a high school diploma and relevant work experience who have enrolled in continuing education courses.


Is an Online Early Childhood Education Degree Worth It?

Everyone has different circumstances and responsibilities, so this question can only be answered on a case-by-case basis. For some, earning a bachelor's degree in early childhood education would not be worth the time and expense because earnings tend to be low. Earnings are low, and job growth is slower than average. However, if you're passionate about helping children learn during their most impressionable years, then this degree may be a suitable fit.

Potential Benefits

  • Job growth is steady for early childhood education teachers. Most occupations in this field are projected to grow faster than the U.S. average of 8% between 2020-2030. Preschool teachers enjoy an especially good outlook, with 18% growth expected by the end of the decade.
  • Academic research suggests that early childhood teachers are relatively satisfied with their jobs, despite the low pay and high stress. This data holds true despite the low pay and high stress involved. Teachers’ motivation to work with children may help to offset the negative aspects.

Potential Drawbacks

  • Most early childhood teachers and administrators earn relatively low wages. Despite the importance of their work, educators working with young children are generally not well compensated, especially compared to other professions or even teachers at higher grade levels. For administrators, it takes years of experience to reach the level of director and enjoy a median annual salary above the nationwide median of $41,950.
  • Some academic studies point to serious levels of stress and depression among early childhood educators and administrators. Although the numbers vary, research across different early childcare settings has found relatively high levels of depression and work-related stress, exacerbated by low pay and lack of bureaucratic support.

The benefits of getting an early childhood education degree online may include lower total costs and the flexibility to study according to your schedule. On the other hand, you may not network as easily in a virtual environment. This hurdle could be offset by the contacts you make in the field experience portion of your program, but it will take mindful effort on your part. During your placement, you'll meet teachers and administrators who may be able to offer advice and provide helpful contacts in your community.

This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.