An Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education will prepare you to work in child care centers, elementary schools, and preschools teaching children from birth to age five.
Teaching and taking care of young children is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. People who choose a career in early childhood education can see the influence they have on their students during early childhood.
What Is Early Childhood Education?
Early childhood education is a subfield of elementary education that focuses on the earliest, and some of the most important stages, of child development. Teachers work with children to learn cognitive and developmental and social skills, including communication. They help students develop their play skills that exercise their creativity and their artistic abilities.
Language learning and literacy is also a very important part of this educational level. Educators who work in a diverse area may also work with students who are learning and developing more than one language at the same time. At later stages in early childhood education, teachers may also start teaching basic reading and math skills to prepare students for elementary school.
To become an early childhood educator, you have a few different educational and training options. The quickest way to start your career is through an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education. Students who choose this option may attend a community college or pursue their degree through an online program.
Getting Your Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education
A full-time associate degree takes two years to complete. Accelerated programs can take less time, while part-time programs will take you more than two years. Although online programs enable students to complete their coursework online, these programs will likely have some required practicum classroom experience that students must complete in person.
Students in early childhood education associate degree programs learn the ins and outs of working in an environment with young children. Key features include early childhood cognitive development, curriculum design, teaching methods and of course, classroom management.
Students will also take courses in subject areas like elementary arts in early childhood, English, and general education. Working in childcare and preschool settings definitely comes with its challenges and its rewards.
Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education Program Coursework
Most associate degree programs will follow fairly uniform course plans. The degree requires major courses in early childhood education as well as general education classes and elective credits.
Programs emphasize developing leadership skills and training for those who want to work their way up or who want to eventually pursue their bachelor’s degree in the field. Typical coursework includes:
- Introduction to Early Childhood Education
- Early Childhood Behavioral Management
- Curriculum and Instruction for Early Childhood Education
- Professionalism in Early Childhood Education
- Arts in Early Childhood Education
- Children’s Play and Learning
- Educating Infants and Toddlers
- Growth and Development
- Language Development and Literacy
In addition to coursework, nearly all programs will require a professional development field experience in a childcare center or another childcare setting.
Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education Entry Requirements
To be considered for admissions into an associate degree program in early childhood education, you must have a high school diploma. Some programs may require the submission of standardized test scores like the SAT or ACT as well.
You will need to submit a full program-specific application along with any other required materials, like letters of recommendations and copies of your high school transcript. Other than that, your application essay and other materials should demonstrate your interest in children and your commitment to early childhood education.
Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education Program Accreditation
One of the most important aspects of any educational endeavor is to make sure that your institution of higher education is accredited. Accreditation is a stamp of approval on a college, university, or an individual degree program.
An accreditation tells other institutions and employers that a college, university or program is legitimate. Without it, there is no measure on the level of rigor, quality of the faculty, or the appropriateness of the coursework.
You will find schools with national or regional accreditations. Regional accreditation is granted by smaller accrediting bodies and is considered the more prestigious of the two. Either way, make sure that your school has at least one accreditation from a reputable accrediting source.
Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education Cost and Financial Aid
You should never commit to anything until you are familiar with and comfortable with the associated costs. Because you can complete most associate degrees in early childhood education at community colleges, costs of programs are on the lower end of the higher education cost spectrum.
Depending on your own specific circumstances, you may be eligible for financial aid. Be sure to apply for federal financial aid and research if your school has program-specific grants and scholarships.
If you are considering an online program, costs may be even lower. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the costs of each program that you’re applying to since all programs are different.
Best Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education Programs
An early childhood education degree requires at least two years of your time. Associate degree programs vary in length, cost, admissions guidelines, and exact course offerings and requirements. Some schools offer traditional classroom programs while others offer online programs with required field experiences.
Below is a sample of some of the best early childhood education associate degree programs out there:
- Eastern Wyoming College
- Brunswick Community College
- Concordia University, St. Paul
- Ohio State University
- Clovis Community College
- Northeast Community College
Note that the majority of these programs are online since online learning is the most common format for this particular degree.
|Requirements||60 credits, in-person capstone classroom experience|
Eastern Wyoming College makes getting any degree as accessible as it possibly can be. It holds partnerships and agreements with colleges across the state to make sure it can reach all students.
The associate degree program includes classes like Social awareness, Teaching with technology, and Engaging with families of young children.
|Location||Brunswick County, North Carolina|
|Requirements||76 credits, classroom-based capstone project|
|Format||Synchronous and asynchronous options|
Brunswick Community College located in small-town North Carolina offers an Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education. Online courses are offered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. Synchronous classroom settings require students to log-in to set, live-streamed class sessions, while students can choose to log-in and complete coursework at any time in asynchronous formats. Some courses are offered at a hybrid level as well for local students to mix their online learning with some learning experiences in the classroom.
|Location||St. Paul, Minnesota|
This twin cities-based university offers a fully online Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education. The program meets the training requirements for the Child Development Associate National Credentialing Program. Courses include Growth and Development in Children, Children’s Play and Learning, and Best Practices in Early Childhood.
|Requirements||University courses (32-34 credit hours), electives (0-2 credit hours), major courses (28 credit hours), and 1 credit hour of field experience|
Ohio State University, the flagship Columbus campus to Ohio’s public universities, offers a completely online Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Development and Education. The program is designed to be accessible to all kinds of students, from recent college graduates to working parents or career changers.
Graduates of the program are prepared to get their Ohio state Associate Licensure in Pre-kindergarten Education. The program features courses like Managing and Supporting Behavior in Social Contexts, Family Development, and General Child Development.
|Location||Clovis, New Mexico|
This community college is a branch campus of Eastern New Mexico University. Its Associate of Art in Early Childhood Education focuses on helping students gain the skills and the education theory necessary to lead healthy and effective early childhood classrooms.
It also leads to the state Child Development Certificate for the state of New Mexico. The average degree completion time for this program is five semesters. Sample courses include Child Development and Learning, Child Psychology, and Curriculum Development.
|Requirements||60 credit hours with 42 core program credits and an in-person classroom practicum|
|Format||Both online and in-person|
This community college is an Aspen Institute award-winning community college offers two different programs. The Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education is a traditional classroom-based program.
The online program offering is an Associate of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education. To offer the degree online, Northeast Community College partners with other Nebraska community colleges and universities to facilitate distance learning.
What Can I Do With an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education?
This is your chance to jumpstart your role as an elemental part of a child’s formative years. It is extremely important work and it is in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for preschool teachers is predicted to rise faster than average by 2028. Growth is expected due to refocused national prioritization on the importance of early childhood education.
Below are some jobs you can access with an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education.
Assistant Preschool Teacher
Preschool teachers are in charge of providing childcare and education to children aged three to five. As an assistant preschool teacher, you may work with a lead teacher to help manage a full classroom of toddlers and young children. You are in charge of helping students develop social awareness, cognitive skills, and language skills. The job also involves hours of play and classroom management at the same time.
Childcare workers typically work at daycare or childcare centers for children from birth to age three or four. This is an essential role in society, helping working families with their children while they go to work. Childcare workers must be skilled in taking care of infants and toddlers and helping them develop social skills.
Preschool directors lead whole preschools and direct teachers, curriculum development, and the administration. Though you typically need at least a Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education to work as a director in a preschool, you may be able to work your way up at the same preschool through a series of promotions.
Some elementary school classrooms employ teacher’s aids in addition to lead classroom teachers. They are extremely helpful especially in the first few years of elementary school, from Kindergarten to second grade. You can access this kind of assistant teaching role in early elementary school classrooms with an associate degree.
If you want to become an early childhood educator, you have a few different educational options available to you. If you are interested in working in an entry-level childcare or preschool position, all you need is an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education. The associate degree is also enough if you’re interested in becoming a teacher’s aid or a classroom aid in an elementary school classroom setting.
However, if you’re interested in becoming an elementary school teacher, you will be required to get your Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education or your Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. This is also true if you are interested in moving up the ranks at a preschool or early childhood education center.
Early childhood educators are extremely valuable workers who contribute immensely to making society function. An associate degree will help you learn the skills you need to work in childcare centers, preschools, and elementary schools and launch your career as an early childhood educator.
Use this article as a guide to getting started with your Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education.
With an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, you can pursue a career as an Assistant preschool teacher, childcare worker, preschool director, or teacher’s aid.
Elementary educators have earned specializations in ESL (English as a Second Language) or Bilingual Education, Gifted and Talented (for teaching children identified as “gifted and talented”), and Special Education.
With a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, you can work as a teacher, administrator, or director of childcare facilities.
A full-time associate degree takes two years to complete. Accelerated programs can take less time, while part-time programs will take you more than two years.