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Early Childhood Education Associate Degrees: Best Programs, Jobs, and Salaries

Tasha Sandoval - March 21, 2022


Students looking forward to earning a degree in early childhood education will learn about child development and instructional techniques. This education is essential for preparing you to work as a childhood education professional, caretaker, or mentor for infants and toddlers.

This guide presents all the necessary details about Associate Degrees in Early Childhood Education, including which schools offer the strongest programs and potential career paths you may pursue after earning your degree. The guide will help you determine if this degree fits your educational and career needs.

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.

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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 covers the education of children from birth to age eight. At these ages, children are taught essential skills such as reading, communication, and basic math. Early childhood education also focuses on teaching children social skills and working on their emotional development.

The most crucial aspect of early childhood education is language and literacy. Professionals in this field sometimes have to guide students who are learning or speaking more than one language. As the students advance, teachers will introduce them to math and reading skills to prepare them for upper elementary 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.

What Is an Early Childhood Education Associate Degree?

An Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education is a two-year program that sets the foundation for students who want to work as child development professionals. Once students have earned their degrees, they are equipped to work as preschool teachers, childcare providers, reading specialists, special education teachers, and childcare center directors.

Preschool teachers are mainly responsible for teaching basic skills to children between the ages three and five. Childcare center directors perform administrative tasks, including budget management. They also monitor the performance of childhood education professionals to ensure they are adequately performing their tasks.

Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Requirements

Generally, to be eligible for an associate degree program in early childhood education , you must have a high school diploma or a GED. Students are also sometimes required to undergo some pre-college classes before admission that include fundamental topics such as science, math, and English. It helps to have some professional experience but it’s not necessary.

Some institutions may require you to have a minimum GPA and you will likely have to submit your ACT or SAT scores. In addition to submitting an application, you may need to include letters of recommendation. You must meet all the education requirements, pay an application fee, and have a passion for teaching children.

You will need to submit a full program-specific application along with any other required materials, like the letters of recommendation 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.

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 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.

How Much Does an Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Cost?

You can expect to pay between $5,000 and $28,000 for in-person learning and between $75 and $390 per credit hour if you choose an online program. These degrees take an average of 60 credits to complete.

Several factors can determine the cost of an associate degree program, such as a school’s ranking, its location, and which category it falls under. For instance, community colleges charge lower fees for associate degrees than four-year institutions, and in-state public schools charge the lowest rates.

Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Financing Options: How to Pay for Your Early Childhood Education Degree

Community colleges are a good option for an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education because they charge lower fees for their programs. Financial aid options at these schools include public loans, private loans, and scholarships. You can use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to submit your application for federal 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 Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Programs and Schools: Overview

School Program Accreditation
Brunswick Community College
Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education Southern Association of Colleges and School Commission on Colleges
Chaminade University of Honolulu Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission
Dawson Community College Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Kennebec Valley Community College Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education New England Commission of Higher Education
Northeast Community College Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education Higher Learning Commission
Phoenix College Associate in Arts, Emphasis in Early Childhood Education Higher Learning Education
Post University Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education National Association for the Education of Young Children Accreditation
Spokane Falls Community College Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Stanly Community College Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Vance-Granville Community College Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Best Colleges for Early Childhood Education: Top Degree Programs

Below, we have provided more details on the best associate degree programs in early childhood education. Keep reading to find out what courses are offered in these programs.

Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education | Brunswick Community College

Students have three different early childhood education degrees to choose from at Brunswick Community College. They include a career-entry option, a non-licensure option, and an option that licenses you to teach children from birth to the age of five. The education courses mainly focus on young children’s education, childhood settings, and developing a curriculum.

Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education | Chaminade University of Honolulu

Chaminade is known for being the only Hawaiian Catholic University and offers students more than 25 degree programs for professional development. Students gain the knowledge required to work with children between the ages of two and a half and eight by studying for an Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education.

The curriculum is comprehensive and includes introductory courses like art, creative movement, child development, and health and family issues. There is also a hands-on experience in a real-world childcare setting.

Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education | Dawson Community College

Dawson Community College was founded in 1940 and provides students with an array of associate degrees and workforce preparation options. The curriculum covers positive child guidance, observation, assessments, leadership, and professionalism. Besides the coursework, students will gain real-world experience through supervised practice in a childcare setting.

Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education | Kennebec Valley Community College

Kennebec Valley College is located in Fairfield, Maine, and has a student body of 2,500. To earn the Associate Degree in Early Childhood Development, students need to complete 63 credits of coursework. The courses covered in the program include developmental psychology, classroom management, and children safety and nutrition.

Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education | Northeast Community College

This award-winning community college offers associate degrees in applied science following a traditional classroom-based program. The institution also features a distance-learning option. The minimum requirement for this program is 62 credits with two real-world practicum experiences.

Associate in Arts, Emphasis in Early Childhood Education | Phoenix College

Phoenix College offers over 150 degree and certificate programs. The institution serves close to 17,000 students annually, with a significant percentage pursuing early childhood education degrees. It is a two-year program that focuses on curriculum design and development, childcare positions, child abuse and safety, and child development.

You will need to complete 60 to 64 credits by the end of the four semesters. Towards the end of the program, students meet with academic advisors who guide students in creating plans to help them meet their career and education goals.

Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education | Post University

Post University is located in Waterbury, Connecticut, and offers online and on-campus degrees in various fields. An Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education prepares students for entry-level positions as family service workers, assistant teachers, and parent educators.

The coursework explores the development stages of infants, toddlers, and children up to age eight. It also covers teaching students from diverse family and cultural backgrounds. You will also gain the skills and techniques to support child growth, child safety, develop an anti-bias curriculum, and encourage self-esteem amongst your students.

Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education | Spokane Falls Community College

Spokane Falls offers five tracks for the applied science associate degree program and associate of arts degree. The curriculum mainly focuses on health, nutrition, safety, growth and development of children, and overseeing children’s progress. This program is well-regarded and graduates are hired by local schools and organizations for a wide variety of positions.

Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education | Stanly Community College

Located in the Albemarle region in North Carolina, Stanly Community College has almost 2,500 students. This program takes 73 credits to complete. The curriculum courses include child development, children’s psychology, developing a safe childcare environment, and quantitative literacy. You will be prepared for an exciting career in early education.

Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education | Vance-Granville Community College

Vance-Granville College enrolls approximately 3,000 students each year and offers more than 40 programs. This associate degree program requires 69 credits to graduate. The curriculum covers courses in child development theory, curriculum planning, and family relationships. Graduates can directly enter the workforce or transfer credits to a bachelor’s degree program.

Best Online Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Programs and Schools: Overview

School Program Accreditation
Baker College Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education Higher Learning Commission
National Association for the Education of Young Children
Bryant and Stratton College Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Eastern Wyoming College Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education Higher Learning Commission
Haywood Community College Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Liberty University Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Northcentral Technical College Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education Higher Learning Commission
Penn Foster Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education Distance Education Accrediting Commission
Rasmussen University Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education Higher Learning Commission
Saint Francis University Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education Middle States Commission on Higher Education
University of Arizona Global Campus Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education WASC Senior College and University Commission

Best Colleges for Early Childhood Education: Top Online Early Childhood Associate Degree Programs

Online learning is a great option for prospective students who need a more flexible schedule or who don’t live near a school they’re interested in attending. An associate program gives the same quality of education as its in-person counterpart.

Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education | Baker College

Baker College is a private institution located in Owosso, Michigan. This degree is offered completely online and features live classes. Students must complete 60 credit hours which takes an average of two years to complete. You will explore early childhood development, develop a curriculum, and complete an early childhood education practicum.

Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education | Bryant and Stratton College

Bryant and Stratton was founded in 1854 to provide practical and personalized education. Since then, the institution has grown and offers over 20 associate degree programs. The students in this program explore the foundation of childhood theory and its application to educational and childcare settings.

This program will help you accomplish the 120-hour educational requirement necessary for the National Child Development Associate certification. You will be able to work as a preschool teacher or at childcare centers and in child development programs.

Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education | Eastern Wyoming College

Eastern Wyoming College was established in 1948. In the early stages of learning, students are taken through general courses and the basics of early childhood development. Later on, students learn about the observation and guidance of young children as well as developing their own curricula.

Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education | Haywood Community College

Haywood Community College offers over 50 programs. The early childhood curriculum covers subjects like child growth and development, care and guidance, and the physical and nutritional needs of children. Graduates can work in different early childhood settings, including preschools, child care programs, private and public schools, or recreational centers.

Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education | Liberty University

Liberty University is an evangelical Christian institution that boasts a large enrollment nationwide. The institution offers over 400 programs. Students in this program can complete their degrees within 18 months. The courses covered in this curriculum include education philosophy, child psychology, guidance techniques, and classroom management.

Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education | Northcentral Technical College

Northcentral is a public school located in Wausau, Wisconsin. It is an urban institution offering several technical diplomas, certificates, and associate degree programs. The early childhood education program focuses on the theoretical principles of early childhood education and how to apply these principles.

You will explore child care and toddler development, health safety and nutrition, foundations of ECE, psychology of human relations, and more. Upon graduation, you will receive transferable credits, which can be used towards a bachelor’s degree in a related field. This is a 62 credit program that requires four full-time terms and eight terms for part-time students.

Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education | Penn Foster

Penn Foster’s associate degree program is online and self-paced. It prepares students for entry-level jobs or a bachelor’s degree. You will learn to design a curriculum, use the power of play to help children accomplish goals, work with special needs children, and prepare assessments. You must complete four semesters and 63 credits to graduate.

Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education | Rasmussen University

Rasmussen is a private university that features an online campus that covers the same curriculum as on-campus classes. The Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education is an online program that allows students to access campus resources and support.

The coursework features lesson planning and how to advocate for children with special needs. You will also acquire child development knowledge and the ability to foster parent and family involvement. Upon graduation, the institution allows students to transfer associate degree credits to a four-year college or university.

Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education | Saint Francis University

Saint Francis University offers more than 50 degrees across various disciplines including the early childhood education program. Students can complete the necessary 63 credits on a full-time or part-time schedule. The curriculum covers basic education concepts, introduction to special education, health and wellness, family childcare, and early childhood pedagogy.

Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education | University of Arizona Global Campus

The Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education covers 67 credits, some of which can be transferred to a four-year institution after graduating. The coursework covers child development, early childhood behavior management, and professional responsibilities. You can also choose to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education at the same institution.

What Is the Average Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Salary?

A teacher reading a book for her students. Early Childhood Education Associate Degrees
An online associate degree in early childhood education is also available for busy students who want a convenient way to learn

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the minimum education requirement for preschool teachers is an associate degree . These professionals earn a median annual salary of $31,930 . The highest-paid 10 percent of these professionals earn $58,230. The job market allows for growth in a wide range of roles and as you gain experience, your salary will increase.

Top Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Jobs and Salaries: Overview

Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Jobs Average Salary
Elementary School Principal $98,490
Special Education Teacher $61,500
Elementary School Teacher $60,660
Childcare Center Director $49,160
Preschool Director $49,160
Social and Human Service Assistant $35,960
Preschool Teacher $31,930
Teacher Assistant $28,900
Recreation Worker $28,440
Childcare Worker $12.24/hour

Best Early Childhood Education Associate Degree Jobs Explained

Elementary School Principal

Elementary school principals ensure that teachers develop lesson plans, set up class schedules, and track their students’ progress. Elementary school principals also communicate to parents about the events at school and any relevant information regarding the students’ wellbeing.

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers take care of children who have emotional, mental, physical, and learning disabilities. These childhood educators have a wide range of responsibilities including assessing their students’ skills and identifying what educational adjustments should be made. They also have to guide students as they advance and discuss their progress with their parents.

Elementary School Teacher

Elementary school teachers create lesson plans for their students and organize daily class schedules. They oversee their students’ progress and ensure they are on the right track. At this stage of education for students, developing emotional and social skills is crucial.

Childcare Center Director

Childcare center directors supervise the teachers and other staff at the center. They also oversee the creation of curricula and academic activities for learners by allocating funds and communicating with parents. They have to maintain the health and safety standards of the center.

Preschool Director

  • Average Salary: $49,160
  • Job Outlook: 11%
  • Number of Jobs: 60,800
  • Highest-Paying States: New York, New Jersey, Delaware

Preschool directors must ensure all aspects of the school are running properly. They have to hire and manage teaching staff and prepare budgets. Preschool directors also oversee the curriculum and school activities while ensuring the health and safety of students. If an issue arises, the director will communicate to the staff and parents.

Social and Human Service Assistant

Social and human service assistants in early childhood education help in child development and cognitive development of young kids. They assess a child’s needs and determine which resources they need to improve their learning conditions. They also organize transportation and emotional support for children who need it and ensure educational goals are met.

Preschool Teacher

Preschool teachers work to educate children between the ages of one and five in childcare institutions and preschools. Their central role is to help young learners understand basic concepts in terms of academics and social skills to prepare them for elementary school.

Teacher Assistant

Teacher assistants help preschool and elementary teachers prepare classroom curricula and maintain records. They also help young children understand what is being taught and prepare the learning materials needed for class. When children go on school trips, they act as supervisors.

Recreation Worker

Recreation workers help manage children when they go out on school events and other outings that involve physical activities and art. These childhood professionals create safe learning environments for children and ensure they are safe during the trip.

Childcare Worker

Childcare workers prepare and supervise school schedules that ensure children grow and learn in a safe environment. The responsibilities under this job description may vary according to the age of the children. For instance, they may need to change diapers for babies or help school-aged children with their homework.

Benefits of an Early Childhood Education Associate Degree

  • Extensive Career Options: You can easily access a wide range of career options in the early childhood education field. This proves to any employer that you are motivated and are disciplined enough to work with children.
  • Advanced Learning: An Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education can be a good stepping stone on your way to an advanced degree. Pursuing a Bachelor of Science or Arts becomes easier because you gain admission with transferable degrees.
  • Salary Increase: The effort and time you spend on an early childhood education associate degree will pay off with classroom experience that will eventually lead to a  higher salary.
  • Teaching Skills: An Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education will equip you with the necessary skills to educate young children. In addition, you learn how to use technology and incorporate it into your personal goals and knowledge of child development.
  • Entry-level Childhood Education Expertise: With an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, you can understand children’s mental and physical development and thus help parents understand their kids. This way, you help parents interact with their kids and develop a healthy learning environment, even at home.

Should You Get an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education?

Both in-person and online early childhood education associate degrees teach essential topics such as child development, psychology, and behavioral issues. You also get to learn about curriculum development and how to teach young children. With an associate degree, you can be employed as a preschool teacher, an assistant teacher, or a childcare provider.

This degree is also beneficial if you have aspirations to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education . This way, you will be expanding your career scope and getting higher-paying opportunities. All the experience and expertise you gain in the program will allow you to work in a real-world childcare setting.

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.

Early Childhood Education Associate Degree FAQ

How long does it take to get an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education?

These associate degree programs generally take two years to complete. There is an average of 60 credit hours required for associate degrees. The courses can be completed by taking 15 credits for each term over two years. If you want to graduate earlier, you might consider enrolling in summer classes.


What can I learn when I enroll for an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education?

An early childhood education associate degree helps you learn about child growth and development and how to oversee children’s activities in a classroom. The knowledge acquired can set you on the right path towards pursuing your career as a preschool teacher, childcare worker, special needs educator, or children center director.


How can I verify that my online early childhood education program is accredited?

You can do this by looking into the Council For Higher Education Accreditation that assures the program’s eligibility. This website provides details that show the program meets the required standards and for an associate degree. Additionally, most educational institutions publicize their accreditations.

How much will I pay for an online Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education?

There is no definitive amount of fees that should be paid for an online associate program . Many factors come into play when trying to find the best program. For instance, you have to consider the state you live in since in-state institutions charge relatively lower amounts for their state residents. There are also technology fees to be accounted for.

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Tasha Sandoval

About the author: Tasha is a writer, educator, and avid yogi. She has worked in higher ed and educational non-profits and enjoys helping people access educational opportunities.

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