Free Online Early Childhood Education Courses

Obtaining a degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE) is typically the first step toward a career working with young children – young, in this case, describing infants to 8 year olds. The careers that are available to ECE professionals vary widely and include public and private pre-k programs, childcare centers, and child care resource and education agencies. ECE professionals can also be hired as a teacher’s aide.

ECE is an attractive career option for students who enjoy working with young children. The ideal ECE professional has a varied skill set; they are able to be both innovative and traditional, both analytical and artistic, both patient and commanding. Because teaching young children requires a different approach than that applied to older children, ECE professionals need to have a firm grasp on the developmental stages of early childhood.

Sample Courses

While courses vary from program-to-program, students of ECE are usually required to take a number of prerequisite classes in mathematics, science and the humanities. They will also be expected to take several upper division courses focused on the skills needed to succeed in an ECE career. Upper division classes may cover: early childhood development, relationships between families and children, the role of a child’s community, social policy, art for children, and multicultural issues in childcare and education.

Possible Specializations

Depending on your skill set or personal affinities, it may be wise to research possible specializations within your ECE degree program. While ECE is a specialization for many elementary education programs, ECE programs may have their own specializations, such as a focus, or even a certificate, in special education. In addition, ECE professionals may specialize in a number of subjects, including physical fitness, music, art, history, mathematics and science. Having a special skill set will undoubtedly make you a more well-rounded ECE professional, and may increase your chance of getting a job after graduation.

Degree Types

In ECE, for the most part, the more advanced your degree is, the more varied your career options will be. The same logic carries over to your pay, work environment and responsibilities. While it is always possible to expand upon your education by obtaining a higher degree down the road, you may save time by researching your end-goals now, so that you can aim for the particular degree that suits your workforce aspirations. The following sections detail the benefits and distinctions of each ECE degree level.

Associate

With an associate degree, an ECE grad starting out can still find work they are uniquely qualified for. Becoming a preschool teacher, a popular career choice for ECE professionals, requires only an associate degree and has a median annual salary of $27,130, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Bachelor’s

While you don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree to work in early childhood education, or to be a preschool teacher, having one can make you more marketable to future employers; according to U.S. News and World Report , “A preschool teacher’s best weapon is a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. Not only will it ensure more job opportunities, but it also qualifies that person to teach grades kindergarten through third, and opens the road to a higher salary.”

With a bachelor’s degree, students are also qualified for a career as a preschool and childcare center director, which can earn you a healthy median annual salary of $43,950, according to the BLS.

Careers in education are, perhaps, the most sought-after for recent ECE graduates. However, there are many jobs that involve working with children for which a bachelor’s degree-holder may be qualified for. These jobs include child care center administration, program director, children’s museum director and social worker, among many others.

Master’s

An ECE master’s degree program will help current teachers gain new skills that they can take back to their classrooms, effectively improving the education students are already receiving. Because educational requirements and applications are constantly improving, and the needs of students are constantly changing, it is not rare for a teacher to feel out-of-touch with their classroom. Going back to school for a master’s degree may be the difference between “getting by” in your career and truly understanding how to apply your unique skills to improve the educational system. For example, master’s degree-seekers will often take part in the research and implementation of new educational initiatives such as those published in Early Childhood Research & Practice, a peer-reviewed electronic journal sponsored by the Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative.

Master’s degree-holders are also eligible to become a principal, which can net them a median annual salary of $87,760, according to the BLS.

Ph.D.

Ph.D. programs are primarily for individuals who wish to take on a leadership role within the professional ECE community. Ph.D. graduates will have the ability to conduct important research, formulate rigorous curriculums, take part in policy reform and take a position as faculty member at the university level.

Ideal Candidates for Early Childhood Education Degrees

The ideal candidate for a degree and subsequent career in ECE will be passionate about teaching basic and foundational skills to young children. Great organization is also a preferred quality, given that teachers must develop and implement lesson plans, schedule conferences and work collaboratively with fellow ECE teachers, especially when starting out. Finally, above average communication skills are expected of ECE professionals, as they will not only communicate daily with children, but also with the eager parents of young kids.

Career Pathways

According to the BLS, the career outlook for early education professionals is favorable; employment of preschool teachers is expected to grow 17% in the coming years, which is faster than average. The demand for preschool teachers may have something to do with the increase in educational standards throughout the U.S.; parents of young children are ready and willing to do anything to give their child a leg up, whether that means putting them in preschool or hiring an ECE teacher for private tutoring.

If you are interested in applying to an ECE program, it is important to find a school that meets your individual needs, whether that means finding a program that offers courses online or a physical school that provides an accelerated degree track.

Additional resources include free online courses, e-books, blogs, online communities and professional organizations. Take advantage of these great, often free resources to jumpstart your career in ECE.

4 Courses

Get More Out of Your Online Early Childhood Education Courses

Awareness of early education issues is as high as it’s ever been. President Obama is only one prominent member in an eclectic coalition of early education advocates. Business leaders, law enforcement, retired military leaders, charitable foundations, and Nobel-winning economists have made novel new arguments for early education investments. Lawmakers in states red, blue, and purple have reignited interest in existing programs and sometimes pushed for new investments.

But have we actually expanded preschool to more kids? Not really. Have we made progress at closing achievement gaps between young students from different socioeconomic backgrounds? No. Have we sustained funding commitments after the one-time stimulus boost in 2009? Far from it.

Laura Bornfreund & Conor Williams, The Atlantic
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Early Childhood Education in the News

Source: Education Week

Our Favorite Early Childhood Education Blogs

Early Childhood Education Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

    • Child Development

      This bi-monthly, peer-reviewed academic publication includes theoretical as well as empirical and applied research and policy articles on child development.

    • Early Childhood Research and Practice

      This peer-reviewed open access journal has a wide readership and publishes articles on a range of topics including parent-child interaction and early intervention.

    • Early Childhood Research Quarterly

      Publishing predominantly empirical research in articles that cover early childhood development theory and practice, book reviews and policy perspectives are also occasionally included as well.

    • Early Education and Development

      This peer-reviewed journal seeks to connect early childhood education research with practicing professionals in daycare settings, early education programs and special needs preschools.

    • Journal of Learning Sciences

      This quarterly academic journal presents research on learning and education from multiple disciplines and seeks to increase understanding of real-world learning.

  • Trade Magazines

    • Childcare Exchange

      Filled with "workable strategies, practical advice, and down-to-earth ideas," this magazine helps early childhood professionals meet the challenges of early ...

    • Early Childhood Matters

      Available both in English and Spanish, this magazine covers a full range of early childhood development issues, as well as offering specific articles on what ...

    • Early Childhood Today

      With curriculum ideas, activities, behavior and development guidance, tips and strategies, this magazine from Scholastic offers access to its archive of 22 ...

    • Earlychildhood News

      This online resource offers classroom ideas, articles, arts & crafts, teacher resources, curriculum and activities to help early childhood professionals foster ...

Early Childhood Education Grants & Scholarships

  • Grants

    • ACEI Mini Grants

      Deadline: Varies

      Award Amount: $500

      ACEI members are eligible for these grants that fund early childhood education projects that improve classroom instruction or enhance teacher education.

    • ACEI Student Scholarship

      Deadline: December 1

      Award Amount: $300

      This subsidizes the cost of attending ACEI events, and eligible students are members of ACEI and demonstrate excellent academics and promise as educators.

    • American Federation of Teachers Robert G. Porter Member Grants

      Deadline: March 31

      Award Amount: $1,000

      These grants are open to AFT members to help implement ideas to help union members "reclaim the promise of a more just society for all." (bottom of page)

  • Scholarships

Early Childhood Education Internships

  • Early Childhood Development Internships

    Deadline: N/A

    Open also to early childhood education students, this internship provides an opportunity for students to participate in policy-making and advocacy.

  • Minnesota Children's Museum Early Childhood Programs Internship

    Deadline: N/A

    This 10-12 week summer internship provides a unique opportunity to work with the program developer to text educational programs at the museum.

  • Montessori Teaching Internships (Washington)

    Deadline: N/A

    Montessori specialists who have completed 10 hours of the academic course can intern half days at the Montessori Plus School in Kent or other authorized schools.

  • World Relief Internship

    Deadline: N/A

    This three-month early childhood education internship in Chicago, IL provides the opportunity to create and facilitate an age appropriate learning atmosphere for young children.

Early Childhood Education Student & Professional Organizations

  • Student Organizations

    • Student Education Association

      The SEA provides education students with leadership training, professional development and networking opportunities and joint memberships in national ...

  • Professional Organizations

    • Child Care Aware America

      Designed to support, educate and train child care providers and parents, this organization helps providers earn endorsements and credentials and create nurturing environments for young children.

    • Council for Exceptional Children, Division for Early Childhood

      "Dedicated to improving educational outcomes" for gifted and disabled children, the DEC provides its members with networking and educational opportunities, the latest research and other resources.

    • Delta Phi Upsilon

      The National Honor Society of Early Childhood Education is dedicated to "providing enriching experiences in childhood education" and advocacy.

    • National Association for Family Child Care

      This non-profit promotes quality child care by providing its members with networking, training and professional development opportunities and access to resources to improve family child care.

    • National Association for the Education of Young Children

      NAEYC helps educators make a difference in the lives of young children with professional development and networking opportunities including at its annual and affiliate conferences.

    • National Black Child Development Institute

      This organization provides "programs, publications, advocacy and trainings related to early childhood care and education" through programs and activities across the country.

    • National Head Start Association

      Helping vulnerable children "have what they need to succeed," NHSA offers its members educational and training opportunities, access to resources and an online job board.

    • World Organization for Early Childhood Education

      This association of child activists and advocates works for high quality early childhood education and develops activities toward that end at annual conferences.