Why Earn an Online Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education?
There are several benefits to earning an online associate degree in early childhood education:
1. Comfort and Mobility
With an online programme, you may study from anywhere at your own pace. For people who have families or have jobs in the industry already, this is perfect. You can join in whenever it’s comfortable for you to log in.
2. Cost Effective
Online programs are often more affordable than traditional on-campus degrees. You save on costs like transportation, parking and housing. Many schools also charge the same tuition for online and on-campus students. Financial aid and scholarships are available to help make an online degree even more budget-friendly.
3. Learn Relevant Skills
You’ll learn skills directly applicable to a career as a preschool or kindergarten teacher, daycare administrator or nanny. Coursework covers areas like:
- Child development and psychology
- Creating engaging curriculum and activities
- Managing behavior and guiding children
- Working with families and communities
- Health, safety and nutrition
An associate degree also prepares you for further education to advance your career.
4. Job Opportunities
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for preschool and kindergarten teachers is projected to grow over the next decade. An associate degree in early childhood education can open up various career opportunities with competitive salaries.
What Will I Learn in an Early Childhood Education Program?
An associate degree in early childhood education will provide you with the knowledge and skills to work with young children in a variety of settings.
Curriculum and Courses
The curriculum covers fundamentals of child development, learning, and care. You’ll take courses in:
- Child growth and development: Learn how children develop physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially from infancy through age 8. Gain insights into developmental milestones and appropriate activities and interactions at each stage.
- Child guidance and management: Develop strategies for creating a safe, engaging environment, encouraging positive behaviors, and addressing challenging behaviors in constructive ways.
- Diversity and inclusion: Develop cultural competence and learn strategies for creating an inclusive learning environment that supports children from diverse cultural, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds.
- Learning environments and curriculum: Learn how to set up developmentally appropriate learning environments and activities for young children that stimulate their natural curiosity and support learning in all domains.
- Child health, safety and nutrition: Gain knowledge about children’s health issues, safety standards, and nutritional needs to keep kids healthy and safe.
- Observation and assessment: Develop skills for observing children, documenting their development, assessing their needs, and evaluating programs and environments.
- Practicum or internship: Apply your knowledge and skills in a real-world setting through supervised fieldwork in a childhood care and education center.
Top Skills You’ll Gain With an Online Associate Degree
Here are some of the top skills you’ll gain:
1. Strong communication
You’ll develop expertise in communicating with both children and parents. Learn strategies for constructive conversations with parents about their child’s development and needs. Gain skills for communicating with young children at their level with empathy, respect and care.
2. Curriculum development
Learn how to craft developmentally appropriate curricula and activities for children at different ages. Develop skills for assessing each child’s needs and tailoring activities to support their cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. Discover ways to make learning fun through play, art, music, storytelling and more.
3. Behavior management
Gain knowledge about childhood development stages and appropriate ways to guide behavior at each stage. Develop skills for redirecting negative behavior in a constructive manner through clear rules and consistency. Learn strategies for promoting positive social interactions between children and how to properly handle conflicts.
The field of early childhood education is constantly evolving. An associate degree program will equip you with a basis for lifelong learning so you can adapt to changes in standards, best practices, laws, and more. You’ll develop skills for thinking critically about new approaches and implementing changes to benefit the children in your care.
Although entry-level, an associate degree in early childhood education provides a foundation for leadership roles. You’ll learn basics of managing staff, collaborating with parents and community partners, and advocating for children and families. These leadership skills will serve you well as you gain experience in the field.
Finding the Best Online Early Childhood Education Programs
Finding the best online early childhood education program for you depends on several factors. They include:
Online early childhood education associate degrees typically cost between $30,000 to $50,000 total. Look for programs that offer scholarships, grants, and tuition discounts to help lower the cost. Some schools also allow you to pay per credit hour, so you can take classes at your own pace.
Make sure any program you consider is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Accredited schools meet high standards of quality and credits are more likely to transfer. The two major accrediting bodies for early childhood education are the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
Look for programs that offer concentrations or specializations in areas that interest you, such as infant/toddler care, bilingual education, or child development. Specialized programs provide focused coursework and practical experience in your area of interest.
4. Learning Formats
Online early childhood education degrees are offered in several learning formats. Options include:
- Synchronous: Live virtual classes at scheduled times. Provides opportunities for live interaction and collaboration.
- Asynchronous: Pre-recorded lectures and materials you access on your own schedule. Convenient but limited live interaction.
- Hybrid: A mix of live virtual and asynchronous classes. Combines the benefits of both synchronous and asynchronous formats.
- Accelerated: Fast-track programs that allow you to earn your degree in 12 to 18 months. Requires a heavier course load but finishes quickly.
How to Get Started on Your Online Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education
To get started on your online associate degree in early childhood education, follow these steps:
First, make sure you meet the basic requirements. Most programs require a high school diploma or GED. Some may require a minimum GPA or SAT/ACT score.
1. Find the Right Program
Research different schools and programs to find one that matches your needs. Consider things like cost, courses offered, accreditation, and flexibility. Look for programs accredited by organizations like the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
2. Apply and Enroll
Once you choose a program, complete the application process. This typically involves filling out an online application, submitting transcripts, and paying an application fee. After being accepted, you can enroll in classes.
3. Meet With an Advisor
Schedule a meeting with an academic advisor to discuss the program requirements and plan out your course schedule. They can help ensure you stay on track to graduate on time. Discuss options like full-time, part-time, or accelerated schedules depending on your needs.
4. Complete General Education Courses
You’ll take general education courses in areas like English, math, science, and humanities. These provide a broad range of knowledge and skills that complement your major courses. You may be able to transfer in credits from previous college courses or testing like CLEP exams.
5. Focus on Your Early Childhood Education Major
Dig into courses in your major like child development, curriculum planning, behavior management, and teaching methods for young children. You’ll learn skills and concepts directly related to a career in early childhood education. Many programs require supervised fieldwork, internships, or student teaching experience.
Once you’ve completed all required courses and credits, you can graduate with your associate degree in early childhood education. Congratulations! You’re now ready to start your career as a preschool teacher, daycare worker, or nanny. Or you can transfer credits to a bachelor’s degree program for career advancement.
With an associate degree in early childhood education from an accredited program, you’ll be well on your way to an exciting career helping shape the lives of young children during an essential stage of development. The skills and knowledge you gain will have a lasting impact for years to come.