Early childhood education refers to the care and nurturing of children that have not entered kindergarten. Early childhood education professionals teach socialization skills, help children explore individual interests, and help them develop talent and independence.¹
Childhood educators help children develop through activities and curricula that stimulate children’s emotional, intellectual, physical, and social growth. In addition, childhood educators are responsible for attending to children’s nutrition, health, and safety.
Job growth in early childhood education is expected to be 11% for the 2008-2018 decade. This means the workforce is projected to expand from 1,301,900 professionals to 1,443,900 by 2018. Graduates with a certificate or degree early childhood education can expect to find more than 142,100 job openings in the field in the coming years.
In addition, high turnover resulting from the large number of professionals that leave the field or retire will create a steady flow of job openings in this field. The salary outlook is promising for this industry as well. Depending on the environment—home, child care center, or health care center—early childhood educators can expect to earn a beginning salary of $12,910 per year, a mean salary of $18,820 per year, and a top salary of $27,050 per year.
Self-employed child care educators make up 33% of the workforce. These individuals may work more or less than the average depending on education level, geographic location, and nature of services. It is important to note that many childhood educators also care for older children in after school and summer programs and in private homes.
Depending on the environment (private home, child care center, health care center) education requirements vary greatly. Child care workers in private settings may have little more than a high school diploma. Child care workers in child care centers may have a Child Development Associate credential (CDA) or a bachelor’s degree in childhood development or early childhood education.
Currently, nearly 50% of all childhood educators have a master’s degree or higher. Education credentials and degree programs are offered through a number of online career schools and through programs at community colleges, vocational schools and universities.
At the bachelor’s degree level, top online early childhood education degree programs have the same curriculum as on-campus programs and they have been accredited by U.S. Department of Education recognized agencies such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). The accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) is also listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency.
Most child care centers and schools prefer applicants with a degree or credential from an accredited program. If you’re interested in working at a child care center, stick to accredited online early childhood education programs that offer the following traditional curriculum:
- Child Psychology
- Curriculum for Early Childhood Education
- Fundamentals of Early Childhood Education
- Health, Safety, and Nutrition
- Language and Literacy Development in Young Children
- Finding Early Childhood Education Degree Programs
To locate top accredited online early childhood education degree programs, check with on-campus universities to see what they have to offer. The online division for each accredited school will list all available online programs. You may also search through comprehensive online directories such as Online Colleges USA. Each online degree program will offer information on accreditation status. The lists of accrediting agencies mentioned in this article are just a few. For a complete list of recognized accrediting agencies, please visit the U.S. Department of Education website (ED.gov) for details.
Tip: You can check the quality of any given online childhood education program by visiting the Better Business Bureau. The BBB offers business accreditation and ratings from A+ to F.
¹U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov)