Earn Your Early Childhood Education (ECE) Degree Online

Gain the credentials needed to set young students on the path to success.

Last Updated: 05/11/2022

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2022’s Best Online Schools for Early Childhood Education Degrees

With so many online early childhood education degrees now available, you might feel overwhelmed when trying to find one that meets your needs at an affordable price. We get it. It’s easy to second-guess yourself when making such an important decision, but fortunately we can help you make a confident and more informed choice. The college rankings list below features colleges with this year’s best online ECE degrees. Every school is properly accredited, has reasonable tuition rates, and offers strong student support services for its online students. See which colleges stand out for 2022.

About the ranking

Methodology for the STEPS Best Online Programs in 2022

Generate List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

Assign Impact of Data Points

After generating the list of eligible schools, the STEPS data team then assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability. Online program availability and overall affordability received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. When unable to verify this number, a star-based system was used to signify the number of programs relative to peers.

Affordability

  • Cost:
    Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid:
    Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

All STEPS rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

1
Ball State University

Muncie, Indiana

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 59%
Online Students 12,174
2
Boise State University

Boise, Idaho

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 18:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 52%
Online Students 11,071

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 82%
Online Students 12,496
4
Arkansas State University

Jonesboro, Arkansas

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 77%
Online Students 4,574
5
Northern Arizona University

Flagstaff, Arizona

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 22:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 90%
Online Students 10,557
6

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 11:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 93%
Online Students 973
7
SUNY College at Plattsburgh

Plattsburgh, New York

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 15:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 84%
Online Students 3,316
8
University of North Dakota

Grand Forks, North Dakota

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 84%
Online Students 6,130
9
University of Toledo

Toledo, Ohio

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 21:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 92%
Online Students 5,871
10

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 18:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 63%
Online Students 3,592
11

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 60%
Online Students 4,615
12
Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Clarion, Pennsylvania

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 80%
Online Students 2,160
13
Carlow University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 10:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 100%
Online Students 832
14

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 84%
Online Students 899
15

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 100%
Online Students 8,421
16
Concordia University-Chicago

River Forest, Illinois

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 12:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 100%
Online Students 486
17
Pace University

New York, New York

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 96%
Online Students 6,166
18
Saint Cloud State University

Saint Cloud, Minnesota

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 45%
Online Students 3,623
19

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 100%
Online Students 22
20
Saint Francis University

Loretto, Pennsylvania

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 14:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 100%
Online Students 697
21
Fordham University

Bronx, New York

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 13:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 91%
Online Students 6,559
22
CUNY Lehman College

Bronx, New York

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 5%
Online Students 828
23
CUNY Brooklyn College

Brooklyn, New York

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 17:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 10%
Online Students 20
24
East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania

East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

Total online programs: 2

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 22:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 6%
Online Students 1,260

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 76%
Online Students 31,917
26
Purdue University Global

West Lafayette, Indiana

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 13:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 40%
Online Students 26,603
27
The University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 20:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 65%
Online Students 24,765
28

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 18:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 83%
Online Students 22,481
29
University of Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 76%
Online Students 17,813
30
University of Missouri-Columbia

Columbia, Missouri

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 18:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 82%
Online Students 18,312
31
Miami Dade College

Miami, Florida

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 26%
Online Students 23,927
32

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 61%
Online Students 19,334
33
Temple University

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 13:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$$
Institutional Financial Aid 78%
Online Students 16,231

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 22:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 77%
Online Students 16,636
35

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 26:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 55%
Online Students 22,714
36
Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw, Georgia

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 22:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 7%
Online Students 22,893

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 19:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 56%
Online Students 17,053
38
University of Mississippi

Oxford, Mississippi

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 76%
Online Students 8,963
39

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 96%
Online Students 5,582
40
University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Greensboro, North Carolina

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $
Institutional Financial Aid 52%
Online Students 10,906
41

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 11:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 87%
Online Students 2,349
42

Total online programs: 1

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 16:1
Tuition (In-State) $$
Institutional Financial Aid 96%
Online Students 5,816

Inside the Online Degree in Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education online degrees can prepare graduates to help little learners explore the world and begin to understand basic academic concepts – all the while having fun. Many topics taught in these programs are conducive to online learning, meaning lots of programs exist in either fully- or partially-online formats. If considering a program focused more on teaching aspects, you may find that these require a few visits to campus. We’ll review the various types of early childhood education programs online in the following sections.

Online Certificates in Early Childhood Education

Certificates in early childhood education exist for both entry-level and advanced positions. Students who pursue these prior to a degree typically qualify for support roles, including positions as childcare workers, teaching assistants, personal care aides, and tutors. Those who pursue them at the graduate level usually want to expand their knowledge in a particular area, such as teaching and diversity, special education, curriculum development, or school administration. These programs usually take less time than a full degree and cost less.

Early Childhood Education Associates Degree Online

Completing an online associate degree in early childhood education serves as a great first step to entering the field and allows you to test the waters before pursuing a four-year program. Many schools allow you to transfer credits gained in these programs into a bachelor’s degree if you so choose. Some of the skills and knowledge gained in these programs include:

  • Understanding of current educational trends and issues.
  • Ability to use theories of childhood development to understand behaviors and learning abilities.
  • Development of skills related to lesson planning, classroom management, and discipline procedures.

Early Childhood Education Bachelor’s Degree Online

Completing a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education allows you to seek licensure and work in a variety of teaching and administrative positions. These programs usually require four years of full-time study and the completion of 120-128 credits. Skills and competencies gained include:

  • Understanding of cognitive, linguistic, physical, and social-emotional development.
  • Competency in using assessment methods, observational skills, and documentation to manage appropriate learning procedures.
  • Ability to create age- and developmentally-appropriate teaching and learning materials that meet the needs of many different types of students.
  • Development of skills related to classroom inclusion, diversity awareness, and pedagogy around equity.

Early Childhood Education Master’s Degree Online

While not required for working in a primary school classroom, online master’s degrees in early childhood education can give you the skills and credentials needed to take on high-level administrative positions or those focused on curricular development and assessment. Competencies gained in these programs include:

  • Implementation of evidence-based theories and methodologies to create more effective early education programs.
  • Ability to evaluate existing curricula and teaching methods to elicit better learning outcomes.
  • Understanding of evaluation and assessment methods for teachers, administrators, and curricular plans.
  • Development of leadership skills to help schools and child care centers and their staff grow and evolve alongside emerging best practices.

Early Childhood Education PhD Online

Online Ph.D. programs in early childhood education appeal to learners who see themselves in research, policy development, leadership, and college faculty positions that require advanced knowledge of the discipline. These programs typically require previous professional experience to build on during coursework. Skills gained include:

  • Awareness of existing early childhood education policy and the conversations around how to move the field forward.
  • Ability to use cutting-edge research techniques to explore new best practices around teaching and learning, developmental stages, and serving diverse learners.
  • Understanding of how to translate coursework to college-level students who want to become practitioners in their own right

Online ECE Degree Concentrations

Given the broad nature of early childhood education, many colleges and universities offer specializations to help you build expertise in a particular area of the discipline. While some students may decide to focus on building their knowledge in subject areas, many focus on topics such as childcare, child development, and child psychology. A few schools may offer specializations at the bachelor’s level, but they are more common in master’s level programs. Review those listed below, but be sure to conduct additional research to find a specialization that meets your professional needs.

Child Development

Students in these classes learn about the theories surrounding human growth and development, with special emphasis on cognitive, emotional, mental, and physical development from birth through adolescence. Learners review case studies to see how developmental shifts play out in myriad ways.

Early Childhood Policy

This course introduces students to school, state, and federal policies and laws surrounding early childhood education. Students review those enacted into law before learning about current trends in policy development and how research can best inform new ways of accomplishing learning goals.

Special Education

With a focus on how to best serve exceptional learners, this course gives students the knowledge they need to meet children where they are and create developmentally appropriate materials. They also consider ways of creating inclusive classrooms for learners of all abilities.

School Psychology

This course dives into some of the theories and frameworks surrounding school psychology, with emphasis on how different teaching, evaluation, and classroom management techniques affect learning outcomes. Students also consider current methodologies surrounding child psychology.

Teaching/Instruction

Learners enrolled in this class get a crash course in how to effectively structure their classrooms, lesson plans, and teaching strategies to best serve students. They look at case studies on various types of teaching and instruction and complete projects that help them hone their skills in both areas.