With a master’s degree in early childhood education, you can do more. You might advance to senior teaching roles or to administration and leadership positions. As you explore options in graduate early childhood education studies, you may find that there are more programs out there than you expected – and that it is difficult to choose between them, especially when the possibility of online learning allows you to consider even schools that are far from home. Some particularly impressive schools with master’s programs in early childhood education include the University of Dayton, the University of North Dakota and West Chester University.

Which Schools Have the Best Master's Programs in Early Childhood?

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University of Dayton

Ohio’s University of Dayton offers an impressive assortment of graduate-level study options through its School of Education and Health Sciences. Of particular interest, for students looking to earn a master’s degree in early childhood education are the Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy and Transdisciplinary Early Childhood Education Master of Science in Education programs. You can also pursue a certificate program in Early Childhood Generalist Preparation, Infant and Toddler Specialist, Reading Preparation and Prekindergarten Special Needs Preparation or an Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Intervention Specialist preparation program.

Students in any of the University of Dayton’s Master of Science in Education programs complete core coursework in Becoming a Master Educator, Perspectives on Educational Research, Philosophical Studies in Education and School, Self and Society.

In the Leadership and Advocacy program, students choose from specialized early care and education courses such as:

  • Early Childhood Program and Personnel Management
  • Advocacy in Early Care and Education
  • Supporting Quality Curriculum and Instruction
  • Managing Finances and Marketing

Students pursuing the Transdisciplinary Early Childhood Education degree take a more rigid sequence of courses, including:

  • Introduction to Transdisciplinary Early Childhood Education
  • Integrated Curriculum for Young Children
  • Summer Play Institute
  • Developmentally and Individually Appropriate Practice
  • Collaborative Assessment from Birth to Grade 5
  • Seminar on Medical and Health Issues
  • Collaborating with Families, Professionals and Agencies

The University of Dayton’s programs are ideal for students who want to keep their options open with regards to special education vs. general education positions. The Transdisciplinary Early Childhood Education program blends studies in both special and general education.

Students who live and work in the state of Ohio can use their studies to fulfill requirements for the state’s Early Childhood Generalist or Prekindergarten Special Needs endorsement, but that endorsement may not transfer to other states.

The University of North Dakota

If you’re looking for a well-regarded online graduate program, look no further than the University of North Dakota. The school’s Master of Science in Early Childhood Education is a 32-credit fully online course of study that appears on numerous rankings of online programs, as well as some rankings not specific to distance learning. If that’s not enough of an indicator of quality, the program also boasts Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accreditation and aligns with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)’s standards. On-campus course options are also available for students who live in the area and want an in-person education.

Students of the program complete major coursework in Curricular Foundations in Early Childhood Education, Play in Development and Early Childhood Education, Social Emotional Learning & Guidance, Language Development & Cognition in Children and Foundations of Reading Instruction. An introductory course in early childhood special education prepares students to work with children with special needs. Through a required course in collaborative relationships, students learn educational methods that are effective at home and in community, as well as at school, and that view children in the context of family, community and culture.

Although the coursework can be completed online, students gain hands-on experience through a 60-hour practicum. Students don’t have to travel for the experience. They can complete the practicum in their own classroom or another school in their community.

West Chester University

At West Chester University in Pennsylvania, students in the Master of Education in Early Childhood Education choose from two tracks. All students complete core coursework in Introduction to Early Childhood/Special Education, Advanced Child Development, Play as a Learning Medium, Trends and Issues in Early Childhood Education and Integrated Curriculum & Assessment for children up to age eight.

For students in the Program Administrators track, specialized coursework in Leadership in Early Childhood Education and Small Business Management in Early Childhood Education round out their studies.

The Accomplished Teachers track allows classroom teachers to specialize further by choosing a concentration area. In the Special Education concentration, possible coursework includes Foundations of Special Education, Legal Issues in Special Education and Career Development and Transition Systems Structures. Students interested in the Literacy concentration select courses from topics such as Orthographic Knowledge Language and Literacy Development, Writing Development & Instruction, Comprehension & Vocabulary and Language, Learning and Literacy. If you choose the Educational Technology concentration, you will study Digital Media Production and Storytelling and Integrating Educational Technology for Effective Instruction. Even if you don’t have a passion for a specialized area of early childhood education like literacy or special education, you can choose the general Teaching and Learning course sequence. Studies in this program include Teaching-Learning: Theory to Practice and The Reflective Teacher, a course that emphasizes the cultural paradigms that exist in today’s classrooms.

The Program Administrators track is designed for current and aspiring administrators, program directors and principals in early childhood education. You don’t need a teaching certification for admission, but you do need at least one year of professional experience.

Additional Resources

What Kind of Degree Do I Need to Teach Preschool?

Are There Various Types of Master’s Under the Umbrella of Early Education?

Top 10 Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Child Development