If you love working with children, an Early Childhood Education Certificate might be the natural next step in your career. Besides furthering your education, a certificate might get you a raise, open new career doors, and put you one step closer to a degree. If you’re considering an entry level role in the field, you’ll need to learn how to get an early childhood education certificate.  Ask yourself the questions below to make sure it’s the right step for you.

Our Recommended ONLINE Early Childhood Education Programs 

What job can I get?

Generally, a Certificate in Early Childhood Education qualifies you to work with children from birth to age 8. This means it can open a variety of career opportunities including:

  • preschool teacher
  • childcare provider
  • after school care worker
  • childhood camp counselor
  • various jobs in Head Start

How to choose a program to earn my certificate?

Choosing the right program for you is critical. The program you choose should fit your schedule, fit your budget, and fit your needs.

First, check that the program fits your schedule. Do you need to work while attending school? Some programs might now allow students to have a job, while others may require it. Generally, working in your field while earning your certificate will make you a more competitive job applicant later on.  Additionally, the program length needs to be acceptable to your timetable. A truncated program will take less time to complete, but the workload will be heavier (making working more difficult).

Second, the program needs to fit your budget. In today’s world, it’s generally accepted that it’s necessary to go into debt for higher education. However, you should never take on too much debt or student loan payments will weigh you down. If paying for school is difficult, see if you qualify for any financial aid. The availability of scholarships and aid vary greatly from program to program.

Finally, make sure that the program fits your needs. If you want to work at a specific place, check and see what the job requirements are. Public schools must adhere to state and federal standards; meaning that applicants might need to attend an accredited school. Additionally, some certificate programs are designed to be eventually transferred into credits for an early childhood education degree; an attractive option if you’re thinking for furthering your education in the future.

What are the requirements to apply?

Since the course work will be college level, most programs require applicants to be at least 18 years old and have their high school diploma (or GED). Additionally, most schools have an application fee. To apply, visit the school’s website and complete the online application. Make sure to follow any necessary deadlines, or your enrollment may be delayed.

What are the differences between online and traditional schools?

Traditional schools previously were held as the standard, and it took a long time for online programs to get traction. However, today most online programs are respected by potential employers. Additionally, most online programs allow for more flexibility than traditional schools.  Students sometimes can take courses on an independent study basis.  Programs can be taken full or part-time, and online courses can accommodate work-schedules. With all that flexibility, it’s no wonder why more and more people are choosing to earn their Early Childhood Education Certificates online.

How long does it take to earn an Early Childhood Education Certificate?

The length of the program will vary greatly from school to school. Some programs allow you to earn your certificate in as little as 6 months while others take two years. Don’t think that a 6-month program will be easier; you should have the same amount of work, just less time to complete it.

The 10 Best Online Early Childhood Education Certificate Programs

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As you might have gleaned above, early childhood education certificates are some of the most time and cost-effective routes to becoming an early childhood care provider or educator. Positions in a public elementary school may require additional schooling or licensure.  Early childhood teachers in many preschool settings may earn a certificate that satisfies state standards for educator education. Furthermore, a number of the certificate programs below help to cover courses in more comprehensive academic programs such as diplomas, associate degrees, or bachelor’s degrees.

A number of the certificate programs below allow students to specialize in a particular segment of early childhood education including:

  • special education
  • childcare basics
  • early childhood administration

To compile our ranking below, we looked at all online early childhood education-related certificate programs in the nation. We then looked at quality of instruction and support metrics including retention rate, graduation rate, and student to faculty ratio. Other factors we considered included the average net price to attend the program and the number of specializations students could choose.

1.) Wiregrass Georgia Technical College


Wiregrass Georgia Technical College (WGTC) is a medium-sized technical college located in Valdosta, Georgia. Though home to some 3,500+ students, WGTC is a relatively new school founded in 2010 as a merger of East Central Technical College and Valdosta Technical College. WGTC is a member of the Technical College System of Georgia, offering a wide variety of resources to two-year college students.

Aside from a number of campuses in Valdosta, Fitzgerald, Douglas, and Sparks WGTC also offers a wide variety of online courses. While only a handful of degrees are offered entirely online by WGTC, the college’s connection with the Technical College System of Georgia allows students to take a large number of degrees fully online through partner schools.

WGTC currently offers four fully online early childhood education certificate programs:

  • Child Development Specialist
  • Early Childhood Program Administration
  • GaTAPP Early Childhood Education Precertification
  • Infant/Toddler Care Specialist

All certificates require SAT, ACT, ACCUPLACER, COMPASS, or ASSET scores from within the last 60 months. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older and have graduated high school or retained their GRE. All four certificates are additionally available at a number of WGTC campuses for those wishing to take some online courses. Additionally, WGTC’s certificate programs have the lowest net cost of programs surveyed.

2.) Stanley Community College

Stanly Community College

Stanley Community College (SCC) is a small community college that is part of the North Carolina Community College System and has a main campus located in Albemarle, North Carolina. SCC has almost 2,500 students annually.  They offer a wide range of educational and professional development opportunities.

SCC offers various certificates and degrees are available fully online. Student-faculty ratios are quality at SCC at 16 to 1 according to the most recent Federal data. Furthermore, other indicators of academic quality such as first-year retention rate and graduation rate are high when compared to other community colleges at 83% and 56% respectively.

SCC currently offers three early childhood education-related certificate programs fully online:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Early Childhood Administration Advanced
  • ECE Infant/Toddler

For North Carolina or regional students, all three certificate programs have transfer agreements with nearby universities.  These agreements allow students to commit to a certificate program and then proceed to an undergraduate degree if they wish. Available undergraduate degrees include bachelor’s in:

  • human development
  • early childhood education (with certification)
  • child/family development

All three certificates require 18 credit hours for completion.  Early child education certificate programs may also be continued into diploma or early childhood education degree programs. SCC is currently the 10th most affordable online early childhood education certification provider surveyed for this ranking.

3.) Coastal Pines Technical College


Coastal Pines Technical College (CPTC) is a small community college with a main campus located in Waycross, Georgia. Created in 2014 through the merger of Altamaha Technical College and Okefenokee Technical College, the university is a member of the Technical College System of Georgia. Currently CPTC serves over 4,000 students over 13 counties in Georgia and offers 7 campuses as well as online courses. The college offers associate degrees, certificates, and diplomas particularly in career-centered disciplines. The student-to-faculty ratio of the school was 15 to 1 at the last survey. Other quality of education-related statistics include high retention and graduation rates at 68% and 45% respectively.

CPTC currently offers certificate of early childhood education online.   The Early Childhood Care and Education Basics certificate requires three three-credit-hour courses for completion. This means that eligible students may complete the program in as little as one semester.

The goal of this certificate is to provide an academic background for students looking to join early childhood care professions at the entry level.  Required courses include:

  • Introduction to ECCE
  • Child Growth and Development
  • Health, Safety and Nutrition

Applicants must have a valid high school diploma or GRE and have taken the ACCUPLACER test. CPTC’s certificate program was the second most affordable ECE certification program surveyed.

4.) Haywood Community College

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Haywood Community College (HCC) is a medium enrollment community college with a main campus located in Clyde, North Carolina. HCC is a member of the North Carolina Community College System and offers associates degrees as well as a unique lineup of online courses to over 1,300 students. Unique offerings of the college include an 83-acre arboretum and a working gristmill for students. These offerings pair well with the college’s unique coursework in forestry as well as fish and wildlife management. Academic quality indicators at the college are good, including a 6:1 student-faculty ratio, and a 59% retention rate for first time first-year students.

HCC offers three fully online certificate programs related to early childhood education:

  • Certificate in Early Childhood Administration
  • Certificate in Early Childhood Preschool
  • Certificate in Infant/Toddler Care

All three ECE certification online programs require 16 credit hours of study at the undergraduate level and are usually completed in a two-semester course of study. There is some course overlap between the certificates and the college’s associates in early childhood education for students who wish to continue their studies after a certificate program.

5.) Eastern Wyoming College

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Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) is a small community college with a main campus located in Torrington, Wyoming. EWC also has outreach centers serving the surrounding counties. There are 1,367 students at EWC enrolled in a wide range of diploma, certificate, and associate degree programs.  EWC also has transfer agreements with the University of Wyoming. The student-faculty ratio at the college is currently 17:1. Many courses will be relatively small and offer one-on-one attention from the professor. First-year retention rates and graduation rates are also high quality for a community college coming in at 66% and 40% respectively.

EWC offers a fully online certificate for early childhood education with their Child Development Certificate.  This 24-credit certificate program may be completed in one calendar year (two semesters).  It is one of the more comprehensive certificate programs on our list.

For students who wish to extend their course of study to a Child Development Associate (CDA), they may add 90 hours of classroom experience as well as additional courses. The CDA is a nationally recognized designation for childcare workers. EWC’s certificate program is the 6th most affordable program in this year’s survey.

6.) Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

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Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) is a large technical and community college that is part of the 16-college Wisconsin Technical College System. NWTC primarily serves nine Wisconsin counties with a wide range of campuses and regional learning centers in Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay, and other locations. Additionally, a wide range of online courses and degree programs are available. The main campus is located in Green Bay, Wisconsin and is home to over 10,000 students.

NWTC currently offers five fully online early childhood education-related certificate programs:

  • Childcare Administration
  • Infant/Toddler
  • Licensing Basics Ages 0-2
  • Licensing Basics Ages 3-5
  • Preschool

These certificate programs range from 9-18 credit hours.  Some certificate programs come with credentials from the Registry-Wisconsin’s Recognition System for the Childhood Care and Education Profession. These credentials are in line with national standards and prepare students — in particular — to take on early childhood education certificate jobs across the state of Wisconsin. Quality of education indicators including retention rate and graduation rate are high at NWTC coming in at 72% and 54%, respectively.

7.) Surry Community College


Surry Community College (SCC) is a public two-year comprehensive college located in Dobson, North Carolina. The college is one of North Carolina’s 57 community colleges and primarily serves Surry and Yadkin Counties. 36 areas of study are available, with many options at the associate’s, diploma, and certificate levels. Furthermore, many programs are available fully online. Through the main campus and a number of academic support centers SCC is home to over 18,000 students, making the community college one of the larger community colleges in the region. Despite its size, student-faculty ratio is low at 13 to 1. Additional indicators of academic quality including retention rate and graduation rate are also good at 55% and 39% respectively.

SCC offers a certificate in early childhood education online.  This 16-credit hour early learning program includes courses like:

  • Health, Safety and Nutrition
  • Child, Family, and Community
  • Child Development
  • Child Guidance

The certificate is offered to high school students interested in a career working with young children.  se certificates include early childhood education and administration. Students can complete their certificate over the course of two semesters.  SCC’s certificates were the 19th most affordable of programs surveyed at the time this ranking was made.

8.) Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute

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Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute (CCC&TI) is a public community college that is a member of the North Carolina Community College System. Home to some 3,500 students, CCC&TI has a main campus in Hudson, North Carolina, as well as a smaller campus in Boone. Additionally, CCC&TI offers distance education degrees and courses of study. The student-to-faculty ratio at CCC&TI is currently 18 to 1, meaning most courses have less than 20 students. Retention and graduation rates — common indicators of quality of instruction and support — currently stand at 59% and 36% respectively. A wide range of associate degrees, one-year, and two-year certificate programs are available from the college.

CCC&TI offers four fully online early childhood education-related certificate programs. These certificate programs include:

  • Child Care Operator
  • School-Age Provider
  • Teacher Caregiver
  • Infant/Toddler

These certificate programs require 17-19 credit hours for completion, commonly completed in two consecutive semesters of study. For students looking to continue their education further, diploma and associate’s in science degrees in early childhood education are also available. CCC&TI’s average net price for their online certificate is currently the 23rd most affordable of program’s surveyed.

9.) Community College of Aurora

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Community College of Aurora (CCA) is a large enrollment community college with a main campus located in Aurora, Colorado. The college is a member of the Colorado Community College System and serves over 10,000 students at campuses in Aurora, Lowry, Denver, and Online. The student-to-faculty ratio at the college is 16 to 1 when surveyed. Other quality of instruction and support indicators such as retention and graduation rates are also quality, coming in at 57% and 31%, respectively.

CCA currently offers two fully online certificate programs related to early childhood education:

Early Childhood Education: Director

Early Childhood Education: Teacher Level

The early childhood education teaching certificate requires 21 credit hours, while the director certificate requires 33 credit hours.  These certificates some of the most comprehensive we see in this year’s ranking. The more comprehensive director program satisfies Colorado state requirements for being a director of a childcare center. CCA is currently the 17th most affordable online ECE certificate provider in the nation according to recent data.

10.) Alamance Community College


Alamance Community College (ACC) is a medium-enrollment community college with a main campus located in Graham, North Carolina. ACC was established in the 1950’s as part of a North Carolina-wide system for industrial education. Today ACC operates a second campus in Burlington and offers degree programs in a wide variety of fields. Over 3,700 students pursue associate’s, certificates, and diplomas through the institution. According to recent data, the student-faculty ratio at the college is low at 13 to 1. Other quality of academic instruction and support indicators including retention and graduation rates are also high quality at 62% and 29% respectively.

ACC currently offers two fully online early childhood education-related certificate programs:

  • Early Childhood Administration Certificate
  • Early Childhood Education Essentials

These certificate programs require between 12 and 16 credit hours of coursework for completion.  Students are strongly encouraged to complete the program in one to two semesters. ACC also offers diploma and associate’s level programs in early childhood education ECE for students who wish to continue their course of study in ECE further. Presently ACC is the 20th most affordable online ECE certificate provider in the nation.