ece top online early childood education degree programs 01

Students with online bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education programs learn the fundamental knowledge, skills, and competencies related to early childhood growth and development. Graduates can pursue numerous early childhood education career paths, such as teachers, preschool directors, and daycare coordinators.

Originally published: February 2024
Last updated: March 2024

Here, we look at the ten best online colleges that offer online bachelor’s degree programs in early childhood education, such as their curriculum, completion time, and pros and cons.

While every online early childhood education program has unique features, it provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the theories, principles, and best practices of child development. They produce competent professionals who help shape and nourish the minds of young children from birth to eight years old.

Depending on the online program and the state requirements, earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education can meet the requirements for a state teaching license or certificate. Be sure to check with your state authorities about teacher license or ECE certification requirements.

Table of Contents

  • The 10 Best Online Colleges Offering Early Childhood Education Programs
    • Ball State University
    • Grand Canyon University
    • Post University
    • Indian Wesleyan University
    • Liberty University
    • Vanguard University
    • Purdue Global
    • University of Massachusetts
    • Park University
    • Northwestern College

Related Rankings and Valuable Resources:


In ranking these online colleges offering early childhood education degree programs, we awarded the accredited schools with the following point system.

  • Number of unique features of the program (1/2), including but not limited to the financial aid options, time-to-completion, specializations, and practicum requirements
  • Affordability (1/2) refers to the undergraduate tuition and fees for in-state and out-of-state students.
RankSchoolUndergraduate Tuition
#1Ball State University
Muncie, Indiana
$346 per credit
#2Grand Canyon University
Phoenix, Arizona
$455 per credit
#3Post University
Waterbury, Connecticut
$530 per credit hour
#4Indian Wesleyan University
Marion, Indiana
$395 per credit hour
#5Liberty University
Lynchburg, Virginia
$390 per credit hour
#6Vanguard University
Costa Mesa, California
$1,700 per unit
#7Purdue Global
West Lafayette, Indiana
$371 per credit hour
#8University of Massachusetts
Amherst, Massachusetts
$450 per credit
#9Park University
Parkville, Missouri
$575 per credit hour
#10Northwestern College
Orange City, Iowa
$360 per credit

The Top 10 Online Colleges with Early Childhood Education Bachelor’s Degree Programs 

We ranked the following schools according to the quality, distinction, and comprehensiveness of its Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education Degree program.

1. Ball State University

  • Either an associate degree in early childhood education with a practicum component OR at least 45 transferable credits. Applicants from Vincennes University and Ivy Tech Community College are admitted as junior students.
  • A 2.5 or higher cumulative G.P.A. of transferable credits

The intensive coursework includes:

  • Early Childhood Curriculum and Instruction
  • Child Development
  • Teaching in the Pre-Kindergarten/Kindergarten Program

Students can also choose different minors, such as early intervention, applied behavior analysis, and autism spectrum disorder.

  • Location: Muncie, IN
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online
  • Requirements: 90 credit hours (major courses)
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 15:1
  • Tuition: $346 per credit (Basic undergraduate tuition only)
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (H.L.C.)

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 69%
  • Graduation Rate: 50%
  • Retention Rate: 75%


  • Offers Teacher license options (e.g., on-campus bachelor’s degree or online transition to teaching program)
  • T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship options
  • Diverse student population


  • Only early childhood credentials
  • Campus safety needs improvement

2. Grand Canyon University

Students in G.C.U.’s B.S. of Science in Early Childhood Education program must complete the rigorous curriculum with courses like:

  • Child Psychology
  • Early Literacy Development
  • Educating the Exceptional Learner

Other topics covered include instructional strategies, early childhood theories, and teaching methodologies. Students also learn about the benchmarks of early childhood development.

Students prepare for success as educators for young children from birth until their third grade in elementary. Graduates work in early childhood-related settings, such as daycare providers, preschool teachers, and teacher assistants. Graduates may pursue teaching certification, too.

  • Location: Phoenix, AZ
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online courses and two in-person student teaching placements
  • Requirements: 120 credit hours 
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 20:1
  • Tuition: $455 per credit
  • Accreditation: HLC

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 83%
  • Graduation Rate: 37%
  • Retention Rate: 70%


  • Accelerated 7-week courses
  • Leads to initial teacher licensure
  • Up to 90 transfer credits are accepted
  • Strong sense of school spirit and supportive campus community


  • Large student population
  • Doesn’t offer diverse recreation and entertainment options in and out of the campus

3. Post University

Post University’s Bachelor of Science in Child Studies program features a multidisciplinary curriculum that prepares students for successful careers in the field of early childhood education. The challenging coursework combines the social sciences, behavioral sciences, and humanities with the theories, principles and best practices of early childhood education.

Students complete the comprehensive curriculum that features didactic coursework as well as field experiences, hands-on activities and practicum. The coursework emphasizes practical applications and, thus, enables students to apply the lessons learned as soon as possible.

Students can transfer up to 90 credits and, thus, earn their bachelor’s degree within a shorter period.

  • Location: Waterbury, CT
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online courses and in-person experiences
  • Requirements: 120 credit hours
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 21:1
  • Tuition: $530 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (N.E.C.H.E.)

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 23%
  • Retention Rate: 46%


  • Accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
  • Includes special education courses
  • Supportive learning environment


  • Isn’t a teacher certification program
  • Rigid dismissal process

4. Indiana Wesleyan University

The Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education program features 19 challenging courses. Depending on your approved transfer credits, you can earn the degree in about 30 months. Note that this is a licensure program, meaning it meets the education requirements for state licensure.

The intensive courses include:

  • Educational Psychology for Early Learners
  • Infant/Toddler Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment
  • Preschool Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment

Students also gain hands-on learning experiences through multiple field experiences, thrive under the guidance of their competent and caring professors, and benefit from exceptional student support services.

  • Location: Marion, IN
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online courses and in-person field experiences
  • Requirements: 120 credit hours
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 13:1
  • Tuition: $395/ Credit Hour
  • Accreditation: HLC

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 87%
  • Graduation Rate: 57%
  • Retention Rate: 79%


  • Combination of didactic course and field experiences for a well-rounded education
  • The fully online program features asynchronous courses (i.e., no set long-in times, 24/7 access to learning materials)
  • Accommodating professors and staff members


  • G.P.A. requirements for graduation (2.75 minimum G.P.A.)
  • Little to no weekend social life
  • Strong faith-based campus culture

5. Liberty University

Note that Liberty’s Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education Interdisciplinary Studies is a non-licensure program. The program can be completed in 3.5 years; up to 90 transfer credits are accepted. Applicants can choose from eight start dates every year and complete the degree requirements at their own pace.

Course topics covered include:

  • Early Childhood Education Fundamentals
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Psychology of Childhood

Students can also gain hands-on learning experiences by participating in an optional field experience course.

  • Location: Lynchburg, VA
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Fully online courses with an optional field experience
  • Requirements: 120 credit hours
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 18:1
  • Tuition: $390 per credit hour (full-time); $455 per credit hour (part-time); military discounts available
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Retention Rate: 80%


  • Diverse learning theories and styles
  • Short eight-week courses
  • Strong sense of community and supportive campus community


  • Non-licensure pathway only
  • Faith-based curriculum and culture
  • Large class sizes

6. Vanguard University

Vanguard University offers a world-class Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood program that prepares students for success as early childhood professionals. Students learn the theories, principles and practices that promote early childhood development from birth until eight years.

The fully online courses are delivered in 5- and 7-week formats. The concentration courses depend on the chosen concentration – STEAM or Special Education – and include:

  • Arts and Creative Learning for the Young Child
  • Technology and Engineering for the Young Child
  • Exceptional Children: Teaching Language Arts, Math and Science for Students with Severe Disabilities

Students can also earn certificates, such as the Transitional Kindergarten Certificate or the Early Childhood Education Certificate, to boost their credentials.

  • Location: Costa Mesa, CA
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Fully online
  • Requirements: 120 credit hours
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 16:1
  • Tuition: $1,700 per unit
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (W.A.S.C.)

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Retention Rate: 75%


  • Accelerated options available
  • Transfer credits are accepted
  • Earn your degree in as few as 18-24 months
  • Tight-knit campus community  


  • Limited number of certificates and licensing options
  • Strong religious sentiments

7. Purdue Global University

Purdue Global’s Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Administration program features 34 courses, including: 

  • Early Childhood Curriculum Planning
  • Child Safety, Nutrition, and Health
  • Early Childhood Family, Community, and Advocacy

As a social science degree, its emphasis is on a well-rounded balance of competencies in early childhood education and development, leadership and advocacy, and business and management. Students must complete the five-hour field experience and, if they desire, participate in an internship for real-world experience.

  • Location: West Lafayette, IN
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online courses and in-person experiences
  • Requirements: 180 credit hours
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 27:1
  • Tuition: $371 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: HLC

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 27%
  • Retention Rate: 33%


  • Online students can join the Educators Association
  • Exceptional student support services
  • Accelerated bachelor’s-to-master’s degree programs available


  • Less individualized attention with large classes

8. University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Amherst’s Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies with Emphasis on Early Childhood Education prepares students for effective careers as childcare center owners or directors, preschool teachers, and after-school educators. A large component of the program focuses on social diversity in education with courses like:

  • Embracing Diversity
  • Introduction to Special Education
  • Disability Advocacy and Its History
  • Introduction to Inclusion

Students can also tailor their learning experiences through courses in multicultural education, developmental psychology, and sociology of education.

Applicants can apply for transfer credits – up to 105 credits accepted – to accelerate their time to completion. Transfer credits can be from prior learning, Montessori training, and life and work experiences.

  • Location: Amherst, MA
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online
  • Requirements: 120 credit hours
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 18:1
  • Tuition: $450 per credit
  • Accreditation: NECHE

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 64%
  • Graduation Rate: 76%
  • Retention Rate: 90%


  • Interdisciplinary approach
  • Licensure assistance for different levels of certification
  • Generous financial aid options
  • Most students say that professors put plenty of effort into their teaching


  • Expensive out-of-state tuition
  • Large student population

9. Park University

Park University’s Bachelor of Science Education Studies with an Emphasis in Early Childhood Education program features online courses combined with face-to-face interactions. The in-person interactions are essential for hands-on learning opportunities alongside young children as well as professional educators and community stakeholders. These include practicum courses, seminars and internships.

The extensive curriculum features professional and advanced professional courses, including:

  • Teaching Development of Language and Literacy in Early Childhood
  • Observation, Assessment and Screening in Early Childhood Education
  • Infants and Toddlers

Students must also choose between the leadership concentration and a minor in psychology, social work, sociology or Spanish. The leadership concentration prepares students for leadership positions, while the choice of a minor expands their knowledge.

  • Location: Parkville, MO
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online courses and in-person requirements
  • Requirements: At least 120 credit hours
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 14:1
  • Tuition: $575 per credit hour
  • Accreditation: HLC

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 69%
  • Graduation Rate: 10%
  • Retention Rate: 62%


  • Diverse student body, academic program, and elective courses  
  • Professors are knowledgeable and approachable


  • In-person requirements can be a minor issue
  • Limited sports and recreation opportunities

10. Northwestern College

NWC Iowa’s non-licensure Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education program can be completed in as few as two years. Graduates are qualified for non-licensure positions, such as daycare program coordinators and preschool teachers, and can also pursue advanced degrees and professional certifications.

Students take one-at-a-time courses that span eight-week terms. The flexible timeline helps working professionals manage their school and personal and professional obligations. You can log into your classes at your convenience and complete the courses at your own pace.

N.C. provides a seamless transfer for students coming in with their A.A. or AS degree. Financial aid opportunities are available, including the TEACH Early Childhood Scholarship and the Child Care WAGE$ Program.

  • Location: Orange City, IA
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online
  • Requirements: 124 credits
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
  • Tuition: $360 per credit
  • Accreditation: HLC

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Retention Rate: 79%


  • A diverse selection of electives
  • A licensure option is available
  • Self-paced study but with set deadlines for a more structured program of study  


  • Accepted students must have an AA, AS, or AAS degree
  • Religion course required

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an early childhood education degree worth it?

Yes, it’s worth it. You have a wide range of in-demand occupations for which you can be qualified, from teacher assistants to K-12 teachers. The projected demand for kindergarten and elementary school teachers is about 109,000 openings every year, on average (2022-2032).
You earn more with specialized certifications and advanced degrees in early childhood education and related fields. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn a median annual wage of $61,690 (May 2022), while leadership positions, such as principals, directors of teaching and learning, and Head Start directors, can earn upwards of $95,000 per year.

What degree is best for early childhood education?

If you want to pursue an early childhood education-related career, your best choice is a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. You can choose between a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, depending on your career goals and personal interests. With a B.A. degree, your education will be more focused on the liberal arts (e.g., Humanities and Social Sciences while a B.S. degree focuses more on the field’s science, techniques and technologies.)
You can also pursue other bachelor’s degrees in fields like Child Development, Child Psychology, and Elementary education. Keep in mind, too, that every state has its specific teacher license or certification requirements.

How much can I make with an early childhood education degree?

Your annual salary will depend on your geographical location, professional credentials and work experience, and industry and organization. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers, preschool teachers, and special education teachers can earn between $35,330 and $62,950 in median annual wage.

How long does an online bachelor’s in early childhood education take?

Four years is the standard time it takes to get a bachelor’s degree in ECE. But some online programs with generous transfer credit policies take two years, on average. Many programs on our ranking take between 2-4 years to get an online bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

What jobs can I get with an early childhood education degree?

There are many jobs you can get with an ECE degree. Some options include:

• Childcare worker
• Kindergarten teacher
• Nanny
• Preschool and childcare center director
• Preschool teacher
• Special education teacher
• Teacher assistant

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics – Educational Instruction and Library Occupations Handbook