ece top online masters early childhood education 01

Earning an online master’s degree in early childhood education brings numerous benefits for your career advancement. You will gain specialized knowledge, stay on top of the latest principles and practices in the field, and develop your leadership and advocacy skills.

Originally published: May 2017
Last updated: March 2024

You will also gain more competitive credentials for leadership positions and meet licensing requirements. If you’ve earned an undergraduate degree in early childhood education, enrolling in one of these ten best online master’s degree programs is the next step toward career advancement.

We chose these programs because of their strong emphasis on the areas of:

  • Advocacy
  • Classroom arrangement and management
  • Curriculum development suitable for young learners
  • Research practices

We also love these programs because of their affordable tuition and fees, excellent quality of academic instruction and curriculum, and flexibility for working professionals. We must emphasize, however, that your choice of an online master’s program in early childhood education must be based on your specific needs. You must consider your career goals, personal interests, and current financial situation when choosing from these programs.

Table of Contents

The 10 Top Online Master’s of Early Childhood Education Programs

  • Arizona State University
  • Concordia University
  • Kennesaw State University
  • Mercer University
  • Portland State University
  • Northwestern College
  • Capella University
  • University of North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania Western University Global
  • Grand Canyon University

Related Rankings and Valuable Resources:


  • Affordability (1/3). We chose the online programs that offer reasonable tuition and fees as well as generous financial aid options for graduate students.
  • Flexibility (1/3): We selected these online programs, too, for their accessibility and flexibility, meaning online delivery of courses, specializations offered, accelerated format, and ease of transferring credits.
  • Academic Prestige (1/3). We only included online programs offered by regionally accredited colleges and universities. Many of these programs are also Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)-accredited; programmatic accreditation demonstrates excellent academic quality, among other features. We also considered their top rankings and positive reviews from students, alumni, and educational organizations.

The 10 Top Master’s of Early Childhood Education Online Programs

1.) Arizona State University

ASU welcomes motivated individuals with a keen interest in early childhood education research and educating young children (birth to grade 3) into its Master of Education in Early Childhood Education program. Teachers with teaching certificates on the career advancement path or who want to pursue doctoral studies in the future are also welcome. Whatever your reasons, you will find that it’s the best program because of its outstanding affordability, flexibility, and quality!

The intensive curriculum consists of 10 courses with each course lasting for 7.5 weeks. Students can also earn a professional certification, which will boost their credibility as educators, by completing 45 credits.

Students develop their competencies in four areas – early childhood pedagogy, technology, administration, and advocacy – through courses like:

  • Appropriate Instructional Methodologies for Young Children
  • Foundations of Diversity, Human Development, and the Young Child

There’s a supervised applied project requirement and a capstone course, too.

  • Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online courses with in-person requirements
  • Requirements: 30 credit hours 
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 19:1
  • Tuition: $692/credit
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Retention Rate: 86%


  • Affordable tuition and generous financial aid options available for online students
  • Strong sense of school spirit and tradition
  • Prestigious reputation


  • The degree can only be used for teaching licensure/certification in Arizona.
  • It is known as a party school, which could cause distractions for students.

2.) Concordia University

Concordia University’s CAEP-accredited Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education program accepts working professionals who want to earn a graduate degree toward career advancement. If you have a busy schedule juggling personal and professional responsibilities, you will appreciate the self-paced program of study (i.e., asynchronous classes). But you must still put in the work because of the rigorous nature of the seven-week courses.

Note that it’s a non-licensure teaching program, meaning the master’s degree will not result in a teaching license or certification in any jurisdiction. Instead, students develop their knowledge and skills in researching early childhood education topics and implementing best classroom practices.

The courses in the rigorous curriculum include:

  • Curriculum and Instruction in Early Childhood Education
  • Observation and Assessment in Early Childhood Education

Students choose between a capstone experience focused on the diverse classroom and a graduate study abroad opportunity as their culminating requirement.

Applicants already engaged in early childhood education, whether as employees or volunteers, will be given preferential consideration.

  • Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Fully online
  • Requirements: 30 credit hours 
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 16:1
  • Tuition: $395/credit
  • Accreditation: HLC

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 69%
  • Graduation Rate: 42%
  • Retention Rate: 64%


  • Affordable payment options and scholarships available for online students
  • Admission-to-graduation support provided


  • Limited on-campus recreation and entertainment options than there are at a large university

3.) Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw State University’s Master of Education in Elementary and Early Childhood Education program requires applicants to be either:

  • Early childhood education teachers or
  • Certified in the elementary (P-5) level

Regardless of your admission credential, you will gain specialist knowledge and skills that will improve your teaching practices, boost your research productivity, and increase your career advancement opportunities. You can earn the graduate degree in as few as 13 months with little to no disruptions in your current employment.

The online program offers the same academic rigor and quality as the on-campus program, and on-campus professors also teach the online courses.

The online program utilizes a cohort format and coincides with the public school calendar. Students can also choose from several endorsements, including:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder 
  • STEM Education
  • Urban Education
  • Coaching
  • Online Teaching
  • ESOL
  • Gifted

Admission is on a selective basis.

  • Location: Kennesaw, Georgia
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Fully online
  • Requirements: 30 credit hours 
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 22:1
  • Tuition: $438/credit 
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 68%
  • Graduation Rate: 19%
  • Retention Rate: 77%


  • The professors are passionate about teaching and learning, as well as engaging students in productive discussions.
  • Students have plenty of curricular and extracurriculars to choose from.


  • Financial aid services have room for improvement
  • Student fees can be burdensome

4.) Mercer University

Mercer University’s Master of Education – The Advanced Teacher program requires applicants to possess Level 4 certification before being considered for admission. Students learn in-depth the principles and applications of research and data analysis toward improving instructional practices and student learning outcomes.

Upon program completion, graduates possess the competencies to provide effective solutions for education-related issues. Graduates are also eligible for the GaPSC-issued Level 5 teaching certification.

The program offers four concentrations:

  • Elementary Education
  • Middle Grades Education
  • P-12 Education
  • Secondary Education

Students can also earn up to two endorsements in areas like:

  • Autism
  • ESOL
  • Mathematics K-5
  • Reading
  • Science K-5

The core courses required for completion among all students include:

  • School Philosophy and Teacher Leadership
  • Contemporary Curriculum Practices
  • Introduction to Educational Research

This program runs for 12 to 16 months and is divided into 16-week semesters.

  • Location: Macon, Georgia
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Fully online
  • Requirements: 30 credit hours 
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 13:1
  • Tuition: $665/credit
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 67%
  • Retention Rate: 86%


  • The small class sizes make it easier for professors to provide individualized attention to their students.
  • The campus culture enables open discussions between peers and professors.


  • There’s less student diversity than desired for some students.

5.) Portland State University

Portland State University’s Master’s in Early Childhood: Inclusive Education program, a joint program by the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and the Special Education Department, offers the following concentrations:

  • Constructivism
  • Infant Toddler Mental Health
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Distributed Pathway

Students in the interdisciplinary program develop their competencies in the education of young children from birth until eight years of age, as well as in engaging their families and teachers. An inquiry-based approach and an emphasis on social equity will characterize your graduate education here.

The comprehensive curriculum features rigorous courses with NAEYC standards. Core courses for all concentrations include:

  • Foundations in Early Childhood and Inclusive Education
  • Child Development & Critical Perspectives in Inclusive Early Childhood Education
  • Social Justice & Transformative Practice in Early Childhood Inclusive Education

Students also complete action research courses as well as participate in summer intensives, even in study-abroad opportunities.

  • Location: Portland, Oregon
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online with optional in-person experiences
  • Requirements: 45 credit hours 
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 17:1
  • Tuition: $512/credit (resident); $563.20/credit (Washington Border Discount); $739/credit (non-resident)
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 32%
  • Retention Rate: 74%


  • The students have access to numerous experiential learning opportunities.
  • The professors were thoughtful, engaging, and responsive in their teaching.
  • The advising team provided stellar support.


  • The premises outside the campus can be problematic, crime-wise

6.) Northwestern College

Northwestern College provides educators with career advancement ambitions to earn its respected Master of Education in Early Childhood Education degree in two years or less. Students can maintain full-time employment and meet personal commitments thanks to its fully online format and asynchronous classes. Students planning on teaching in low-income areas can also apply for the TEACH Grant and other financial aid.

The core curriculum includes:

  • Trends and Issues in 21st Century Education
  • Curriculum and Assessment for Student Learning
  • Teaching and Learning with Technology
  • Educational Research Methods and Design

Students can also choose between:

  • Gaining specialist knowledge and skills by completing the 15-credit Early Childhood Emphasis. The courses cover topics in advanced child development, strategies for early literacy development, and leadership.
  • Adding the Birth Through Grade Three Inclusive Setting Endorsement for an extra semester of work

With the master’s degree, your career advancement and personal growth opportunities will expand beyond your expectations!

  • Location: Orange City, Iowa
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Fully online
  • Requirements: 33 credit hours 
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
  • Tuition: $360/credit
  • Accreditation: HLC

School Stats:

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


  • Strong school spirit combined with a supportive campus culture
  • Plenty of co-curricular and extracurricular activities and student organizations to choose from


  • Faith-centered communities and curricula aren’t suitable for everybody.

7.) Capella University

Capella University’s CAEP-accredited Master of Science in Education with a specialization in Early Childhood Education program features accelerated courses in a rigorous and comprehensive curriculum. The 10-week courses include core courses like:

  • Survey of Research Methodology
  • Exceptional Children in the Early Childhood Setting
  • Standards-based Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
  • Classroom Management Strategies

The curriculum and its courses are aligned with NAEYC standards. Students develop their competency in the design, implementation, and evaluation of learning programs and experiences for young children. Students also prepare for full compliance with the state licensure requirements and benefit from the insights, expertise, and guidance of scholar-practitioner professors.

Applicants must possess an active, valid, and unencumbered initial teaching license and have completed Capella’s undergraduate general education requirements. Students must also complete the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Exam (MTLE) before starting their 80-hour practicum.

  • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online with a practicum requirement 
  • Requirements: 45 quarter credit  
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 32:1
  • Tuition: $470/credit
  • Accreditation: HLC

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 26%
  • Retention Rate: 45%


  • Fast, easy, and effective access to financial aid, academic advising, and student support services
  • Numerous degree and certificate programs are offered.


  • FlexPath can be a bit confusing for beginners

8.) University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota’s CAEP-accredited Master of Science in Early Childhood Education program has a 2-year time-to-degree, on average. Most, if not all, students are working professionals seeking skills advancement in addressing the learning needs of children 0-8 years old.

The comprehensive curriculum consists of courses like:

  • Collaborative Relationships: Home, School and Community
  • Curricular Foundations in Early Childhood Education
  • Introduction to Early Childhood Special Education
  • Foundations of Reading Instruction
  • Language Development and Cognition in Children

The fully online learning format enables students to achieve a good work-life balance while earning their graduate degree. Students learn through synchronous discussions and asynchronous methods, such as lesson modules, streaming content, and posted lectures.

The 60-hour teaching practicum can be completed in your current classroom or other early childhood education settings.

  • Location: Grand Forks, North Dakota
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online courses with teaching practicum
  • Requirements: 32 credit hours 
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 17:1
  • Tuition: $618.53/credit
  • Accreditation: HLC

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 83%
  • Graduation Rate: 42%
  • Retention Rate: 79%


  • UND is a nationally-ranked university with excellent academic programs in education and aviation, among others.
  • Students have easy access to its admission-to-graduation student support services, such as health and wellness services.  


  • There’s less diversity in on-campus extracurriculars than many students would like.

9.) Pennsylvania Western University Global

PennWest Global’s CAEP-accredited Master of Education in Advanced Study in Education with a concentration in Early Childhood Education program adopts NAEYC standards. Applicants must be either:

  • Certified teachers (i.e., a copy of teaching certification must be submitted) or
  • Childcare directors, teachers, or early intervention specialists

Admission is on a selective basis with at least 3.0 cumulative undergraduate GPA being a minimum requirement. The start dates are in the fall, spring, and summer semesters.

The asynchronous courses include:

  • Child Development
  • Content Learning
  • Leadership for Early Childhood Education

Once accepted, students benefit from the applications-based approach in which the comprehensive curriculum was designed.

  • Location: California, Pennsylvania
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Fully online
  • Requirements: 30 credit hours 
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 18:1
  • Tuition: $516/credit (resident); $526/credit (non-resident); $399 (active duty military; exclusive of fees)
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

School Stats:

  • Acceptance Rate: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 37%
  • Retention Rate: 70%


  • The majority of students report that their PennWest degrees significantly improved their career prospects.
  • Satisfactory student support services are offered.


  • Some degree programs don’t deliver on the promise of academic quality.

10.) Grand Canyon University

GCU’s Master of Education in Early Childhood Education program is the best choice for individuals seeking initial licensure and practicing teachers with current licenses/certifications. Students learn advanced knowledge and skills in early childhood education that prepare them for effective leadership in PreK-12 settings.

The rigorous courses include:

  • Typical and Atypical Behaviors of Young Children
  • Health, Safety & Nutrition in Growth and Development of Early Learners
  • Family Engagement & Cultural Awareness in Early Childhood

GCU emphasizes six domains in its curriculum – The Learner and Learning, Content Knowledge, Instructional Practice, Assessment, Professional Responsibility, and Collaboration. Students are exposed to the challenges of real-life teaching, too, through the field experience.

The average time-to-completion is 27 months.

  • Location: Phoenix, Arizona
  • Program Website
  • Delivery Format: Online courses and field experiences
  • Requirements: 44 credit hours 
  • Student-to-faculty ratio: 20:1
  • Tuition: $590/credit
  • Accreditation: HLC

School Stats:

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


  • The majority of students agree that their professors are engaging, accommodating and experts in their field, as well as report manageable course loads and ease of getting their desired classes.
  • There are numerous student organizations and recreation options on the campus.


  • The strong focus on the Christian faith will not appeal to everybody.


  • NCES College Navigator
  • U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics