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Graduate Degree Programs in Early Childhood Education Overview

Majors Overview July 20, 2015

This article talks about different graduate degree programs in early childhood education and their education requirements, coursework, career choices, and job and wage outlook.

Information on Early Childhood Education Programs

The focus of early childhood education is on teaching juvenile students between infancy and the age of eight. The teaching and assessment methods are different from those used while working with older students. Schools offer graduate degrees in early childhood education at the master’s and doctorate levels. Students seeking admission to these programs are required to have bachelor’s and master’s degrees that are education-based.

The orientation of master’s programs is toward aspiring administrators as well as teachers seeking to expand their knowledge. Teaching internships are in these programs. The doctoral level mainly focuses on research. Students must complete a dissertation.

Master’s Programs in Early Childhood Education

Those who aspire to teach children from pre-kindergarten to second or third grade can enroll in Master of Education (M.Ed.) and Master of Arts (M.A.) programs in Early Childhood Education. Students are taught the ideas underscoring lesson planning, curriculum design, and educational assessment for young students. Concepts in developmental psychology are used in classes to clarify the process of learning in early childhood. There is also an emphasis on the statistical and research aspects of the field.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold previous undergraduate credits in education, in addition to a bachelor’s degree. Incoming students to some programs are also required to be familiar with research design and statistical methodology before they can begin their graduate coursework. Students in most programs are required to submit a personal statement and reference letters.


M.Ed. and MA programs in Early Childhood Education mainly emphasize on ways of applying educational theory and research to classroom environments. Incoming students to many programs have to complete supervised teaching internships. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Developmental psychology and education
•Educational Technology
•Instructing young children
•Curriculum design for preschool
•Statistics in Education

Career Choices

Program graduates can seek positions in private or public schools, among other educational institutions. They can aspire to be teachers or administrators. Teachers need licensure. These professionals can choose from available job positions such as:

•Kindergarten teacher
•Preschool teacher
•Private preschool program administrator

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, a job growth rate of 17% has been predicted for preschool teachers. During the same decade, kindergarten and elementary school teachers are expected to see a 12% growth (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2012, preschool teachers brought in an average annual wage of $27,130, while kindergarten and elementary school teachers $53,090 per annum, on average.

Doctorate Programs in Early Childhood Education

The emphasis of Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs is typically on the research-related and theoretical aspects of early childhood education. Students also learn about the administrative and policy aspects of the discipline. Graduates of most programs are required to complete and defend a dissertation project that covers original research in the field.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to have a master’s degree in education, apart from an understanding of statistics and research design. Applicants are often required to submit letters of recommendation, an academic writing sample, and a statement of purpose.


A faculty advisor often helps students select coursework compatible with a research interest. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Educational assessment
•Education program leadership
•Theories of learning
•Educational statistics
•Literacy development

Career Choices

Program graduates may seek numerous advanced administrative and academic positions. Graduates can use their learned skills in managing educational programs, designing curriculum or working as educational advocates. They may choose from possible job options such as:

•Education professor
•Educational policy advisor
•Preschool program manager
•Education research consultant

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