Are you considering earning an early childhood education degree?
Completing this course of study has the potential to open many doors in the education industry. It may also serve as a stepping stone to other endeavors in the education field.
What Is Early Childhood Education?
Early childhood education, or ECE, is a field of education theory. It deals with teaching young students under the age of nine, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children says this is the time when children go through the fastest stages of their intellectual development. In other words, it covers everything from toddler parenting and preschool up to about the third grade of primary education.
Early childhood education is highly important because it plays a critical role in preparing kids for grade school. These programs help learners become more self-sufficient, and some evidence suggests that they lead to improved outcomes later in life.
In the U.S., many early childhood education initiatives focus specifically on the pre-kindergarten years. In addition to national programs, such as Head Start and the No Child Left Behind Act, there are numerous state laws and incentives designed to improve ECE at the regional level, such as California’s Kindergarten Readiness Act and Minnesota’s Early Learning scholarships.
Formal early childhood education is a relatively recent discipline, but it draws on a broad foundation of educational theory. History has shown that younger learners demand special types of attention and guidance. Teachers who interact with these students may be the first non-family-member adults they spend prolonged amounts of time with. As specialized educators, they need to pay close attention to the emotional needs of young learners.
Teachers may encounter unique challenges like:
- Coming up with creative ways to hold the interest of toddlers.
- Imparting social skills, such as sharing and cooperation.
- Providing and assisting with childcare services that go beyond the bounds of traditional education.
- Mediating between students who disagree.
- Reacting compassionately when confronted with unexpected or sensitive home-life issues.
- Conducting home visits to engage families on a broad range of topics, such as health, nutrition, and parent education.
- Being compassionate to the unique needs of underprivileged, impoverished, or otherwise challenged students.
Not everyone can handle the demanding work associated with early childhood education. Those who rise to the occasion, however, make positive differences in the lives of future generations.
Where Can You Take an Online Early Childhood Education Course?
Students who want to specialize in early childhood education have a broad range of options. Many universities offer distance learning courses, and this can make it difficult to pick the right program. One key factor to consider when choosing an online college is whether it’s formally accredited.
Programs offered by accredited institutions meet higher quality standards than non-accredited alternatives do. In addition to helping would-be educators become more prepared for their careers, they’re able to provide degree holders with sufficient course hours to seek gainful employment after graduating. In this case, you’ll be aiming for the Child Development Associate Credential, or CDA, which needs 120 hours of classroom training.
Although institutional accreditations and affiliations vary, only 10 accrediting bodies are formally recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. For instance, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission is both government-recognized and a member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. States and countries also offer their own forms of accreditation.
What Types of Courses Are Studied in This Online Degree Program?
Although early childhood education degree programs vary in scope, many share common hallmarks. These courses of study cover a broad range of essential topics as required classes and electives:
- Early childhood education introduction courses provide an overview of the history, public policy, trends, and career outlooks of the field.
- Early childhood behavior management courses help students identify the kinds of behavior expectations they should maintain and promote during their work. These classes commonly address behavioral theory along with topics such as positive reinforcement and motivation.
- Early childhood curricula, methods, and instruction courses help students hone in on the kinds of learning materials that are best-suited to early education. In addition to learning to create lessons that cater to a broad range of personal, social, and cultural differences, students explore the relationships between activities such as providing instruction and assessing performance.
- Child development courses teach students about the major milestones in children’s development and how different development theories might manifest in individuals. They also learn about ways to encourage family participation and promote nurturing environments for growth.
- Nutrition and health courses commonly review not only the needs of children but also their families.
- Early childhood education program administration courses discuss the management side of ECE. In addition to learning about budgets, hiring policies, and regulatory compliance, students may explore ways to develop age-appropriate curricula and standards.
- Community and parent collaboration courses teach students how to interact effectively with the families and others that play essential roles in the ECE process.
- Language acquisition courses teach students how to recognize and foster the different stages of language development that children go through starting from birth.
- Child development courses teach students about how children grow and acquire cognitive, motor, moral, emotional, and other skills.
- Children’s literature courses teach students how to choose children’s books and supplementary materials. They also learn techniques that help them use these materials in their work.
Some courses are specifically related to infants and toddlers. For instance, students who focus on these age groups need extra training on their social and emotional development, learning habits, and care needs. Students also take courses regarding topics such as the role of culture in early childhood education, using play as a teaching experience, and the relevance of social justice and political policy.
Are There Any Prerequisites for Entering an Online Early Childhood Education Program?
Online early childhood education programs are highly accessible to a broad range of students. While doctorate-level degrees in the field have undergrad prerequisites, most colleges and universities provide some form of comprehensive Bachelor of Science curricula. In other words, it’s usually possible to enroll and complete your 120 hours as long as you’ve graduated high school.
What Is the Employment Outlook for Early Childhood Education Degrees?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ECE jobs like teaching preschool are predicted to grow faster than the national average from 2016 to 2026. Salaries vary, with kindergarten teachers making a median amount of $54,000 and elementary school teachers taking home a median pay of approximately $57,000.
It’s worth noting that different jurisdictions maintain varying levels of funding for educator salaries. There’s also a range of programs that cater to special needs students and communities, and teachers in these fields may make more money. Center-based jobs teaching infants and toddlers also offer varying pay scales and benefits, but employees may lack the strong union support found in more formalized workplaces.
To receive your CDA Credential, you need to complete a certain number of work experience hours, undergo observation, and gather reference materials. In other words, your career outlook may improve after you work for a while and become be eligible for your CDA.
The growing global population and increased international focus on childhood education make this field promising for those seeking long-term careers. Although regional opportunities may come and go, professionals who know how to prioritize and live within their means can do quite well, especially if they love working with young kids.
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