Online Early Childhood Degrees

The first years in a child's life set the foundation for cognitive development and learning. Online early childhood degrees educate aspiring caregivers in development phases and appropriate care.

Early childhood generally refers to the period from birth through age 5 or the start of school, although some authorities use age 8 as the cut-off. This period of rapid physical and neurological development is critical to the development of personality, social behavior and intelligence. Educators build on their knowledge to structure learning environments and activities appropriate to a child's developmental stage. The infant to toddler stage extends from birth to age 3, while the preschool phase spans ages 3 and 4.

In 2011, over a million workers were employed in formal settings, educating and caring for children under the age of 5, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. Of these child care workers, 24 percent were based in daycare centers and 28 percent provided in-home care.

Early childhood development: education and training

Caregivers at the different developmental stages may require different credentials and training. Online early childhood development degrees offer courses in areas such as assessment, literacy, positive discipline and psychology. Hybrid programs offer the chance for class observation and practical experience.

Early childhood degrees include the Child Development Associate, or CDA, certificate, as well as academic programs at all levels, from an associate degree to a Ph.D. or Ed.D. Some states mandate minimum education requirements for child care teachers.

With an associate or bachelor's degree, you can seek an entry-level role, for example, as a teacher assistant or preschool teacher. Professionals already in the field can advance their careers with a bachelor's or master's degree, perhaps with a focus on the leadership and management aspects of child care centers. The M.Ed. is appropriate for teachers aspiring to a position as child care center director, school administrator, early childhood curriculum specialist, or a child assessment or program evaluation expert.

Career outlook and salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts moderate growth in both child care services and early child education. Child care jobs should grow by 15 percent in the 2008-2018 period, and preschool and special education teachers should experience the highest demand. BLS reports the following 2010 average salaries for child development workers:

  • Preschool or elementary special education teacher, $55,220
  • Education administrator in daycare or preschool, $50,410
  • Preschool teacher, $29,200
  • Childcare worker, $21,110

The BLS expects career opportunities in the field as a result of employment growth and high staff turnover.

Trends in the field of early childhood development

Early childhood development is an exciting field, with novel research continually reshaping the curriculum for preschool, kindergarten, child literacy and even infant care programs. The prevalence of dual-income households ensures steady demand for trained caregivers from infancy through childhood. Online early childhood degrees offer up-to-date knowledge for teachers and caregivers in this rewarding career.

Early Childhood Schools

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