Reviewing so many options for early childhood education programs can be overwhelming, and you might end up overlooking a school that would have been a great fit for you. After guiding several early childhood education graduates through the years, we’ve vetted the ultimate list of top schools for getting an online early childhood education degree.

Top Online Colleges for Early Childhood Education Degrees

When researching the best online early childhood education programs, the University of Washington, National University, Liberty University, Florida International University, Wilmington University, and the University of Cincinnati stand out for their academic excellence, affordability, and high job placement rates.

Top accredited online early childhood program
InstitutionIn-State TuitionOut-of-State TuitionAcceptance Rate
University of Washington$11,839$38,16652%
National University$12,315$12,31573%
Liberty University$23,800$23,80047%
Florida International$6,558$18,96458%
Wilmington University$7,776$7,77671%
University of Cincinnati$11,000$26,33473%
Texas Tech University$11,525$26,46570%
Kansas State University$10,170$25,96095%
Eastern Kentucky University$9,726$21,62488%
Colorado State University$12,500$25,95880%
University of Arizona$12,447$36,40085%
Fort Hays State University$7,428$16,872100%
University of Nebraska-Lincoln$9,242$23,83077%
University of Southern Mississippi$7,964$14,86451%
Mayville State University$7,077$7,077100%
Northern Arizona University$11,564$25,90883%
University of Missouri$11,258$28,88277%
Grand Canyon University$16,419$16,41959%
University of Toledo$9,537$19,28782%
Granite State College$7,736$15,600100%
South Dakota State University$8,510$11,43097%
University of North Carolina – Greensboro$7,019$21,34858%
University of Nebraska at Kearney$8,509$18,513100%
Central Michigan University$12,510$28,71077%
Park University$11,970$11,970100%
Jackson State University$7,804$15,29456%
University of West Alabama$9,750$17,00043%
Ball State University$9,992$27,84270%
West Virginia University$8,976$23,96085%
Arkansas State University$8,877$19,51272%

Compare factors like tuition costs, program curriculum, and acceptance rates at these top-ranked schools to make the right choice to earn their degree online successfully. Prospective students can secure their degrees from one of our 30 accredited colleges for online early childhood education to make a lifelong difference in children’s lives.

1. University of Washington

University of Washington

The University of Washington leads as the most highly regarded public university on this list of the best online early childhood education programs. UW’s BA in Early Care and Education is delivered through asynchronous online coursework. Admission requirements require students to earn 180 quarter credits to graduate.

2. National University

National University

National University specializes in online programs or in-person classes during the evenings or on weekends. NU’s four-week courses include a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education degree (BAECE). With monthly start dates, even out-of-state students can begin pursuing this 180-credit-hour degree right away.

3. Liberty University

Liberty University

Liberty University’s BS Early Childhood Education is a fully online, 120-credit-hour program. You can transfer up to 75% of this degree’s required credits as part of admission requirements. With the option to complete a field experience course, you’ll gain hands-on experience in an approved classroom setting close to home.

4. Florida International University

Florida International University

Florida International University is tied at No. 59 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. FIU has a fully online degree in early childhood education that requires 120 credit hours to graduate. However, students must already have 60 credits of lower-level undergraduate coursework to apply.

5. Wilmington University

Wilmington University

At Wilmington University, coursework in its Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education Program is delivered online and at three Delaware-based campuses. This includes 41 credits of general education requirements, 21 credits in social and behavioral sciences, and 12 credits in fine arts.

6. University of Cincinnati

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati ranks at No. 67 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Top Public Schools. UC’s fully online, 120-credit-hour Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education focuses on children from birth to age five. In addition to core coursework, UC offers three areas of focus: Pre-K, administration, and infant-toddler. 

7. Texas Tech University

Texas Tech

Texas Tech University’s BS Early Child Care is a seven-for-one deal. This BS program’s 51-credit-hour curriculum consists of 12 core courses. Even out-of-state applicants must have at least 30 previously earned credit hours, and a course in lifespan human development is a prerequisite.

8. Kansas State University


Kansas State University offers a Master’s in Early Childhood Education degree you can earn entirely online. This 30-credit-hour master’s program advances your career to an administrative level. By undertaking scholarly research, you have the opportunity to improve early childcare policy and curriculum development across the country.

9. Eastern Kentucky University

Eastern Kentucky University

Established in 1906 as a teacher’s college, Eastern Kentucky University is tied at No. 74 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. Its BS Child and Family Studies with a Child Development concentration comes in eight-week terms. Online students learn from the same faculty who teach on-campus.

10. Colorado State University

Colorado State

Colorado State University offers a fully online Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies. This includes special education, social and emotional development, children’s literature, or community outreach. CSU is No. 13 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.

We connected with Jerome L. Rekart, Ph.D., who has over 15 years of experience in educational research, and asked him which online college he’d recommend on our list: 

“Colorado State University’s program would be my top recommendation for someone looking to gain a degree in early childhood education for several reasons. First, the school doesn’t require students to come in with a number of pre-completed or transfer credits like some other programs. 

Second, the school has a number of options that allow students the opportunity to expand their training beyond just becoming an early childhood educator, including opportunities to gain director qualifications as well as Certified Family Life Educators. Finally, the school has a good reputation, is a non-profit, and is well reviewed by former students.”

11. University of Arizona

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona is tied at No. 7 among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. Its Bachelor of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education (BAS ECE) program is for online students with an associate degree. Out-of-state applicants must transfer at least 60 credits from an accredited institution.

12. Fort Hays State University


Fort Hays State University’s students pay only $5 for a semester’s worth of tuition. FHSU offers a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Unified Education with 126 credits. FHSU’s curriculum focuses on working with children from birth to third grade, and you’ll also complete internships with three different age groups.

13. University of Nebraska- Lincoln

University of Nebraska Lincoln

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education in a Mobile Society (ECEMS) trains you to serve young learners whose families move often, including children from military families or those facing homelessness. This degree requires 120 credit hours, 45 of which are within the ECEMS major.

14. University of Southern Mississippi

University of Southern Mississippi

University of Southern Mississippi‘s BS in Child and Family Sciences offers a Child Development 124-credit-hour program format. You need to earn at least 50% of these credits from USM, including infant development, developmental disabilities, family theories, and family financial management. You’ll complete a three-credit-hour practicum as your culminating experience.

15. Mayville State University

Mayville State University

Mayville State University offers fully online early childhood education programs for teachers who want to work with children up to eight years old. Its four-year tuition is at least $4,000 less than other North Dakota public universities. This degree requires the completion of 132 semester hours to graduate.

16. Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University offers a fully online BAS degree designed for students with an associate’s degree. Students complete 120 credits, yet at least 64 must be transferred in. In addition to taking courses covering child development, language and literacy development, and play education, you’ll undertake an independent study. 

17. University of Missouri


University of Missouri offers online master’s degrees in early childhood education and special education/autism. As a Mizzou student, you’ll take nine core courses exploring curriculum development and teaching in culturally diverse classrooms. These classes cover issues like instructional leadership and language and literacy development.

18. Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University lets you earn a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education that utilizes a faith-based curriculum. GCU’s online bachelor’s program requires 120 credit hours for completion. The fully online program focuses on children from birth to preschool, and you’ll also gain practical experience teaching kindergarten through third grade.

19. University of Toledo

University of Toledo

The University of Toledo offers an online Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education for students working in an early care and education program. You must hold an associate degree to earn this bachelor’s with just 64 credits in four semesters. UToledo seeks to make college affordable through scholarships specifically awarded to transfer students.

20. Granite State College


Granite State College offers one of the most qualified early childhood education programs with either a preschool teacher certification in New Hampshire or a non-certification pathway. Each track requires 120 credit hours, and 80% of students transfer in with as many as 90 credits. In both programs, you’ll cover subjects like child development, language arts, and family literacy.

21. South Dakota State University

south dakota state university

For more than 90 years, South Dakota State University has operated its Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education. As a distance learner, you can benefit from SDSU’s accomplished Department of Teaching, Learning, and Leadership. Practicums are incorporated throughout the curriculum, and a 15-week internship is the final requirement.

22. University of North Carolina Greensboro

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

University of North Carolina – Greensboro offers an online early childhood education program where online credits cost less than those completed on campus. These concentrations are for students with an Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education from a North Carolina community college.

23. University of Nebraska at Kearney

University of Nebraska Kearney

The University of Nebraska’s Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood and Family Advocacy prepares you for non-teaching roles in public agency programs or early childhood education centers. You’ll gain foundational knowledge of early child development, creative arts, educational methods, counseling skills, families in crisis, and cross-cultural family patterns.

24. Central Michigan University


Early childhood education programs at Central Michigan University’s Global Campus come with highly competitive online tuition rates. The Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children offers scholarships through its T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Michigan program. Approximately 43 credit hours focus on topics like special education, program administration, and lifespan development.

25. Park University

Park University

Early childhood education graduates from Park University get steeped in on-the-job training. As a Park student, you’ll take 58 credits in the major, studying aspects like emotional development, creative arts, and instructional strategies. Additionally, you’ll choose a minor, like social work, psychology, or sociology.

26. Jackson State University

Jackson State University

Jackson State University’s Bachelor of Science in Childcare and Family Education is a non-licensure program requiring 122 credit hours. The Master of Science in Early Childhood Education is a graduate-level program requiring at least 33 credit hours. In addition to taking advanced courses in child development and education, you’ll learn how to conduct educational research.

27. University of West Alabama

University of West Alabama

The University of West Alabama’s Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Development requires 56 general education credit hours, 63 program credit hours, and at least two elective credit hours. UWA’s cost-per-credit is only $325. Courses last eight weeks, covering topics like the importance of play, thematic teaching, and behavior management.

28. Ball State University

Ball State University

Ball State University’s early childhood education programs require 120 credits, 48 of which are in the concentration. You’ll study topics like child development, family literacy, and classroom management. If you already work in Indiana, a T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Indiana Bachelor’s Degree Scholarship might cover up to 80% of your tuition.

29. West Virginia University

West Virginia

Providing one of the best early childhood education degree programs in the country, West Virginia University‘s fully online bachelor’s degree requires 120 credit hours earned over the completion of 40 courses. You’ll also learn teaching methods from 36 hours of supervised field experience. You can also add Pre-K teacher certification in the state of West Virginia.

30. Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University

At Arkansas State University, you can earn a Master of Science in Education in Early Childhood Education in as few as 12 months. The online early childhood education program requires 30 credit hours and costs less than $10,000. You’ll be introduced to labor statistics, examine models of early childhood curriculums, and enhance your leadership skills.

Why Should I Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education?

In recent years, countless studies have shown the critical importance of a preschool education. The Economic Policy Institute found that children entering kindergarten underprepared are likely to stay behind through the rest of their schooling. By advancing your online education, you can help early learners excel in classroom management for years to come. 

Policymakers across the U.S. are working to expand access to quality preschool education. This is good news for students. It’s also good news for aspiring teachers!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), preschool teaching jobs expect an 18% growth by 2030. Moreover, several organizations, like T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® and Bright Horizons, offer scholarships as part of their commitment to increasing the number of highly skilled educators.

See Also: Top 21 Best Online Master’s in Educational Technology

Woman typing on a laptop

What Will I Learn in an Early Childhood Education Program?

In many programs, you’ll have the opportunity to choose a specialization in either birth to Pre-K or kindergarten to third grade to help young children as they enter early childhood or elementary school.

  • As an ECE major, you’ll examine how children develop mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally during these years of rapid growth. 
  • You’ll learn how to develop a curriculum incorporating educational methods through play, art, and music up to elementary school setup.
  • You’ll also learn how to work closely with families of all socio-economic backgrounds to give early learners the best start in life.

What Are Common Courses in Early Childhood Education Programs?

Early childhood education bachelor’s degrees cover instructional strategies, teaching methods, and child development theories for a young child. Programs are either Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), or Bachelor of Education (BEd) degrees.

  • BA focuses on the humanities and social aspects in an early childhood setting.
  • BEd concentrates on education styles and techniques.
  • BS focuses on math, technology, and assessments in early childhood.
  • Course topics include nutrition, toddler care, guiding behaviors, working with special needs children, administration, partnerships with families/communities, math learning, and more.

Why Is an Online Degree in Early Childhood Education Important?

In 2015, the National Academies of Sciences recommended that lead educators in preschool settings should have a bachelor’s degree. While some preschool teaching jobs only require an associate’s degree, you can expect that employers prefer a bachelor’s program, especially after the 2015 recommendation from the NAS.

A bachelor’s degree prepares you more thoroughly to be a preschool teacher for future academic pursuits or career goals. For example, you’ll need a master’s degree to rise to an administrative position. Before you can do that, you must already have a bachelor’s degree.

Furthermore, graduates from a bachelor’s program typically result in higher pay than if you simply have an associate’s degree. According to a study by Northeastern University, the median salary for a bachelor’s degree holder is $18,772 more than that of a worker with an associate’s degree.

See Also: 30 Best Online Master’s in Educational Leadership

What Are the Benefits of Studying Online Early Childhood Education Programs?

Pursuing an online degree allows you to continue to work while improving your credentials. You’ll gain practical experience in different learning environments at childcare centers as you guide a child’s life in their early years. 

Woman with her knees close to the table while using her laptop
  • Online early childhood education programs are designed with working students in mind, so your studies won’t be all-consuming. You might find that courses have flexible due dates. This allows you to study at your own pace when it’s most convenient for you.
  • Additionally, many online learning programs allow you to take classes in whatever order you choose. Again, this flexibility enables you to pursue your degree on your own terms.
  • Many colleges and universities charge a flat per-credit rate for online courses rather than charging in-state and out-of-state tuition. When you don’t live in the same state as your selected school, this can mean a difference of thousands of dollars in savings each semester. 
  • In the same vein, there are just as many federal financial aid opportunities for online learning as there are for on-campus students. In fact, you might find that there are specific scholarship and grant opportunities specifically for online learners such as yourself!

See Also: 10 Tips for Maximizing Your Learning Experience in Online College

Are There Accredited Online Programs for Early Childhood Education?

Yes, there are many online colleges with accredited early childhood programs. An accredited online early childhood education degree is crucial for various reasons:

  • Many financial aid awards require attending an accredited school.
  • Some licensure exams require that your degree be from an accredited school.
  • Employers often prefer that employees graduate from an accredited school.

Why Is Accreditation Essential for Early Childhood Development Schools?

Accreditation guarantees the quality of your education. Dr. Jerome Rekart advises that if you’re planning to pursue a degree in this field, you make sure your education comes from an accredited institution:

“For anyone looking to start a career in education, it is imperative that their degree be from an accredited institution. This is because in order to work as an early childhood educator, many states require additional certification or licensure, which is only possible if someone has a degree from an accredited university. Thus, in order to use one’s degree and apply their training in education, it must be from an accredited college or university.”

Accrediting organizations are like higher education watchdogs – ensuring a university meets regional or national educational standards. 

  • Regional accreditation is the preferred type since it is a more rigorous process to be accredited. 
  • Most public and private non-profit colleges and universities are regionally accredited.
  • National accreditation is often reserved for trade schools, online schools, and for-profit institutions. 
  • Regionally accredited schools don’t accept transfer credits from nationally accredited schools.
  • There’s also something called programmatic accreditation. Rather than occurring at the institutional level, programmatic accreditation is achieved at the program level. In this case, looking for accredited early childhood education programs is also vital.

Many program-level accrediting agencies (like the National Association for the Education of Young Children or NAEYC) lend their expertise in determining if a program offers the appropriate level of rigor for its students.

See Also: 30 Top Fastest Masters Degree Programs in the United States

How We Rank the Best Early Childhood Education Degrees?

Accredited Online College uses data from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics to determine its rankings. Each program listed below has an individual score. That score is compared to all other universities offering that degree to determine the final score for each ranking.

To aid in establishing these rankings, Accredited Online College considers several other factors, including:

  • Affordability
  • Student-to-faculty ratio
  • The number of programs offered on-campus and online

To learn more about how we determine these rankings of online colleges that offer ECE, visit our methodology page.

Preschool teacher during a classroom lecture

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Are Early Childhood Education Programs?

Early childhood education bachelor’s degrees typically require 120 credits and take four years full-time or five to six years part-time to complete. Full-time students can finish faster in accelerated programs yet have heavier workloads. Meanwhile, part-time students take longer yet have more manageable workloads to balance other responsibilities.

What Are Career Paths for an Early Childhood Education Degree?

Students with an online early childhood education degree have common career paths, including teachers, educational leaders, coordinators, and policymakers related to children. Special education teachers can work with preschoolers, kindergarteners, and elementary education students. Other careers exist with NGOs, government, consulting firms, and research organizations.

What Are the Requirements to Become an Early Childhood Educator?

Early childhood teachers usually need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree related to education. Some roles, like childcare director, prefer degrees in early childhood development with qualified test scores. Meanwhile, public school teachers may need to major in a specific content area depending on the state, especially in South Carolina and Missouri.

How Much Does an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education Cost?

Tuition for an online bachelor’s degree in early childhood education averages $6,472. However, the total costs are higher when including textbooks, fees, and living expenses. Making early childhood education degrees affordable involves utilizing transfer credits, prior learning credits, financial aid, and scholarships and controlling hidden costs.

How Much Do Early Childhood Educators Earn?

The BLS reports an annual median salary of $35,300 for preschool teachers in 2022. In 2021, preschool and childcare center directors took home, on average, $47,310. Preschool teachers serving in elementary schools were the highest earners with an average income of $48,190. 

Which States Pay Preschool Teachers the Most?

According to the BLS, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts top the list of states with the highest-paying preschool teaching jobs. You may also consider California if you’re chasing a bigger income and the sun.


Knowing the top-rated online early childhood education programs prepares students to make an informed decision when selecting a degree best aligned with their career goals. This knowledge helps avoid missteps so you can graduate and qualify to begin a rewarding teaching career.

When interested in pursuing higher education degrees, check out our Top 12 Accredited Online Colleges with Low Tuition and Top 15 Accredited Schools Online Offering Associate Degrees!