Early Childhood Development Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Class info

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What kind of job can you get with a master's degree or a PhD in early childhood development? Find out about master's and PhD program requirements, online options and information on courses and potential early childhood development careers.
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Study Early Childhood Development: Degrees at a Glance

Early childhood development degree programs, also commonly referred to as 'early childhood education' programs, prepare you for a career as a preschool teacher or administrator, day care administrator, social worker, post-secondary teacher or child psychologist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for preschool teachers and administrators, as well as for social workers, are projected to grow about 25% between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also expects jobs for special education teachers to grow 17% in the same period. The BLS predicts 22% job growth for counseling, clinical and school psychologists, and 17% growth for post-secondary teachers.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in teaching or administration positions at the preschool level or working with young children in a number of other fields Individuals interested in working in post-secondary academia or as a child counselor
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Preschool teacher ($30,000)*
- Special education teacher/worker ($57,000)*
- Day care administrator ($45,000)*
- Preschool or elementary school administrator ($72,000)*
- Social worker ($54,000)*
- University professor ($65,000)*
- Community college professor ($67,000)*
- Clinical, school or counseling psychologist ($73,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 3-5 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - 30-40 credit hours
- Master's thesis/research paper
- Master's exams
- 50-70 credit hours
- PhD qualifier exams
- Dissertation proposal
- Dissertation
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in early childhood development or related field Bachelor's or master's degree in early childhood development or related field
Online Availability Yes None found at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's Degree in Early Childhood Development

In a typical master's degree early childhood development program, you can expect a heavier workload than in a bachelor's program, reasonably small class sizes and a lot of one-on-one time with professors. If your research correlates with a professor's expertise, you may end up assisting them with their research. In some universities, earning a master's degree is simply a part of the ultimate goal of earning a PhD in early childhood development.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • In many positions, you often earn a higher salary if you have work experience along with a master's degree
  • A master's degree can open doors to leadership positions in education and counseling
  • Degree program teaches you to help children, which can be a rewarding career

Cons

  • Many child development positions don't require a master's degree, resulting in your being overqualified for job positions
  • Degree programs can be expensive and time consuming
  • You may encounter difficulties securing funding for a terminal master's degree, as many universities reserve funds for PhD students

Courses and Requirements

The courses you take in these programs vary. However, common courses include:

  • Foundations of early childhood studies
  • Development and assessment of play
  • Early childhood social work
  • Educational psychology
  • Art therapy
  • Moral and social development
  • Early childhood special needs curricula
  • Communication between people
  • How children acquire language
  • Diversity in children

In addition to coursework and master's level exams, you'll also most likely write a thesis on a topic of your choice. For example, you might choose to write about infant mental health.

Online Degree Options

Online master's degree options for early childhood development are rare. In an online program, you complete courses and other degree requirements similar to on-campus programs.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

A thorough knowledge of technology is often very attractive to, and sometimes required by, potential employers. For example, being able to list data collection skills or an understanding of current classroom technology on your resume can help it stand out against your competition.

PhD in Early Childhood Development

A PhD program in early childhood development typically allows students to specialize in an area of their interest. A typical PhD program prepares you for a career in teacher education, research, public policy or policy design.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Your research could affect and shape how young children are taught and treated for disabilities
  • With your PhD in early childhood development, you could potentially find employment conducting research for the U.S. Department of Education or state agencies
  • As a postsecondary professor, you could potentially gain job and salary security by being awarded tenure

Cons

  • Because job searches in research and academia are nationwide, there's a fair chance you'll need to relocate
  • Earning a doctorate degree is time consuming and often does not permit you to work while studying
  • Receiving tenure is a long, competitive and difficult undertaking

Courses and Requirements

The courses you take in a PhD program vary based on your chosen area of expertise. However, core courses often include:

  • Theories and practices in education
  • Educational research methods
  • Language and literacy in children
  • Human development and education
  • Health and development
  • Analysis techniques
  • Early education curriculum design
  • Understanding public policy

In addition, you attend professional seminars and develop a dissertation proposal. You present this proposal to a group of your professors before beginning researching and writing your dissertation.

Online Degree Options

Unfortunately, there are few if any purely online PhD options available in early childhood development or education. Because PhD requirements are primarily research based, you usually need to work closely with your professors and conduct research on and off campus.

Stand Out With This Degree

In a crowded job market, completing an internship with an educational policy organization could be a strong resume booster as well as a possible gateway to starting your career. This experience could help you stand out against your competition.

Additionally, staying on top of technological developments can help you stand out. Consider completing a course in technology use in early childhood education to hone your skills in this area. Having this knowledge on your resume could impress employers.

Degree Alternatives

If you're interested in working with children, but a PhD in early childhood development doesn't seem right for you, consider earning a degree in clinical child psychology. Completing a PhD child psychology program, which takes about 4 years, can lead to a career as a psychologist in which you could research topics like new learning methods for kids with special needs. In these programs you learn assessment and counseling theories and techniques as well as complete a clinical practicum. The BLS expects 22% job growth for clinical, counseling and school psychologists during 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Human Services
      • MSHUS - Family and Community Services
      • MSHUS - Organizational and Social Services
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. - Education: Child Development
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders
      • M.Ed. in Early Childhood
  • Online Programs Available
    4. University of the Rockies

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Human Services
      • M.A. in Human Services - Mental Health Admin
      • M.A. in Human Services - Not-for-Profit Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Museum Studies
      • Master of Liberal Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA in Liberal Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Social Work - Advanced Track
      • Master of Social Work - Standard Track

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MS in Human Services
  • MSHUS - Family and Community Services
  • MSHUS - Organizational and Social Services

Which subject are you interested in?

Ashford University

  • M.A. - Education: Child Development

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Grand Canyon University

  • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders
  • M.Ed. in Early Childhood

What is your highest level of education?

University of the Rockies

  • Master of Arts in Human Services
  • M.A. in Human Services - Mental Health Admin
  • M.A. in Human Services - Not-for-Profit Management

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Museum Studies
  • Master of Liberal Arts

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Excelsior College

  • MA in Liberal Studies

What is your highest level of education completed?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Master of Social Work - Advanced Track
  • Master of Social Work - Standard Track

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