Study Early Childhood Development: Bachelors, Associate & Online

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What will you learn in an early childhood development degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree in the field and potential careers.
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Study Early Childhood Development: Degrees at a Glance

Through games and guided play that emphasize math, social skills and reading, early childhood professionals help young children learn and develop by stimulating a child's physical, emotional, intellectual and social growth. These professionals are also trained to work with children, parents and other adults who affect a child's development.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), favorable growth through the year 2020 is projected for the fields that employ early childhood development degree program graduates ( Careers for graduates include teaching, childcare or engaging in social work. The BLS reports that employment opportunities should be greatest for individuals with training in special education.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Those who wish to learn basic principles of childhood development or who intend to transfer to a four-year degree programIndividuals who intend to work as teachers or administrators in careers serving young children
Common career paths (with approximate annual median salary)* - Teacher assistant ($24,000)*
- Childcare worker ($19,000)*
- Social or human service assistant ($29,000)*
- Social worker ($54,000)*
- Special education teacher ($53,000)*
- Kindergarten teacher ($50,000)*
- Elementary school teacher ($53,000)*
Time to completion2 years, full time4 years, full time
Common graduation requirements - Internship in a child care setting
- First aid and CPR certification
- General and professional education courses
- Acceptable GPA
Prerequisites - Working with a child care center
- Background check
- High school diploma, GED or associate's degree
Online availability None at this timeNone at this time

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

Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Development

For those who love children, an associate's degree in early childhood development opens the door to a career in caring for or teaching children. Career options for graduates of these degree programs include public school classroom assistants, childcare providers, family home visitors, early interventionists, social workers, health care professionals or child food program representatives. Because these professionals work with children, many degree programs require that applicants pass a background check prior to admission.

In their programs, many colleges and universities require you to work towards your Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, which proves your competency and knowledge about caring for and teaching young children. To earn your CDA, you must have extensive, documented experience working with children. Completing an internship in an associate's degree program will help you earn the hours you need for this credential.

Pros and Cons


  • Many degree programs will help you earn your CDA, which is required by some states and employers to work in the field
  • Internships help get your foot in the door and provide you with hands-on experience
  • Prepares you for a career in many different fields, such as teaching or childcare


  • Some degree programs may require you to be currently working in a child care center
  • Employers may not require a degree, just CDA certification
  • May not prepare you for required state licensure

Courses and Requirements

Associate's degree programs in early childhood development teach you about general childcare and education. In addition to liberal arts courses, you may be required to take classes like:

  • Infant/toddler growth and development
  • Health, safety and nutrition education
  • Guiding the behavior of children
  • Child psychology
  • Administration of child care programs
  • Exceptional children

Online Degree Options

Currently, there are no online associate's degree programs available. This may be partially a result of the hands-on nature of the job. By completing an in-person program, you may complete any state-mandated hours of work experience required to become licensed. If your state does not require licensure, completing an in-person program will provide you with hands-on experience that may be attractive to employers.

Stand out with this Degree

If your degree program does not offer the CDA credential, it is a good idea to seek credentialing on your own. To do so, you must have work experience. Therefore, you should try to obtain an internship or entry-level position at a child care facility or school.

Bachelor's in Early Childhood Development

A bachelor's degree program in early childhood development can prepare you for a career in teaching or school administration. These degree programs may ask you to specialize in elementary or preschool teaching and prepare you to sit for teaching licensure exams.

Pros and Cons


  • Provide training to teach a variety of different subjects, including reading, math, science and history
  • Student teaching helps you learn how to work in a classroom
  • Is the minimum required degree needed to work as a teacher in most states


  • May focus heavily on teaching, which may not be your intended career path
  • Unsuitable for some careers, such as those in social work, in which a Masters of Social Work is generally required for advancement
  • Some states require teachers to have a master's degree

Courses and Requirements

In a child development bachelor's degree program, you are required to take general education courses such as mathematics, English and sociology. You will also complete a student teaching practicum. Courses you may take include:

  • Cognitive development
  • Educational play
  • Language development
  • History of childhood
  • First aid
  • Child psychology

Online Degree Options

Currently, bachelor's degree programs in early childhood development are unavailable. Attending an on-campus program will provide you with opportunities to work directly with children. This experience may make you more attractive to employers and satisfy any work hour requirements necessary for teaching licensure.

Stand out with this Degree

To stand out against your competition, consider specializing in special education. According to the BLS, enrollment of special education students in schools nationwide is expected to increase through 2020. Focusing on special education may increase your likelihood of finding employment immediately after graduation.

If you are interested in teaching, you might consider earning your teaching certificate while completing your bachelor's degree program curriculum. Some programs prepare you to sit for state teacher licensing exams immediately upon graduation. Attending one of these programs will decrease the amount of time spent between graduation and taking your teaching licensing exam, enabling you to seek employment faster.

Popular Schools

Featured Schools

American InterContinental University

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Kaplan University

  • BS in Early Childhood Administration
  • Undergraduate in Early Childhood
  • Bachelor: Human Services/Child and Family Welfare

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Thomas Edison State University

  • BA in Liberal Studies

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