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Shape Bright Futures With a Master’s in Early Childhood Education

The first eight years of a child’s life are a time of incredible growth, development, and learning. In Walden’s MS in Early Childhood Studies General Program, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how to create effective early learning environments, meaningful curriculum, and culturally responsive instruction. Explore how to create stronger partnerships with children’s families and become even more empowered to make a difference in their lives.

Coursework in this program is aligned with professional guidelines established by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Explore Cutting-Edge Topics

Examine the role of play in healthy development and the impact of trauma and mental health issues on children and families.

Become a Role Model

Gain the confidence and expertise to train and support other professionals in the best practices of helping children thrive.

Find Your Voice

Our master’s in early childhood education program facilitates your development as a leader and advocate in the early childhood field.

Program Savings

Speak with an Enrollment Specialist to learn about our current tuition savings.

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Degree Completion Requirements

  • 30 semester credits
    • Foundation course (3 sem. cr.)
    • Core courses (24 sem. cr.)
    • Capstone course (3 sem. cr.)

This sequence represents the minimum time to completion. Time to completion will vary by student, depending on individual progress and credits transferred, if applicable. For a personalized estimate of the number of your transfer credits that Walden would accept, call an Enrollment Specialist at 1-866-492-5336.


Course Code Title Credits
EDUC 6003

Foundations of Early Childhood Professionalism

What does it mean to be a professional in the diverse and dynamic early childhood field? Why is considering the dignity, worth, and uniqueness of every child, family, and colleague integral to professionalism as well as healthy growth and development? How are early childhood professionals making a difference as advocates and leaders? Early childhood professionals in this course begin a rich and complex journey examining the breadth and depth of the field; what it means to be a professional guided by a code of ethical conduct; and the critical role research plays in illuminating how early childhood professionals can work as leaders and advocates to help young children, families, and the field grow and thrive.

(3 sem. cr.)
EDUC 6101

The Developing Brain and the Young Child

Research on how the brain develops in utero and throughout early childhood provides insights and guidance critical to young children's healthy development. As brains develop, early experiences affect brain architecture in ways that promote or impede healthy relationships, self-concepts, growth, and learning. Early childhood professionals, as leaders and advocates in the field, study current, fascinating research on brain architecture, child mental health, and the ways toxic stress, trauma, and resilience influence child development across domains.

(3 sem. cr.)
EDUC 6102

Family and Community Partnerships

Traditions, cultures, structures, interactions, and values all influence the developing child. Understanding family context, at the heart of which is respecting each family's dignity, worth, and uniqueness, is key to developing partnerships that help young children thrive. However, building partnerships with families is not a simple, one-size-fits-all process. In this course, early childhood professionals study the components and nuances of family context and ways to build and sustain culturally responsive, reciprocal relationships with families. Such relationships foster effective family collaboration within early childhood settings and in efforts to partner with community organizations to foster children's healthy development and learning.

(3 sem. cr.)
EDUC 6103

Play and Creativity

Play is a time when children explore, discover, and imagine; they express themselves, lose themselves, and find themselves all over again. Creativity may involve seeing the world in new ways, finding new ways to solve problems, and giving birth to ideas based on who each child is, what they feel, and how they learn, think, and interact. Early childhood professionals recognize that both play, and creativity are integral to healthy human development. And, both flourish in environments where children feel respected, are encouraged to take risks, and have time to live in what they are experiencing. In this course, early childhood professionals, as leaders of and advocates for effective practice, study international research and perspectives on the value of play and creativity and how to advocate for the infusion of play and creativity into early childhood teaching and learning.

(3 sem. cr.)
EDUC 6104

Engaging Environments

Early childhood environments have the power to invite learning, foster curiosity, and empower meaning-making. Such environments offer spaces for children to be quiet and introspective as well as interact in robust play. The aesthetics of early childhood environments can nurture children's appreciation of the many aspects of beauty, while the soul and feel of environments can help children and families be comfortable with who they are. In this course, early childhood professionals analyze the role of the environment as the third teacher, the ways early childhood environments support community and belonging, and the value of leading early childhood teams to create effective early childhood environments that nurture discovery, wonder, and awe. (Field Experience)


  • EDUC 6003
  • EDUC 6101
  • EDUC 6102
  • EDUC 6103

(3 sem. cr.)
EDUC 6106

Meaningful Curriculum P–3

In order to design and implement meaningful learning experiences for and with young children, early childhood professionals must understand the principle content strands that comprise each academic discipline as well as the key concepts and methods of inquiry across academic disciplines. This course supports professionals, as advocates of meaningful curriculum, in leading efforts to apply knowledge of content and pedagogy to designing learning experiences that are engaging and challenging, and that reflect children's individual, cultural, and linguistic diversity.

(3 sem. cr.)
EDUC 6107

Observation and Assessment 0–8

Early childhood professionals understand that observation is a critical method of assessment in early childhood settings. Thoughtful, ongoing observation and documentation are authentic approaches that provide a holistic picture of children and help to guide developmentally appropriate planning, interactions, and instruction. In this course, early childhood professionals consider their roles as leaders and advocates of effective observation and assessment practices who model and mentor the process of analyzing assessment strategies, methods, and data to support children's healthy development and learning. They are challenged to critically examine and lead effective collaboration with families and other professionals to promote ethical and meaningful assessment practices, including early intervention. (Field Experience)


  • EDUC 6104
  • EDUC 6106

(3 sem. cr.)
EDUC 6108

Intentional and Responsive Practice in the Content Areas P–3

Early childhood professionals understand that positive and supportive interactions with young children rightly place the young child at the heart of the learning and teaching process. In this course, early childhood professionals analyze developmentally appropriate approaches that reflect knowledge of how children develop and learn. In the role of leaders, they advocate and mentor by applying this knowledge to the planning of differentiated learning experiences that are responsive to young children's individual strengths and needs as well as their family and cultural contexts. They examine concepts and evaluate models of quality inclusive care and education for young children. They build awareness throughout the field of the vital importance of reflective, responsive, and intentional practice to support and nurture the healthy growth and learning of each individual child.

(3 sem. cr.)
EDUC 6109

Meaningful Learning Experiences: P–3

Early childhood professionals employ a broad repertoire of skills and strategies that are appropriate for the young children in their settings. In this course, they apply their knowledge of young children's characteristics, needs, strengths, and family and cultural contexts to planning and instruction in an authentic P–3 classroom setting. They intentionally plan differentiated learning experiences to ensure challenge and meaning for each child as well as for the group. As they engage in the planning, learning and teaching, and assessment cycle, early childhood professionals collaborate with host teachers and other colleagues to sharpen their instructional skills, deepen reflection on their own practice, and lead professional development to promote effective practice in P–3 settings. (Field Experience)


  • EDUC 6107
  • EDUC 6108

(3 sem. cr.)
EDUC 6918

Capstone: Leadership and Advocacy in the Early Childhood Field

The master's capstone experience provides the opportunity to integrate and apply program learning to real-world situations in the early childhood field. Early childhood professionals identify and research issues or problems that impact young children and families in their local communities. In collaboration with families, colleagues, and/or community partners, they design projects that demonstrate their leadership and advocacy skills in the early childhood arena. The capstone experience culminates with implementing the projects, in whole or in part, and reflecting on how these projects represent growth as early childhood professionals, leaders, and advocates.


  • EDUC 6109

(3 sem. cr.)

Tuition and Fees

Curriculum Component Requirements Cost amount
Tuition 30 semester credit hours $600 per semester hour $18,000
Technology Fee Per semester $210 $1,050


*Tuition reflects the minimum time to completion. Time to completion varies by student, depending on individual progress and credits transferred, if applicable. Tuition and time to complete may be reduced if transfer credits are accepted, or if you receive grants, scholarships or other tuition reductions. Walden may accept up to 12 transfer credits. For a personalized estimate of the number of your transfer credits that Walden would accept, call an Enrollment Specialist at 855-646-5286.

Tuition and fees are subject to change. Books and materials are not included and may cost between $1,000 and $1,400.

Admission Requirements

Program Admission Considerations: A bachelor's degree or higher.

General Admission Requirements: Completed online application and transcripts. Please note that the materials you are required to submit may vary depending on the academic program to which you apply. More information for international applicants.

Master the Mechanics of Teaching and Learning

In Walden’s master’s in early childhood education program, you’ll explore how children’s brains develop and how early experiences affect learning and social emotional development. Gain strategies to advocate for the infusion of play and creativity into early childhood teaching and learning. Apply your skills in field experiences in varied areas of expertise, from infants and toddlers to children in grades P–3.

Meet Your Academic Team

  • Patricia Hampshire

    Patricia Hampshire

    Contributing Faculty

    Dr. Hampshire is a contributing faculty member in Walden’s master’s in early childhood education program. She currently works as an associate professor of Early and Special Education at Boise State University. Dr. Hampshire received her PhD in Special Education from Indiana University in 2011.

    Read Patricia's Bio
  • Johnna Darragh Ernst

    Contributing Faculty

    Dr. Darragh Ernst has been working in higher education for more than 20 years. The author of two books for early childhood practitioners, she is invested in the areas of professional development and inclusion.

    Read Johnna's Bio
  • Lisset Bird-Pickens

    Contributing Faculty

    Dr. Bird-Pickens has taught at the university level since 2006. Her academic background is in early childhood education, educational leadership, and child and family development. She is also a licensed professional counselor, nationally certified counselor, and nationally certified school counselor.

    Read Lisset's Bio

Learning Outcomes

  • Explain practices that promote healthy child development in diverse populations.
  • Evaluate inquiry-based child-centered practices that promote play, creativity, and individual growth, exploration, and discovery.
  • Develop meaningful learning experiences that are responsive to the individual strengths and needs of children.
  • Analyze assessment processes used to promote positive outcomes for every child.
  • Analyze effective partnerships that foster children’s healthy development and learning.
  • Analyze current research to inform best practices in early childhood education.
  • Evaluate one’s professional growth as a leader and advocate in the early childhood field.
  • Create opportunities for positive social change as a leader and advocate within the field of early childhood. 

Career Outlook

There is a steady demand for qualified early education specialists to teach and advocate for the youngest of our communities. Roles in this career field include training other early childhood professionals, leading early learning centers or programs, and working in organizations that aim to ensure effective early learning experiences for all children.

With an online master’s in early childhood education, you’ll have the advanced expertise and credentials to move up in your organization or run your own program. Offer critical support to families as you prepare children with the skills and confidence they need to succeed in school—and in life.

This specialization can prepare you to pursue career options such as:1

  • Preschool director
  • Child and family advocate
  • Child development instructor
  • Professional development facilitator

This specialization can prepare you to pursue career options such as:

  • Early learning programs
  • Early elementary school grades (K–Grade 3)
  • Head Start
  • Community colleges

Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.


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