Laying the groundwork for a successful future: How an early childhood education degree can help change your world and the world of others.

pre-k teacher sitting with toddlers

If you’re passionate about teaching children—and passionate about helping ensure they are equipped with the intellectual building blocks necessary for future success—an early childhood education degree, particularly a master’s in early childhood education, might be for you.

But what is early childhood education exactly? Why is it important? And what kind of careers, both in and out of the classroom, are available for those with a master’s degree in early childhood education?

From job opportunities to the benefits of online degree programs, we answer some of the most common questions about early childhood education below.

What is early childhood education?

While early childhood education continues to be of high importance to parents, policymakers, and the public, many incorrectly identify this critical period as birth through preschool or kindergarten.

Although the brain develops the majority of its neurons between birth and 3 years old, early childhood education is defined as the period of birth through 8 years old, correlating with the second- or third-grade level.

Why is early childhood education important?

In terms of human development, the importance of early childhood education can’t be overstated.

A child’s early years are the foundation for his or her future development, providing a strong base for lifelong learning and learning abilities, including cognitive and social development. Well-established research continues to emphasize the importance of early childhood education as an essential building block of a child’s future success.

What will I learn in a master’s in early childhood education program?

Online or on campus, the right degree program will empower you with a deepened understanding of child development and learning, equipping you with the knowledge and professional competencies to prepare you for leadership roles—in and out of the classroom.

A good master’s in early childhood education program will also help you link the importance of early childhood education to issues of equity and inclusion, helping students learn and grow in a variety of environments. You’ll examine trends, apply cutting-edge research to the field’s most pressing issues, and become a skillful collaborator with families, colleagues, and agencies.

Early childhood education jobs

From public policy to professional development, the jobs in early childhood education are as diverse as individuals and their reasons for pursuing an early childhood education degree. Below is a sample of careers you could pursue with a master’s degree:*

  • Child and family advocate
  • Public policy coordinator
  • Child development instructor
  • Professional development facilitator
  • Lecturer in early childhood studies
  • Child care administrator
  • Owner, director, or assistant director of a child care center
  • Director or assistant director of a child care program
  • Preschool director
  • Program administrator for early childhood programs

The career outlook for those with a master’s degree in early childhood education is bright. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of preschool and child care directors will grow by 17% through 2022, with child care worker positions following at an impressive 14%. The agency further predicts employment of preschool teachers to grow by 17% through 2022—faster than the average for all occupations.†

Should I choose an on-campus or online master’s degree in early childhood education program?

Ultimately, this decision comes down to personal preferences and time-management needs.

Many enrolled in master’s in early childhood education online programs find that online learning allows them to conveniently balance work and personal commitments along with their academics. Others prefer the familiarity of a traditional brick-and-mortar institution for their early childhood education degree. The choice is up to you.

Ready to become an advocate for social change with a master’s in early childhood education? Explore how Walden University, a National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)–accredited institution, can help you get your master’s in early childhood education online, in a flexible online format that fits your lifestyle.

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

†Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012 Edition, Preschool and Childcare Center Directors, Childcare Workers, Preschool Teachers, on the Internet at

Walden University is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). This accreditation covers initial teacher preparation programs and advanced educator preparation programs. As a recognized standard of excellence in professional education for the preparation of teachers, administrators, and other preK–12 school professionals, NCATE accreditation ensures that the institution has met rigorous national standards set by the profession and members of the public. However, the accreditation does not include individual education courses offered to preK–12 educators for professional development, relicensure, or other purposes.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,