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Top Five Early Childhood Education Degree Programs

A closer look at our top five choices reveals why these bachelor’s, master’s, specialist, and doctoral degrees are the best early childhood education degree programs.

Educators often pursue early childhood education degree programs because of their desire to establish proper educational foundations and environments for young children. Positive learning experiences help young students thrive, and educators who focus on early childhood studies understand the various developmental and societal influences on early child development. This, in turn, helps them analyze, evaluate, and improve childhood programs and policies.

Early childhood education is a broad field of diverse careers including positions like university professor, agency director, childcare director, social services coordinator, preschool teacher, and more.

Top Five Early Childhood Education Degree Programs

Salaries for Early Childhood Education Professionals*

The job market for preschool and childcare center directors is projected to increase by a faster-than-average rate of 11% between 2016 and 2026. The median salary was $47,940 in 2018, while the median salary for the top 10% was more than $83,730. The job market for preschool teachers is projected to increase by 10% by 2026. The median salary was $29,780 in 2018, while the median salary for the top 10% was more than $55,350.

Top Five Early Childhood Education Degree Programs

  1. PhD in Education with a specialization in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy
    In this doctoral program, you’ll examine case studies, innovative technology, and the latest early childhood research studies to better understand societal influences on children’s ability to learn. Upon completion of your dissertation and PhD, you’ll be prepared to add to the body of scholarly research in your field. You may pursue positions such as childcare center director, school psychologist, director of educational programming for a private preschool center, preschool admissions coach, training and development specialist, university professor, education instructor, and researcher. Salaries for PhD in Education graduates generally range from $46,000 to $106,000, depending on experience.
  2. Doctor of Education (EdD) with a specialization in Early Childhood Education
    Doctoral students in this type of program receive preparation for leadership roles in preK–12 settings, postsecondary institutions, public institutions, private organizations, and civil service settings. This specialized doctoral degree program teaches critical writing and research skills, helping you apply innovative and scholarly techniques to facilitate significant changes in early childhood education within your organization. If you choose to pursue a position as a college, university, or community college professor, you’ll find that salaries for EdD graduates range from $64,519 (assistant professors) to a high of $134,549 (Assistant Superintendent K-12 Education).
  3. EdS in Early Childhood Education
    Education specialist programs are for educators who have completed a master’s degree and wish to enhance their education further in a specific study area without committing to the additional time and expense of a doctoral program. The EdS in Early Childhood Education degree program will help elevate your skills and understanding of childhood development, curriculum, and mentorship, while positioning you for career advancement and increased salary. Education specialists can expect to earn a median annual salary of $49,800.
  4. MS in Early Childhood Studies
    A master’s degree in early childhood studies deepens your understanding of child development and the qualities of effective early childhood programs and services. Your master’s capstone course will help you apply your new knowledge to real-world situations, issues, or problems. Your master’s degree can help prepare you for challenging positions such as preschool teacher, child development instructor, child and family advocate, public policy coordinator, and childcare director. Childcare Center Directors, for example, earned a median salary of $47,940 while the top 10% earned over $83,730.
  5. BS in Early Childhood Studies
    This non-licensure degree can prepare you for a career in a daycare of early childhood center. In that role you can help create a healthy, respective, and supportive learning environment for young learners. With a BS in Early Childhood Studies, you can earn about $45,790 a year. Oftentimes, these degree programs are even offered in a competency based learning format, which is great for those who already have experience in the field and which to apply those skills toward a degree program.

Explore Walden University's early childhood education degree programs for graduates and undergraduates. Get the help you need to continue your education and advance your career goals. Earn your degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014–2015 Edition, Preschool and Childcare Center Directors, Preschool Teachers, on the Internet at Doctorate (PhD) Education Degree Average Salary; Doctor of Education (EdD) Degree Average Salary; Educational Specialist Salary; Public Policy Associate Salary; Bachelor of Science (BS/BSc); Early Childhood Education Degree Average Salary, on the Internet at

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Preschool and Childcare Center Directors,on the internet at

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

Find information on costs, occupation types, completion rates, and median loan debt for these programs at

Walden offers both state-approved educator licensure programs as well as programs and courses that do not lead to licensure or endorsements. Prospective students must review their state licensure requirements prior to enrolling. For more information, please refer to

Prospective Alabama students: Contact the Teacher Education and Certification Division of the Alabama State Department of Education at 1-334-242-9935 or to verify that these programs qualify for teacher certification, endorsement, and/or salary benefits.

Prospective Washington state students are advised to contact the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction at 1-360-725-6275 or [email protected] to determine whether Walden’s programs in the field of education are approved for teacher certification or endorsements in Washington State. Additionally, teachers are advised to contact their individual school district as to whether this program may qualify for salary advancement.