Early childhood education involves teaching and caring for children from birth to third grade. Depending on your desire to work as a licensed or unlicensed teacher in a public or private setting, or with special education or disabled children determines the kind of degree required.
For example, our #1 ranked school in our Top 35 Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education, the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s program is a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood/English as a Second Language. To work in early childhood education in family day care, or childcare centers usually require a minimum of an associate’s degree.
Head Start programs, however, require that 50 percent of teachers have a bachelor’s; a non-licensure BS in Early Childhood Studies suffices. If you desire to teach in Head Start, again, an associate is technically enough (see the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requirements here), though we recommend a bachelor’s.
Public schools require a license, and to get a license requires a BS in Early Childhood Education; this includes teaching special education.
An outstanding resource to examine early childhood education is “A Call for Excellence in Early Childhood Education” put out by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Their findings give convincing evidence that high-quality early childhood education, which can only happen with high-quality teaching, hence training, leads to short- and long-term positive intellectual and social development. If you have the heart for our nation’s little ones with a particular talent or gift, be sure to check out the variety of degrees or specializations available.
Consider the following Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education degrees:
- Generalist – This category is a broad training for multiple grades, such as PK-6. Preparation is in fundamental child psychology, management, and planning.
- English as a Second Language – The ELL or TELL degree includes the same core courses in child psychology, etc., but specialize in training to help young children learn English. Courses include Educating Young English Learners, Language Use and Acquisition in Early Childhood, and Methods of Teaching Young English Learners.
- Early Childhood Education in a Mobile Society – This specialization gives you knowledge and skills to work with children in civilian communities or military installations.
- Prekindergarten Disability Endorsement – This concentration focuses on helping PK-3rd graders with mild to moderate disabilities.
- Special Education – Early Childhood Special Education trains you to work with mild learning, behavioral, emotional, or physical disabilities.
- Reading Specialist – This important focus helps children’s early literacy training, often in small groups or with a cooperating teacher.
- Bilingual Generalist – This specialization is the same as Generalist, but includes the training in bilingual education
- Urban Education – Our urban schools have unique challenges that range for poverty to single-parent homes. This specialization offers skills and knowledge to equip teachers to address these problems.
- Early Childhood Management – This degree concentration training results in director positions at home or child care facilities or public/private school jobs.
- Early Childhood Lead Teacher – This specialization leads to jobs leading other teachers by developing both long- and short-term lesson plans based on the curriculum and philosophy of the daycare center or school.