If you're looking for a flexible and low-cost way to earn your early childhood education degree, an online program at a community college may be a smart option. It's a strategic way to reduce your college expenses and limit your student loan debt.
Even if you intend to go on to a four-year degree for early childhood education, enjoying lower tuition rates and avoiding housing costs during your first two years of school will help reduce your overall college costs.
In fact, attending community college and then transferring to a public state college is the cheapest way to earn a bachelor’s degree. Learn more here.
Even better, online programs may make it easier for you to work while attending school.
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Who should earn the associate’s in early childhood education?
Most people who seek out an associate’s in this field do so with the intention of going on to earn a bachelor’s degree. With a bachelor’s degree, you’re qualified to get your teaching license, allowing you to be hired as a teacher in classrooms serving kids from birth through age eight in most states.
If you’re going to make the investment in your education, its important to make sure you know what you’re signing up for. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Some of the schools below offer fully online programs. That means if you’re willing to pay out-of-state tuition, you can attend no matter where your location. However …
- Be aware that many of these programs require students to complete some coursework in-person. Make sure you’re clear on the requirements before applying.
- Many of the schools offer multiple tracks for early childhood education. Carefully assess your goals to make sure you’re signing up for a program that will align with your future plans. For example, a certificate program may qualify you to work in the early childhood education field, but it won’t qualify you to act as a lead teacher or work in an elementary school.
And now, here are 17 community colleges with programs that you may want to consider. (These programs are listed in no particular order.)
1. Montgomery County Community College
Blue Bell, PA
Montco, as it is known locally, has been voted one of the most-innovative online learning providers in the area.
The Education in the Early Years: Birth through Fourth Grade degree program offers most classes online. The program is geared toward students who intend on transferring to a four-year institution, or who intend on going immediately into the workforce in the early education field.
Three-quarters of the coursework for the associate’s degree may be completed online. Several credits must be satisfied on-campus or at Montco-approved locations.
2. Stanly Community College
SCC’s online classes are self-paced. Students have 24/7 online access to a virtual classroom, allowing them to view lectures and complete coursework when it’s most convenient to them.
3. Northampton Community College
NCC was a pioneer in offering early childhood education as an online program of study. In fact, their online offering was the first online program to be nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Studies can be completed 100% online.
Students in this highly interactive program enjoy a small class size of about 15 students per section. Classroom discussions are done via online forums and lab work can completed via video.
4. Dawson Community College
DCC offers an associate of science that allows students to transfer to a four-year school to complete a bachelor’s in education. The associate’s degree is awarded without a major, but the program does follow curriculum transfer plans.
DCC has a transfer agreement with the University of Montana – Western in Dillon. Credits may also transfer to other schools.
5. Haywood Community College
HCC offers several early childhood education degrees and certificates, all of which may be completed entirely online.
Degree programs include stand-alone associate options, as well as transfer-track associate programs.
6. Southwestern Community College
Early childhood education is this school’s most popular major. Each student is required to begin this program with an introductory course to introduce basic concepts. Before graduation students must complete a capstone project in which they are expected to work directly with young children.
7. Pamlico Community College
PCC recognizes that many students may already be working full-time, so it offers its early childhood education classes on-campus in the evenings, as well as online. It’s important to note that to earn your associate’s degree, you will be required to complete some of your coursework on-campus.
There are two tracks to choose from: a career track, for students who intend on entering the workforce right away, and a transfer track, for students who plan to transfer to a four-year program. Students who enter the transfer track will earn their associate’s, while those in the career track will not.
8. Tallahassee Community College
TCC offers online courses in Early Childhood Development, Education, and Management.
The T.E.A.C.H, A.S. to B.S. Scholarship helps eligible students earn an A.S. degree in Early Childhood from TCC and continue toward a bachelor’s degree at many Florida colleges and universities.
Students can take online courses to apply for the Florida Child Care Professional Credential (FCCPC), FCCPC Renewal, the Director’s Credential, and the Director’s Credential Renewal. These credentials may also be applied toward TCC’s Early Childhood A.S. degree requirements.
9. Shoreline Community College
SCC offers an online associate degree in early childhood education. It also programs that fulfill state requirements for licensing for assistant and lead-teaching positions in early childhood settings.
10. Hagerstown Community College
HCC offers multiple early childhood education programs that can be completely entirely online. Courses of study may be used to earn an associate’s degree, a certificate, or to transfer to a four-year institution.
The majority of coursework can be completed online, however, students are required to participate in some on-campus instruction to earn certain credits.
11. Richmond Community College
RCC offers several early childhood education options that can be completed 100% online, including certificate programs, associate’s degree programs, and transfer programs.
This college has agreements with multiple colleges within the state, allowing easy transfer of credits.
12. NHTI Concord Community College
NHTI offers an Associate in Science with a major in Early Childhood Education, as well as several other certification programs. These programs can be completed 100% online. Students are required to document certain portions of their coursework using digital photography.
13. Bay Mills Community College
BMCC offers multiple certificate and degree programs that are delivered completely online for early childhood education students. In addition to the regular early childhood education focus, there is a secondary focus on imparting an understanding of Native American culture as it applies to children in early childhood programs.
Not only does BMCC offer an associate’s degree, it also offers a bachelor’s in early childhood education - a highly unusual offering for a community college.
14. Fayetteville Technical Community College
FTCC offers both certificate and degree programs online. Degree programs include associate’s in General Early Childhood Education, B-K Licensure Transfer, Non-Teaching Licensure Transfer. These programs can be completed 100% online. Classes can generally be completed on a student-driven, self-paced schedule.
15. Northeast Community College
NECC offers a fully online program, with a wealth of scholarship opportunities to cater to people who are already working full-time in the childcare field.
Students may select from two courses of study: Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Arts with a concentration in early childhood education. Both programs require general education courses. Students who are interested in this school but aren’t sure which track to choose, should make a phone or in-person appointment to discuss how the programs differ from each other.
16. Front Range Community College
FRCC is the leading transfer institution in Colorado. It offers several early childhood education options that can be completed 100% online, including certificate programs, associate’s degree programs, and transfer programs.
With an average class size of 17, students can expect particularly personalized instructions.
17. Colorado Northwestern Community College
CNCC offers several early childhood education options that can be completed 100% online, including certificate programs, associate’s degree programs, and transfer programs. The curriculum includes a mix of scheduled online learning each week, along with self-paced study.