The “Great Resignation” that followed the worst of the global pandemic has sparked a hiring surge at childcare facilities and schools around the United States, with tens of thousands of jobs becoming available as parents return to offices and children return to classrooms. The shortage has been declared a crisis, but if you want to make a difference in a child’s life, it is an opportunity, and the Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education (ECE) can serve as the foundation upon which your career is built.
What Is a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education?
A bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education will prepare you for a career as an advocate and mentor for children in their earliest stages of learning – primarily between birth and third grade. Early childhood education is an essential component of human development and can have a positive influence on cognitive, social-emotional, language, and motor development. Research shows that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age five, and children in ECE programs have a greater chance of graduating high school and a lesser chance of placement in special education programs.
The National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs agrees, finding that high-quality ECE can yield a significant return on investment; and the earlier the investment is made, the higher the returns. That’s not only driving the demand for updated curriculum and in-school resources, but also the need to place qualified, degree-holding educators in the classroom.
“The ECE profession combines your love for working with young children with the dream of directly contributing to the betterment of society as a whole,” adds Dr. Michelle Simecek, Assistant Professor for the Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education program at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC).
In short, what’s good for the college student is good for the child. Whether you earn your bachelor’s degree in ECE online or in-person, the program will combine a deep examination of the cognitive and physical developmental stages of a child’s life with the administrative and academic responsibilities that come with an ECE job, including classroom behavior management, literacy strategies, and even the education and care of young children with disabilities.
What Courses Do You Take for a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education?
Every element of your ECE degree program is designed to prepare you for the day-to-day interactions you will have with children, and other adults, in childcare settings such as preschools and daycares. Beyond an initial overview of ECE – history, philosophy, advocacy, public policy, issues, trends, and careers – your Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education curriculum should include these essential courses:
1. Child Development
This course provides a basic introduction to the nature of human growth and development as it occurs from conception through early childhood. You will learn about motor, cognitive, social, emotional, moral, aesthetic, and language development in early childhood.
2. Nutrition and Health of Children and Families
This course provides information related to standards and best practices that promote children’s health and overall well-being. As a student, you will explore sound nutritional practices and safe learning environments, while learning how to develop health and safety procedures for learning environments of young children. You will also explore resources to make recommendations to families that support the health, nutrition, and safety of young children.
3. Curriculum Planning and Design for Early Learners
This course examines the essential elements of curriculum planning and design for diverse settings and learners. You will analyze developmentally appropriate planning, teaching, and assessment strategies used with a diverse childhood population; and assess the role of educators in fostering each child’s development and joy of learning. You will also create individualized objectives and design integrated standards-based lessons for a diverse childhood population.
4. Administration of Early Childhood Education Programs
This course focuses on the development and implementation of early childhood programs for a variety of age groups and purposes. You will focus on curriculum development, materials, teaching strategies, evaluation, budgets, hiring procedures and state guidelines/regulations, and the skills and competencies needed to perform at the highest level.
5. Understanding Behavior and Family Dynamics
This course explores developmental theory and the relationship to the socialization and education of young children in childrearing, childcare, and education. You will find extra emphasis is placed on exploring how the child is viewed in the context of his or her family and the community at large.
Further, you may also be able to enhance your degree program with electives and emphasis courses that concentrate on specific issues or industries – health and wellness, cognitive studies, and entrepreneurship, among others. Greater exposure to other industries and fundamental business skills will allow you to consider different career routes as you approach graduation, Dr. Simecek adds.
“Some students plan to work within the public school setting while others want to work in a childcare center,” she says. “Some start discussing owning their own childcare business, or becoming a social worker or school psychologist. That’s education in general; we all go in because we love children and you don’t know the different routes available until you start your studies.”
What Do You Learn in a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education Program?
As education policy is always evolving, your degree program should include the most up-to-date standards and practices for ECE professionals. Upon finishing your BAECE degree at UAGC, you will be able to:
- Summarize principles of child development including cognitive, physical, linguistic, social-emotional and affective domains that define healthy, respectful, supportive, and developmentally stimulating environments for children
- Design developmentally appropriate teaching strategies to implement professional learning standards and curriculum, focused on meeting the academic and developmental needs of children
- Justify the goals, benefits, and responsible use of observation, documentation, and assessment strategies in working with families, colleagues, and communities to determine appropriate learning methods for children
- Analyze effective strategies that focus on collaboration and communication with families, communities, and colleagues to foster positive and supportive relationships that impact learning and development of children
- Analyze the principles of equity, pedagogy, and inclusivity to meet the needs of typically and atypically developing children as well as culturally and linguistically diverse children and their families
- Promote ethical standards through reflective practice and collaboration, critical application of current research and theories, and identification as an early childhood professional and leader while continually advocating on behalf of children and families
How Long Does it Take to Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education?
A traditional, four-year bachelor’s degree program will combine your major credit requirements with general education courses and electives. You will need to complete 120 credits to earn your degree, however, some schools such as the University of Arizona Global Campus (Global Campus) allow you to transfer up to 90 approved credits* from community college or previous college coursework, and even life experiences such as military service or job training. Transferring credits is a meaningful way of shortening your time to graduation.
Advantages of Earning Your Online Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education
Flexible transfer options aren’t the only reason why many ECE students choose to complete their degrees online. Unlike the traditional college lecture hall setting, an online education – especially one geared toward ECE learners – can be especially beneficial.
1. Work While You Learn
With the surging demand for childcare workers, it’s become much easier for prospective students to begin working in the field full-time while earning their degree. One of the primary benefits for students is the ability to take what they’ve learned in the virtual classroom and apply it immediately in a work setting.
2. Work-Life-School Balance
Students – especially adult learners – must juggle the responsibilities of school, work, and life while earning their degrees. If you’re earning your bachelor’s degree in ECE online, you will have more control over your schedule. Global Campus, for example, allows you to complete one course at a time over a period of five weeks while still graduating with your ECE degree in four years.
3. Networking Opportunities
In an online setting, you will be joined by classmates from diverse backgrounds and levels of experience. This gives you a tremendous networking advantage, as you will be able to learn from others, ask questions, and develop career connections that can help you long after you graduate.
Additionally, there are many professional associations, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children that offer support services for new graduates and young professionals. Your school may also have online groups, such as the LinkedIn group University of Arizona Global Campus Early Childhood Education Student Organization, which can provide invaluable networking support when you begin your career.
4. Familiarity with Teaching Tools
Your mastery of the online classroom and all of the tools that come with it offer you an extra level of technical expertise that can be invaluable in a real world childcare setting, where technology is used in everything from presentations to curriculum development.
Why is a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education Worth It?
Though entry-level childcare positions may only require a high school diploma and some on-the-job training, a college degree can significantly bolster your job prospects and earning potential while extending the length of your career. Adults with a bachelor’s degree typically earn an average of $2.8 million during their careers – $1.2 million more than the median earnings for a person with just a high school diploma.
Childcare occupations that require a bachelor’s degree are among the fastest-growing in the nation, including preschool occupations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of preschool and childcare center directors is projected to grow faster than average through the end of the decade.
“Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire,” the agency reports.
Among the jobs that you could be immediately qualified for upon graduating with your Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education:
- Daycare Provider
- Camp Counselor
- Recreation Worker
- Teacher Assistant
It’s important to note that a bachelor’s degree does not signify licensure, although it is required for licensure in many states. Combining your official teaching credentials with your bachelor’s degree adds another layer of qualification to your professional resume, one that can help ensure upward mobility in your career.
A Fulfilling, Lifelong Career
Job security is top of mind for any college graduate, and while some occupations – notably entry-level jobs – are being made obsolete, Dr. Simecek stresses that ECE is not in danger of being replaced. Policies will change and research will inform new methods of instruction, but nothing can take the place of a qualified, caring educator during the most important developmental years of a child’s life.
“When we think about young children, it’s known that some are coming to us without an advocate in the home, and we are giving them those resources at a time when they are growing fast,” Dr. Simecek says. “We become our students’ advocates, especially when they may not have advocates of their own at home speaking up for them.
“ECE allows us to impact the trajectory of a person’s life.”
If you want to turn your love for children into a rewarding career, speak to a UAGC advisor about your Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education today.
Written by University Staff
An online degree from the University of Arizona Global Campus does not lead to immediate teacher licensure in any state.
Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.