What is a Master’s in Early Childhood Education?
A master’s degree in early childhood education (ECE) is a professional degree that focuses on learning theory and child development for children from birth to the age of eight. Child psychology is also a part of the course of study. This degree is for previously trained teachers who hold a bachelor’s degree. It includes learning practicums and a student teaching experience, which will extend your knowledge and expand your practice.
By pursuing this degree, teachers will understand the learning and development of young children, the way their mind works and how it develops. You will gain best practice on how to teach the curriculum and utilize quality classroom management. Positive reinforcement of desired behaviors will be learned and mastered. Teachers at this level must be distinguished in knowing the content and how to best support the development of learning and retaining that content.
As a current teacher, you will be able to begin putting your studies into practice in your very own classroom. You can test the theories, implement new and best practices, monitor the development of your students, and apply it to your research findings. This makes you more effective in your classroom and a leader among your peers.
If you are a parent, this degree will aid you in understanding your own children’s development and personality. It can shed light on why they do the things they do or have certain habits or traits. This, in turn, will make you a stronger teacher and broaden your understanding of the children you serve in your classroom.
An ECE degree will qualify you for many advanced professional opportunities. It prepares you to work outside the classroom and step into leadership or consulting.
Reasons to Get a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education
The need for ECE teachers, specialists, and leaders could increase. In 2018, there was a report published by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) that found all but six states offered some type of voluntary, universal Pre-k. All programs are not the same. They vary from eligibility, methodology, availability, and delivery. But the common factor across these programs is the need for qualified individuals who embody a passion for working with young children.
There are many career opportunities related to ECE. Once you decide what capacity you prefer to work in, the possibilities are endless.
You would be certified to become a lead teacher in a Head Start program or a Special Education lead teacher to work with students on their specific learning goals. The ECE background strengthens your knowledge of development and aids you in being highly effective in growing students’ learning capacity. Also, you would be qualified to work with ESL students who have a disconnect with learning foundational skills due to their language barrier.
Program directors or specialists work with schools (public and private) and communities to target problems in systems or programs and consult them through obtaining solutions. Research and data is a large piece of this position.
There are several leadership roles associated with this degree:
School principals or assistant principals heavily benefit from having this background. School leaders are responsible for implementing programs and best practices in their schools like differentiation and MTSS that promote the learning and growth for all children. They must ensure their teachers understand and properly use these programs. Administrators are to build their teacher’s skill set through school based professional development. The ECE degree equips a school leader with specialized knowledge to proficiently guide their pre-k through third grade teachers.
Director of a Childcare Facility or a Head Start Program
An ECE degree is perfectly designed to develop you for one of these positions. Childcare directors are responsible for setting the tone and vision of the center they lead. The philosophy of learning is shared by the director to ensure all stakeholders know the vision and are prepared to carry it out with the children they are assigned. You will use your knowledge and skills to be a strong leader who develops their team using the theories, research, and practices from the ECE degree program.
There is a growing need for professionals with ECE degrees. Many universities have recognized this and now offer this course of study. As long as children are being born, there will be a need to explore their development and better understand how we should respond to their needs.
Other Benefits of a Degree in Early Childhood Education
A significant benefit of obtaining this degree is increase in pay. Pursuing a new position is always exciting. As professionals, we strive to grow and improve our expertise. Along with that desire to grow, we also work towards a salary increase. Once you obtain the salary increase, you feel accomplished and realize how the dedication to your studies has paid off. An advanced degree may be laborious to earn, but it is definitely an investment that can change your life for the better for many years to come.
Another benefit is the opportunity to provide professional development. Professional development for educators has evolved. PD is offered in most counties for their teachers, and there are national, state and local PDs. There are Ed Camps, workshops, PLCs, Twitter Chats, etc. Knowledgeable, experienced, and credentialed presenters for these sessions are always needed. You may be invited to serve as a presenter for a PD in your area due to your credentials. We must always be willing to give back to our community and serve in this capacity to help other fellow educators along their journey of growth.
Personally, I earned a degree in early childhood education. I was a pre-k and kindergarten teacher for five years prior to becoming a principal fellow to obtain a master’s in school administration. As an elementary school principal, I am grateful for my ECE background as it prepared me to better understand behaviors and emotions of my students, developmental levels and how certain skills develop over time, the need for differentiation, and the importance of incorporating all learning styles into instruction.
If you are interested in a master’s degree in early childhood education, I encourage you to research the program of study and careers that align with the position you are seeking. Talk with those in the field and speak with the university directly. A decision of this magnitude will impact your life forever.
Ready to start the next chapter of your educational journey and pursue your master’s degree in Early Childhood Education? Explore our available programs to get started today!