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All About Concordia University Chicago’s Early Childhood Education Programs

Concordia University Chicago (CUC) has two programs in Early Childhood Education, which lead to a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education, and either to the Doctor of Education or Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership with a specialization in Early Childhood Education. The following article will provide an overview of each degree program, why you should choose CUC’s programs, and career opportunities upon graduation.

What do the programs encompass?

CUC was founded as a teaching institution. With this background, the master’s and doctoral programs were created. The programs are approved by the Higher Learning Commission and are aligned with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the National Association for the Education (NAEYC) standards. The entire University is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), which was NCATE. On August 4, 2015, the master’s program was nationally recognized by NAEYC. Only 2% of programs receive this recognition. ­

In 2011, the master’s program was redesigned and aligned to the 2010 NAEYC Standards for Advanced Early Childhood Professional Preparation Programs. In spring 2012, the first of the 10 core courses was offered online and face-to-face. Currently, the courses are offered in these two formats. Field work is an integral part of the master’s program so that students will have actual experience with a variety of ages of children and settings.

In 2012, the doctoral program was redesigned and also aligned to the 2010 NAEYC Standards for Advanced Early Childhood Professional Preparation Programs. In spring 2013, the first of the 10 core courses was offered online and face-to-face. The program competency goals for doctoral students were elevated to provide more advanced experiences and knowledge for doctoral students such as research and evidence-based foundations. The course work and field experience lead to writing the dissertation. Foundational and philosophical courses plus research courses prepare students for passing the comprehensive examination, forming a dissertation committee, and completing the dissertation writing.

NAEYC standards have been the guiding framework for designing the 10 core courses of the master’s and doctoral programs. The standards provide program competency goals that assure that students will be ready to work or continue working in the field of early childhood. The early childhood graduate will:

  • Strengthen theoretical understanding of early childhood education
  • Increase knowledge of human growth and development with an emphasis on the young child
  • Build expertise in the instructional and curricular practices of early childhood education
  • Develop and enrich skills in program administration and organization
  • Enhance advocacy skills that support families with young children within their communities
  • Provide opportunities to work with children of different ages in various settings
  • Develop skills in program administration and organization
  • Enhance advocacy skills that support families with young children within their communities

With these program competency goals, students use their professional experiences and knowledge to complete their program.

Why should a prospective student choose Concordia University Chicago’s programs over similar programs offered at other schools?

CUC’s standards have always been ones of rigor. The University is known in the Chicagoland area for supplying excellent graduates in education and other areas. Rigor and also courses being relevant have brought students to CUC who live locally, nationally, and internationally.

When a student enrolls in the program, they are part of a cohort of students who will be their colleagues for the length of the program. The bond that is formed in the cohort model has benefitted students not only in the classroom or online, but has helped students complete the program as they work and study together. Basically, they form a cohort family!

Students excel in the programs as they are diligent in their studies and have support of their professors and advisors. The professors have numerous years of teaching and professional experience. Professors enjoy teaching, and this is obvious as they share and interact with the students. Professors provide course activities that are active, engaging, and contain research-based pedagogy.

The students also have a graduate advisor who helps them maneuver the workings of school such as registration and financial aid. Advisors also are there to lend support.

What career opportunities are available to students who graduate from these programs?

In the master’s program, many students hold a teaching license and come back to school to enhance their teaching practices in the classroom or seek other positions at their school or an early childhood center. If students either want or are already in the center director position, then completing a master’s degree is needed. Some students work in fields such as human services, and these students can apply for an upper level position with a master’s degree. Yet, others want to own a center or school. Whichever of the choice of positions mentioned, CUC’s Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education will fulfill these requirements.

In the doctoral program, most students already have positions but want to advance or continue in their current position by meeting their employers’ stipulations. If students desire or are teaching at a four-year college or university, they must have a terminal degree which can be fulfilled with an Ed.D. or Ph.D. Some students are or become principals of Preschool-Grade 5 schools or are seeking higher positions such as curriculum director. Others want to be researchers or work in organizations. Lastly but very importantly, the field of early childhood education needs qualified professionals to advocate and lobby for what is best for children.

With the master’s and doctoral programs aligning to standards and demonstrating approvals and accreditations, upon graduation Concordia University Chicago’s graduates are prepared to work and serve the field of early childhood education.