Master's in Early Childhood Education: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue with a master's in early childhood education. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Early Childhood Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can You Do with a Master's in Early Childhood Education?

Individuals with a master's degree in early childhood education are highly trained professionals who are experts in the development of children in preschool, kindergarten, and the first few grades in elementary school. Although it is not necessary to have a master's degree to become an elementary school teacher or a preschool director, the degree will increase an individual's career options and advancement potential. Other positions do require a master's at minimum, such as working as an instructional coordinator or curriculum specialist in an elementary school. The following table provides some information about these career options:

Preschool directorInstructional coordinatorKindergarten and elementary school teacher
Degree RequiredAssociate's or bachelor's degree; master's is an option for continuing education or advancementMaster's degreeBachelor's degree; some states require teachers to earn a master's after licensure
Education Field of StudyEarly Childhood EducationEarly Childhood EducationEarly Childhood Education or Elementary Education
Key ResponsibilitiesHire, train and supervise preschool teachers and other staff
Develop school policies
Maintain school budgets
Discuss student progress with parents
Help handle conflicts between children
Create school curriculum and plan its implementation
Organize and run teacher training sessions
Help teachers with teaching strategies and educational technology
Mentor teachers
Prepare and execute lesson plans
Instruct children in academic subjects
Maintain classroom decorum
Communicate with parents and administrators regarding children's behavior
Evaluate assigned work
Maintain records as required
Licensure/CertificationCredentialing as a Child Development Associate or Certified Childcare Professional may be requiredTeacher or education administrator license/certification may be required in public schoolsTeacher license/certification required in public schools
Job Growth (2014-2024)7% for preschool and childcare center directors*7% for instructional coordinators *6% for kindergarten and elementary school teachers*
Median Salary (2015) $45,670 for preschool and childcare center directors* $62,270 for instructional coordinators*$54,550 for kindergarten and elementary school teachers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Master's in Early Childhood Education?

Master's programs in early childhood education can be found as Master of Arts, Master of Science or Master of Education degrees. All are generally 2-year graduate degree programs designed for current teachers interested in specializing in the development needs of children from birth through eight years of age. Generally, these will be kindergarten or elementary school teachers who are already certified. A preschool director wanting to advance to a master's degree program will need to hold a bachelor's before enrolling.

Many of these master's programs are available online or as evening and weekend programs to accommodate working teachers. Some schools offer concentrations in one aspect of early childhood education, such as curriculum development for kindergarten through grade three, early childhood education leadership or Montessori-style education.

Master's programs in early childhood education typically require the completion of 30-39 credits. Some programs offer a master's degree combined with initial teacher certification, but additional credit-hours may be required. Topics covered in a master's program in early childhood education include:

  • Foundations of education for young children
  • Child growth and development
  • Language acquisition and development
  • Issues in literacy development
  • Research in early childhood education

What Will This Degree Do for My Career?

If you are a current teacher, then a master's degree in early childhood education may help you to move into a specialized job, such as an instructional coordinator or an early childhood education administrator at a preschool or elementary school. If you are not currently in the education field, then a master's degree in early education may help you qualify for employment in a school, childcare center, Head Start program or other education-related program for young children. If you need teaching certification, check with your state's department of education to ensure that you enroll in a dual master's and certification program that is recognized by your state.

Will a Master's Degree Increase My Pay?

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers' salaries vary greatly depending on location, if the school is public or private and the teacher's education level. With a master's degree, your pay will likely be higher than those without graduate credentials, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Keep in mind that some school districts will require all teachers to earn a master's degree at some point after licensure/certification. Moving into a role such as instructional coordinator will likely yield a pay increase as well, based on 2015 BLS salary figures.

According to the BLS in 2015, the median annual salary of kindergarten and elementary school teachers was $54,550. Preschool directors made a median of $45,670 in 2015, while instructional coordinators had a median yearly salary of $62,270.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Special education teachers focus on educating students with disabilities or learning delays. They need at least a bachelor's degree in special education, and those who work in the public school system must be licensed. Like other teachers, they may be required to earn a master's degree after licensure/certification.

Other master's-level careers in education include principal positions and school counselor positions. Principals may work in elementary, middle or high schools, and they generally earn their master's in education administration. They may also need to earn a school administrator license. School counselors aim to help students succeed in both their schoolwork and their social development. They need a master's degree, usually in school counseling, and a license, certification or endorsement credential from the state.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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