The first few years are critical for a child’s development, with the brain developing more from birth through age five than at any other time in life. Teachers who work with very young children are uniquely positioned to create a positive learning environment that can affect a child’s attitude and performance not just in their school years but later in life. It is in this early period that children learn social skills, self-esteem and their perception of the world.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines “early childhood” as up to age eight. Although prekindergarten-level education is not mandated by the United States Department of Education, enrollment in pre-K schools has grown over the years, and as of 2016, 64.6 percent of children ages 3 to 5 were enrolled in a pre-primary program.
Becoming an Early Childhood Educator
According to Teach.com, having a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education will generally qualify you to teach through third grade. “Of course, having an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree in education or teaching in this field only improves your abilities, job prospects, and opportunities for career advancement.”
PreschoolTeacher.org addresses the topic of graduate programs in early childhood education, saying they are “designed for preschool teachers seeking positions at the supervisory or administrative level and for preschool teachers looking to advance their career, earn a higher salary, or meet professional development requirements set forth by their state board of education.”
Teachers who want to impact a child’s life during these formative years can learn the skills needed to specialize in early childhood development by earning an M.Ed. degree in Early Childhood Education.
Eastern Washington University’s Online M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education
The EWU online master’s program in early childhood education includes topics such as the science of early childhood development, the creation of positive learning environments for children, educational leadership and policy, and family systems and engagement.
The program is aligned with the standards set by the NAEYC, and the course content is based on regional (state) and national evidence-based practices for working with young children and their families.
Program candidates who already hold a teaching certificate are eligible for an added endorsement in early childhood education (pre-K through third grade) when completing this program. This M.Ed. program also provides preparation for leadership roles in public agencies like Head Start, or in private preschools or child care centers.
Beyond teaching positions, the M.Ed. with ECE emphasis helps meet qualifications for careers in the early childhood field such as Early Childhood Program Specialist or Coach for state Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS).
The M.Ed. program curriculum is in synch with Washington State’s vision for early learning: “In Washington State, we work together so that all children start life with a solid foundation for success based on strong families and a world-class early learning system for all children prenatal through grade 3. Accessible, accountable, and developmentally and culturally appropriate, our system partners with families to ensure that every child is healthy, capable and confident in school and life.”
Learn more about the EWU online M.Ed. program in Early Childhood Education.
First Things First: Brain Development
PreSchoolTeacher.org: Early Childhood Education Degree
Teach.com: Early Childhood Education
National Center for Education Statistics: Enrollment of 3-, 4-, and 5-year old children in preprimary programs