The 5 Best PhD in Early Childhood Education Online Programs 2024

early childhood educators

Key Takeaways:

  • Online PhD programs in Early Childhood Education emphasize curriculum development, research, and leadership to improve early childhood education outcomes.
  • Top programs offer flexibility for working professionals and focus on multicultural and social issues.
  • These programs prepare graduates for careers in school administration, policy-making, and educational research, with potential salaries ranging from $90,000 to $190,000.

Pursuing an online PhD in Early Childhood Education is set apart for professionals who have a passion for implementing positive changes in institutes that serve the youngest of our students. These specialists work to bring positive outcomes to the most impressionable group of people. Early childhood encompasses infants from birth through middle-school age. The growth and development of children have a direct influence on our society. It’s noted that the potential to learn new things peaks at age 3. PhD graduates set the course for the most optimal ways to enrich children. Their jobs is to:

  • create policies
  • implement new systems
  • research
  • even work hands-on in preschools
  • daycares
  • nursery schools

Several quality universities have low-cost online PhDs in Early Childhood Education. The top 5 online doctorates in early childhood education programs are listed here.

Featured Programs

Top 5 Online PhDs in Early Childhood Education Methodology

We’ve created a list of universities that specifically offer a flexible and affordable online doctorate in Early Childhood Education program. Each university must be accredited. The programs must be 100% online or have only a very nominal residency component. After we evaluated the schools, noting any special achievements or recognitions, we rated them on their raw affordability found on College Navigator.

#1. New Mexico State University

Las Cruces, NM

Online ECE Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction

New Mexico State University logo

School Profile

New Mexico State University’s College of Education boasts several high rankings from sites like BestSchools and Online Masters. NMSU offers a 100% online Early Childhood Education PhD in Curriculum and Instruction. NMSU is acknowledged by the US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). This PhD in Early Childhood Education and Development requires two prerequisites. Prospective students must have three years of teaching experience at the PreK-12 or post-secondary level and have earned a master’s degree in education. This program emphasizes teaching capable candidates how to motivate significant changes in education through classrooms, schools, and communities. The main focus of this flexible online degree program is to graduate students with a readiness for advanced early childhood curriculum development that will span multiculturally and address real-time social issues. It will take about 66 credit hours to complete. NMSU is number 1 on our list of top 5 online doctorates in early childhood education.

Tuition: $16,370

#2 National University

San Diego, CA

Online Doctor of Education (EdD) in Early Childhood Education

School Profile

National University, accredited by WASC, offers high-quality online degrees focusing on flexibility for working professionals. Its graduate programs have varied course starting dates, one-on-one professor-taught courses, and no weekly assignments or group assignments. National, number 2 on our list of top 5 online doctorates in early childhood education, offers an affordable online EdD in Early Childhood Education. Samples of courses in this EdD program are:

  • Topics in Early Childhood Growth, Development, and Educational Programs
  • Families, Communities, and Schools as Partners in Early Childhood Education 

The program will require 48 credit hours and will take approximately 3.5 years to complete. Graduates can expect to leave with a greater understanding of ways to enhance the growth of children at their earliest ages.

Tuition: $16,881

#3 Fielding Graduate University

Santa Barbara, CA

PhD in Infant and Early Childhood Development

Fielding Graduate University logo

School Profile

This university has an accredited, top-level online PhD in Early Childhood Education degree program. It’s a partner with the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health (Alliance). Their IECD PhD has an emphasis on mental health and encompasses many areas of childhood development. Professional students are taught from an extensive curriculum that prepares them to continue revolutionizing areas that teach and aid in the best early childhood outcomes. The program is comprised of about 89 credit hours. A requirement for entering this flexible online doctorate program is a completed bachelor’s or master’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. No GRE is required.

Tuition: $18,718

#4 Brenau University

Gainesville, GA

Doctorate in Elementary Education, Specialization in Early Childhood Education

Brenau University logo

School Profile

Brenau has been on the US News and World Report list of Best Online Graduate Education Programs, Best Colleges for Your Money 2017-18 by Money Magazine, and a “Best Bang for the Buck” college by Washington Monthly. Among the 32% of total affordable online degrees is its Doctorate in Elementary Education with a specialization in Early Childhood Education. This online program is made up of 54 credit hours. It is accredited through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Professional students can complete this flexible degree in as little as three years. Semesters are broken into cohorts with about 15 people in each. There is a small residency component that takes place on weekends only. Eligible candidates specializing in Early Childhood Education will need to have a master’s in a related area as well as an unrestricted, renewable teacher’s license in their state.

Tuition per credit hour: $988

#5 Concordia University-Chicago

River Forest, IL

EdD/PhD, Leadership: Specialization in Early Childhood Education

Concordia University-Chicago logo

School Profile

Concordia University-Chicago offers an affordable online PhD in Leadership with an Early Childhood Education Specialization. This degree program is designed for working professionals who’ve already been working with young children. It is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Comprised of about 65 credit hours, the program features courses like Trends, Issues, and Research in Early Childhood Education, Curriculum Models in Early Childhood Education, and Cultural and Socioeconomic Influences Affecting Diverse Learners. This affordable online program prepares its graduates for leadership jobs in early childhood development by means of higher education, leadership, and administration of organizations and policy, advocacy, and politics. This is number 5 on our list of top 5 online doctorates in early childhood education programs.

Tuition per credit hour: $735

Q & A

What is the difference between a PhD in Elementary Education and a PhD in Early Childhood Education?

Though these specializations intersect, a PhD in Early Childhood education really focuses on children from birth through 3rd grade. There is an emphasis on infant development from birth both mentally, socially, and physiologically. Elementary education picks up when children reach school age, usually at about 5-12 years old. It’s also noted that there is another closely related wing of the doctoral degree programs in Early Education, which is Early Childhood Intervention. This involves explicitly targeting problems in development from an early age.

What are the career possibilities with a PhD in Early Childhood Education?

Usually, PhDs in ECE have careers in:

  • school administration
  • educational research
  • curriculum design and implementation
  • teacher preparation
  • policy making

Sometimes they will choose to work within the classroom setting as well.

What is the best salary a PhD in Early Childhood Education should expect to make?

Doctors in Early Childhood Education can make $90,000 at entry-level and, with regular advancements, a potential of $190,000. This would make one of these top 5 doctorates in early childhood education online well worth it!

What is the importance of early childhood education and development?

Infants start learning from the time they are in the womb. They are learning how to bond with parents and others, which has a significant impact on their future. The greatest potential for learning is when the brain develops most of its neurons between birth and three years old. Focusing on physical, social, and psychological development at this age gives the best chance for the most significant outcomes in the child’s future and society as a whole.

How long does it take to complete an online PhD in Early Childhood Education?

Most universities require about 60 credit hours to complete their Doctorate in Early Childhood Education. This can take as little as three years to complete, up to as long as eight years. How fast a student graduates depends on what courses are required and whether the student chooses to work within a cohort or work independently. Cohorts are groups of students who go through the courses together, which is more vigorous with more set schedules, but it allows for quicker graduation times. How fast the student finishes and defends their dissertation also impacts graduation time. Many students should be getting this started within the third year. Some people will take longer.

How will a PhD student pay for an online Doctorate in Early Childhood Education?

The first thing a prospective PhD student will want to do is complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will give the student an idea of their eligibility for financial aid through low-interest loans or need-based grants. The universities also offer financial help, depending on academic eligibility or financial need.

There is a federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. These are available to graduates who either work for five years in low-income districts or for ten years in the public sector.

Generally, schools have financial aid money set aside for educators who hope to advance their education because well-trained educators are very valuable. Potential postgraduate students can check with their employers to see if this is available to them.

CVO Staff

This completes our ranking of the Top 5 Online PhD in Early Childhood Education Programs.