Top 5 PhD in Early Childhood Education Online Programs

PhD in infant and early childhood development

Pursuing a PhD in Early Childhood Education online is set apart for professionals who have a passion for implementing positive changes to early childhood institutions from the very top of their professions. These specialists work to bring positive outcomes to the youngest and 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 are to create policies, implement new systems, research, and even work hands-on in preschools, daycares, and nursery schools. Several quality universities offer an affordable online PhD in Early Childhood Education. The top 5 doctorate in early childhood education online programs are listed here.

Top 5 PhD in Early Childhood Education Online Methodology

We’ve created a list of universities that specifically offer a flexible and affordable online doctorate in Early Childhood Education. 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

Online PhD in Early Childhood Education in Curriculum and Instruction
Las Cruces, NM

New Mexico State University - Early Childhood Education PhD in Curriculum and Instruction
NMSU offers a 100% online Early Childhood Education PhD in Curriculum and Instruction.

School Profile

New Mexico State University’s College of Education boasts of several high rankings from sites like BestSchools and Online Masters. Among various affordable online PhD programs, 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 great changes in education through classrooms, schools, and communities. The main focus of this flexible online degree program is to graduate students with a readiness to create curriculums that will span multiculturally and address realtime social issues. It will take about 66 credit hours to complete. NMSU is number 1 on our list of top 5 doctorates in early childhood education online.

Tuition: $16,370

#2 Northcentral University

Online Doctorate in Early Childhood Education
San Diego, CA

Northcentral University - EdD in Early Childhood Education
Northcentral University’s online PhD early childhood education offers one-on-one professor-taught courses.

School Profile

Northcentral University, accredited by WSCUC, offers high-quality online degrees that focus 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. Northcentral, number 2 on our list of top 5 doctorates in early childhood education online, offers an affordable online EdD in Early Childhood Education. Samples of courses in this EdD program are Early Childhood Literacy and Literature, and Topics 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: $16,864

#3 Fielding Graduate University

PhD in Infant and Early Childhood Development
Santa Barbara, CA

Fielding Graduate University - PhD in Early Childhood Education Online
PhD online with an emphasis on mental health.

School Profile

This university has an accredited, top-level online PhD in Early Childhood Education program. It’s a partner with the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health (Alliance). Their PhD in Infant and Early Childhood Development (IECD) 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 to revolutionize 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 PhD program is a completed bachelor’s or master’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. No GRE is required.

Tuition: $17,296

#4 Brenau University

Doctorate in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Education Specialization
Gainesville, GA

Brenau University - Doctorate in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Education Specialization
Online PhD early childhood with flexible options for professional students.

School Profile

Brenau has been in 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% total affordable online degrees is its Doctorate in Elementary Education with an Early Childhood Education specialization. This online program is made up of 54 credit hours. Its 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: $29,050

#5 Concordia University-Chicago

EdD/PhD, Leadership: Early Childhood Education Specialization
River Forest, IL

Online PhD early childhood ed prepares graduates for leadership jobs.

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 doctorate in early childhood education online programs.

Tuition: $32,078

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 specifically involves targeting problems in development from an early age.

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

Usually, PhDs in Early Childhood Education have careers in school administration, educational research, curriculum design and implementation, teacher preparation, or 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 is developing the majority of its neurons between birth and 3 years old. Focusing on physical, social, and psychological early childhood development at this age gives the best chance for the greatest outcomes in the child’s future, as well as society as a whole.

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

Most universities require about 60 credit hours to complete their Doctorate in Early Childhood Education. This can take as little as 3 years to complete, up to as long as 8 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 has an impact on 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 a Doctorate in Early Childhood Education online?

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 themselves offer financial help also, depending on academic eligibility or financial need.

There is a federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and 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 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 PhD in Early Childhood Education Online Programs.

Maxim Sorokopud

Melissa Anderson

Julie McCaulley