The Benefits of an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education

Posted On October 31,2023

If you are looking for a career working with young children, but are hesitant to invest in a full four-year degree, you will find that there are many benefits to obtaining an associate degree in early childhood education. This two-year program will allow you to begin working with children in half the time, and can get you the right educational foundation to start a satisfying and in-demand career.

Young preschool students playing with wooden blocks at a classroom table.

What Does an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education Entail?

Early Child Education (ECE) covers child development and education from 0-8 years old. An Associate of Arts (AA) degree in Early Childhood is a two-year higher education program. While many education degrees are bachelor’s degrees requiring four years of study, AA degrees cut that time in half, allowing students to get into the classroom and begin earning more quickly, as well as saving over two years of college costs. 

The two years spent obtaining your AA will provide a full foundation of early childhood development knowledge, early childhood education methods, classroom strategies, and other practical skills needed to begin work in early childhood education. Most associate programs require 90-100 credit hours and will take the full two years to complete. Courses are usually split between general education and early childhood specific coursework. Some of the courses include early childhood education foundations, child development and growth, early language and literacy, curriculum development, health, safety, and nutrition, and educational methods. Most early childhood education programs require a practicum component of fieldwork in a preschool or childcare center to gain practical, hands-on experience.

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What are the Advantages of an ECE Associate Degree?

Although you can work in early childhood education without an associate degree, there are many advantages to going through the two-year program to help prepare you for a career in early childhood education. One of the main benefits of obtaining a degree is the advantage you will have with employers. When comparing two applicants, one with a high school diploma and one with a degree in early childhood education, most employers prefer to hire the applicant who has been through the comprehensive training that an associate degree provides. Those who have gone through a full program will not only have the foundational knowledge necessary, but will also have instruction in early childhood education methods, classroom management strategies, and organizational strategies. 

After going through a full program, students will understand how to apply the knowledge received in their training program, as well as gain valuable experience working with different populations of students through hands-on training. Instead of just working with students in early childhood education, those who have an associate degree can also be eligible to work in more specialized positions, or be eligible for higher salaried jobs. Higher earning potential, better job security, and opportunity for advancement make the investment in a two-year degree program well worth it.

What Can I Do with an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education?

Having an associate degree in early childhood education will open the door to many possible careers working with young children. Some of those include:

  • Childcare Worker

Childcare workers supervise, provide nourishment, and develop age appropriate lesson plans for young children in a childcare setting. They maintain a fun, safe, and engaging environment that will support growth and development. Childcare workers organize activities using play and other instructional techniques to help children develop through their early years. An associate degree is usually not required, but can make applicants far more desirable and will provide a jumping off point for advancement.

  • Preschool Teacher’s Aide

A preschool teacher’s aide works in a classroom alongside the lead preschool teacher to assist with classroom management, lesson-planning, and organizing instructional materials. As with childcare workers, a degree is not always required, but most preschools will look for applicants who are pursuing a degree and prefer those applicants over those without.

  • Preschool Teacher

Preschool teachers need an associate degree in early childhood education, but the increase in salary from a teacher’s aide to a teacher is substantial, making the investment in education well worthwhile. Preschool teachers educate and care for children who are between 3 and 5 years old. They teach social skills, fine motor skills, and early literacy and language skills such as identifying numbers, letters, shapes, and colors. They will develop a play based curriculum targeting different areas of development and keep detailed records of progress, preparing children for their school years. 

  • Childcare or Preschool Director

Early childhood graduates will be prepared to own and operate a childcare center, handling all the administrative tasks that go along with that career.

How Do I Get Started with an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education?

To get started, look at the enrollment requirements. For most programs you will need a high school diploma or GED. Once you have determined your eligibility for the program, you can schedule an informational meeting with an admission specialist and begin the application process. The admission specialist can help you determine if you are eligible for any financial assistance, and can help you begin the process of applying for financial aid.   

Working with young children is an incredibly fulfilling career, and obtaining an associate degree in early childhood education can open many doors. The hands-on experience you will gain during this degree program is invaluable for your career moving forward. To learn more about our comprehensive early childhood education degree program, contact Athena Career Academy to schedule a tour and meet with our admissions team.

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