Online Associate Degree - Early Childhood Education | Penn Foster College

Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education

Get financial and academic credit for previous classes taken.

Learn more about our
transfer credit policy and process.

Get Your Early Childhood Education Degree Online

Penn Foster College is an official partner of Bright Horizons Family Solutions

The need for early childhood educators is growing quickly — preschool teaching jobs are expected to increase 17%, faster than average, through 2022.¹ With Penn Foster College, you can take the first step toward joining this growing field by earning an Early Childhood Education Associate degree online at just $79 per credit and no application fee.

In this program, you can gain practical experience by working in a real-world licensed childcare center through field experience. Penn Foster College is an official partner of Bright Horizons Family Solutions. Through our partnership with Bright Horizons Family Solutions, you may be able to be placed in a Bright Horizons center near you for the externship portion of the program.

Penn Foster College will help you train online at a pace that's right for you, with support from early childhood education instructors like Nancy Moretti, Ed. D. (ABD), M.S., who has over 25 years of experience working with children. You will study curriculum development for preschoolers and other young children, guidance procedures, and how to promote language, literacy, and social skills development!

Our program can also help get you ready to continue your education. Most courses in this program have been recommended for transfer credit eligibility by the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT®) and over 2,000 schools consider ACE CREDIT recommendations for credit transfers. It’s important to note that no form of accreditation guarantees that any learning institution will accept credits from any school as transfer credits. The decision to transfer credits is up to the individual institutions and students who play to continue with another school after completing coursework at Penn Foster College should check with that school regarding its transfer credit policies. For more information about ACE CREDIT, visit their website at www.acenet.edu/credit.

Associate Degrees from Penn Foster College are awarded under licensing from the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.

Curriculum Details

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

To prepare graduates for employment, but also provide the foundation for entry into Bachelor of Science programs, and includes at least 30 semester credits in general education subjects.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge of child development and learning in an early childhood setting
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the development and execution of family and community relationships
  • Apply best practices, observation, and assessment to enhance learning and development
  • Plan, evaluate, and design curriculum appropriate for the education of young children
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of individuality and cultural diversity to assist in creating a meaningful curriculum
  • Demonstrate a commitment to and an awareness of the need for lifelong professional growth, learning, community involvement, and advocacy in regards to current early childhood research, practices, and issues
  • Demonstrate an understanding and knowledge of foundational concepts in the general education areas including science, mathematics, English composition, and the social sciences

Semester 1

Basic Skills Assessment

All degree applicants are required to complete two Basic Skills Assessments, one in reading and one in math, to determine the level of readiness for beginning their selected program. Additional studies may be required.

ECE100 Orientation to Early Childhood Education 1 credit

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program, and learn how to be an effective child care professional.

Objectives:

  • Understand how to use your Student Portal, including your My Homepage and My Courses pages.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
  • Understand the components of quality child care and the responsibilities of the caregiver.
  • Reflect and develop your own child care beliefs and principles.
  • Determine where you best fit in the child day care industry.
ENG103 Information Literacy 1 credit

Get better at finding and using information!

Objectives:

  • Search the Internet more effectively.
  • Get tips about search engines and reliable websites.
  • Learn how to search libraries and other information centers for important, useful information.
ECE130 Health, Safety, and Nutrition for the Young Child 3 credits

Each day seems to bring more dire news about health, especially children’s health. However, early childhood educators and staff have the potential to create enormous, positive changes in the way children eat, exercise, and avoid injurious habits.

Objectives:

  • Understand the components of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Develop programs designed to promote healthy lifestyles.

Additional Course Material:

  • Textbook: Healthy Young Children: A Manual for Programs
SSC130 Essentials of Psychology 3 credits

Learn about the relationship between biology and behavior.

Objectives:

  • Describe major theories in psychology.
  • Compare consciousness, memory, thought, and language.
  • Define intelligence, personality, and stress.
  • Analyze the role of gender in psychology.
  • Understand how community influences behavior.

Additional Course Material:

  • Textbook: Psychology and Your Life
General Education Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

HUM102-Art Appreciation

This course will provide you with the foundational knowledge needed to critique a variety of artwork.

Objectives:

  • Understand artistic media.
  • Identify historical periods and artistic movements.
  • Explain the roles of the artist and the viewer.

HUM104-Music Appreciation

This course will allow you to understand and appreciate the art of music.

Objectives:

  • Explain the roles of the composer and the listener.
  • Describe music theory, instrumentation, and historical periods.
  • Distinguish various styles of music.
ECE011 ECE Site Selection

Each semester you’ll be in an early childhood education setting. Identify an appropriate site, obtain your official clearances, and submit the paperwork for approval. You can use the same site to fulfill this requirement each semester without having to resubmit the required paperwork.

ECE111 Fundamentals of Early Childhood Education 3 credits

This course is designed to teach you the importance and benefit of early childhood education.

Objectives:

  • Describe the philosophies of various types of early childhood education programs.
  • Equip and organize an effective early childhood classroom.
  • Participate in a webinar and complete an observation report project.
Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 2

ECE012 ECE Site Selection

Each semester you’ll be in an early childhood education setting. Identify an appropriate site, obtain your official clearances, and submit the paperwork for approval. You can use the same site to fulfill this requirement each semester without having to resubmit the required paperwork.

ECE220 Child Growth and Development 3 credits

Child growth and development is impacted by both genetics and environment.

Objectives:

  • Understand the basics of child psychology.
  • Recognize the interplay of both genetics and the environment on child growth and development.

Additional Course Material:

  • Textbook: Child Development
ECE215 Curriculum for Early Childhood Education 3 credits

This course is designed to provide you with the skills to design an ECE curriculum.

Objectives:

  • Plan, develop, and implement curricula for early childhood education.

Additional Course Materials:

  • Textbook: Early Education Curriculum
  • Supplement: information, activities, and examinations needed to acquire these necessary skills
Early Childhood Education Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

ECE216-Language and Literacy Development in Young Children 

Learn how important it is that teachers respect, understand, and dignify each child’s uniqueness while providing language-rich environments.

Objectives:

  • Promote each child’s self-esteem and self-efficacy.
  • Plan a comprehensive early childhood language arts program.
  • Describe the four major components of communication—speaking, listening, writing, and reading.

ECE217-Developing Math and Science Skills in Young Children

Learn how to integrate math and science with other content areas for young children from preschool through the primary grades.

Objective:

  • Study the guidelines of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

ECE213-Art, Music, and Movement

Understand the role of art, music, and movement in a young child's education.

Objectives:

  • Understand how art and movement education address the physical, social/emotional, and cognitive development of young children.
  • Promote creativity and self-expression by enhancing curriculum with experiences in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic creativity.
ENG100 English Composition 3 credits

Improve your writing skills.

Objectives:

  • Review English grammar.
  • Brainstorm, write, edit, and revise essays.
  • Write effective and clear thesis statements.
  • Write a descriptive, persuasive, and reflective essays as well as first-person narratives.

Additional Course Materials:

  • Textbook: Successful College Writing
  • Course Grammar Supplement: The Little, Brown Essential Handbook
  • Online supplements: The Parts of Speech, World Usage, and Sentence Skills
CSC104 Computer Applications 3 credits

In this course, you’ll become familiar with a personal computer. Along the way, you’ll learn some excellent tips on effective use of the web and Microsoft® Office. Beyond this, you’ll have opportunities to practice what you’ve learned.

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 3

ECE013 ECE Site Selection

Each semester you’ll be in an early childhood education setting. Identify an appropriate site, obtain your official clearances, and submit the paperwork for approval. You can use the same site to fulfill this requirement each semester without having to resubmit the required paperwork.

ECE223 Working with Preschoolers 3 credits

The preschool years are a special time in the life of young children. It’s essential that teachers learn about and provide the types of activities and experiences preschool children need.

Objectives:

  • Understand how preschool children 3–5 years old learn and develop.
  • Create an appropriate learning environment for preschool children.
  • Complete two graded projects to practice your knowledge and skills.

Additional Course Material:

  • Textbook: Creating Environments for Learning: Birth to Age Eight
ECE120 Infant and Toddler Care 3 credits

Few things are as rewarding as seeing a child’s life unfold before your eyes. As we now know from brain research, the first three years of a child’s life are critical to all future development.

Objectives:

  • Understand the importance of the first three years of a child’s life.
  • Make your practice individualized and inclusive.
  • Complete a case study project and a final project.

Additional Course Material:

  • Textbook: Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers
Science Elective (Choose one) 3 credits

SCI120-Introduction to Biology

During this course, you’ll gain insight into the origin of life, the relationships among all living organisms, and even how your own body works. 

Objectives:

  • Learn how organisms are structured and how they work.
  • Discuss the various forms of life and their processes.

SCI110-Earth Science 

Survey a broad range of topics.

Objective:

  • Examine topics within the fields of geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy.
HUM106 Interpersonal Communication 1 credit

This course is designed to help you develop professional relationships in the workplace.

Objectives:

  • Understand and explain the components of communication, both verbal and nonverbal.
  • Develop effective listening and observation skills.
  • Recognize prejudice in interpersonal relations.
  • Describe personal traits essential for successful interpersonal relations.
ECE107 Play in the Lives of Young Children 3 credits

This course offers an exciting exploration of the power of play in early childhood development and the early childhood curriculum.

Objectives:

  • Recognize the underpinning role of play in children’s early learning and development.
  • Understand how to use the power of play to meet established early childhood curriculum goals.
  • Integrate and enhance children’s academic development with children’s social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development.

Additional Course Material:

  • Textbook: An Integrated Play-based Curriculum for Young Children
ECE203 Working with Children with Special Needs 3 credits

For an early childhood educator, there’s nothing more rewarding than working with young children with special needs.

Objectives:

  • Describe the typical development of a child and how certain disabilities affect a child’s development.
  • Create an inclusive environment for children with special needs in a regular classroom.
  • Identify legal implication of including student with special needs.

Additional Course Material:

  • Textbook: The Exceptional Child: Inclusion in Early Childhood Education
Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 4

ECE014 ECE Site Selection

Each semester you’ll be in an early childhood education setting. Identify an appropriate site, obtain your official clearances, and submit the paperwork for approval. You can use the same site to fulfill this requirement each semester without having to resubmit the required paperwork.

ECE212 Guidance in Early Childhood Education 3 credits

This course is designed to provide you with ideas and guidelines to work with young children.

Objectives:

  • Describe the beliefs and philosophies of Piaget and Montessori.
  • Organize and manage a classroom that provides many learning opportunities and advantages.
  • Use intervention techniques to manage conflicts.

Additional Course Material:

  • Textbook: A Guidance Approach for the Encouraging Classroom
MAT106 Mathematics for Business and Finance 3 credits

This course will provide a foundation in basic mathematical operations and applications. Because practice is the key to mathematical success, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice the concepts you learn!

Objectives:

  • Perform basic mathematical operations.
  • Prepare a bank statement and work with every day math applications such as invoices, payroll, interest, annuities, mortgages, financial statements, taxes, insurance, and investments.

Additional Course Material:

  • Textbook: Practical Business Math Procedures
ECE210 Child, Family, and Community 3 credits

Early childhood educators should be advocates for children and practitioners of best practices for working with children.

Objectives:

  • Positively connect the children’s world to the greater realm of adult society.
  • Use current research on interactions among families, schools, and communities to form a practical guide for early childhood educators.
  • Complete two graded projects to practice your knowledge and skills.

Additional Course Material:

  • Textbook: Child, Family, and Community
Early Childhood Education Electives (Choose one) 3 credits

ECE160-Cultural Diversity in the Early Childhood Program 

This course will challenge you to examine the cultural influences on your attitudes and behaviors and how those cultural influences affect your professional judgment and practice.

Objectives:

  • Analyze the cultural influences and differences in family childrearing practices, young children's social skills and behavior, and communication skills and styles.
  • Describe how culture influences emergent literacy.
  • Understand the importance of developing cultural competence.

ECE221-Administration of an Early Childhood Education Center

This course offers a comprehensive view of the procedures involved in establishing and administering a child care education program.

Objectives:

  • Learn how to staff and budget for day-to-day administration.
  • Learn about parent involvement and equipment acquisition.

ECE225-Family Child Care

This course includes the practical consideration of issues and responsibilities in providing family child care for infants and young children. Topics include developmental domains, developmentally appropriate practices, curriculum and creating a successful environment.

Objectives:

  • Identify typical milestones and recommended practices for promoting development across all developmental domains (physical, cognitive, emotional, and social growth) in young children
  • Identify activities that conform to DAP principles to meet the needs of a specific age level in early childhood education
  • Define the needs of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers
  • Identify recommended practices for managing a multiage environment
  • Identify the components of an effective, developmentally appropriate early childhood curriculum
  • Describe the caregiver's role in arranging the environment
  • Identify the purpose of a daily schedule
  • Describe strategies for guiding children's behavior
  • Identify basic methods of assessment in the early childhood setting
  • Identify strategies for promoting early literacy, creativity, and play
  • Describe recommended policies and practices for transporting children

Prerequisites:

  • ECE100 Orientation to Early Childhood Education
  • ECE220 Child Growth and Development

ECE240-Assessment in Early Childhood Education

The current emphasis on producing high-quality, comprehensive programming for young children requires early-learning professionals to develop excellent observation and assessment skills.

Objectives:

  • Understand the purpose of observation and assessment in the early childhood classroom.
  • Describe the process of collecting and recording observations.
  • Foster child development in each learning area.
  • Share your observations with the children’s family members.
ECE230 Field Experience 6 credits

The goal of this field experience is to provide you with the hands-on experience necessary to develop the skills needed by Early Childhood Education professionals. Practice these skills under the direct supervision of a certified teacher or credentialed Early Childhood Education professional. This field experience encompasses a minimum of 300 hours of observation and activities in an Early Childhood Education Center. Although we recommend that you complete your field experience in 12 weeks, you have a maximum of six months to finish. It is the responsibility of the student to secure a site for his/her field experience.

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Graduation Requirements
  • Complete all 4 semesters.
  • Pass all courses.
  • Achieve a cumulative Quality Point Average (QPA) of 2.0 or higher.

Computer Specifications
You will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. You will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows® 7 or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, Microsoft® Office 2013, and an email account to complete your program with Penn Foster.

NOTE: Advanced standing student shipments may vary from the above schedule.
Although this outline covers all four semesters of your program, you receive lesson materials for each semester as you enroll.
This program requires fieldwork in each semester, and in semester 4 students are expected to complete a minimum of 300 hours in a licensed early childhood center that has a developmentally appropriate program that includes infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. It is the responsibility of the student to secure a site for the field placement(s).
We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
† Credits earned in Penn Foster programs may transfer to some, but not all, learning institutions. If you are planning to continue your education with another school after you earn your degree from Penn Foster, you should check with that school regarding credit transfer policies.
Microsoft, Windows, Excel, and PowerPoint are registered trademarks and Word is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc. registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Sample Lesson

To view an Early Childhood Education sample lesson, click here.

State Licensing Requirements for Early Childhood Educators

State licensing requirements vary for Early Childhood Education professionals. Penn Foster College recommends that you check with the licensing agency in your state for specific requirements. Also, a background check may be required for employment in child day care centers and schools. This program is not intended to lead to teacher certification. Educators are advised to contact their employer as to whether this program may qualify for salary advancement.

Start your Early Childhood Education courses today, contact an admissions specialist today or enroll now.

Early Childhood Education Degree

Early childhood educators, such as preschool teachers and aides, help young children to learn in a fun environment using play and creative activities to teach language, reading, and social skills. If you are considering a career as an early childhood educator, here are some qualities that are helpful:

  • Communication: You listen and talk through situations with students, teachers, and parents.
  • Cooperation: You are pleasant and a good mediator.
  • Sociability: Spending time with others is fun and rewarding.
  • Creativity: Teachers often need to think outside the box to engage young children.
  • Compassion: You care about the health and well-being of others.

I was hired at a preschool immediately after graduating. I was also able to transfer my credits, and I now am in a Bachelor's Degree Program.

Amanda S, Early Childhood Education Graduate

Penn Foster has opened doors for me that I never imagined could be opened. I look forward to inspiring the same love of learning in my students that Penn Foster inspired in me.

De Janiera Thomas, Early Childhood Education Graduate

Your program includes:

  • Customized payment plans with 0% interest
  • Books and learning aids
  • Goal-setting and progress-tracking tools
  • Instructional support from our experienced faculty
  • Access 24/7 to Penn Foster’s online community, plus immediate membership in the Early Childhood Education academic group
  • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
  • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

How does the ECE Associate Degree field experience work? How do I select a location, and how do I receive Penn Foster College approval?

Though Penn Foster College provides students with the necessary tools to obtain an externship site, it is the student's responsibility to ultimately obtain a suitable location for the externship. As part of our partnerships with Bright Horizons Family Solutions, students may obtain required practical experience at a local center. You'll identify an appropriate site and obtain your official clearances, and then submit the proper paperwork to Penn Foster College for approval. You do not have to renew your paperwork if you are working at the same child care facility each semester.

How long will it take me to complete my Early Childhood Education program?

Completion times vary from person to person depending on the number of credits you can transfer into the program and the number of hours you can commit to studying each week. With our online ECE program, you can choose a pace that’s right for you, so you can progress as quickly as you’d like.

Will my Penn Foster College credits transfer to other schools?

Penn Foster College credits have been accepted for transfer into many colleges across the country. Students should check with a specific college to see if they accept our credits, as credit transfer can vary depending on the school. Also, the American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) has evaluated and recommended college credit for many Penn Foster College courses. No form of accreditation guarantees that any learning institution will accept credits from any school as transfer credits. For more information on transferring credits, click here.

More FAQs >

¹ Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Preschool Teachers, on the Internet here. Statistics found in the United States Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook are based on national data, so job growth in your area may be different.

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