Doctorate in early childhood education

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Introduction to early childhood education

Early education is a dynamic and important field. It brings together programs, agencies, researchers, teachers and other professionals who work tirelessly to improve the lives of children up to the age of 8. A doctorate in early childhood education prepares you for a career as an educator, policy maker, and other important related roles. These individuals work with young children, their families, and their communities to foster positive outcomes for the young children they are working with. Throughout your doctoral program you can expand on the knowledge gained from your previous academic studies with innovative research, real-world case studies, additional coursework, and your own research.

What do I need to apply?

Graduates who have earned a doctorate degree will have conducted original research and be eligible for influential career opportunities in the field. Therefore, applicants must meet several standards before qualifying for acceptance. Students applying for a doctorate in early childhood education must submit transcripts from all previous institutions. Students typically have a master’s in early childhood education or a related field. Usually, students are expected to have a GPA of 3.25, professional and academic references, a research proposal, a resume outlining professional experience, a personal statement, and writing samples.

Study options

Students learn in many different ways which is why there are numerous study options that meet their needs. Traditionally, on-campus lectures were the only way students could learn the content from their courses, but now there are also online and hybrid study options.

Studying online has several benefits that suit different learners. When a program is offered exclusively online, students aren’t burdened by a long drive to campus, rigid class times, and the overstimulation of campus life. Many students prefer to study on their own because they are excellent self-starters and have good time management skills.

A hybrid program gives students a nice blend of both on-campus and online coursework. Depending on the program structure, several courses may be offered exclusively online, while others require in-person participation. Other hybrid programs may have all coursework online, but have designated online lecture times which require attendance.

Does my university need to be accredited?

University accreditation is important at all levels of post secondary education. Admissions departments for doctorate programs will only accept candidates with academic qualifications from accredited universities. Furthermore, if you are interested in a career that requires academic qualifications or want to earn a certificate or license, know that these agencies will likely check that your education is from an accredited university.

Earning a degree from an accredited university ensures that you and your future employers have met the accreditation agency’s standard of excellence. If you are unsure whether or not the university you want to apply to is accredited the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs offers an easy-to-use search tool to check.

What will I learn?

Historical and theoretical foundations o f early childhood education

This course will focus on the historical, philosophical, theoretical, and contemporary influences that affect early childhood education. You will learn about the theories and evidence-based research that influence development studies.

Research methods in early childhood education and care

In this course you will learn how to interpret, design, conduct, and collect relevant information from research studies. This is especially important for a doctoral program because you will be responsible for conducting your own research and interpreting the data.

Organizational leadership and change

This course is designed to prepare students for leadership and administrative roles in early childhood education. It develops leadership skills in students, and examines theory and research.

Early education policy

The goal of this course is for students to understand the connection between early learning, health, social-emotional, and cognitive outcomes and policies that impact early learning. Children need to be on track for graduating from high school and landing a career. Understanding early education policies that impact state programs, that implement successful assessment systems, and ensure educational effectiveness is imperative for a child’s success.


Conducting your own novel research is a fundamental part of this doctoral program. Students will be responsible for researching, collecting data, analyzing, and presenting their results to be eligible for graduation. Presenting your findings can be a stressful experience, especially for anyone who is uncomfortable with public speaking.

Cost of the degree

The average cost of a doctoral degree is between $20,000 and $79,000. Some colleges offer their doctoral students teaching positions to help meet their tuition costs.

Financial aid

Because doctoral programs can take several years to complete, students can find the cost of the program discouraging. Federal Student Aid is a form of need-based financial assistance granted to students who qualify. Based on the information on your application form, they will assess your financial need, and respond to your application within a few weeks.

Finding education funding for your Ph.D. program is a great way to cut tuition costs. The Ph.D. Project provides users with funding resources, helpful information, and financial aid opportunities to help African American, Hispanic American, and native American students pay for their doctoral programs. 

Program concentrations

A program concentration provides students with additional coursework, of their own selection, based on their interests and career goals. Earning a concentration equips students with specialized knowledge about a certain aspect of early childhood education. This can better prepare them for future employment or their doctoral research.


During this concentration you will learn about literacy pedagogy, the stages of literacy development, contexts for teaching literacy, and the needs for diverse learners. In the U.S., approximately 36 million adults lack basic literacy skills. By supporting early literacy and understanding literacy development, children across the country will be equipped with the skills and tools necessary for academic success. This concentration can appeal to anyone pursuing a career in ESL, education, curriculum design, policy making. 


To have an effective curriculum, designers need to plan based on evidence-based research, environments, and children’s learning capabilities. In this concentration, students dissect cognitive, behavioral, and social learning theories to grasp the basic principles behind curriculum development. Once you understand how early education curriculum has evolved, then a meta-analysis and creation of effective educational curriculum can begin. For students who are interested in research and curriculum design, this concentration can arm them with additional knowledge and skills for employment.

Early intervention

The Center for Disease Control defines early intervention as “services and supports that are available to babies and young children with developmental delays and disabilities and their families. All 50 states have federal or state funded early intervention programs for their residents. Therefore, qualified and educated individuals are sought after for employment. A concentration in early intervention will give you the skills to prepare children with special needs and their families for success by covering teaching strategies, evidence-based research, and collaboration techniques.

Career options

Education statistician

If you enjoy analyzing research data and working with numbers, then a career as an educational statistician may excite you. They work to solve real-world academic and workplace learning challenges with facts. Usually, an education statistician analyzes research to find trends and correlations between variables.

The average salary for an education statistician is $94,323.

Educational psychologist

Fundamentally, education psychologists study how people learn. They develop and implement learning programs to enhance the student learning process by evaluating learning methods, researching instructional processes, and incorporating elements of psychology to their work.

The average salary for an educational psychologist is $75,116 annually.

Instructional designer

Instructional designers are creative individuals with great research, communication, and time management skills. They are responsible for the development and design of instructional materials or coursework to maximize the learning experience. They work in school districts, universities, and companies that need new or additional training or education on a product.

The average salary for an instructional designer is $64,171.

American Psychological Association

This association provides resources, publications, and information to users who want to learn more about psychology. Many careers have an overlap between education and psychology such as a career in developmental psychology or as an educational psychologist.

Journal of Early Childhood Education Research

This is an open access journal that releases research articles in the field. This allows users to continue learning about early childhood education. They aim to promote scientific dialog, enhance awareness and accessibility, and improve early education.

National Association for the Education of Young Children

This association aims to deepen knowledge of early childhood education with research-based resources, connect educators and professionals, and further the development of quality education for children and educators.

American Association for the Advancement of Science,

The association are the publishers of Sciencemag.  Their article on mastering your Ph.D. presentation which provides advice on reducing stress is recommended.