A master’s in early childhood education program is usually completed by a current educator looking to enhance their knowledge in the field in hopes of improving early learning and teaching or by an individual looking to enter the field of teaching. Many programs exist and they are generally comprised of three main components.


A master’s in early childhood education program typically requires between 30 and 36 credit hours for licensed educators and about 48 hours for those seeking initial certification. Many programs allow licensed educators to complete their program in only one year. Programs usually contain courses in three areas which include foundational courses, early childhood courses, and courses relating to a thesis or capstone project. Foundational courses address topics related to psychology, research, curriculum design, and social issues in education. Individuals seeking initial certification typically are required to complete a greater number of foundational courses. Early childhood courses cover topics such as literacy and language development of young children, parental involvement in early childhood education, and working with children who have disabilities. Thesis or capstone project courses provide students with opportunities to work on their respective graduation requirement while receiving course credit.

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Many master degree programs for students already licensed in the early childhood education field do not require internship hours. These students are typically constantly in the classroom teaching, so it’s an unnecessary requirement. Students in programs without licensure in the early childhood education field are required to spend time completing internship hours in the classroom. Students seeking licensure complete field experience hours from about 100 hours to several hundred hours that include observing and assisting an educator. Then, students must complete student teaching hours where they act as the lead teacher while being supervised. Students commonly complete 600 student teaching hours.

Thesis or Capstone Project

A thesis or capstone project is usually required in the master’s degree program in early childhood education. A thesis requires that a student work closely with a professor to conduct an original research project that culminates into a lengthy document. Thesis projects are commonly about testing educational research methodologies in hopes of finding student or school improvement. The research project’s details including its findings are presented to a committee where questions are asked, and then the student is evaluated. Some programs are structured where students to complete a capstone project instead of a thesis. These projects require students to create portfolios that illustrate their proficiency and ability to meet the requirements that are necessary for early childhood educators. Students present these portfolios to their area professors and are evaluated. Both the thesis and capstone projects must be deemed satisfactory before students can graduate from their programs.

There is a great need for teachers as the shortages are rampant. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 378,700 elementary school teachers will be needed between the years of 2014 and 2024. Adequate teacher preparation is needed to equip students with the tools they’ll need to be successful in this challenging profession. Many suitable master’s in early childhood education programs are available for both the licensed educator and the unlicensed individual to help fill this great shortage.