The Best Early Childhood Education Colleges

If you are interested in pursuing a career where you get to work with young children — like teaching kindergarten, working at a daycare, or becoming a TA in a public school — then you would be wise to consider earning a degree in early childhood education

Getting a formal education in early childhood education is a superb way to develop an understanding of how children learn and their needs — not just academically, but also socially and emotionally. 

Although it is possible to start a career in early childhood education with only an associate’s degree — or even no degree at all — the reality is that most jobs in this field will require at least a bachelor’s degree.

Although there are clear benefits to getting an education, such as the increased number of available jobs and the higher average salary of those with degrees, it is also true that earning a degree is a long, expensive, and often stressful process. 

As a result, it is important to think carefully about what school to attend. Different colleges have different course offerings, degree requirements, professors, resources, and facilities, all of which significantly impact your educational experience. 

Looking for the perfect university to earn your degree in early childhood education may be a daunting task. On the bright side, we are here to help make that process smoother for you by providing a list of some of your best options. 

Here are 10 of the best early childhood education colleges in the US.

Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)

Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development
Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development – Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

A private research university located in Nashville, Vanderbilt University is among the most prominent institutions for higher education in the country. 

In fact, according to US News and World Report, Vanderbilt is the #14 best college in the United States. On top of that, the school was also named ninth in the nation in terms of best value, so attending Vanderbilt is an amazing way to ensure that you get your money’s worth.

The Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development offers numerous degree programs, courses, and other academic experiences relating to early childhood education.  

For undergraduate students, early childhood and elementary education is one of the many major options to choose from. 

Providing students with full teaching licenses upon graduation, the ECED program strongly emphasizes experiential learning and practical application.

Purdue University (Purdue, IN

Purdue University is an internationally-acclaimed public university that was founded in 1869. The university is made up of 13 undergraduate and graduate colleges and schools. 

One of these is the College of Health and Human Sciences, home to a robust Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

For undergraduate students who are interested in working with children, the department offers a bachelor’s major program in early childhood education and exceptional needs.

Students in the ECEEN major can simultaneously earn their degree and dual teaching licensure, as the program covers teaching both children with typical capability levels and those who require additional learning support.  

Throughout the program, students have the opportunity to get first-hand experience at the Ben and Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory School.

University of Washington (Seattle, WA)

University of Washington College of Education
Dustinwunderlich, Miller Hall 2004, CC BY-SA 4.0

Widely known for its research efforts in engineering and the sciences, the University of Washington is a public university with an undergraduate enrollment of nearly 50,000 students, as of the fall of 2022. 

UW’s College of Education has several program offerings relating to early childhood education, from undergraduate to doctoral programs, with both online to in-person options.  

One of these is the BA in early childhood and family studies, a program that aims to provide students with an interdisciplinary understanding of not just children’s education, but also child and family life more broadly.  

The university additionally offers an online BA in early care and education.

New York University (New York, NY)

According to the 2023 edition of US News and World Report’s annual school rankings, NYU is the #25 overall best college in the United States. 

It is home to the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Established in 1890, NYU Steinhardt is the oldest school of pedagogy in the county, as well as one of the best.

NYU’s early childhood education offerings include the bachelor of science, two master’s degrees, and a doctoral program. At the undergraduate level, early childhood education is also offered as a minor.

The BS in early childhood education and early childhood special education is designed to prepare students to teach all kinds of children from the age of birth up to second grade. The minor program in teacher education, on the other hand, does not provide certification to teach, but instead allows students in any program to learn valuable pedagogical skills.

Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)

Founded in 1820, Indiana University is one of the foremost public research universities in the United States. 

The Indiana University School of Education offers three different degrees in early childhood education, two of which are graduate programs. The third is the bachelor of science in education.

Students in the BSEd in early childhood education program choose between two areas of concentration: Teaching All Young Learners and Early Childhood Care and Education Leadership.

Designed specifically for those planning on becoming teachers, the TAYL concentration allows students to become fully licensed to teach children in the third grade and younger.

The ECCEL concentration, on the other hand, does not provide students with a teaching license. Rather, this program aims to prepare students for a broader set of careers relating to childhood education and childcare.

Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)

Arizona State University, a reputed public university, is home to more than 135,000 enrolled students across all of its programs. 

The ASU student body is spread out across the university’s 16 constituent undergraduate and graduate schools. 

Counting the school’s large variety of online programs, ASU offers over 800 different degrees, minors, and certificate programs.

One of ASU’s schools is the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, which has been ranked #8 in the country in terms of best online master’s programs in education. 

At the undergraduate level, MLFTC offers an online bachelor of applied science in early childhood studies. 

In addition to the BAS, there is also an online bachelor of arts program in education, with early childhood studies offered as an area of concentration.

Boston University (Boston, MA)

A private research university that was established in 1867, Boston University is home to the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. 

As of the 2022 academic year, Wheelock College is longer admitting students into its BS in early childhood education program. Rather, all new students interested in this field of study will be admitted to the college’s BS program in education and human development

In fact, Wheelock has standardized their curriculum such that the program of study for BS students is the same for the first two years. The BS in education and human development begins with a series of core courses in human development, social science, career preparation, and other relevant subjects.

In the third and fourth years of the program, however, students choose from among five areas of professional specialization. Teaching & learning is one of these options, as is educational design for transformative social futures.

University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)

Located just a few miles from the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh is among the best colleges in the country. 

In fact, according to Times Higher Education’s 2021 school rankings, Pitt is the #1 public university in the northeastern United States. 

The university is made up of 17 undergraduate and graduate schools. One of these is the School of Education, which has several programs focused on early childhood education.

Pitt’s early childhood programs primarily focus on educating children from birth to the age of 8 in various settings, including in the home and at public and private schools. 

The School of Education offers two master’s degree programs: the MEd in elementary education and the MEd in early childhood education. The college also offers certificate and combined degree programs.

University of Georgia (Athens, GA)

A land-grant research university that was established in 1785, the University of Georgia is one of the oldest public schools in the United States. 

UGA is home to the Mary Frances Early College of Education, which offers multiple degree programs in early childhood education. 

At the undergraduate level, students can earn a BSEd with a major in elementary education. Upon completing the program, students will be qualified to teach pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

UGA’s elementary education BSEd program is consistently ranked within the top five in the country by US News and World Report. It is particularly highly revered for its intensive, hands-on approach to early childhood education.

For instance, before graduating, all students will have earned more than 400 hours of practical experience, with an entire semester of student teaching at an elementary school.

Auburn University (Auburn, AL)

A public research university with an undergraduate enrollment of over 25,000 students, Auburn University is one of the largest schools in the southern United States. 

The College of Human Sciences at Auburn has a robust Department of Human Development & Family Science

The department offers three different undergraduate degree programs: child life, early child development, and the general studies track. 

Regardless of which of the three concentrations they choose to pursue, all HDFS major students are required to complete a full-time internship as a capstone experience prior to graduating. 

Auburn University is also home to the Early Learning Center, a reputable laboratory preschool open to children from ages 2 through 5. 

The Center offers half-day learning sessions, during which the young students are guided through an age-appropriate curriculum emphasizing learning by doing. 

The Early Learning Center also serves as a research facility, allowing faculty to observe early child development first-hand.