Master’s in Early Childhood Education Degree (Non-Licensure)

Master of Education in Early Childhood Education (Does Not Lead to Initial Teacher Licensure)Initial Program – Does Not Lead to Initial Teacher Licensure

Offered By: College of Education

Prepare Infants and Preschoolers for Early Childhood Academic Achievement

Explore the academic and development needs of children from birth to eight years old in the Master of Education (MEd) in Early Childhood Education (non-licensure) program. Offered by the College of Education at Grand Canyon University, this MEd in Early Childhood Education can provide an in-depth review of literacy development, child guidance and growth. You will examine concepts that can potentially enhance your teaching in early childhood settings such as daycares, preschools and elementary schools with a master’s in early childhood education.

Pursue Your MEd in Early Childhood Education From GCU

The early years in a child’s life are critical for brain development.1 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children in nurturing, development-focused environments tend to exhibit better future outcomes in learning, behavior, and health.2 As an aspiring early childhood educator, you have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children within your community by empowering them with the support they need. 

GCU’s early childhood education master’s programs are designed to equip education professionals with a framework of pedagogical knowledge and skills to support these critical years in a child’s life. In convenient online or evening classes, this master’s in early childhood education can provide a comprehensive survey of child development, behaviors, instructional planning and more. At GCU, our students are immersed within curriculum built from the Christian worldview, which emphasizes ethical decision-making and servant leadership.

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You can earn your early childhood education master’s degree online using our interactive digital learning platform. As an online student, you will have access to the same quality of instruction delivered by instructors who are knowledgeable in their fields. Work through coursework from virtually anywhere and complete practicum/field experience hours at a location near you.3 

Skills Taught in the MEd in Early Childhood Education Program

Early childhood education master’s programs provide opportunities for you to acquire the skills that can develop a foundation for early learning. Reviewing research on child development and growth can provide the fundamentals for teaching and offers ways to gauge mastery of milestones. In this MEd program you will examine and study child guidance and activity during hands-on experiences within multiple classroom settings to support your learning of teaching and assessment methods.

This program teaches an array of educational skills, including:

  • The use of data to assess, monitor and report on the progress of young students
  • Instructional planning, including the assessment, evaluation and data analysis pertaining to lesson development
  • Assessments and strategies for promoting English language development
  • The creation of learning environments that support individual and collaborative learning, positive social interaction, self-motivation and active engagement in learning

In this graduate-level program, you will have the opportunity to exercise your critical thinking skills to research child development and early interventions for children from birth through third grade. By implementing a rigorous curriculum under the guidance of skilled faculty, we aim to refine your instructional methods using evidence-based research and applied strategies. Field experience opportunities throughout your master’s in early childhood education program can expose you to working with diverse age groups and youth of varying developmental stages and intellect.

What to Expect in Early Childhood Education Courses

In this early childhood education master’s program, you will explore a comprehensive range of content areas such as:

  • Instruction methods for the exceptional learner and non-English speakers
  • Classroom engagement and management techniques
  • Developmental milestones and methods of evaluation
  • Curriculum development and teaching for language arts, math, science, health, social studies and the arts
  • Patterns of learning and development across the cognitive, linguistic, physical, social and emotional areas
  • Cultural awareness and competencies, with a look at support for various family types

With an emphasis on evidence-based methodologies and the use of data analysis for instructional decision-making, your coursework will consist of hands-on learning opportunities.

Career Paths for MEd in Early Childhood Education Graduates 

In your potential future role as an early childhood education professional, you may hold the power to sculpt the potential of upcoming generations, offering them the guidance and resources for their flourishing. An early childhood education master’s program can prepare graduates to pursue work across a variety of settings, including:4

  • Daycare centers
  • Early childhood education centers
  • Preschools
  • Elementary schools

With a foundation of pedagogical competencies, you may be prepared to pursue careers such as:1

  • Special education teaching assistant
  • Teaching assistant in preschool, elementary, middle and secondary classrooms
  • Preschool teacher
  • Kindergarten teacher
  • Elementary school teacher
  • Postsecondary education teacher

Institutionally Accredited Master of Education Degrees

GCU prioritizes the quality of our education. GCU is a member of the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP), a national accrediting organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. As an institutionally accredited university, our instructors are knowledgeable in their fields and committed to supporting our students. Visit GCU’s education accreditation page to view our programs that have been awarded full accreditation by AAQEP. We strive to graduate students who are prepared to pursue professional excellence while making a positive difference in their communities. 

Master’s in Early Childhood Education FAQs

It’s natural to have some questions as you reflect upon your intended career path and degree program options. The following frequently asked questions and answers may address any concerns you may have.

A teacher’s license or certification is not a requirement to enroll in this master’s degree program. However, this MEd does not lead to initial teacher licensure, making it an appropriate program choice for students who already have their teaching license, or for professionals who are looking to fulfill state or department requirements for their particular role within education. For those looking to earn their initial teaching license, our MEd in Early Childhood Education licensure program may be a better option. This degree program teaches important skills for early childhood educators, ranging from instructional planning to classroom management to learning environment optimization.

An MEd and a Master of Arts in Teaching are similar degree programs in that they both lie within the education field. However, there are differences in curriculum, focus and career outcomes. A MAT degree tends to focus on advanced pedagogical theory and instructional methodologies. It is intended for teachers who wish to improve their impact in the classroom. In contrast, an MEd takes a broader approach, examining topics such as the education system itself and how best to lead within it. This degree is appropriate for those who wish to remain in the classroom, as well as for those who wish to step into leadership or administrative roles.5 If you’re interested in studying pedagogical theories, our Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction may be a good option.

The early years of a child’s life can significantly influence their physical, social and emotional development, due at least in part to the rapid expansion of brain cells and neural connections during this time period.1 When children are nurtured with a positive, supportive environment and the right academic guidance, they are better able to meet developmental targets and develop skills they will need throughout their lives.1 Because of the critical importance of the early childhood years, the role of an early childhood educator can have a major impact on a child’s life.

In addition to their knowledge of childhood development and instructional methods, effective early childhood educators can rely upon the following:6

  • Strong communication skills that are adaptable for different audiences
  • Creativity
  • Organizational skills
  • Patience
  • Ability to establish trust-based relationships
  • Cultural awareness

There are many teaching methods that early childhood educators can use to help children learn and thrive. Here’s a look at a few of them:7

  • Modeling: Children can often learn by studying the examples set by others. For instance, if a teacher wants a child to listen more attentively, it’s important for the teacher to model that behavior by giving the child their full attention.
  • Questioning: Teaching is often a balance between providing students with information and challenging them to develop their own reasoning skills. The questioning approach involves asking open-ended questions designed to lead children to arrive at the correct answer.
  • Demonstration: Teachers can accompany their instructions with demonstrations to help prompt children to find the answer. For example, if the teacher asks the class to name animals that are mammals, the teacher might demonstrate a correct answer by saying that a cat is an example of a mammal.

Prepare yourself to pursue a career that can make a positive difference in the lives of young children. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about GCU’s early childhood education master’s degree online or on campus in evening classes.

Total Credits: 36
Online: 6 weeks
[More Info]
Up to 12 credits or 1/3 of the total program requirements in transfer (whichever is less)
Online: $605 per credit
[Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid]

Cost of Attendance

If seeking licensure or certification, applicants to the program are responsible for contacting their state department of education for licensure requirements and program approval. In addition, fingerprint and background clearance is required.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2023, Feb. 24). Early Brain Development and Health. Retrieved May 28, 2024. 

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017, July 28). CDC Grand Rounds: Addressing Health Disparities in Early Childhood. Retrieved on Oct. 23, 2023. 

3 Excluding observational and practice-based experiences, and student teaching.

4 (n.d.). Master’s in early childhood education: salary and career facts. Retrieved Oct. 19, 2023. 

5 (n.d.). Master of Arts in Teaching vs. Master in Education. Retrieved Oct. 19, 2023. 

6 Indeed. (2023, August 16). Early childhood educator skills: definition and examples. Retrieved Oct. 19, 2023. 

7 (n.d.). The best teaching strategies for early childhood educators. Retrieved Oct. 19, 2023.

Course List

36 credits
Degree Requirements:
36 credits

Core Courses

Course Description

This course begins by acquainting teacher candidates with the GCU learning management system, while preparing them to be successful graduate-level students and future Early Childhood educators. Teacher candidates survey the philosophical, historical, and psychological foundations upon which early childhood educational theories and practices are constructed. Current early childhood educational models are explored. Teacher candidates examine the application of theories to the early childhood classroom and evaluate their contemporary usefulness in supporting children’s academic achievement, brain development, and social and emotional growth through early childhood. Practicum/field experience hours: None. Fingerprint clearance not required.

Course Description

Teacher candidates survey how young children grow and develop, recognizing that patterns of learning and development vary individually across cognitive, linguistic, physical, and social and emotional areas while understanding the importance of communicating with families on child development. This survey of the seminal concepts, principles, theories, and research related to development of young children will allow teacher candidates to build foundational knowledge for supporting individual students' development. Teacher candidates review atypical development, early intervention, and aspects of special education, including Parts C and B of IDEA, IFSPs, IEPs, and 504s. The importance of advocacy and professionalism as an early childhood educator is also examined. Practicum/field experience hours: None. Fingerprint clearance not required.

Course Description

Candidates examine the United States Constitution, and the constitution of the State of Arizona. From this foundational review, candidates will explore application of the United States Constitution and the constitution of the State of Arizona in educational contexts.

Course Description

In this course, teacher candidates will examine developmentally appropriate practice in teaching young children. Key components include pre-assessment, analysis of data, comprehensive lesson planning, instruction, post-assessment, and reflection. Assessing, monitoring, and reporting the performance and progress of young children is examined. Areas of focus in the course include aligning instruction and assessment to standards, planning support for diverse learners, and the role of technology in assessment. Practicum/field experience hours: None. Fingerprint clearance not required.

Course Description

Teacher candidates explore child growth and development, including developmental milestones that must be met with regards to physical, cognitive, language, and social and emotional development, as well as adaptability and approaches to learning for young children. This course emphasizes safety, health, and nutrition with a focus on the special healthcare needs for young children. Aspects of physical development, including fitness and movement, gross and fine motor skills, and fostering physical development within the community are discussed. Practicum/field experience hours: 25. Fingerprint clearance required.

Course Description

In this course, teacher candidates examine the fundamentals of the legal, historical, and educational foundations of Structured English Immersion (SEI) and other instructional programs for English language learners. Theoretical principles of language acquisition and the role of culture in learning are examined. Methods of assessment are identified and analyzed. Teacher candidates identify strategies to promote English language development and improve student achievement. Through Universal Design for Learning they plan, deliver, and evaluate standards-based instruction for English language learners. Practicum/field experience hours: 15. Fingerprint clearance required.

Course Description

This course explores components of typical and atypical literacy development for children Birth to Age 8/Grade 3. Coursework emphasizes research-based phonics development and the science of reading, including phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. Teacher candidates focus on assessing developmental and other literacy concerns, including dyslexia, with an emphasis on intervention, remediation, and differentiation strategies to support literacy development in young children. Practicum/field experience hours: 10. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: ECS-570 or ECE-501.

Course Description

In this course, teacher candidates examine cultural learning theories as well as the relationships and structures of family that make up the classroom and community. Emphasis is placed on identifying community, school, and familial needs maintaining open communication with families in order to enhance the learning environment. Practicum/field experience hours: None. Fingerprint clearance not required.

Course Description

Teacher candidates use the guidance approach to create environments that support individual and collaborative learning, encourage positive social interaction, facilitate active engagement in learning, and promote self-motivation. Teacher candidates develop skills related to establishing and maintaining organized, safe, inclusive, respectful, challenging, and positive early childhood environments with rules and expectations that are clearly communicated. Practicum/field experience hours: 25. Fingerprint clearance required.

Course Description

Teacher candidates study the early stages of reading disabilities, including dyslexia. Emphasis is on assessment procedures in early childhood settings and methods of early intervention and remediation. Candidates will explore the collaboration with stakeholders in the use of formal and informal assessment data to support the diagnosis and remediation process in literacy. Candidates will examine research-based strategies to support literacy development. Practicum/field experience hours: None. Fingerprint clearance not required.

Course Description

Teacher candidates examine instructional strategies that encourage young children to build reading, writing, and oral language skills in meaningful ways. Emphasis is placed on integrating social studies and the creative arts throughout language arts instruction. Candidates will also gather and analyze performance data to make instructional decisions. Candidates will explore best practices when working with children identified with exceptionalities. Practicum/field experience hours: 25. Fingerprint clearance required. Prerequisite: ECE-522.

Course Description

Teacher candidates research instructional methodologies for teaching STEM content (science, technology, engineering, and math) to young children. Emphasis is placed on inquiry-based with problem solving and interactive learning experiences. Candidates will also gather and analyze performance data to make instructional decisions to meet the needs of all students. Candidates will explore best practices when working with children identified with exceptionalities. Practicum/field experience hours: None. Fingerprint clearance not required. Prerequisite: ECE-522.


GCU Online Student

Pursue a next-generation education with an online degree from Grand Canyon University. Earn your degree with convenience and flexibility with online courses that let you study anytime, anywhere.

* Please note that this list may contain programs and courses not presently offered, as availability may vary depending on class size, enrollment and other contributing factors. If you are interested in a program or course listed herein please first contact your University Counselor for the most current information regarding availability.

* Please refer to the Academic Catalog for more information. Programs or courses subject to change.