Online EdD Programs in Early Childhood Education and Administration

Updated: January 3, 2024

Early childhood encompasses the most important years of learning and development in a human’s life. Typically spanning from birth to age eight, this is when children form many of the social, emotional, and cognitive patterns that will stick with them through adolescence and adulthood, as well as learn essential skills such as speaking, reading, and writing. In order to provide a safe and productive learning environment for students during these formative years, preschools, kindergartens, elementary schools, and related institutions need strong leaders who understand both the theories and principles of early childhood education, and how to effectively manage a large organization.

There are currently three schools that offer online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) programs with a specialization in Early Childhood Education and Administration. Earning an online EdD in Early Childhood Education can help education professionals prepare to take on top leadership roles in pre-K and primary school settings. These programs focus on advanced topics in a wide range of areas, including child development, educational policy, organizational management, and related laws. Graduates might pursue positions in preschool or elementary school administration, oversee educational or training programs in the field, or even teach early childhood administration at the collegiate level.

This page only includes online EdD programs with a specific specialization in early childhood education. Students interested in the field may also want to check out our Online EdD in K-12 Education Leadership page for a more comprehensive list of related programs.

Curriculum for Online EdD Programs in Early Childhood Education

There are a number of options to choose from when it comes to pursuing an EdD in Early Childhood Administration online, and specific courses and requirements will vary by program. Some schools offer dedicated doctoral programs in the field, while others offer early childhood administration as a specialization option within a more general educational or organizational leadership EdD program. In either case, students should be sure to closely examine course offerings and curriculum requirements before applying, in order to find a program that best suits their academic and professional goals.

In most cases, an EdD in Early Childhood Education will require the completion of 40 to 70 credit hours, and anywhere from three to five years of study. The curriculum in these programs typically consists of a combination of core coursework, concentration courses, electives, and dissertation research.

Core courses tend to cover theories and skills fundamental to early childhood education and administration, as well as advanced qualitative or quantitative research methods. While exact course titles vary by program, here are several examples of potential topics students might encounter in their core courses:

  • Child Development: This course explores the major biological and psychological changes children undergo from infancy to adolescence, as well as the impact various outside factors, such as family, school, and society, have on this development.
  • Theoretical Foundations of Leadership: In this course, students examine classic and modern thought regarding leadership, such as the Great Man Theory, Trait Theory, Behavioral Theories, Transactional Leadership, and Transformational Leadership.
  • Legal Issues in Early Childhood Education: A look at the laws and ethics behind running a pre-K or primary school, from abuse and safety concerns to lawful hiring practices, and issues unique to early child care, such as proper supervision and nutrition.
  • Models of Assessment: How to analyze the effectiveness of lesson plans and instruction methods in order to improve learning outcomes, with a close examination of the three major types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative.

Once students have completed this foundational coursework, they generally begin exploring more specific topics in the field of early childhood administration and education. These concentration courses will vary according to each program’s particular focus; however, here are a few examples of areas students might study:

  • Trends in Early Childhood Education: Students examine current and emerging trends in pre-K and primary education, from shifting demographic patterns and the rising integration of technology, to increasing concerns regarding physical fitness and childhood obesity.
  • Curriculum Models: In this course, students analyze different approaches to early childhood instruction, looking at widely used models such as the Dodge creative curriculum, the Bank Street developmental-interaction approach, the High/Scope curriculum, and the Montessori method.
  • Family and Community Relationships: How to actively involve parents in their children’s education and best communicate any issues that arise, as well as ways to engage the surrounding community and utilize resources it has to offer.
  • Organizational Management: This course explores both the concepts behind and strategies for successful management of an organization, including how to allocate budget and resources, best support staff, maintain a positive environment, and effect change on an institutional level.

Online EdD programs typically round out their curriculum by allowing students to choose one or more elective courses that align with their interests or intended career path. Depending on the school and program, students may have the choice to select from a group of electives offered by the same department as their EdD, or explore courses from an outside department, pending faculty approval. While there is a wide range of topics these electives might cover, here are two areas that might interest students pursuing an EdD in Early Childhood Administration:

  • Language, Literacy, and Reading Instruction: In this course, students examine the different stages of literacy development, as well as how to encourage early reading and writing skills through engaging classroom activities.
  • Educational Policy and Reform: A study of the government policies that dictate how public schools can operate, and the debate over systemic rules regarding issues such as class size, curriculum standards, and teacher selection and pay.

In addition to the coursework outlined above, most EdD programs require students to complete a dissertation in order to graduate. Working under the guidance of a faculty advisor, students perform extensive research on an issue that interests them in early childhood education or administration. They then submit their original data and findings on the topic as a lengthy document, which typically must be presented and defended in front of a dissertation committee. Students work on this project throughout their studies, often taking one or more courses dedicated specifically to dissertation development. Most programs also grant credit hours for the independent study involved in completing a dissertation.

To learn more about the dissertation process, check out our resource page on Doctor of Education Dissertations and Doctoral Capstone Projects. For additional information about online EdD programs and their requirements, see our Structure of EdD Programs and Admission Requirements for EdD Programs pages.

Career Paths for Graduates of EdD Programs in Early Childhood Education

There are a variety of careers one might pursue with an EdD in Early Childhood Education. Many of these positions involve overseeing public or private schools or education programs that cater to students at the preschool, kindergarten, or elementary levels. Depending on the particular role, additional certification or licensure may be required. For example, most states require principals to hold a certain credential or license. This process varies by state, and in most cases, does not specifically require a doctoral degree. Those interested in pursuing licensure post-graduation should examine their state’s requirements carefully in order to determine if an EdD program will meet the qualifications for licensure.

To help students learn more about potential career paths in the field of early childhood education and administration, below are several positions graduates might consider:

  • Preschool or Childcare Director: These administrators oversee day-to-day operations at preschools, nursery schools, or childcare centers, which typically serve students under five years old. Along with supervising staff and lesson plans, they handle a wide range of responsibilities, from financial matters and facilities upkeep to corresponding with parents or managing discipline issues.
  • Elementary School Principal: Whether they work in a public school or private institution, elementary school principals manage overall operations, staff, and activities in primary education settings (kindergarten through 5th grade). Their duties often include setting class schedules, developing curricula, observing and evaluating teachers, and organizing professional development programs, all while managing school budget, resources, and security.
  • Professor: Graduates of these EdD programs might also go on to teach early childhood education or administration at the collegiate level. Along with lecturing, overseeing courses, and mentoring students, college and university professors are typically scholars in the field, who perform original research and publish their findings in articles, journals, books, or other academic outlets.
  • Program Manager: There are many other options for graduates as well, both in managing or educating young students, and training other early childhood professionals. For example, they might run an after-school program or summer camp for primary students, supervise professional development programs for teachers in the field, or even oversee early childhood instructional programming for an entire school district.

Online Ed.D. Programs in Early Childhood Education

The following schools are sorted by state for easy reference; however, most online EdD programs accept students from other states as well. For out-of-state programs, students should confirm with an admissions advisor that the program accepts students from their state of residence before applying.



National University

(La Jolla)
Accreditation: WSCUC


Accreditation: SACSCOC


Concordia University - Chicago

(River Forest)
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission, CAEP
Department: College of Graduate Studies