Early Childhood Education, Master of Education

Department of Teaching and Learning

College of Education

We designed this program for practicing teachers who wish to develop skills to better work with preschool and primary-level children.

This program is nationally recognized by the National Association for the Education for Young Children (NAEYC).

  • Available Emphasis Areas:
  • Early Childhood Teacher - Emphasis
  • Early Childhood Leadership - Emphasis
  • Early Childhood Multiage - Emphasis
  • Early Childhood National Board Preparation - Emphasis

  • To receive a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses from one or more subject areas, consisting of at least 30 units of graduate-level courses. Many master’s degree programs require more than 30 units.

    You must additionally complete:

    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s). This may include a thesis.
    • All graduate work with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.
    • All work toward the master's degree must be completed within six consecutive years. The six years begins with the semester and year of admission to the program.

    Read the full policy here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Candidates in this program are required to demonstrate content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and skills, professional knowledge, and professional dispositions to be eligible to enter student teaching or internship placements.

Content, pedagogical, and professional knowledge or skills, professional dispositions are demonstrated through candidate performance on key assessments embedded in the following course(s):

These courses must be taken and may not be substituted using transfer credit or other courses.

Minimum Units for Completion 30
Additional Admission Requirements

Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

Emphasis Required

An emphasis is required for this degree.

Fieldwork Experience/Internship Optional
Progression Plan Link View Program of Study

Purpose Statement

The MEd Early Childhood Education degree program provides students with the necessary framework for an advanced career in working with pre-school and primary-level children. This degree offers students, typically practicing teachers of young children, the opportunity to enhance their content, pedagogical, and professional knowledge and skills. Students have the opportunity to pursue advanced courses in curriculum and instruction, educational foundations, and educational research. Additionally, students choose from four available emphasis areas: Early Childhood Continuing Professional, Early Childhood Leadership, Early Childhood National Board Certification Teacher (NBCT) Preparation, and Multiage Education. Students who pursue Early Childhood Continuing Professional track enhance their teaching knowledge and skills with courses such as Parental Involvement in Education, and Early Childhood Curriculum. Students who choose the Early Childhood Leadership take courses which are geared to augment leadership traits through educational psychology, curriculum and instruction, special education, and educational leadership. Students who choose the NBCT Emphasis prepare for the rigorous process of National Board Certification, an advanced teaching credential. Students who choose the Multiage Education emphasis will be prepared to teach and lead in Multiage classrooms, and will become familiar with the contexts, theories, research, assessments, and strategies used in Multiage programs.

Throughout the program, students demonstrate outcomes aligned to the standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) which: promote child development and learning, build family and community relationships, use a variety of assessment strategies to support young children and families, use developmentally effective teaching and learning approaches, use content knowledge to build meaningful curriculum, and identify and conduct themselves as members of the early childhood profession.  

Students who complete this program will have a deeper and broader understanding of the teaching and learning of pre-school and primary-level children, preparing them to excel in any teaching context involving young children in addition to other venues and agencies which promote the importance of the foundational nature of early childhood education .

Student Learning Outcomes

In addition to the NAEYC SPA accreditation standards, which are integral as we move into accreditation procedures for this degree, this program also incorporates the opportunity to enroll in coursework for National Board Certification:

What Is National Board Certification?

All students deserve accomplished teachers who are equipped to prepare them for success in today's world. National Board Standards and National Board Certification give teachers and schools the tools to define and measure teaching excellence. Similar to certification in fields like medicine, National Board Certification is a rigorous, peer-reviewed process that ensures that Board-certified teachers have proven skills to advance student achievement.

National Board Certification is an advanced teaching credential. As part of this process, teachers must analyze their teaching context and students’ needs, submit videos of their teaching, and provide student work samples that demonstrate growth and achievement. The reflective analyses that they submit must demonstrate:

  • A strong command of content;
  • The ability to design appropriate learning experiences that advance student learning;
  • The use of assessments to inform instructional decision making; and
  • Partnerships with colleagues, parents and the community.

Through this structured and iterative process, teachers expand and refine their content knowledge and pedagogy. The outcome is more powerful teaching that improves student achievement and reflects college and career readiness (NBPTS, 2014)
NAEYC SPA Standards
NAEYC-ADV – Standard 1: Candidates prepared in early childhood degree programs are grounded in a child development knowledge base. They use their understanding of young children's characteristics and needs, and of multiple interacting influences on children's development and learning, to create environments that are healthy, respectful, supportive, and challenging for each child.
NAEYC-ADV – Standard 2: Candidates prepared in early childhood degree programs understand that successful early childhood education depends upon partnerships with children’s families and communities. They know about, understand, and value the importance and complex characteristics of children’s families and communities. They use this understanding to create respectful, reciprocal relationships that support and empower families, and to involve all families in their children’s development and learning.
NAEYC-ADV – Standard 3: Candidates prepared in early childhood degree programs understand that child observation, documentation, and other forms of assessment are central to the practice of all early childhood professionals. They know about and understand the goals, benefits, and uses of assessment. They know about and use systematic observations, documentation, and other effective assessment strategies in a responsible way, in partnership with families and other professionals, to positively influence the development of every child.
NAEYC-ADV – Standard 4: Candidates prepared in early childhood degree programs understand that teaching and learning with young children is a complex enterprise, and its details vary depending on children’s ages, characteristics, and the settings within which teaching and learning occur. They understand and use positive relationships and supportive interactions as the foundation for their work with young children and families. Candidates know, understand, and use a wide array of developmentally appropriate approaches, instructional strategies, and tools to connect with children and families and positively influence each child’s development and learning.
NAEYC-ADV – Standard 5: Candidates prepared in early childhood degree programs use their knowledge of academic disciplines to design, implement, and evaluate experiences that promote positive development and learning for each and every young child. Candidates understand the importance of developmental domains and academic (or content) disciplines in early childhood curriculum. They know the essential concepts, inquiry tools, and structure of content areas, including academic subjects, and can identify resources to deepen their understanding. Candidates use their own knowledge and other resources to design, implement, and evaluate meaningful, challenging curriculum that promotes comprehensive developmental and learning outcomes for every young child.
NAEYC-ADV – Standard 6: Candidates prepared in early childhood degree programs identify and conduct themselves as members of the early childhood profession. They know and use ethical guidelines and other professional standards related to early childhood practice. They are continuous, collaborative learners who demonstrate knowledgeable, reflective and critical perspectives on their work, making informed decisions that integrate knowledge from a variety of sources. They are informed advocates for sound educational practices and policies.
NAEYC-ADV – Standard 7: Field experiences and clinical practice are planned and sequenced so that candidates develop the knowledge, skills and professional dispositions necessary to promote the development and learning of young children across the entire developmental period of early childhood – in at least two of the three early childhood age groups (birth – age 3, 3 through 5, 5 through 8 years) and in the variety of settings that offer early education (early school grades, child care centers and homes, Head Start programs).

In addition to the NAEYC standards, and core coursework student learning outcomes, the Multiage Emphasis includes the following student learning outcomes:

  • Candidates will be able to articulate the rationale for Multiage Education, and communicate its benefits to parents, administrators, other teachers, and community stakeholders.
  • Candidates will have an in-depth understanding of the historical origins, current national and international contexts, and issues facing Multiage Education including the impact of standards-based instruction, curriculum-centered environments, and the lack of awareness of Multiage programs.
  • Candidates will understand the benefits of cross-age learning in Multiage settings, and will be able to design and implement strategies that foster social interaction and learning through a variety of developmentally appropriate experiences.
  • Candidates will be able to design environments that foster play, inquiry, integrated curriculum, whole-child practices, and child-centered strategies.
  • Candidates will be able to use a variety of authentic assessments to inform instructional practices, and to aid students’ progress along their developmental continuum.

Graduate Admission Information
  • The NAU graduate online application is required for all programs. Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.

    Admission requirements include the following:

    • Transcripts.
    • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ("A" = 4.0), or the equivalent.

    Visit the NAU Graduate Admissions website for additional information about graduate school application deadlines, eligibility for study, and admissions policies.

    Ready to apply? Begin your application now.

    International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy.

Additional Admission Requirements
  • Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

    • IVP Fingerprint Clearance Card
    • Teaching certificate (if the applicant has one)
Master's Requirements
  • This Master’s degree requires 30 - 31 units distributed as follows:

    • Core Requirements: 12 - 15 units
    • Select an Emphasis: 16 - 18 units
      • Early Childhood Teacher Emphasis
      • Early Childhood Leadership Emphasis
      • Early Childhood Multiage Emphasis
      • Early Childhood National Board Preparation Emphasis

    Take the following 30 - 31 units:

    Core requirements (12-15 units)

    Emphasis Requirements (Select One):
    • Early Childhood National Board Preparation Emphasis (16 units)
      To be eligible for National Board Certification you must:
      • Have completed three full years of teaching or school counseling
      • Possess a valid state teaching or school counseling license (Exception: If you are teaching where a license is not required, you have taught in schools recognized and approved to operate by the state).
      • Contact the Teaching and Learning Department prior to applying. TandL@nau.edu
      • For more information about the National Board Process please contact info@azk12.org.
      • Please note there may be additional fees associated with National Board Certification.
  • At least fifty percent of the courses in your program must be at the 600-level or above. In addition, you must be admitted to this degree program before taking your last 12 units of graduate work.

    In addition, you must be admitted to the degree program before taking your last 12 units of graduate work.

  • Students enrolled in this plan may not enroll in or pursue the following due to the number of overlapping units:

Additional Information
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.