Early Childhood Education Degree Programs in Tennessee

There are more than ten colleges and universities within Tennessee that offer early childhood education degrees. Read an overview of the ten largest schools' programs, requirements and tuition info and find out which school is the right one for you.

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Early Childhood Degree Options in Tennessee

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the minimum requirements for obtaining a position as a preschool teacher in a childcare center include a high school diploma and completion of a certification program in early childhood education. An associate's degree is required to work in a Head Start program, and in addition to a license, preschool teachers in public school districts usually have a bachelor's degree.

In Tennessee, the state requirements for childcare administrators (assistant directors, directors and multi-site coordinators) can include two years of college and up to two years of relevant experience. To obtain an initial teaching license, students who have graduated from an approved teacher preparation program in Tennessee must pass the Praxis Series Exams and submit a recommendation from their college's Dean of Education and Certification Office.

All of the schools profiled below are on the Tennessee Department of Education's list of approved teacher education programs. Except for Tusculum College, their initial teacher preparation (ITP) and advanced preparation (ADV) programs are also accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University is located in Johnson City, and the Department of Teaching and Learning (Clemmer College of Education) offers an undergraduate degree and a minor, as well as a graduate program in early childhood education. Currently, the early childhood faculty is composed of 11 professors and instructors.

Both of the undergraduate programs in early childhood education (licensure and non-licensure) require at least 120 credits to complete and include courses in general education, child development, literacy and program design. Students who pursue the preK-3 licensing program also take courses in math and developmental psychology and complete 12 credits of student teaching.

The Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education (birth to age eight) programs include a preK-3 licensure track for students who hold a degree in another major, as well as concentrations in master teaching or thesis-based research. In addition to fulfilling the requirements for the master's degree, students in the doctoral program complete 69 credits of coursework that include an apprenticeship and 30 credit hours of research.

Freed-Hardeman University

A private college affiliated with the Church of Christ, Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson is the smallest school on the list. The division has been training teachers since 1870, and faculty members include professionals with prior classroom experience.

The Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education is offered as a second major for students seeking a preK-3 license and requires 150 credits to complete. In addition to fulfilling the general education core and requirements for the major, students take courses in classroom management and technology, instructional strategies and reading. The 38 credits of professional coursework also include 12 credits of student teaching in preK-3 classrooms.

Lee University

Cleveland's Lee University is a private liberal arts school affiliated with the city's Church of God. Through the Helen DeVos College of Education, students can pursue specialized programs in early childhood, elementary and special education, and unique features include the Lee University Developmental Inclusion Classroom program.

The undergraduate program in human development and early childhood education is designed to help students obtain their preK-3 license and requires a total of 130-134 credit hours. In addition to the general education and professional requirements, students complete a 15-credit religion core and take specialty courses in anthropology, children's literature, language and sociology.

Middle Tennessee State University

This Murfreesboro state university is the largest school on the list and includes the College of Education. Special college features include the Home and Community-Based Early Intervention Program that provides therapeutic services for children ages birth to three with developmental or delayed disabilities.

The 125-credit Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education (PreK-3 Licensure) curriculum emphasizes the familial context of child development and includes specialized courses in art and physical education, music and nutrition. To fulfill the degree requirements, future teachers also participate in infant, toddler and preschool practicums and complete two residencies.

At the graduate level, students can pursue a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in early childhood education. This 33-credit program is expressly designed for students who are seeking licensure and includes core courses in educational research, ethno-cultural diversity and reflective learning.

Tennessee State University

Tennessee State University is located in Nashville, and through the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences, students can earn a Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences with concentrations in child development and family relations or early childhood education (preK-3 licensure). Along with a department head, the division is comprised of approximately 16 associate and assistant professors.

In addition to courses in curriculum planning and child guidance, the 120-credit concentration in child development and family relations includes an infant clinic and an internship. Undergraduates enrolled in the 124-credit specialization in early childhood education receive additional instruction in adolescent and middle childhood development and complete observation and student teaching assignments in preK-3 and K-3 classrooms.

Tennessee Technological University

At this technological university in Cookeville, education is one of the most popular majors, and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction is one of six in the College of Education. The department offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in early childhood education, and the current faculty consists of an associate and an assistant professor.

The undergraduate program in child and family studies requires 120 credits to complete and leads to the Tennessee Apprentice License (PreK-3). The course of study differs from the aforementioned programs in that undergraduates participate in a practicum for children with special needs and learn about developmentally appropriate practices for students in grade 4.

The Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction program is a research-based course of study that includes a specialization in early childhood education. A concentration in early childhood education is also available through the doctoral program, and the additional 30 credits of coursework cover topics in educational philosophy, educational psychology and public policy.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

The University of Tennessee in Chattanooga includes a School of Education (College of Health, Education and Professional Studies), and the division offers two undergraduate programs in child and family studies and early childhood education (120 credit hours). In addition to a director, students have access to over 40 professors and staff members.

Students who pursue the program in child and family studies complete an early childhood practicum and take courses in family law and relationships, management and sociology. In addition to art, family and liberal studies, the early childhood curriculum includes a student teaching assignment and education courses associated with the language arts, science and social studies. Unique to this program are electives in autism spectrum disorders, multiple disabilities and programming for exceptional students and adults.

Trevecca Nazarene University

This private Christian school is also based in Nashville, and the School of Education is one of five in the university. In addition to a dean, the 24-member staff includes over ten professors, four librarians and a number of support specialists.

The 70-credit Associate of Science in Child Care and Supervision is a non-licensure program that includes relevant coursework and practicums in early childhood language arts, math, science and social studies. Similar education courses can be found in the 4-year educational studies curriculum, a non-licensure program that offers a minor in early childhood studies.

The Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education (PreK-3 Licensure) requires 125 credits to complete and includes a course in public school health and an urban teaching practicum. Students who already hold a bachelor's degree in another major can obtain a preK-3 licensure through the 12-credit post-baccalaureate program, and the school also offers a 5-year cohort that includes a 1-year residency in a city public school and leads to a Master of Arts in Education and a recommendation for certification.

Tusculum College

The first college in Tennessee was established in Greeneville in 1794, and this Presbyterian liberal arts school is also the 28th oldest in the United States. At the present, the college's early childhood education program faculty is composed of ten professors.

Undergraduates who meet the acceptance requirements for the 144-credit early childhood education program study curriculum design, special education and the relationship between childhood education and the arts. They also complete a 15-week student teaching assignment and take professional courses in classroom management, gifted education, language arts and reading.

In addition to the major, the college offers a 39-credit human growth and learning minor (preK-3 or preK-4).

Vanderbilt University

According to U.S. News & World Report, the graduate school at the Peabody College of Education and Human Development in Nashville ranked number one in the country for 2014, a distinction the school has enjoyed for the previous five years. The Department of Teaching and Learning is comprised of approximately 40 instructors, lecturers and professors, and undergraduate program features include the option to study abroad.

The Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education (PreK-3 Licensure) program is a fieldwork-based course of study that gets students into the classroom as soon as the first year. A second major in child studies is required, and students should be aware in advance that the standard 120-credit program might require additional coursework.

The 31-credit Master of Education program includes a 12-credit teaching and learning strand for students who want to pursue advanced instructional strategies for children in grades preK-6.

School Comparison Table

School Name School Type & Setting Early Childhood Education Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013)
East Tennessee State University4-year, public; small city Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Development (preK-3 licensure and non-licensure),
Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education,
Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education
$6,715 in-state; $21,355 out-of-state*
Freed-Hardeman University 4-year, private not-for-profit; distant town Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education (PreK-3 Licensure) $20,468*
Lee University 4-year, private not-for-profit; small city Bachelor of Science in Human Development/Early Childhood (PreK-3 Licensure) $13,370*
Middle Tennessee State University 4-year, public; midsize city Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education in Curriculum and Instruction (PreK-3 Licensure),
Master of Education
$7,210 in-state; $21,826 out-of-state*
Tennessee State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences $6,426 in-state; $18,954 out-of-state*
Tennessee Technological University 4-year, public; remote town Bachelor of Science in Child and Family Studies, Early Childhood/Special Education (PreK-3 Licensure),
Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction,
Specialist in Education (Ed.S.) in Curriculum and Instruction
$6,692 in-state; $20,852 out-of-state*
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga 4-year, public; midsize city Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood (Child and Family Studies),
Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood (Early Childhood Education)
$7,212 in-state; $21,558 out-of-state*
Trevecca Nazarene University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Associate of Science in Child Care and Supervision,
Bachelor of Science in Studies in Education,
Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education (PreK-3 Licensure),
Post-Baccalaureate Licensing Program (Early Childhood Education, PreK-3)
$21,290*
Tusculum College 4-year, private not-for-profit; distant town Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education (PreK-3 Licensure)$21,620*
Vanderbilt University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education (PreK-3 Licensure),
Master of Education in Learning and Instruction
$42,118*

Sources: *NCES College Navigator

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