Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education brochure (PDF)
Early Childhood Education course catalog

HDFS course catalog


Teach young children and their families!

Are you looking for a program that will prepare you to teach young children and their families? Our Early Childhood Education-Unified program leads to a state of Iowa license that will allow you to teach children from birth through third grade, in both general and special education. This ECE-Unified program prepares you to help all children reach their potential, regardless of their abilities.

In the ISU program:

  • You will be part of the Human Development and Family Services (HD FS) Learning Community your freshman year.
  • You will have an academic adviser to provide resources and support to help you meet teaching license requirements.
  • You will have over 100 hours of hands-on practicum experience in our five-star rated Child Development Laboratory School.
  • Your ECE classes are taught by nationally recognized faculty and instructors.
  • 96% of our ECE students are finding teaching jobs after graduation.

Program information

Did you know that children’s early experiences affect their whole lives? Teachers are key people who give children positive experiences to help them grow and develop to their best. Our program will prepare motivated and dedicated people to become early childhood teachers who will be certified to teach young children from birth through grade 3, including certification in special education. Graduates of the program are well prepared to help all students (even those who are at-risk for learning problems, have disabilities, or who are English learners).

Learning in courses AND applied settings

The Early Childhood Education (ECE) program combines learning in courses and applied settings to obtain all the skills you need to teach children birth to age 3, preschool (ages 3-5) and kindergarten to grade 3. When you join our program you will:

  • Learn to use teaching strategies and curricula that will nurture each child’s progress and make learning feel like play.
  • Learn how to assess each child’s needs in all areas of development and how to use this information to support children’s learning.
  • Learn about and practice effective guidance strategies to deal with a variety of challenging behaviors.
  • Work with families, educators, and other professionals to write plans and coordinate interventions to ensure that each child reaches his or her full potential.
  • Learn about teaching strategies in class lectures, but also get a lot of opportunities to try techniques with children.
  • Get the practical experience that will prepare you to be a confident teacher when you graduate.
  • Learn techniques to help young children learn about math and science, in addition to early literacy and social studies. Iowa State University has an emphasis on student learning in math and science fields, so you will

Best combination of ISU faculty expertise

The ECE program is unique because it is an interdepartmental major – meaning it is administered across two departments in the College of Human Sciences: Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) and School of Education (SOE). This allows students to work with faculty who have expertise in the ages, grades, and curricula that will better prepare graduates to work with children and their families, as well as with other professionals.

Teaching endorsements

A degree in ECE enables students to get two teaching endorsements to teach in public schools in the state of Iowa:

  • Teacher - Pre-kindergarten to grade 3, including special education (called Endorsement 100)
  • PK-K Early Childhood Special Education (called Endorsement 262)

In addition, students are eligible to get additional teaching endorsements (many students obtain endorsements for reading K-8 and coaching). For more information about teacher education at Iowa State University, go to the School of Education.

ISU Child Development Laboratory School

The program includes an exemplary child care center housed here on campus, the ISU Child Development Laboratory School.

You will be involved in a clinical experience with the Lab School starting in your first semester to learn about pre-primary education, observing from specially designed observation rooms. Later, in other classes, you will be interacting with the children during learning and play activities. You will be supervised and given lots of feedback and support to improve your interactions with young children and teaching staff.

To learn about primary education, you will participate in practicum experiences related to specific content methods courses in area school classrooms from kindergarten through third grade. These experiences will be supervised and will include observation, opportunities to teach large and small group lessons, and teaching one-on-one with a specific child. To ensure everyone’s safety, all students complete an Iowa criminal background check before participating in any clinical experience.

At ISU, you will be prepared to help all children reach their utmost potential, regardless of their abilities. You will receive more practical experience in classrooms than students at many other universities. You will also participate in more classes and experiences that will prepare you to work with children who have special needs.

Curriculum requirements

REQUIRED: Completion of three or more years of High School Foreign Language in one language or one year of university level Foreign Language in same language or American Sign Language.

Early Childhood Education curriculum requirements 2014-15 (PDF)

Early Childhood Education approved options 2014-15 (PDF)

ISU Catalog

4-year plans

Current and past course syllabi

For current and recent syllabus examples go to the Class Websites page and choose Human Development and Family Studies or Curriculum and Instruction.

Scholarships and financial aid

The Human Development and Family Studies scholarship page includes an online application form and list of scholarships. The online form is available from November through February each year.

Early Childhood Education scholarships

The School of Education site also has information on teacher education scholarships and loan forgiveness programs.

Career possibilities

What types of jobs can I get with an Early Childhood Education degree?

Most students who major in ECE will become teachers in schools – either at the preschool or primary (kindergarten - grade 3) levels. Graduates can immediately apply for a State of Iowa teaching license. Some graduates are interested in working in early intervention programs (birth to age 3), with Area Education Agencies in Iowa. Other graduates are interested in working as teachers in other settings or other types of programs.

Possible career options for ECE graduates:

  • Licensed teacher in preschool (including universal pre-kindergarten programs, early childhood special education, or Head Start programs)
  • Licensed teacher in kindergarten - grade 3
  • Licensed early interventionist
  • Early care and education teacher for infants to 5-year-olds
  • Home visitor in Early Head Start
  • Early interventionist in early access programs (birth to age 3, special education)
  • Early ACCESS service coordinator
  • Special education teacher
  • Child care center director

Is it easy to get a job after graduating?

There are many new opportunities for jobs – even in difficult times. Most of our graduates get jobs in public schools.

The state of Iowa has started many new pre-kindergarten programs offered in collaboration between public schools and community organizations for children who are four to five years of age; as a result, many schools are hiring new teachers for these positions. Graduates from ISU with an ECE degree are very well prepared to fill these positions, and principals often remark that they like hiring ISU ECE teachers because they are well prepared to individualize for children at various learning levels.

In addition, PK-K Early Childhood Special Education is an area identified as having a shortage of teachers. Teachers in shortage areas may be eligible for college student forgivable loans through both state and federal programs. (More information at: Iowa Student Loan and Iowa Department of Education.)

How much money can I make with this degree?

Graduates with ECE degrees who work in public schools earn the same salaries as other teachers. In 2009-10, the minimum starting salary for teachers in the state of Iowa was $28,000 (some school districts pay more than this amount).

View Early Childhood Education student internship experiences at Career Connections.

Why ISU?

Why should I attend ISU to get my ECE degree, rather than some other college or university?

Iowa State University has a number of advantages for students, including:

  • Students get more hands-on experience with children than most education programs (over 100 hours of practicum experience before entering student teaching).
  • Students receive ongoing support and feedback from licensed and highly experienced classroom teachers and professional supervisors during class practica and during student teaching.
  • Faculty have expertise in a number of areas. Students can learn about teaching from faculty who are experienced in the specific areas in which they teach and conduct research.
  • Graduates can teach across a wide age/grade span: birth to grade 3 (age 8) and in general and special education. This means that graduates often have more job options.
  • Students receive training on teaching math and science. Children must have strong math and science skills to be successful.

To do now: ways to prepare for this program

Volunteer or work with children and families, for example, at childcare centers, respite care services, community service agencies, and church/religious programs.

Community college transfer (articulation)

Get involved

HDFS Learning Community

Kappa Omicron Nu

Human Development and Family Studies Club

Education Club

Alpha Upsilon Alpha literacy education honorary

Kappa Delta Pi education honorary

The Educational Computing Club (TECC)

ISU Leaders in Education and Diversity (ILEAD)

ISU chapters of professional organizations:

  • National Science Teachers Association
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • Iowa State Education Association
  • Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children

Licensure information

Licensure information is available on the School of Education website.

Related majors

Students can major in other related areas, such as:

Child, Adult and Family Services

Elementary Education

Secondary Education




Students gain practical experiences in a number of classes. School age experiences take place in area elementary schools; early childhood experiences that are part of Human Development and Family Studies classes take place in the five-star rated ISU Child Development Laboratory School.

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  • Did You Know?

    Principals often remark that they like hiring ISU ECE teachers because they are well prepared to individualize for children at various learning levels. The ISU ECE program offers more hands on experience with children than most education programs (over 100 hours of experience before entering student teaching). Students receive ongoing support and feedback from licensed, highly experienced classroom teachers and professional supervisors during practica and student teaching.

  • One Student One Voice

    Kevin Foster, Early Childhood Education, developed a passion for improving children's lives through interactive instruction. His journey to becoming an educator of the very young was filled with life-changing experiences and eye-opening practicums that helped him discover his true passion. Video »

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