Improve your ability to work with children in diverse environments and learn to create positive learning experiences for all children. The competency-based MS in Early Childhood Studies program offers two specializations to fit your career goals. Choose the Administration, Management, and Leadership specialization or the Teaching and Learning specialization.

Administration, Management, and Leadership Specialization

Gain the skills to start or manage a child care center or child development program. Learn to plan and manage budgets, as well as to recruit, evaluate, and motivate qualified staff. Ensure child safety through regulatory compliance and explore ways to market your program in your community.

Teaching and Learning Specialization

Prepare to teach and create positive learning experiences at the preschool level. Study teaching and learning theories and types of play. Learn about curriculum, assessment, and instruction to plan and implement units, lessons, and assessments. This specialization can help prepare you to meet the diverse needs of families and children, including children with special needs and English language learners.

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Johnna DarraghFaculty Subject Matter Expert

Johnna Darragh, Ph.D., has been teaching adult learners and working in public policy for over 20 years. She is a member of the Steering Committee of Illinois Professional Development Advisory Council and on the board for the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies and the Illinois Early Learning Council. Her publications include two books “Introduction to Early Childhood Education:  Equity and Inclusion,” published by Pearson, and “The Welcoming Classroom:  Building Strong Home-to-School Connections for Early Learning”  published by Gryphon House.

Linda Ruhe MarshFaculty Subject Matter Expert

Linda Ruhe Marsh has worked in the field of early childhood education for more than 20 years, nine years as the executive director of a large NFP program. She has also worked as an educational consultant, a classroom teacher, a parent educator, a speech therapist, and an inclusion facilitator. She holds a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology, a master’s degree in early childhood education, and a doctorate in educational leadership. Linda’s goal with learners is to ignite a passion for the field of early childhood education and help each learner maximize their full potential.

Lisset Bird-PickensFaculty Subject Matter Expert

Lisset Pickens, EdD, holds experience in online learning and has taught at the University level since 2006. She has taught elementary students and adult learners. Her academic background is in Early Childhood Education, Educational Leadership, Psychology and Child and Family Development. She is also a Licensed Professional Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and Nationally Certified School Counselor. She also holds certifications in Teaching Pre-K through 12th grades, School Counseling K through 12th grades and Educational Leadership in K through 12th grades.

Martha CheneyProgram Director

Martha Cheney is the program director for the MS in Early Childhood Studies and the BS in Child Development programs in the Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University. She has taught in grades P-5. She serves as a program reviewer for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and as a site visitor for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

Patricia HampshireFaculty Subject Matter Expert

Patricia Hampshire, PhD, is a contributing faculty at Walden University. She received her doctorate from Indiana University in Special Education with an emphasis in early childhood. Dr. Hampshire’s experience includes teaching in early childhood special education, working as an autism consultant for the district, working clinically as a behavior therapist and teaching and researching in higher education. Dr. Hampshire enjoys teaching and pursuing her line of research in the area of designing and testing interventions for children with autism.

Demonstrate What You Know and Can Do

In competency-based learning, you make progress by demonstrating your knowledge and skills through assessments. Walden University's assessments are designed by expert faculty and guided by employers in your field of study. So every time you successfully complete an assessment, you are more prepared for success in your career.

Assessments take many forms including projects, case studies, presentations, papers, and traditional tests. Many are designed to be shown to your current or future employer as proof of the competencies that you bring to the work place.  In the M.S. in Early Childhood Studies program you'll learn to demonstrate competencies such as:

  • Explain how culture and language influence children’s behavior and development.
  • Use best practices to engage families and communities in early childhood programs.
  • Plan developmentally appropriate curriculum in alignment with professional standards.
  • Create grant proposals to secure funding for an early childhood program.
  • Create balanced budgets for early childhood programs.

Through passing rigorous real world assessments you'll graduate with the confidence that you are prepared for success in your career.


—An official transcript of a bachelor's degree, or higher, from a U.S. school accredited by a regional, professional/specialized, or national accrediting organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education, or from an appropriately accredited non-U.S. institution.

—A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale in bachelor's degree coursework or a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in master's degree coursework.

—Completed application form.

—The Office of Admissions reserves the right to request the names and contact information for two persons, professional or academic, qualified to comment knowledgeably on the applicant's skills and qualifications.

—Official transcript(s) of confirmed bachelor's degree, as well as any additional completed coursework to be considered for transfer of credit.

—Access to a computer and the Internet.




The field of early childhood development education is predicted to expand through the next decade as the federal government increases funding for many key early childhood programs.*

Through Walden’s early childhood master’s non-licensure degree program, you can gain the knowledge, abilities, and leadership skills to prepare you for existing and emerging roles both in and out of the classroom. This early childhood master’s will deepen your understanding of child development and learning, expand your knowledge of effective programs and services and your ability to link issues of equity and inclusion to the impact on student learning and development. You will critically examine trends, apply research to relevant problems, and make informed decisions that will impact and improve your practice and ability to work with children in diverse learning environments.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010–2011 Edition, on the Internet at (visited April 7, 2010).

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