Early Childhood Education - Learn More

Early Childhood Education

Associate of Applied Science

Credits Required for Graduation: 69.00

Learn More About This Program

Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education is a two-year associate degree program. Currently our program classes are only offered on the La Crosse campus. Our program classes are primarily face to face and during the typical school day. A few courses are taught in a blended format with some content online. There is an established sequence of courses. Our program classes are not offered in the summer. You will meet with a program advisor to outline your classes.

What do students have to say about the program?

"The best thing about this program is the caring instructors." – Nelly, Black River Falls
"I enjoyed working with young children and watching them learn, grow and develop new skill." – Drew, Camp Douglas
"This program helped me be confident in my teaching." – Natalie, Kenosha
"This was a great foundation for my education at Viterbo." – Lyndsey, La Crosse
"I really got to know my classmates." – Choua, La Crosse

Hands on Experience

The YWCA Child Center is an excellent childcare center located on Western's La Crosse campus. It serves as a lab center for the Early Childhood Education program. The YWCA Child Center staff work collaboratively with students to enhance their educational experience. Students spend time observing toddlers and preschoolers to gain a more complete understanding of how children develop. Students plan and implement learning activities such as reading and singing during group times. Art, math, and science activities are carried out during interest centers. Students enjoy this hands-on interaction with children.

Each semester, students also take part in Practicum placements in the field. During the 2-year program, you will spend over 350 hours at work-related sites. We strive to provide experiences in a variety of settings and with multiple age groups. These experiences may require you to travel, at your own expense, in a 30 mile radius of La Crosse. You must also follow a professional dress code at these sites.

Program Chair:

Tracy Craker

Please contact Tracy if you would like to set up a time to come in and shadow a class or two.

Web Related Links:


ABC Club - All 'Bout Children - Advisor - Tracy Craker and Sharon Engh

  • Students looking for extracurricular involvement may join the club for a small fee. Through the club, students have the opportunity to participate in child related experiences while socializing with their classmates. Taking a leadership role also fosters professional and team-building skills. Membership in an early childhood organization also looks great on your resume.

Professional Organizations

  • NAEYC - National Association for the Education of Young Children
  • WECA - Wisconsin Early Childhood Association
  • GRAEYC - Great Rivers Association for the Education of Young Children

Frequently Asked Questions

What are my career choices after I graduate from this program?

  • Child care teacher
  • Owner/Administrator/Director of a child care center
  • Assistant teacher in child care, 4-year-old kindergarten, early childhood special education, or kindergarten/elementary education
  • Nanny
  • In-home/family child care
  • Head Start teacher or assistant

Does this program transfer to other colleges?

The ECE curriculum through the Wisconsin Technical Colleges System (WTCS) is state-wide. This means that a student in an ECE program at any WTCS college has complete transferability into another WTCS ECE program. This is great news if you would be moving to another part of the state!

Being a state-wide curriculum, the ECE program has transfer agreements with several universities and colleges in Wisconsin and surrounding states. Click on Transfer Agreement to view your options.

Will I be able to work in a school system?

Although you need a bachelor's degree to be a teacher in a school system, you can work as a teacher assistant with your associate degree. For some students who will choose to continue their education, starting in our program is a good option for those who wish to teach in the school setting.

Credit for Prior Learning/Work Experience

Learners with extensive credit, credentials, training and/or experience in the area of early childhood education may be eligible to earn credit for prior learning/work experience that would apply toward Western's Early Childhood Education associate degree program. This comprehensive document will walk you through the process of preparing for credit for prior learning/work experience. In many cases this process will include a portfolio which you will submit for review by the Western Early Childhood Education (WECE) team; the process could also include a challenge exam. Please read through the entire document before beginning work.

Handbook for Credit for Prior Learning/Work Experience.

What is the minimum requirement I need to work in a child care center?

There are 2 courses that are required to work in a licensed child care center:

  • Introduction to the Child Care Professional - a 40 hour non-credit course is the minimum requirement to be a teacher assistant in a child care center.
  • Skills and Strategies for the Child Care Teacher - an additional 40 hour non-credit course (along with the first 40 hour course) is the minimum requirement to be a teacher in a child care center.
  • Fundamentals of Infant & Toddler Care - an 18 hour course which includes the required training in SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and SBS (Shaken Baby Syndrome)

* NOTE: Since these are non-credit courses, they are not a part of the associate degree program.

What courses should I take if I am currently working in childcare and am trying to fulfill state licensing requirements?

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) has created a YoungStar rating system to improve the quality of child care for Wisconsin children.  For the best information, please visit the Young Star website at http://dcf.wi.gov/youngstar

For State licensing rules, visit http://dcf.wi.gov/childcare/licensed/Index.htm

Is this program right for you?

Only you can decide this, but here are some things that may help.

In Early Childhood Education, these items will be a part of your daily routine:

  • Working cooperatively with other adults
  • Making things and being creative with scissors, paper, glue, paint, and play dough
  • Reading, singing, drawing, and expressing yourself in front of others
  • Dealing with runny noses, illnesses, diapers, toilet learning, and minor injuries
  • Working with diverse needs and backgrounds

If you have not had experience in a child care setting, it may be beneficial for you to complete a job shadow before you decide on this career.