Online Undergraduate Degrees

Early Childhood Professional Education

College of Education





The Early Childhood Professional Education (ECEP) Program is designed to make higher education more accessible and to address the shortage of early childhood teachers and educators in the state. This 2.5-year degree program meets all requirements of the Illinois Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity Act (ECACE).* Find more information on the ECACE scholarship below.

*pending program approval

Admission Requirements

  • Current or previous experience in the field of early childhood education.
  • An AA, AS, AAS, or AT degree in Early Childhood Education from an approved community college program.
  • The Gateways Level 4 Credential.

Designed for the Working Adult

The Early Childhood Professional Education Program is uniquely designed to offer coursework online, in the evening, and in 8-week and 16-week format to meet the needs of working professionals. Field and clinical experiences will be arranged to meet the geographic and logistical constraints of program participants.

This program offers two professional tracks:

  • Licensure Track - ECE bachelor's degree and Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Professional Educator Licensure 0-2nd Grade and Gateways Level 5 Credential.
  • Non-Licensure Track - ECE bachelor's degree and Gateways Level 5 Credential.

Who should apply

Current and prospective early childhood professionals who meet all of the following qualifications:

  • Are or were a member of the incumbent workforce currently working or having worked in the early childhood field, including family child care and center-based care settings, Preschool for All school-based settings, and Head Start, that serves children from birth to age 5 and includes teachers, assistant teachers, directors, family child care providers, and assistants.
  • Have completed an AA, AS, AAS, or AT degree in ECE from an approved community college program with 2.0 grade point average or higher.
  • Have the Gateways Level 4 Credential and current membership in the Gateways to Opportunity®Registry.
  • Are seeking a bachelor's degree in ECE and additional state credentials including:
    • Illinois State Board of Education Professional Educator Licensure for birth through second grade.
    • The Gateways to Opportunity Level 5 Credential
  • Are committed to continuing or returning to teaching or direct services in the early childhood care and education field in Illinois after they complete their program of study.

How to Apply

  • Create a myIllini account.
  • Click on 'Submit a Petition' (Applications for Spring 2023 will open in September.)
  • In the explanation for the petition, write "Applying for Early Childhood Professional Education".

Illinois ECACE Scholarship Program

This program meets the eligibility requirements for the Illinois Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity Scholarship. For more information, go to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) website.