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Head Start
BA-ECE Pathway at
National University

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Home » Head Start BA-ECE Pathway at National University

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New CDA to BA-ECE pathway lets you finish faster.

Developed in partnership with the National Head Start Association, National University’s Head Start Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education Pathway prepares learners with the skills to effectively support historically underserved children, families, and communities. The program provides an affordable and inclusive opportunity for Head Start staff across the country to complete their bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a Head Start focus.


With our flexible online program, learners set their own pace and earn five stackable early childhood education certificates as they go. Each certificate focuses on a specific area of early childhood education, from foundations and advocacy to curriculum connections and leadership development. Each certificate consists of an eight-course sequence that can be completed in eight months.

Five Stackable ECE Certificates

ECE certificates leading to a BA:

1. Undergraduate Certificate: Early Childhood Foundations (36 Quarter Units)

Course Name

Overview of major and theoretical frameworks and perspectives. Focus on gender and cultural impact on biological, physical, cognitive, social, moral, emotional and behavioral aspects of development for effective educational practices.

Focus on the influence of family, school and community on development and education of the young child. Special emphasis on the role of nutrition, positive home and school environments and community resources.

Focus on cultural pluralism and its impact on development and education in regards to teaching and learning strategies. Emphasis on self-examination, reflection, and integration of current processes involved in interactions and relationships in society.

Focus on the eight components for coordinated health for young children in out-of-home care. Health, physical education, health and nutrition services, health promotion for the staff, counseling and psychological services, a safe healthy environment, and family involvement, and community resources and personnel will be addressed. Attention will be directed towards children with special needs and challenging behaviors as well as legal and ethical issues in the field of early childhood.

Prerequisite: ECE 201; ECE 210; HED 220; and ECE 211

Inquiry into the nature and tasks of early cognition including social, cultural and biological foundations. Attention paid to current research implications for learning theory, individual differences and classroom instruction.

Focus on local, state and federal statutes and regulations in early education settings. Emphasis on ethical codes of conduct, including analysis of legal and ethical dilemmas and practice.

Understand the impact of crisis, trauma and abuse on young children’s development. Examine research-based classroom strategies to support and mitigate the impact on young children. Focus on building resilience through collaborative partnerships, community resources and advocacy.

An introduction to the principals and application behind effective interpersonal communication. Students will study various styles of interpersonal communication, apply different techniques, and evaluate their effectiveness. Important components of interpersonal communication that include listening, conflict management, and developing and maintaining relationships, will be addressed in the personal and professional setting.

2. Undergraduate Certificate: Early Childhood Social Advocacy (36 Quarter Units)

Course Name

An introductory course on the written academic discourse patterns required for college-level writing. Emphasizing essay-length compositions, the course covers critical reading, thesis formation, essay organization, and basic revision techniques.

Prerequisite: ECE 330

Focus on acquisition and developmental aspects of language related to emergent literacy skills. Emphasis on current research regarding language experiences that contributes to literacy acquisitions, including assessment and instruction.

Prerequisite: ENG 102

Critical introduction to basic sociology concepts. Examination of major theoretical perspectives and research methods. Topics include: economic stratification, race, gender, family, deviance, complex organizations.

A survey of literature for young children in preschool through first grade. Emphasis on effective read aloud and story telling strategies for the developing language and listening skills, for developing concepts of print and vocabulary and for fostering a love of reading and early literacy skills.

Introduction to Spanish and to the culture of its speakers. Facilitation of the application of the language in both oral and written modes. Activities include chat live discussions, links to cultural sites, and exposure to daily life situations through assignments corresponding to each unit.

Prerequisite: SPN 100

Sequel to beginning Spanish I. Further application of the language in both oral and written modes. Activities include chat live discussions, links to cultural sites, and exposure to daily life situations through assignments corresponding to each unit.

Examine the short- and long-term impact of poverty and subsequent needs required to support young children and their families. Emphasis on the role, resources and responsibilities of Early Childhood Programs to best support young children in the classroom and community.

Understand the purpose, structure, and importance of Head Start through its historical support of children, families, and research. Examines the impact of Head Start over time, to include current challenges and opportunities. Examine the impact of Head Start sponsorship and participation in Early Childhood Education research on the practice of all Early Childhood Programs and outcomes.

3. Early Childhood Education Certificate in Curriculum Connections (36 Quarter Units)

Course Name

Prerequisite: ECE 330

Focus is on infants and toddlers in group care settings. Emphasis is on close, caring relationships in the cultural context of the child and family, understanding developmental milestones, the identification of special needs, and current issues of health, safety and nutrition.

Prerequisite: ECE 330

Focus on essential elements of curriculum design including writing of goals, learning outcomes, developmentally appropriate activities, assessment measures and integration of the arts. Alignment with national and state standards stressed.

A survey of the field of psychology that provides an overview of the scientific principles and theories in psychology. Topics include: biological psychology, abnormal behavior, motivation, emotion, sexuality and gender, and personality theory.

Prerequisite: ENG 102

An advanced course in writing that emphasizes discipline-specific research strategies, formulating research niches, and framing persuasive arguments in the disciplines.

Prerequisite: ECE 330

Focus on play as the primary learning modality for young children. Theoretical basis for play as a means of teaching, role in learning and as a means of assessment emphasized.

Prerequisite: ECE 330

Focus on acquiring and enhancing skills in the selection, administration, scoring, interpretation, reporting of screening assessment instruments. Emphasis on designing and implementing curricula based on assessment results.

Prerequisite: ECE 330

Focus on acquiring knowledge through current research and developmental theories to plan responsive environments that strengthen family-school partnerships. Will explore through case studies optimum communication techniques for building and maintaining positive relationships with family members.

Prerequisite: ENG 102

A cross-disciplinary course that teaches effective report and research paper writing through the use of key computer technologies. Topics include library and Internet research; information organization, evaluation, and synthesis; MLA and APA style formats; and the use of document-production, image-editing, and presentation software.

4. Undergraduate Certificate: Early Childhood Education STEAM Integration (37.5 Quarter Units)

Course Name

Prerequisite: ECE 330

Focus on identification, design and delivery of developmentally age appropriate experiences that encourage active math, science and technology inquiry. Inquiry related to emerging notions of mathematical and scientific processes is basis for activities along with the inclusion of technology as a strategy.

Prerequisite: MTH 12A and MTH 12B

A study of the real number system and its subsystems, ancient and modern numeration systems, problem-solving and simple number theory. Includes teaching materials and discussion of today’s professional organizations. This is a content course, not a methods course.

Introduction to the scientific method and the basic principles of the life sciences. Examination of cellular, organismal, population, and community biology based on the unifying concept of evolution. This course may not be taken for credit if BIO161 and/or BIO162, or their equivalents, have been completed.

Prerequisite: BIO 100 for non-science majors (GE), or BIO 163 for science majors

Study of the unifying principles of life with emphasis placed on the following topics: molecular biology of the cell and cellular processes, including energy metabolism, membrane transport and cell division; classical and population genetics; as well as the mechanism of evolution and the evolutionary basis of species classification. Emphasis on the scientific method as applied in laboratory sciences, using demonstrations, experiments, and/or field trips. May include inquiry-based research activities.

Designed to assist individuals to establish health behaviors for optimal physical, emotional, and sexual health and maintain a healthy environment.

Focus on enriching and enhancing young children’s learning through the creative arts. Emphasis on integrating creative experiences within core subjects to create developmentally appropriate experiences.

Prerequisite: ENG 102

An exploration of musical traditions and techniques in a variety of cultures, including Japan, India, Native America, South America, and Africa. Broadens students’ cultural understanding of music.

An introduction to theater as a dramatic medium, focusing on performance and production skills in a variety of genres and contexts.

Fundamentals of visual arts presented through drawing and other media. Students develop their own creative vision while learning aesthetic values and concepts, as well as how to handle materials. Students supply basic art materials.

5. Undergraduate Certificate: Fostering Early Childhood Education Leaders (36 Quarter Units)

Course Name

Prerequisite: ECE 330

Focus on observation, identification, description, and assessment of challenging behaviors. Designing and implementing effective teaching and learning strategies to successfully guide these behaviors within a social and cultural context.

Prerequisite: ENG 102

Familiarizes students with the foundational theories of human development, current research directions in developmental psychology, major developmental perspectives and research approaches in developmental psychology and issues surrounding diversity, emphasizing an ecosystemic model of thinking about and understanding children and their development. In addition to the previous topics, the following areas will be discussed: the history of childhood; developmental theories and appropriate practices in education; play as a medium for learning and development; and the field of discipline particularly as it relates to development, behaviors and considering temperament in children.

Prerequisite: ENG 102

Examines race, gender, ethnicity and class in 20th century American society. Introduces students to methods for studying the changing nature of our society and explores ways in which our increasingly urbanized and technological culture affects all aspects of professional and unskilled work. May involve work in oral history.

Prerequisite: ECE 330

Exploration of variations in child development and identification of specific disabilities in young children. Inclusive early childhood programs, specific strategies for adaptation and accommodation of the core curriculum to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of children who are at-risk or have special needs are examined.

Focus on administration of early childhood programs. Emphasis on working with boards, staff, parents and volunteers. Highlights include hiring, assessing, and supervising staff and volunteers. Attention to designing staff and volunteer professional development programs.

Emphasis on theories, principles and practical methods of leadership and supervision applicable to early childhood settings. Demonstrations of instructional, operational and organizational leadership. Focus on components of human resources related to staff recruitment, development and evaluation.

Guidelines on planning, designing and organizing physical learning environments for young children. Understanding, comparing, integrating theoretical frameworks on indoor and outdoor environments.

Prerequisite: Satisfactory completion of all core courses with an average grade of “C” (2.0) or better in the core.

Participation in a collaborative field/academic experience to reflect and actively practice material covered in core classes. Field experience must be in approved setting and arranged by student. Grading is S or U only.

Get a Head Start with Credits!

Students who have been awarded the CDA Credential will be eligible for credit for the following courses:

  • ECE 201
  • ECE 210
  • HED 220

National University offers scholarships for Head Start staff. Those who have completed NHSA’s CDA Training Pathway are eligible to receive a scholarship that makes tuition pricing $880* per course ($7,040* per certificate). If a student qualifies for a 100% Pell Grant, each certificate is $0 out of pocket.

Now enrolling: National University is currently accepting students in every state except for Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.**

**National University is pursuing expanded program availability to include additional states

* These costs are current as of January 2023 and are subject to change without notice.

A Word from NHSA

Yasmina Vinci Speaking

“This is about helping high-potential community leaders–those who wake up every day excited to make a real difference in the lives of the children and families they serve–to have viable, long-term, rewarding careers in Head Start.”

Yasmina Vinci, Executive Director


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