Early childhood education teachers typically work with children from infancy till the age of eight. Children represent our society’s future, and there is a critical need for educators who are equipped to give students a strong start in education and in life. An early childhood education degree prepares you to work with young children in a classroom setting, facilitating their social and intellectual development.
Early Childhood Education Program Types
Early childhood education programs are offered at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level. Associate’s degree programs, which take around two years to complete, qualify graduates for preschool teaching positions at most private childcare centers. At public schools, preschool teachers are required to have at least a four-year bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, which often qualifies graduates to teach kindergarten through the third grade.
At the graduate level, master’s degree programs generally take two years to complete, whereas doctoral programs can take from three to five years and typically culminate in a research dissertation. Appropriate for those who wish to work in leadership, research, public policy or advocacy, a master’s degree can enhances the professional development of early childhood educators beyond initial certification and allows them to pursue advanced study in the field. Graduates of doctoral programs typically go into academia as teacher educators or researchers.
Curriculum of Early Childhood Education Schools
Early childhood education colleges give students mastery of an integrated elementary curriculum while providing them with a deep understanding of children’s growth and development. The coursework focuses on supporting the healthy growth, development, learning, and well being of young children. Courses that you might take include the following:
- Child development
- Foundations of learning and teaching math
- Curriculum development
- Children’s literacy
- Observations & assessments of young children
- Language development
- Special needs during early childhood
- Child safety, nutrition, & health
- Learning through play
Most programs require students to complete an internship so that they can gain field experience under the supervision of a certified early childhood educator and test their skills and knowledge in a real-world setting. Many schools offer degrees in early childhood education almost entirely online, enabling students to work while pursuing their degree.
Some states and employers require preschool teachers to acquire a certification, such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate from the Council for Professional Recognition, after earning their degree. Graduates who elect to teach from kindergarten through the third grade at a public school are required to pass state licensure exams.
Early Childhood Education Job Opportunities
Career opportunities for early childhood educators include preschool teacher, infant care provider, curriculum specialist, family assistance administrator, and elementary school teacher. Many national efforts, such as the Head Start program, are requiring early childhood educators to have at least a bachelor’s degree. By 2013, at least 50% of preschool teachers in the Head Start program will be required to have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field.
Rising enrollments and the growing focus on the value of early childhood education suggest that job prospects will be excellent in the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of preschool teachers is expected to increase by 25% from 2010 to 2020, faster than average for all occupations, while positions for kindergarten and elementary school teachers are projected to grow about as fast as average. In 2012, the median annual salary for teachers at the early childhood education level were as follows:
Early childhood education is critical to a child’s intellectual and social development. If you enjoy working with young children and have patience, good communication skills, and strong instructional skills, you are likely to thrive as an early childhood educator. Make a difference in the lives of young children and their families. Start working towards your early childhood education degree now.
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