Early Childhood Education

Is a degree in Early Childhood Education right for you?

If you think you would most enjoy working with children under the age of eight, a career in early childhood education may be the right choice for you. Early childhood educators should be compassionate and receptive to young children, enjoy teaching, think creatively, and be patient and capable of using a variety of teaching methods. The early childhood years are commonly considered the most crucial stage of the learner. During this early period, children undergo their most rapid growth and development, and their brains develop faster than at any other point in their lives. Their foundations for social skills, self esteem, perceptions of the world, moral outlook, and cognitive development are all established during these few years. Getting an early childhood education degree is very honorable, not to mention hard work. 

Getting your degree in Early Childhood Education

The Early Childhood Education degree provides teachers and teacher-candidates with the knowledge to use various educational curricula and strategies for young children. A student who earns a degree in early childhood education is given the chance for employment in a profession that significantly shapes and influences the lives of children. The degree teaches students how to be capable of teaching skills using a variety of instructional methods such as teaching through play and creative activities. The degree also prepares students on different strategies that include developing students' vocabulary and experience with areas such as colors, shapes, and numbers to get them ready for the adolescent years. Programs often focus on child development, teaching strategies for young children, and how to observe and document children's learning and developmental progress.

There are several benefits that come along with earning an early childhood education degree. Recently, there have been a number of scientific studies that prove the importance of early childhood education. With that being said, there are many positions that are being created in order to do more research on early childhood, as well. With an increase in job opportunities, there is more job security in this line of field. Also, there is a lot of room for growth and promotion. You may start off as an assistant teacher and work your way up to become a child development counselor. If you are truly passionate about early childhood education, having a degree will allow you to grow and develop skills that will help you become a better educator and caregiver. Another promising advantage that you may get from this degree is gaining more trust from your students' parents. Even if a degree is not required in your workplace, being able to tell parents about your educational background can make them ease their reservations about leaving their young ones with you. The biggest perk is that you will succeed in building encouraging relationships with children, supporting them, making them feel valued and creating a firm foundation for their future learning experiences.

Is a degree required?

Degrees in early childhood education are not always required when working at a child care facility; however, can be very beneficial. A child's needs in the early stages are different than those of older schoolchildren, and young children see the greatest growth and development both mentally and physically. They also are at a critical stage of development intellectually, personally and socially. If these primary capabilities are not established well from the start, a child's education potential could be harmfully affected. With that being said, early childhood education courses help teachers find methods to help their students be the most successful. Teachers are able to better understand the childhood development process, and therefore, are able to focus on the areas that will help children reach their full educational potential.

Preschool teachers are generally required to have at least a high school diploma and a certification in early childhood education. However, because early childhood education is a specialized field, many schools prefer to hire workers with at least some post secondary education and others do require their teachers to hold at minimum an associate's or bachelor's degree in early childhood education or child development. At least 50 percent of preschool teachers in Head Start programs nationwide must have a bachelor's degree, and most Montessori schools require their teachers to have a bachelor's degree as well. Early childhood educators who teach in public schools are also generally required to hold a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a related field.

Where do early childhood educators work and what is their average income?

People who earn degrees in early childhood education have the ability to work in child care centers, elementary schools and Montessori schools, and normally teach pre-K through the fifth grade level. Most early childhood educators work in formal childcare centers that have preschool classrooms. A smaller percentage work for charitable or religious organizations that have preschool programs or Head Start programs. Head Start programs receive federal funding for disadvantaged children between the ages of 3 and 5.

The average salary for a Preschool teacher in May 2010 was $25,700, while childcare workers made $19,300, and kindergarten and elementary teachers made $51,380. Preschool/childcare center directors made an average of $42,960 in 2010.

Advancement in Early Childhood Education

Early childhood educators can work their way up from assistant teacher to teacher to lead teacher (who may be responsible for teaching several classes) to director of the school or center. Preschool and childcare center director positions usually require candidates to hold a bachelor's degree and have 1-5 years of experience in the field. Elementary schools usually require bachelor's degrees as well and teaching positions at the higher early childhood grade levels typically pay more.

The demand for Early Childhood Education in recent years has risen as states and studies have increasingly recognized the importance of early childhood programs; enrollment in pre-K has risen from 96,000 to over 1 million in the last 30 years according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates a 25 percent growth in need for Preschool teachers within the next ten years.