Early Childhood Education Requirements
Some believe early childhood education is one of the most important career fields in education because the basis of a child’s education is formed at these young ages. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, early childhood education is anything before 8-years-old. The educational requirements of this field of study are similar to other forms of teaching degrees. Many colleges and universities offer degrees in early childhood education or child development. Such a degree will qualify a person to teach up to the third grade. If neither degree track is available, a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor or emphasis in child development would also be a possibility. Following a bachelor’s degree, advanced degree opportunities such as a master’s in education or a master’s in early childhood education will help students increase their abilities even further. If you are starting your education career at a community college, many institutions have an associate of arts in early childhood education available. This serves as a good starting point on the road to earning a bachelor’s degree.
It is important to note that not all early childhood programs or Montessori schools require a bachelor’s degree. While this is not the norm, there are some facilities that do not require such education. As with any career field, having a post-secondary degree or education will make you more marketable to potential employers.
Even though you have a degree, you are not done meeting the educational requirements necessary for a job in early childhood education. Most states have additional requirements to receive accreditation or certification. Be sure to check into your state’s individual requirements to get this teaching certificate. In addition, to teach at a Montessori School, you will need to complete requirements for the Montessori Teacher Education Program.
What a Job in Early Childhood Education Looks Like
No matter what area you choose to enter within the early childhood education career field, there are a few basic attributes that educators need to have. Because of the young age of children, early childhood educators must possess a great deal of patience. They must be able to communicate with children in a way they will understand, be sensitive to their needs and have some creativity, finding ways to help them learn to the best of their abilities.
As for possible careers, there are a variety of paths you can take in early childhood education. The first area that many think of is in a preschool or Montessori school setting. Children can be as young as 2-years-old in a preschool. The goal is to prepare them for kindergarten in social, behavioral and academic skills. A Montessori School is based on a child-centered approach. Developed by educator Maria Montessori, Montessori schools tend to have classrooms with multiple ages of children, allow for student choice and have Montessori-trained teachers. This type of education also centers on creativity and the independence of a child. Teacher-student ratios in both types of programs are usually small to encourage greater teacher, student interactions and both tend to be private schools. There are, however, some public school districts that offer preschool or early education programs such as Head Start. Most of the times, these are only open to certain groups of people such as low-income families.
While a day care is different from a preschool, many day care facilities look for individuals with early childhood education backgrounds. Even in a day care, child care workers help children learn the basics of letters, numbers and reading. A benefit to this type of work is that both full and part-time options are available, and it is a good option for someone considering a career in early childhood education.
Another common area for early childhood educators is kindergarten. Kindergarten is the start of a child’s formal educational career, whether in a public, private or parochial school setting. Kindergarten is an important year because it helps to teach children the basics of English, mathematics, social studies and science. These experiences will form the basis for their entire educational career. In addition to academics, teachers will work with students on social interactions with their peers, learning how to read and learning proper etiquette both in and outside of the classroom.
For those who do not want to work as a teacher, positions in early childhood education can be found at community centers, hospitals, religious organizations, summer camps, group homes, non-profit organizations, youth services, health and wellness agencies and even manufacturing companies, among others.
Earning Outlook and Average Earnings
Like many education careers, those in early childhood education will probably never be rich. The median salary for preschool teachers is around $27,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Directors of preschool and childcare centers have an average salary of $43,950. Salaries will vary depending on location, field, years of experience and educational background (those with master’s degrees, for instance, will earn more than those with only a bachelor’s degree). As you move up within the early childhood field, your salary will increase. In addition, if you choose to get advanced degrees or take additional college hours, you will likely move up on the salary schedule, especially if you work for a public school district. Positions such as director, lead teacher or department head will garner higher salaries as well.
Best Places to Live to Get a Good Job in Early Childhood Education
With concerns over teacher cuts and state’s not properly funding education, many have concerns over finding positions in early childhood education. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the early childhood education field continues to grow. More people are coming to realize the benefits of early childhood education, leading to increased enrollments in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs. Increased enrollments mean a greater need for teachers. In addition, many programs are moving toward smaller student to teacher ratios. Smaller class sizes mean more classes and therefore, more teachers. The field is expected to grow by 25 percent in the coming years, but job growth will vary depending on what part of the country you live. The increase is not only being seen in schools. Since most families have two parents working outside the home, there is a greater need in childcare facilities for qualified individuals.
What to Consider When Going Into Early Childhood Education
Like any potential career, it is important to take a hard look at yourself and your own qualities before deciding if early childhood education is a right career path. Early Childhood fields are great options for people who like being around children. Because this is a field where much of your day is spending time and teaching children, liking children is a crucial pre-requisite. Communication is something else to consider. Children think and learn in ways far different than an older child, teenager or adult. You need to be able to relay information in a way that can easily be understood by children and have enough patience to repeat yourself if necessary. The ability to think outside the box is helpful because every child learns in a different way. You need to have passion for teaching and helping children reach their highest potential and not be afraid of trying new things to help a child understand a concept. Education is also not a career field that ends when you walk out of school at the end of the day. Oftentimes, teachers work in their spare time, preparing lesson plans, grading or developing projects for the classroom.
Different Specializations in Early Childhood Education
Depending on the college or university, there could be any number of specializations within an early childhood education degree program. These specializations could include early intervention, special education, preschool, primary grades, child and family services and early education and care. Sometimes additional requirements or certifications will be needed, such as with special education. Positions in special education, including early childhood education, are sometimes more in demand and tend to have higher salaries, but they are more specialized. Early intervention is a good route for those who plan to work with Head Start programs or in other at-risk areas. A path such as child services is geared to those who do not plan to work in a school setting, but in social service agencies.