What Careers Can I have with an Early Childhood Education Degree?

By sara / October 23, 2014


The first years of our lives are a formative period that can lay the foundation for our growth into adulthood, emotionally, physically, and intellectually. A degree in Early Childhood Education prepares you with the skills necessary to help cultivate healthy growth in children, shaping their lives and the communities that they live in for the better. For practitioners of these incredibly important tasks, it should come as no surprise that there are dozens of highly sought after and rewarding career opportunities. Much like with the potential of these young minds, the sky is truly the limit with a degree in Early Childhood Education, with diverse career opportunities ranging from education to social work.

1. Preschool Teacher

Early childhood brings on several major developmental changes in children. In these early stages, the challenges that children face are quite distinct from the challenges faced by children in kindergarten and beyond. Preschool teachers need to understand how children develop in order to plan activities in a creative environment to help cultivate a secure, safe, and nurturing environment.

An entry level position usually entails starting as an assistant teacher, or teacher’s aide, while working under the close supervision of an experienced mentor. Preschool teachers can find positions in a number of organizations, including child care centers, public and private schools, and industry care centers. Because there’s a great deal of diversity between these types of positions, what’s expected of a preschool teacher varies widely.

Of course, that also means there’s an equal degree of variance for advancement opportunities and compensation. The median salary for preschool teachers is $27,000, with the highest earners making closer to $48,000. Educational requirements vary state to state, ranging from a high school diploma and a certification to a four year degree. Most notably, employment outlook for preschool teachers projected to increase by as much as 17% over the next decade, which is much faster growth than most other occupations, making this one of the most accessible career options for someone with an education in Early Childhood Development.

2. Childcare Center Director

Those who direct childcare centers are responsible for the day-to-day operations of a daycare, preschool, or other childcare center. These experienced educators personally train and supervise the staff responsible for the care of children, set objectives and standards for their organization, and work to maintain strong relationships with parents. They also deal with many of the day to day administrative tasks of running a care center, like record keeping, career counseling, and evaluation of staff.

More importantly, childcare center directors take an active role in working with teachers to improve curriculum standards, prepare budgets, develop programs to help children succeed, and monitor the progress teachers and students alike. In essence, childcare center directors are responsible for every aspect of the center’s program, from daily education to the long term objectives of the organization.

Child care administrators have a median salary of $44,000, with the top 10% of earners making as much as $85,000 a year. Educational requirements vary from state to state, with most requiring a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, while others need a local certification in Child Development. Childcare center directors are outnumbered by their teaching counterparts, but occupy tens of thousands of positions across the nation.

3. Home-Based Service Provider

For many children, the home is a more natural environment for care and learning. Many parents are also more comfortable with their young children taking on the challenge of early education inside the home environment. Working either one-on-one or with several children at a time, home-based service providers combine the comfort of their own home, or a parent’s home, with the value of an early education.

Occasionally referred to as nannies, home-base service providers are responsible for providing a safe and educational environment for children, to plan activities appropriate for their developmental level, ensure appropriate nutrition, and to communicate with parents about the progress and growth of their children. This job is ideal for self-starting entrepreneurs who are capable of managing a small business, including taking on the responsibility of marketing their services to parents. Compared to other educational positions, home-based service providers generally face very few regulations, depending on the number of hours they care for children, and the number of children they care for.

Earning potential for this job is usually limited due to the personal nature of the position. Home-based service providers generally use this job as an opportunity to supplement their income, or to create a personal social experience for their own children. An associate’s degree in early childhood development and a child development associate credential are recommended, but not mandatory. The average salary for a home-based service provider ranges from $14,000 to $35,000, depending largely on the number of children cared for.

4. Family Support Specialist

Some families need assistance with child care placement; others need support services to pay for their children’s care. Families enduring problems with their health, an emotional crisis, a divorce, or other issues where the care of their children is jeopardy often require assistance from a support specialist. Family support specialists provide information for families by referring them to community services. This also means assessing eligibility of those services and helping families finding the right housing, transportation, and employment necessary to support their children.

Success as a family specialist requires a solid understanding of child development, child care regulations, and knowledge of local resources that are available for parents. This includes both private and public resources. These services may be provided in home or through an agency. A family service coordinator may also work at a head start program. Family support specialists may visit with families to help assess what services are needed. This also means it’s important to understand not only the individual needs of various families, but how to respect the cultural differences of diverse groups of people. Effective communication skills are necessary to help ensure that all necessary services will be provided.

A four year degree in Early Childhood Education or social work is recommended for family support specialists. The average salary for a family support specialist is $54,000, but that number can vary greatly depending on the company, location, and experience of the individual.

5. Consultant

An Early Childhood Education degree prepares you with several unique skillsets. For example, you learn the ability to promote the development of children, to cultivate age-appropriate environments for learning, and to collaborate with parents and families to fulfill the multifaceted and diverse needs of children. You also cultivate teamwork and leadership skills, communication skills, and a strong understanding of child development. These skills make you an exceptionally suitable for a position as an educational consultant.

Consultants provide organizations, both public and private, to help develop programs, regulations, and policies that are suitable to promote the child care. Consultants often travel to a host organization to determine their needs, provide the resources necessary to solve their unique problems, and guide them towards making responsible and well informed decisions about child care.

Consultants also work with those who want to provide child care on-site. Depending on the type of consultant work, you may need additional knowledge about markets, employee benefits, and human resources. A bachelor’s degree or graduate degree in Early Childhood Education is necessary for consultant work, with an annual salary ranging from $48,000 to $80,000, depending on experience.

6. Researcher

We’ve discovered a great deal about childhood development over the past few decades, but there’s still much that isn’t clearly understood. Researchers in childhood development carry out studies, evaluate services, and appraise educational practices related to the development of young children. Researchers collect data, conduct detailed analysis, and prepare grants to seek funding for more research opportunities.

Depending on your experience, you may also work directly with clients, design research methodologies, publish in scientific literature, and present your findings to the world. Researchers can work at universities, for government agencies, or for independent for-profit and non-profit organizations. The recommended level of education for a research position is a Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education. While the salary range for these positions varies widely depending on your employer, the mean salary for research in early childhood development and education is $75,000, with higher earners making closer to $90,000 annually.

7. Sales Representative

Understanding the unique capabilities of developing children makes you uniquely qualified for helping parents select appropriate educational material for their children. Sales representatives create, market, and sell merchandise used by the educators and caregivers of young children. This includes children’s literature, toys, nutritional products, art supplies, and virtually any other product aimed at developing children. Promoting products at developmental conferences, online, and in sores, sales representatives can work for both for-profit private enterprises and non-profit organizations.

A Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education is recommended for these positions. Knowledge in sales, marketing, and business are also useful for helping to connect developmental information with practical marketing skills. The annual salary for a sales representative ranges from $42,000 to $60,000 depending on experience.

8. Elementary School Teacher

Similar to preschool teachers, an elementary school teacher is responsible for cultivating a creative environment for children to learn and grow. Elementary school teachers are responsible for children in the K-5 age range, which means they’re responsible for a more advanced curriculum that includes science, mathematics, and literature. They also grade papers, manage student behavior, and help to develop projects designed to enhance student curriculum. Most elementary school teachers work a standard ten month school year, with a two month summer break. Some teachers continue to work year-round with summer programs to help struggling children succeed.

Becoming an elementary school teacher requires Bachelor’s degree, and teaching at a public school also requires a state-issued certification. The median wage for elementary school teachers is $53,000, with the top 10% of earners making $83,000 or more. Projected occupational growth for elementary school teachers is 12% over the next decade, which the US Department of Labor considers faster than average growth.