An early childhood education degree prepares you to educate and cater to the needs of young children during their formative years, typically from birth to around eight years old. This period is pivotal for a child’s overall development as they experience significant physical, cognitive, emotional, and social growth.
Early childhood education (ECE) can occur in various settings such as preschools, nursery schools, daycare centers, and even at home. It’s the responsibility of trained teachers and caregivers to devise engaging activities tailored to each child’s needs and interests.
That’s where you step in. With an early education degree, you have many different career paths, including teaching, counseling (with an additional license), administration, and more. You can even pursue specialist roles that enable you to provide families and schools with the necessary tools to support early childhood developmental needs.
The primary goal of early childhood education is to promote and support a child’s learning and development in a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment. Early experiences are critical in shaping a child’s future outcomes, including academic success, social skills, and emotional well-being.
Research has consistently shown that high-quality early childhood education can positively affect a child’s academic performance and overall well-being, among many other benefits:
- Encourages creativity and imagination in kids.
- Provides opportunities for kids to discover their passions and skills, boosting their individuality and self-confidence.
- Aids in developing their thinking skills, such as problem-solving and critical thinking.
- Instills in them values like respect, empathy, and teamwork.
- Sets the groundwork for lifelong learning.
- Contributes to their physical development and health.
You can find fulfilling careers working with young children and their families in various educational and support settings with an early childhood education degree. Some of the common job roles include:
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
Early childhood and elementary school teachers work with young learners during their crucial formative years, providing them with the foundational skills and knowledge they need to succeed academically and socially.
Working with children, typically aged 5 to 6, involves preparing them for formal schooling and creating a warm, supportive environment where young children can explore and learn through play-based activities.
The educational journey continues with children in the early years of primary education, typically from ages 6 to 9. They build upon the foundational skills introduced in early childhood and further develop students’ reading, writing, math, science, and social studies abilities.
Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
Average salary: $61,350
Preschool teachers are skilled educators who work with children aged 3 to 5, providing them with care and nurture during early learning experiences.
They design and implement developmentally appropriate lesson plans and activities that foster children’s cognitive, language, motor, and social-emotional skills. Through play-based learning, they promote creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
While working as a preschool teacher, you can also pursue the Child Development Associate (CDA) certification, awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition. It says you have the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities to care for children under five.
To obtain this certification, you should meet several requirements. These include formal education, work experience, and a passing score on a computer-based exam that consists of 65 multiple-choice questions.
The CDA certification can be obtained in four different work settings:
- Center-based Preschool: This setting typically involves at least eight children aged between 3 to 5 years old.
- Center-based Infant & Toddler: This setting involves children younger than 3 years old.
- Family Child Care: In this setting, candidates interact with at least two children under 5 in a home environment.
- Home Visitor: This setting involves visiting homes and may require a slightly different application process.
Entry-level education: Associate’s degree
Average salary: $47,815
Special Education Teachers (Preschool)
Special education teachers are skilled educators who provide individualized support and tailored instruction to young children with special needs or developmental delays.
They play a critical role in ensuring that all children, regardless of their abilities, have access to a nurturing and inclusive learning environment.
And create inclusive classrooms where every child’s unique learning needs are addressed. They develop individualized education plans (IEPs) that outline specific goals and strategies to support each child’s development and progress.
Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
Average salary: $61,820
Early Childhood Instructional Specialists
As a skilled educator, you will provide individualized support and tailored instruction to young children with special needs or developmental delays. You have a critical role in ensuring that all children, regardless of their abilities, have access to a nurturing and inclusive learning environment.
You will create inclusive classrooms where every child’s unique learning needs are addressed and develop individualized education plans (IEPs) that outline specific goals and strategies to support each child’s development and progress. Your work will be instrumental in fostering an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all children.
Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
Average salary: $51,198
Related: Check out more career opportunities in non-teaching roles with a degree in early childhood education.
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors
As a preschool director, you will be responsible for overseeing the daily operations and overall management of child daycare services. You will play a crucial role in providing young children a safe and nurturing environment while ensuring that the daycare operates efficiently and effectively. Your work will be vital in shaping the early experiences of children in your care.
Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
Average salary: $92,400
A degree in early childhood education focuses on the theory, practice, and skills necessary for effectively educating and supporting the development of young learners during their crucial early years.
Some programs focus on specific age groups (e.g., infants/toddlers, preschoolers) or offer specialization options in areas like special education or bilingual education to cater to different career interests in early childhood education.
Associate of Arts (AA) in Early Childhood Education
These two-year programs provide foundational knowledge in child development, curriculum planning, and teaching techniques for young children. While a high school diploma may be sufficient for entry-level positions, an AA degree can qualify you for roles with more responsibility.
NOTE: You need a degree to start a daycare center (home or other).
- Introduction to Early Childhood Education: An overview of the history, theories, and philosophies of early childhood education, as well as an introduction to the role of educators in the field.
- Child Development: An exploration of the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of children from infancy through early childhood.
- Health, Safety, and Nutrition for Young Children: Focus on maintaining a safe and healthy environment and promoting proper nutrition.
- Observation and Assessment in Early Childhood: Learning how to observe and assess children’s development to inform educational practices and support individual needs.
- Curriculum Development for Young Children: Understanding how to design developmentally appropriate and engaging curricula for young learners.
- Language and Literacy Development: Examining language development and strategies for promoting early literacy skills.
- Math and Science for Young Children: Exploring age-appropriate math and science activities to enhance children’s understanding of these subjects.
- Social and Emotional Development in Early Childhood: Understanding the importance of social and emotional development and ways to support children’s social skills.
- Diversity and Inclusion in Early Childhood Education: Emphasizing the importance of creating inclusive environments and promoting diversity awareness.
- Family and Community Partnerships: Examining the role of families and communities in early childhood education and strategies for building strong partnerships.
- Early Childhood Education Practicum/Internship: Providing practical experience working in an early childhood education setting under the guidance of experienced educators.
Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Early Childhood Education
A BA in early childhood education is a four-year program that helps you explore child development, educational theories, curriculum design, and classroom management. With a bachelor’s degree, you can pursue teaching positions in public and private schools and administrative roles in early childhood settings.
- Educational Psychology: Understanding how children learn and the psychological factors influencing their development.
- Inclusive Education: Creating inclusive classrooms to meet the needs of all learners.
- Technology in Early Childhood Education: Integrating technology for educational purposes.
- Classroom Management and Behavior Support: Strategies for maintaining a positive classroom environment and managing behavior.
- Special Education and Inclusion: Addressing the needs of children with special needs in inclusive settings.
- Early Childhood Literacy and Storytelling: Emphasizing the importance of storytelling and literacy in early childhood.
- Practicum/Internship: Hands-on experience under supervision in an early childhood education setting.
Master of Arts (MA) in Early Childhood Education
An MA allows you to specialize in a particular area of ECE and often prepares you for leadership roles, research, or working with children with special needs. It typically takes one to two years to complete after obtaining a bachelor’s degree.
- Policy and Advocacy in Early Childhood Education: Understanding and influencing policies related to early childhood education.
- Technology Integration in Early Childhood Education: Utilizing technology to enhance learning experiences.
- Advanced Language and Literacy Development: Fostering advanced language skills and literacy in young learners.
- Advanced Social and Emotional Learning: Specialized strategies for supporting children’s social and emotional development.
- Global Perspectives in Early Childhood Education: Exploring international practices and perspectives.
- Capstone Project or Thesis: A culminating research or practical project demonstrating expertise in ECE.
Master of Education (M.Ed.) with a focus on Early Childhood Education
Similar to the master’s degrees mentioned above, but with a broader focus on education as a whole. This degree may be suitable for those who want to work in ECE but also have the flexibility to explore other areas of education.
Working with children is a deeply satisfying endeavor. The joy of witnessing their first steps in learning, their curiosity, and their innocent laughter is unparalleled. It’s a career that brings daily rewards in the form of children’s progress and achievements.
Moreover, ECE professionals play a crucial role in our society. They lay the foundation for lifelong learning and success for children. In our country, there is a pressing need for dedicated and skilled early childhood education degree holders to improve the quality of care and education for young children. By choosing a career in ECE, you can be part of the solution to this challenge.
With an early childhood education degree, you can become a preschool teacher, kindergarten teacher (with additional certification in some cases), childcare center director, early childhood education administrator, or work in various roles related to child development and education.
Yes, in many cases, you can teach kindergarten with an early childhood education degree, but additional certifications or licensure may be required depending on the location and specific school district.