Early childhood education – degrees, programs and career options

Why choose an early childhood education degree?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 75.8% of mothers and 96.1% of fathers in the United States with children under the age of 6 work full time. Most of these children will be attending some type of early childhood education facility. Whether it is an in-home daycare program or early education center, children usually need some form of early care and education before they begin kindergarten.

As research and development continues to highlight the importance of early care and education, the need for educated individuals working in these early care environments increases. A degree in early childhood education will prepare you with the knowledge and skills necessary to educate and care for young children.

Online vs. on campus

As people have adapted to the pandemic, so too has the higher education system. What was once a typically on-campus experience is now being offered mostly online. This gives students who want to pursue a higher education degree in early childhood education flexibility and freedom when it comes to studying or learning.

If you enjoy the flexibility of online education, but prefer traditional-style lectures then a hybrid course might suit you better. These classes allow students to maintain the traditional face-to-face lectures, but through an online platform. Whether you’d like a traditional, online, or hybrid experience, there are programs offered to suit your needs.

Does my university need to be accredited?

Making sure your university is accredited is an important factor when choosing a higher education institution. This is especially crucial for students who are pursuing a degree in early childhood education. Without the proper accreditation from an accreditation agency, you will not be eligible for licensure, credential, or certificate programs often associated with education. Accreditation ensures that the education you have received has upheld the high standard of excellence set by the accreditation agency, and therefore, you are prepared and qualified for credentials, employment, or licensure in this field.

Financial aid

A variety of financial aid options are available for eligible students at all degree levels. There are grants, scholarships, and loans available for students who want to advance their education and employment opportunities. One of the most popular ways students ease the financial burden is through a federal grant. Federal Student Aid grants students financial assistance based on their financial circumstances. An easy online application, FASFA, is filled out, and you should get information regarding what financial assistance you qualify for within a few weeks.

Associate’s degree in early childhood education

An associate’s degree in early childhood education will prepare you for entry level positions in childcare and education. You will learn about theories, theorists, and research that is the basis for understanding child development especially in relation to education.

What do I need to apply?

To apply to a 2-year community college program, you will need transcripts from high school, or an equivalent like the GED. Most community colleges don’t have an entrance requirement, although some programs may require a 2.0 GPA. Check with the school admissions department for more information, or look on their school website. Applications are filled out and submitted online, and you will receive a response within a few weeks.

What will I learn?

Intro to child development
This is an introductory course that will give you basic knowledge of physical, emotional, social, language, and cognitive development of a person from conception to adulthood.

Child, family, community
This course will look into the impact families, communities, and schools have on a child’s learning and development. You can learn about the research that has given us insight into the involvement people and surroundings have on a child’s development.

Nutrition
You will examine the fundamentals of nutrition, including the importance of good food to a child’s development, and the negative impact that malnutrition can have on development and learning.

Observations
You will be responsible for conducting observations of early learning environments and reporting what you have seen, relating and correlating your observations to what you have learned in your coursework.

How much will it cost?

According to Student Debt Relief, students should expect to pay about $3,570 per year for tuition and fees.

Career options

A preschool teacher is responsible for caring, educating, and creating a safe learning environment for children up to age 5 before they go to kindergarten. Teachers will communicate with parents about daily reports, assessments, and lesson planning.

Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a preschool teacher is $30,520.

An assistant teacher, or teacher’s assistant, is responsible for helping the licensed teacher in the classroom. Duties can be helping with lessons, preparing materials, grading papers, or assisting with classroom management.

Salary
Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the median annual wage for teaching assistants, in 2019, was $27,920.

A private home care provider, or nanny, is someone who cares for a child when the parents are unavailable and the child is not in school. You typically work in the child’s home preparing meals, helping with homework, light housework, and driving the children to-and-from their extracurricular activities or school.

Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for a childcare worker in 2019 was $11.65 an hour. The national average hourly rate for a nanny is $19.14 per hour

Bachelor’s in early childhood education

A bachelor’s degree in early childhood education will open up an array of career opportunities only available at this academic level. Take note that many employment opportunities require licensing or bachelor’s level education. You will learn extensively about the theories of child development, including the research-based evidence about how external and internal influences affect the development and education of a child.

What do I need to apply?

If you are applying to a 4-year bachelor’s program from high school then you will need your high school transcripts showing a minimum of a 2.5 GPA, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and ACT or SAT test scores. If the program you are applying to is competitive, then a minimum GPA of 3.0 is recommended to remain competitive with the other applicants.

To transfer to a 4-year program from a community college, you will need to show your transcripts, which should have a minimum 2.5 GPA. Applications are filled out and submitted online, and typically you will hear a response via mail within 6 to 8 weeks.

What will I learn?

Social-emotional development
This course will focus only on the social and emotional development of a child from infancy to young adulthood. You will learn about studies that direct how educators and scientists think about social development. Some of these courses will also have a lab component for statistical research purposes.

Cognitive development
Cognitive development refers to how the brain develops and matures to influence thought and behavior. You will learn about the different parts of the brain, and focus on research that supports and enhances our understanding of cognition and learning. A research lab component to this course may also be required.

Language studies
A course that focuses on linguistics will teach you about the components of speech including typical and atypical speech development seen in children. You will also see how this affects learning and development.

Cross-cultural studies
This course will highlight the importance of cultural awareness in the classroom. More specifically, you will learn about how race, religion, sexual orientation, and other factors play a role in a child’s development and education.

Fieldwork
This course incorporates observation and fieldwork experience that will apply your classroom knowledge to a practical environment. The requirements and locations will be decided by your institution’s faculty.

How much will it cost?

The cost of a 4-year bachelor’s degree program is roughly $25,362 according to Education Data.

Career options

An elementary teacher is responsible for educating the students in their class in all subjects. They can work from 1st to 6th or 7th grade depending on the school’s program. They are in charge of lesson planning, grading, teaching, and communicating with parents.

Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a elementary school teacher was $59,420 in 2019.

The director of a childcare center is in charge of facilitating a smooth running learning environment for children. They are responsible for creating and altering curriculum, overseeing staff, budgeting, and communicating with parents.

Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a childcare center director in 2019 was $48,210.

If you’re interested in working with children with disabilities then being a special education teacher might interest you. They work to adapt curriculum to fit their student’s unique needs, and help them with basic life skills.

Salary
In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average salary for a special education teacher was $61,030.

Master’s in early childhood education

A master’s degree in early childhood education will advance your knowledge and build on the content you learned in your bachelor’s program. You will learn more about curriculum, assessment procedures, and developmental theory. In addition to your classroom coursework, you will also be responsible for completing a thesis.

What will I learn?

Applied educational research
This course will focus on understanding research designs and methods that pertain to education such as statistics, and using research findings to validate or modify teaching practices and methods.

Educational statistics
This course will use quantitative methods for the solidification of research and advancement of the social and behavioral sciences. You will learn how to understand and read statistics that are found in journals, reports, and dissertations.

Observation and assessment
This course will teach you about observational practices and different types of assessment techniques. This will be important to know when entering the education sector and assessing the strengths and weaknesses apparent in your students.

Theories and research in child development
Learning about theories and research in child development can provide you with the knowledge needed to base your teaching practices on evidence-based research and theory.

Thesis
A thesis is a 40-80 page document outlining the knowledge you learned in your master’s program. It needs to be submitted for candidature to be eligible to graduate from the program.

How much will it cost?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost of an on-campus master’s program is $16,435 per year. A master’s program takes about 2 years to complete, making the total program cost around $32,870.

Career options

A school principal can work at the elementary, middle, or high school level. They oversee the school’s daily operations, enforce school rules, budget, and manage staff.

Salary
According to PayScale, the average salary for an elementary school teacher is $83,730

Curriculum designers cooperate with teachers, organizations, and clients to create and enforce an education program. They work in schools, universities, organizations, and offices.

Salary
As reported by Glassdoor, the average salary for a curriculum designer is $60,934.

Vice principals assist the principals with their duties to ensure a school’s efficiency and excellence. They can assist in the development and implementation of organizational plans and goals.

Salary
GlassDoor reported that the average salary for a vice principal is $86,254

Doctorate in early childhood education

A doctorate in early childhood education will ensure you are an expert in your field by providing you with the knowledge and skills needed to enter advanced employment opportunities. You will take structured coursework and conduct your own research to complete a dissertation as required to earn a Ph.D.

What do I need to apply?

To be considered for a doctorate program, you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Most doctoral programs require the completion of a master’s program with a minimum of a 3.5 GPA, although some courses allow you to integrate a master’s program into your Ph.D program. You will also need to demonstrate a background in research or employment in education with a resume or CV. Some programs may also require test scores like the GRE, academic writing sample, and letters of recommendation.

What will I learn?

Developmental psychology
This course will introduce you to developmental psychology research strategies, hereditary influences, cognitive development, the effects of parenting, social changes, and childhood psychopathology.

Curriculum and instruction
In this course you will look into theoretical and practical frameworks for developing curriculum and providing instruction.

Administration and leadership
This course will prepare you to work in administrative and leadership roles. You will gain knowledge and skills necessary for employment, develop learning plans, and focus on school organizational structures and leadership styles.

Dissertation
A dissertation is the written presentation of the academic findings that result from a research project that you have initiated, designed, and completed as part of the doctoral program. You will need to present your paper to a panel of experts, and successfully defend your findings to qualify for candidature.

How much will it cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, students should expect to pay $11,201 per year for a doctorate program.

Career options

A university professor is in charge of creating lesson plans and teaching in the field they are considered experts in. They usually sit on committees, conduct research, and write books or articles.

Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a post-secondary teacher was $79,540 in 2019.

They are in charge of implementing education procedures, assessing academic programs, managing budgets, overseeing staffing, and appointing principals.

Salary
As reported by Salary.com, the average salary for a school superintendent is $163,933.

National Child Care Association
The National Child Care Association promotes the success of licensed individuals in early care settings by advocating for policies and practices that benefit young children.

American Association of College Professors
This association advances the unification of professionals in the higher education field and helps the higher education community develop standards and procedures that maintain quality in education in the university sector.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
This association promotes high-quality early learning for all young children and provides resources, networking opportunities, and support to enhance a child’s ability to thrive and learn to reach their full potential.

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