Love Working with Kids?
If you enjoy working with kids, the field of early childhood education may be a good option for you. Early childhood education programs can offer a variety of career paths, and a rewarding work environment with plenty of opportunities for professional development.
This guide will help define what early childhood education programs cover, which types of courses are best suited to your needs, and the potential career paths available upon graduation.
Selecting a Course
Requirements vary from state to state, but if you are looking to become certified to teach as an early childhood educator in a public school, you will require a Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate.
The CDA certification requires at least 120 hours of formal training and 480 hours of early childhood education experience within five years before starting your role. CDA certification is normally conferred by a 2-hour multiple choice exam and an oral interview. After the initial three years of employment, you will need to renew your certification every five years.
In addition to a CDA certification, in some states you will also need a minimum of an associate’s degree, but you will have more of an advantage if you can complete a bachelor’s degree. Check with your institution to see if they fulfill these requirements. This is important if you are applying for an online course.
It is also highly recommended to volunteer in a preschool or early years environment prior to applying for the course if possible.
Early childhood education covers the life experiences and development of children from birth up to the age of eight.
Some examples of topics you will learn about include:
- Developmental stages of the child
- Theories and philosophies of early childhood
- Physical, social, emotional, and cognitive areas of development
- Curriculum frameworks in the early years
- Legislation and public policy
- Current trends, issues, and debates in early childhood education
- The role of educators in early childhood
- Building positive working relationships with parents
- Health and nutrition
- Language development
There are many career paths for early childhood education graduates. Many of these are a natural fit and will apply skills learnt during your course in a natural setting. Job prospects for early childhood educators are extremely promising in the future, with job growth expected to rise by 18% by the year 2024.
A preschool teacher’s role is wide ranging but some of their core duties include:
- Planning, preparing, and facilitating activities for children that develop their cognitive and creative skills
- Provide stimulating and engaging activities that are developmentally appropriate for children, depending on their age range
- Teaching pre-literacy skills including reading the alphabet and shape, number, and color recognition
- Create routines and schedules for children to follow to support the learning of daily habits and necessities
- Sanitization and cleaning of workspaces, and identifying potential health hazards
- Liaise with parents and provide feedback on children’s progress, or any areas of concern
Teaching assistants will support the work of the educator and help prepare and plan activities, as well as maintain workspaces and other assorted tasks when required. Teaching assistants can also offer a unique vantage point and observe children’s behavior in conjunction with the educator.
Experience as a teaching assistant can lead to a role as an early childhood educator, or can be considered a career option in its own right.
Childcare Center Director
As you build experience in the field, and if you have previous experience in business, administration, or training, you may be interested in more managerial duties. As a director of a childcare center you would be responsible for training and supervising staff and overseeing the curriculum, as well as administrative duties such as record keeping, marketing, and budget setting.
Social Worker/Family Support Specialist
An early childhood education program can lead to further training as a social worker or family support specialist. Early childhood intervention workers work in interdisciplinary teams with medical professionals, psychologists, occupational therapists, and early childhood educators to provide support to families.
You may help counsel families and offer resources. You may also visit families on home visits and refer them to appropriate services as needed.
Home-based Service Provider
Sometimes referred to as nannies, you would be employed by a family and look after one or more children within a household. Although an early childhood education degree is not required for these types of position, it would give you an advantage over other applicants.
If you enjoy the theoretical side of your early childhood education degree, there are a plethora of options for further study. You can develop a particular area of interest through further study and carrying out your own research projects at a master’s or doctoral level.
A background in early childhood education can also provide a springboard to a career with publishing houses, toy manufacturers, and software firms specialising in products for children.