Careers for Students
What Can You Do With an Early Childhood Education Degree?
If you love children and have always wanted to become a teacher, it’s time to consider the right education and career path to accomplish your goal. There are many types of careers for graduates of all levels of degree programs, from associates, bachelors, masters, specialist, and doctorate level tracks. Not only that, but before you even begin your education or complete your degree, you can start working in the field at private daycare run facilities. As you complete more and more of your education, you can make an even greater impact in your school system, daycare facility or other educational institution.
No matter which type of career you choose, you should have a passion and love for teaching and working with your children. During these formative years, they will look to you as a role model that will help shape their learning, social behavior, and self-esteem for the rest of their lives. You must be able to practice an almost zen-like level of patience, and have the communication skills to express yourself simply and clearly. In every role, you will mostly likely have to develop the skills to help kids’ parents understand their children better and play their own role in helping their kids become successful students.
The following information can help you determine which path is right for you. However, there are many additional paths in the field you can take. Additional positions include child and family social worker, personal care aid, special education teacher, and guidance counselor for young children. That’s why you should contact several schools in your area, and those who offer online options to find out more about the career paths you can follow with a degree or interest in early childhood education.
Career and Salary Outlook for Early Childhood Educators
The salary outlook for childcare worker is $20,320 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These entry-level positions can be a great choice for those who haven’t earned their degree yet and want to work with the youngest children. The job outlook for childcare workers is anticipated to grow as fast as the national average.
If you want to work at the kindergarten or elementary level, the average pay increases, but so do your requirements to be considered a job applicant.
Those who reach the level of childcare director at a pre-K facility are responsible for managing the structure, curriculum and overall organization of their facility.
Of course, your anticipated salary will depend largely on your location, type of role, and environment in which you choose to work. That’s why it is essential that you speak to schools in your area about the current employment landscape, even if you plan on taking one of the several accredited online programs available for early childhood career preparation.
Working as a Preschool Teacher
Pre-K professionals have their hands full of excited young minds who are usually eager to learn, ask questions, and look up to their teachers for guidance during these formative years. If you want to be a preschool teacher, you can help students get their first experiences with organized activities, reading, math, art and music, and other areas that form into more structured subjects at the elementary school level. Preschool teachers typically work in private settings, including those run by religious organizations or independently run schools that apply particular learning methods or philosophies to their practice.
When deciding which kind of preschool you want to work in, it can be a good idea to visit several different types in your area and talk to the people who work there and run them. You may decide that you want to work at a place that is more skewed towards education and learning than freetime and unstructured play.
Classroom learning at this level is usually centered around an introduction to literacy and basic math skills for children who are 4-5 years old. It is important to remember with this age group that you are there to inspire and spark curiosity as much as you are there to teach them and assess their behavior. Even though some activities may seem like they are geared to pass the time and inspire fun, you will learn that you can glean a great deal of information from music, art, and games to help students improve their communication and learning functions, as well as peer interaction.
You should be ready to display a high level of patience and ability to communicated with all types of children. To work in a publicly funded facility you will most likely need to have a bachelor’s degree and pass your state’s requirements for licesure. However, earning your degree and upping your qualifications can increase your salary range in this field. It can also open up more doors for opportunitiy in your career trajectory.
Working as a Kindergarten Teacher
If you purse an education that qualifies you to become a kindergarten teacher, you can start working in a role that helps students adjust to this exciting and challenging time in their education. This is the first big step in education for children, as they are now attending school with children older and more developed than them, and the expectations for learning and achievement are higher than at the pre-K level. This is not to say that it is easier to work at the preschool level. But kindergartners quickly realize their day is more structured, assigments are more complicated, and there are more subjects for them to learn as they get introduced to the curriculum.
As their teacher, it will be imperative that you understand how to communicate with children effectively as they learn how to read, use computers, improve their math skills, and learn basic scientific concepts. You will be their gateway into what’s to come as they progress in their education, and it’s important that you are passionate about teaching, so your students will remain engaged and inspired to learn.
Choosing the right degree program is critical for success as a kindergarten teacher. When earning your degree, you will probably take courses in diversity and learn how to engage children from all socioeconomic backrounds. This is also important because children show up to their first day of kindergarten with a wide variety of pre-K backgrounds. Some will have never set foot in a classroom, while others are already doing math and displaying reading skills. Having the ability and patience to work with children across the spectrum will make you more effective in your role. This is where your courses in assessment and development will come in handy.
Working as a Preschool Childcare Director
As a childcare director at the preschool level, you will oversee the curriculum structure and teaching styles that are implemented at your school. This can be a big responsbility, and one that requires constant assessment, evaluation and modification to ensure you are serving your students and teachers well. Many professionals who work their way up to this role spend their initial years working as daycare staff while completing their bachelor’s level degree in early childhood education.
You will spend your time assessing teacher performance as much as you assess student performance and behavior. Having the ability to understand teaching styles and philosophies, which you can learn while earning your degree, will pay off as you explain to your staff the why behind your guidance. You may spend a significant amount of your time helping teachers and parents learn how to play a more effective role helping students be more successful.
In some cases, your role as childcare director can stem into administrative areas, such as budgets, legal and ethical issues, and human resources. This is where a well-rounded education can pay off. Having an understanding of accounting, administrative tasks, basic computer technology, and management skills can help you in this role. If you are seeking the right degree program to become a childcare director, make sure you speak with advisors about the scope of courses offered so you can be sure you pick a program that is a good fit for this career path.
Working as Daycare Staff
Working as daycare staff can be a role that wears many hats. When you are taking care of children whose ages can range anywhere from newborn to 5 years old, there can be quite a range of responsibilities that you should be ready for. You may be changing diapers one minute and reading to a group the next. Although you may not need a college degree to work in private preschools, you will need to have a real love of children and ability to constantly focus on and assess their behavior. Children at this age are learning about the world around them at a rapid pace, and you are a role model for a large portion of their day.
Having strong communication skills is also essential in this role. You will be working with children, their parents, and other daycare staff to ensure the kids are set up for success. This is not always easy, but it can be very rewarding, espcially when positive outcomes are achieved.
In this role you should also have an understanding of health and safety issues that are common for children this age. It can be a good idea to take a CPR or other type of emergency preparedness course. With so many lives literally in your hands every day, you will want to be as prepared as possible to ensure a safe environment for children to thrive and parents to feel comfortable leaving their children for significant portions of their day.
Working as a Teaching Assistant
Teaching assistants typically require some level of college education; at least an associate’s level degree, and can earn a median wage of $24,900 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In elementary settings, teacher assistants help supervise children, manage activities and grade assignments to help teachers perform their jobs more effectively. In many ways, your job functions as a teacher assistant will mimic what the teacher is required to do, including communicating with parents and administrators the progress of children and the effectiveness of activities.
Teacher assistants should have an understanding of basic child development so they can understand the purpose of tasks and convey information and join discussions that will enhance the learning environments.
Becoming a teacher assistant can be the best way to transition from your education into a career. Not only will this role prepare you for what to expect managing your own classroom, but you can gain insight from teachers who have years of experience in the field. Networking with like-minded professionals will also help you in your search for available positions once you meet the requirements to become full-time faculty.
Organizations to know for early childhood professionals
In addition to your network of classmates and professionals that you meet along your path, it is essential to join organizations that help early childhood educators obtain the resources they need to remain successful in this field.
One resource for students is earlychildhood.org, which aims to be a complete source of information for individuals looking to enter the field. On their site you can find research, publications, links to other associations, and other resources.
Another place you can find information is the National Institute for Early Education Research. This organization offers a plethora of research findings that can inform you of new developments and best practices for teaching young children. They also help shape national conversations and policy for the field.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children provides another helpful way for educators to gain insight, access to resources, and their own magazine publication that is helpful to teachers and educators of all types involved in early childhood education. With over 70,000 members, this organization is one you should keep at the top of your list to learn more about as you choose the right path for your education.