Is an Early Childhood Education Degree Right for You?

An online bachelor’s degree in early childhood education is a good choice for those who want to help young children learn and grow intellectually and emotionally. The ideal student for such a program not only enjoys working with young children, but is also concerned about the nation’s educational system as a whole.

They recognize that without adequate preparation in a child’s preschool years, many children will not be ready for the rigors of grade school, which can lead to an ongoing cycle of playing catch-up in the public school system. Prospective early childhood education students know they are capable of making a difference by helping children aged three to five play and have fun while becoming well-adjusted to a structured learning environment.

Advice for Earning Your Early Childhood Education Degree Online

When looking for online programs in early childhood education, you should not only choose a regionally accredited institution, but choose a program that follows the standards established by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). While NAEYC only accredits associate degree programs in early childhood education, it does recognize programs at the bachelor’s level or higher that adhere to high quality standards in conjunction with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). The best online bachelor’s degree programs in early childhood education will incorporate an internship where you can work directly with children in a preschool setting. Since this component will not take place online, working students will need to arrange for this internship with their employers well in advance.

Required Courses

An online bachelor’s degree program in early childhood education features courses such as child development, introduction to psychology, art and creative development, creative expression and play, and early childhood math and science. The purpose of early childhood education course work is to give students the knowledge they need to teach a wide range of subjects, plan lessons, and manage a classroom. Other courses you may come across in an early childhood education program include:

  • Literacy and the Young Learner
  • Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Assessment and Early Intervention in Early Childhood
  • Early Childhood Curriculum Planning
  • Early Childhood Education Research

Common Career Paths

A degree in early childhood education can lead to a teaching career at the preschool, kindergarten, and elementary level, although teaching in the public school system will also require you to meet state licensure requirements. An early childhood education degree can also be used to work in an administrative position at a child care center. Salaries for careers in early childhood education can vary greatly depending on your level of experience, the size and type of your employer, and the region of the country you live in, but such careers typically include the following:

Preschool Teacher

  • Expected Growth: 25%
  • Average Annual Salary: $30,750

Preschool teachers promote learning in children between the ages of three and five within a safe and fun environment. They plan and administer age-appropriate curricula meant to build a student’s skills in reading, writing, and mathematics, with the goal of laying a foundation that their future teachers can build on in kindergarten.

While a minimum of a high school diploma and certification may be all that’s required for some preschool teacher positions, other positions, such as those at public schools, will require a bachelor’s degree and a license to teach early childhood education, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The above job outlook and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Preschool or Childcare Center Director

  • Expected Growth: 25%
  • Average Annual Salary: $51,060

Preschool or childcare center directors develop educational programs for preschoolers, supervise staff, prepare plans and budgets, establish policies, and meet with parents to discuss how students are progressing in the program. These directors may be the independent owners of such facilities, they may work for community programs like Head Start, or for private national childcare chains or franchises.

While a high school diploma may be the only educational requirement for some positions, others will require a college degree, with the most relevant degree being in early childhood education, the BLS explained. The job growth projection and average salary figure were drawn from the BLS.

Kindergarten Teacher

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $53,030

Kindergarten teachers create lesson plans and introduce students to basic subjects like math and reading, to prepare them for future schooling. Teachers grade learning activities and assignments to help gauge their students’ grasp of the material, may work one on one with students who are behind in class, and talk to parents about any struggles or successes their children are experiencing in class.

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree, completion of a state-approved teacher education program, and state licensure is required to teach kindergarten in public schools, although licensure may not be required in private schools. The employment growth estimate and salary average provided above are available through the BLS.

Elementary School Teacher

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $56,130

Elementary school teachers have roles similar to kindergarten teachers in lesson planning and teaching foundational subjects in math, language arts, and social studies, but they have an increased emphasis on preparing students to take and pass standardized exams. Elementary teachers also teach slightly more advanced material than kindergarten teachers, building on the foundation laid by teachers in previous grades.

A bachelor’s degree, completion of a state-approved teacher education program, and a state teaching license is required to teach elementary-aged children in public schools, although licensure may not be required in private schools. The employment growth estimate and salary average provided above were derived from the BLS.

Preschool Special Education Teacher

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $57,770

While special education teachers as a whole may work with infants through high school students, some specialize in working with preschool-aged students. These teachers develop individualized education programs (IEDs) for students with physical, mental, and learning disabilities, and are trained in early intervention strategies so that kids can improve both their basic motor skills and their ability to learn alongside the rest of their class when they reach kindergarten.

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license is required to work as a special education teacher in public schools, but private schools may not have these requirements, according to the BLS. The salary average and job outlook provided above were drawn from the BLS.

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