Learn more about what you can do with a degree in early childhood education. Find information on careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in early childhood education.
Young children need special supports to facilitate healthy growth and development across the lifespan. The years between birth and five years of age are particularly important as the child acquires many of the foundational skills needed to grow into adolescence and adulthood. Professionals that provide support for children in during this time period, commonly known as the preschool stage of development, include early childhood educators, daycare workers and preschool counselors. Professionals working in these jobs are charged with the responsibility of providing children with the needed supports and resources for Kindergarten and life readiness.
In general, the role of early childhood education is one of the most important for children. For this reason, preschool programs including Head Start have been advocated for even the most advanced child. Early childhood education programs are geared toward the unique needs of children in this age group. For instance, many early childhood education programs utilize play activities to help children learn the academic and social skills that they will need throughout their lifespan. Professionals working in these careers should have a love of small children. The work can be emotionally demanding; however, the emotional rewards for professionals typically outweigh the challenges associated with the work.
Individuals considering entering into early childhood education will find a number of different career options. In particular, professionals may choose to enter early childhood education by becoming a daycare worker. Additionally, professionals may consider careers as preschool teachers, preschool counselors, curriculum specialists or educational coordinators. Of these careers, preschool teachers represent the largest group of professionals currently working in the field. Preschool teachers are responsible for providing comprehensive educational support for children between the ages of 3 and 5. This work is done through group and one-on-one activities. Preschool teachers must not only focus on academic development to get the child ready for Kindergarten, but also preschool teachers must provide children with basic social, motor and emotional skills to manage engagement in the classroom. By providing a broad range of supports, the preschool educator is able to enhance the experiences of the student and provide a basic foundation for successful social and academic development.
Salaries for early childhood education workers vary based on the specific position sought by the professional. For example, daycare workers may only command median annual salaries of $16,000. However, preschool educators that are required to have formal training, education and licensure in many states will be able to acquire higher salaries. Median annual salaries for preschool teachers were $23,870. Those at the top of the profession were able to command median annual salaries of $41,660 while those at the lowest end of the pay scale had median annual salaries of $18,840. Many preschool teachers have their summers off. As such, many may choose to supplement their incomes through other employment opportunities. Additionally, after several years in the field of preschool education, many teachers will seek certification as an elementary school teacher. In these positions, educators will be able to command higher salaries. Median annual salaries for elementary school teachers were $44,340 in 2008.
The job outlook for early childhood educators is expected to be quite robust through 2018. Demand in the field is being fueled by both a growth in early childhood education programs and high turnover in the discipline. Over the course of the last several years, the importance of early childhood education has been emphasized as an important contributor to academic and social outcomes for children across their life spans. Children with access to quality early childhood education programs typically have better long-term outcomes in terms of educational attainment and career development. For this reason, the number of preschool programs available for children is expected to increase demand for professionals in the field. Concurrent with increased demand is a high rate of turnover for early childhood education professionals. The demanding nature of the job coupled with low pay often prompts professionals to seek employment in other related fields, e.g., elementary school education.