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There’s something special about passing along knowledge, a feeling you get when you share a helpful skill or timely information that brings about positive change in the lives of others. Teachers know this feeling. It’s especially obvious in the field of Early Childhood Education (ECE), where talented, loving and giving professionals specialize in preparing children for a lifetime of learning.

Frederick Douglass, American abolitionist and author, once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

As true as the words of Douglass ring, it still takes work to help those children – even in the formative ECE years from age three to seven– grow in curiosity, wonder and strength. However, if helping to shape the minds of the future appeals to you, a career as a teacher, leader or administrator in an early education program could be for you. As you consider your personal future, here are five reasons why you should think about earning your ECE degree:

1. Line Leaders

To say ECE as a whole is a growing field is more than just a play on words. As the importance of education in early childhood becomes more and more recognized, so does the need for qualified childhood educators. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects growth for a number of ECE careers by 2024 – seven percent for preschool teachers, six percent for teacher assistants and also for kindergarten teachers, and five percent for childcare or daycare workers.

One more thought: From 1980 to 2008, enrollment in US pre-k programs rose from 96,000 to well over 1,000,000 children. As the world’s population continues to grow, so does enrollment in prekindergarten education programs … and so will the need for qualified educators.

2. Field Trips

No, not a literal field trip. But as a childhood education expert, you have more options than in a preschool classroom in the public school system. From religious organizations to private schools to early learning programs such as Head Start, ECE professionals can pursue career opportunities in a number of settings. Daycare or childcare facilities also need professionals – and not just as caregivers or teachers, but in administrative roles, as well.

3. When the Bell Rings …

In higher grades, most teaching positions – public or private – require a four-year degree. In many ECE settings – like a preschool or a day care – the educational requirement vary state-to-state and may not be as high. If your calling is in education and you can’t wait to get started, a high school diploma, certification and some relevant experience may be all you need to be a teaching assistant or early learning specialist.

However, many ECE programs, such as Head Start, require at least an associate degree to qualify. And the right ECE associate degree program could be the catalyst you need to pursue a four-year degree down the line.

4. Lunch Money

It’s been said that education is a calling. Some people think that might just be a polite way of saying you won’t get rich as a teacher. But even if you see ECE as an investment in the world’s future, it’s also an investment in your own. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, preschool teachers, many working a 10-month schedule, earn a median annual salary of $28,790 – up to $54,310 for the top 10 percent of earners. Many other ECE career fields, such as childcare and early learning programs, also make a professional wage.

Still, financial incentives aside, it really can be a reward in and of itself to help others explore the world of learning for the first time. A love of learning is still love.

5. Gold Star

As mentioned earlier, education, as they say, is a calling. It’s also been said: “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

ECE can be like that … if you have the right temperament. In fact, year after year, in annual rankings of jobs that provide meaning and high satisfaction rates, ECE jobs like preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, or elementary teachers typically score high.

Extra Credit

One more thing to think about as you consider pursuing an ECE degree: your kids.

Your skills don’t shut off when you leave the classroom. Your ability to constantly re-discover the world through the eyes of a child will help you as you strive to provide your best for your own children.

Is a career in early childhood education for you? Are you ready for a labor of love? Would you like to see the world through the eyes of a child all over again? Take a leap of faith and pursue a labor of love. Become an educator.

ece benefits infographic