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Is a Degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE) for You?

Do you feel instantly charmed by infants, come alive in the presence of toddlers, and delight in sharing time with curious young children? Are you high on energy and long on patience? If this sounds like you, earning your Associate of Science degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE) allows you to parlay your natural passion for developing little ones into a fulfilling career path.

What will you learn in an Early Childhood Education program?

Engaging class discussions with experienced faculty, along with engrossing research assignments, help you gain an understanding of the characteristics and developmental stages of infants, toddlers, and young children. You’ll learn how to plan and carry out a curriculum that supports the development of children aged birth through 8 years old, including those with special needs.

In addition to your common core, liberal arts, math, and science studies, you’ll find half of the curriculum is focused on courses that deepen your knowledge of child development and train you to be an effective, empowering, and culturally sensitive educator.

Practicums provide you with off-site learning opportunities. This hands-on training gives you real-life experience in applied early care and education settings. You put the theories you’ve learned in the classroom into practice while planning, teaching, and assessing young learners and working collaboratively with peers and families.

Is there a licensure or certificate required upon graduation?

Licensure requirements vary from state to state. If you hope to teach preschool, some states require you to obtain the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential offered by the Council for Professional Recognition, advises the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Other states recognize the Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) designation offered by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. You should contact the appropriate agency in your state for specific details.

What can you do with my ECE degree?

There are many ways to use your early childhood education degree. You’re eligible to teach preschool in Head Start programs as well as in many public and private schools, childcare centers, and charitable organizations. You could find employment as an in-home care provider—aka, “nanny”— a family service worker, or a social service specialist.

The BLS reports that preschool teachers held approximately 441,000 jobs in 2014. Fifty-five percent of these positions were in child day care services and 17 percent in elementary and secondary schools. Many graduates go on to complete their Bachelor of Science in Child Studies or pursue an Early Childhood Teaching Credential.

What’s the career outlook for ECE?

The BLS projects employment of preschool teachers to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024. The number of preschool-aged children in the United States is expected to increase along with a corresponding demand for early childhood education. The BLS adds, “Some parents are starting to enroll children as young as infants in preschool because of the educational benefit.”

The U.S. will need a larger population of well-trained preschool teachers in coming years, and the BLS advises that workers with a bachelor’s degree will enjoy better job prospects than those with less education.

What salary range can you expect?

The median annual wage for preschool teachers was $28,570 in May 2015, according to the BLS. The highest salaries were paid to workers in state, local, and private elementary and secondary schools, with a median annual wage of $42,880. Child day care services positions paid median annual wages of $26,210.

If you’re passionate about early childhood education and hope to contribute to the growth and development of tomorrow’s leaders, your future and future generations are waiting.