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What is Early Childhood Education?
Early childhood education is a field that focuses on educating children between the ages of 0-5, and is responsible for guiding the development of children and preparing them for formal education. Educators will need to design classroom presentations, maintain discipline in an education environment, resolve behavioral and education issues and monitor children and detect signs of illness. Individuals can pursue various levels of education when pursuing this degree and available jobs will be reflected in the degree acquired. The goal of an early childhood educator is to ensure the safety of the children he or she oversees and provide an environment that engages and educates children, providing an atmosphere of play and growth that allows children to ease into elementary education with ease.
Programs in early childhood education are typically available through community colleges and career schools as certificate or associate programs. Certificate programs tend to be shorter in length as they lack the general education requirements of a degree program. Associate programs take two years to complete, and are the lowest level degree one may obtain in this field. Higher level degrees are available, though some students may choose to enter an elementary or general education program as they allow more broad teaching opportunities. Higher levels of education present more employment opportunities, some of which lay outside the teaching aspect of the career, and instead focuses on methodology, marketing, development or other related fields that can use the information garnered from the specialization.
A curriculum in early childhood education may include:
- Computer Literacy
- Fundamentals of Early Childhood Education
- Essentials of Psychology
- Language and Literacy Development in Young Children
- Health, Safety, and Nutrition
Early childhood educators can find work in public and private schools, daycare centers, preschools and any other institutions that work with young children in an educational capacity. Early childhood education allows individuals to educate and care for children, as such they will be under scrutiny to ensure the safety of children. Additionally, due to increased importance placed on education at this level, teachers will be evaluated based on their skill and success frequently, often on a yearly basis.
Educators with advanced degrees can also find work teaching or designing curriculums for others. The development of programs and materials for children may be done through the facility or by organizations and companies that produce and develop such material. This may include toys, books, curriculums, and other such aides. Higher level degrees also allow for greater ease in finding positions as such degrees are more desirable, particularly at higher end facilities.Each state has its own standards for early childhood educators and it is best to research your state's specific requirements if you decide to enter into this field. An early childhood educator must work well with children, be able to handle stress and identify individual needs of their students.
Turnover and Job Growth
Working with children is difficult and early childhood education has a high turnover rate due to the demands of the workplace, career stability, and relatively low income versus other professions. Due to this, there is work available for those seeking a career, especially if they demonstrate an ability to work well with children. Additionally, demand is expected to increase for such workers as a greater emphasis is placed on the education of children at an early age and as such, new jobs should be available alongside those already in place, with newer jobs also being subject to the high turnover rate noted above.
Salary and Related Fields
The average salary for an early childhood educator is approximately $33,000 per year, and entry level positions average at $20,000 per year. Salary is affected by the place of work, the size of the facility, its location, and the number of students served. Work experience and education may play a factor in increased salary, but the contribution from both is minimal, though this may change in the future as greater emphasis is placed on early childhood education.
If a student is interested in other degrees similar to early childhood education, he or she may want to consider an elementary education degree, general education degree or an occupational therapy degree.
For more information about a career in teaching, check out The Single Most Comprehensive Guide to a Teaching Career post on our blog.