Early childhood education (ECE) jobs are ideal for people who want to work with infants and young children. Most early childhood education workers have college degrees or state licenses in early childhood development. Licensure and degrees allow graduates to work in various educational settings, such as schools, daycare centers and other institutions.
Most people define early childhood education as the formal teaching and care of children before normal school age — 5-years old, in most countries. In the United States, however, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) identifies “early childhood” as children younger than 8-years old.
Early childhood educators are trained to observe and evaluate young children and to identify their special needs. This can include learning disabilities, physical disabilities and emotional or behavioral disabilities.
Early Childhood Development Education
In the United States, most ECE jobs require a college degree in early childhood development to work with children from birth to the second grade. Typical coursework includes the study of early childhood education, general psychology, child guidance, human development, parenting, family studies and speech/language development.
Many colleges and universities offer specializations related to this major. Examples include: early childhood education and teaching, preschool/kindergarten education and teaching; elementary education and teaching and Montessori teacher education.
People who pursue a career in early childhood education must like working with young children. Communication skills are essential, since early childhood educators must work with both children and their parents. Early childhood educators are caring, compassionate people, and they are good motivators, too.
Early Childhood Education Careers
Licensed early childhood educators qualify for a number of different jobs, such as child care worker, Head Start teacher, parent program coordinator, parent education specialist, curriculum specialist and public school teacher.
Some college majors are more directly related to employment than others. Employment can be difficult in this field, so ECE students should choose their career path carefully.
Child care workers, preschool and kindergarten teachers and other early childhood educators nurture, teach and care for young children. They play a crucial role in the development of children from birth through early childhood.
Workers in early childhood education introduce children to reading, writing, art, science and more. They teach through the use of games, music, books, movies, artwork, computers and other tools. Watching children learn new things and develop new skills can be very rewarding.
Early childhood educators work in private programs, daycare centers, schools and other educational settings. They tend to work in small groups or classes, and they have some control over establishing curriculum, performance standards and discipline measures.
Early childhood educators, like childcare workers and preschool teachers, often work part-time schedules, although they usually work year-round. Public and private school teachers typically work a 10-month school year, with two months off for summer vacation.
Early Childhood Educator Salaries
Salaries for early childhood educators span a wide range. The actual ECE salary depends on several different factors, such as education, experience, career path and geographic location.
According to the United States Department of Labor, the average childcare worker today earns an annual salary of $19,300. The median annual income for preschool teachers is $25,700. Education administrators, such as daycare center directors, can earn twice what most childcare workers earn, or $42,960 a year.
The ECE salary in United States public schools is much higher. The lowest salary level applies to teacher’s assistants, who earn a median annual income of $23,220. Kindergarten teachers earn significantly higher wages than teaching aides, around $48,800 annually. Elementary school teachers earn even more, with $51,660 being the median income.
Teaching at higher grade levels usually results in higher pay. Special education teachers earn the best salaries. Of all the teaching jobs in early childhood education, the highest annual income belongs to special education teachers in preschools, kindergartens and elementary schools. They earn a median annual income of $52,250.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19 percent increase in employment growth for early childhood education jobs through 2018. This is a faster-than-average growth rate for all occupations. The federal government expects excellent job prospects for childcare workers and preschool teachers, due to the high turnover rate in preschools and daycare centers. An increasing emphasis on ECE programs should ensure a steady increase in job growth, compared to slower growth in previous years.
On the other hand, overall enrollment in public schools is expected to rise slowly, as children of the baby-boomer generation leave the school systems. Because of this, the job outlook for public school teachers is expected to grow slower than in past years. Teachers in high-demand fields — such as math, science and bilingual education — will have the best prospects for employment in the coming years.