Early childhood education is a broad subject that prepares students to work with children in many capacities, the most common being as a daycare worker, pre-school, Kindergarten, or elementary school teacher. Early childhood is defined as lasting from infancy through the age of 6. These are incredibly important years in the life of a child as they are the time when children develop the emotional, social, motor, and basic academic skills (reading, writing, and basic math) that will create the foundation for the rest of their education and their life. Education professionals with degrees in early childhood education are vital figures for children as they are responsible ensuring healthy academic and social progress in their students, as well as identifying any problems that may arise due to abnormal development.
Individuals who enjoy working with children will find that pursuing a degree in early childhood education is the best way to get started in a rewarding and lucrative career path. Although requirements vary from State to State, most educational institutions prefer to hire teachers with degrees in early childhood education. Earning a degree demonstrates a commitment to the field along with solid training in all aspects of child development.
There are several levels of education available to individuals interested in early childhood education degrees. Determining which degree will depend on the experience and interest of the potential student.
Associate’s Degree – An associate’s degree is the lowest level of education can you can achieve. Many individuals use the associate’s degree as a starting point in order to apply for entry-level positions and pursue higher degrees after gaining work experience. An associate’s degree takes 2-year to complete in the classroom, but can completed in less than 6-months through an online program. Basic courses include early childhood development, English composition, psychology, language and literacy development, and computer literacy.
Bachelor’s Degree – A bachelor’s degree in early childhood education is the most commonly held degree by teachers of young children. Most States and institutions require that potential teachers earn bachelor’s degrees in order to earn a teaching license (mandatory for all teachers in public schools, except for pre-school teachers). These degrees can take 2-4 years to complete. Many schools offer courses online that allow students to earn their bachelor’s degree around their own schedule. Typical coursework covers the same basic ground as an associate’s degree, but in a more comprehensive manner.
Master’s Degree – Individuals who have earned a bachelor’s degree, worked in education, and wish to move into positions of higher authority are the typical candidates for master’s degrees in early childhood education. Master’s degrees can take 2 years or less to complete, depending on the institution. Students will gain an in-depth knowledge of early childhood education and often participate in teacher training programs that provide hands-on, in-class experience. Many students specialize in a certain area of ECE, such as literacy or psychology.
Ph.D. Degree – A Ph.D. is the highest level of education a student can achieve within the field of early childhood education. A Ph.D. is a time-consuming, but rewarding credential that can be earned online as well as in-class. Ph.D. students study various education subjects focusing on curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, youth and human services. They also complete extensive research projects. Individuals who earn Ph.D’s are qualified to act as leaders in the eduction field, head up institutions, design curriculum, and work as policy leaders.
Students who choose to focus on early childhood education in their graduate programs are generally expected to develop both practical and theoretical knowledge of childhood development and of the pedagogy appropriate for very young children. Many programs place emphasis upon the development of communication skills that can be used in teacher-student relationships as well as teacher-parent relationships.
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