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Courses and Degree Programs in Early Childhood Education

Early childhood educators are involved with the development and education of children under the age of 8, and help children explore and learn about the world while developing relationships with peers and adults. An early childhood teacher helps to provide a secure and loving environment for each child to promote healthy growth an development during their critical years. An early childhood curriculum usually involves a broad range of activities including music, science, art, literacy, cooking, and exercise.

Job Description and Responsibilities of Early Childhood Educators

After receiving credentials, an early childhood teacher is commonly involved with:

  • Developing early childhood curriculum
  • Teaching and leading children in educational subjects
  • Providing hands-on activities that focus on key skills for growth and development
  • Encouraging active play
  • Serving as a role model for healthy relationships
  • Providing a secure and nurturing environment
  • Taking part in activities such as reading, exercise, music, and art
  • Communicating with parents or guardians of the child
  • Developing a strong bond and healthy relationship with each child

An early childhood teacher may work at a daycare center, or choose to open up their own independent business. Early childhood educators are responsible for communicating the needs of all children to their parents or guardians on a regular basis.

Career Options With An Early Childhood Education Degree

An early childhood education degree offers flexibility and numerous options for a career. Students may chose to pursue an online degree to manage their schedule, and work as an assistant or intern at a daycare center until they complete their training. Early childhood education programs can lead to a career as a:

  • Preschool teacher
  • Child care giver
  • Licensed home day care provider
  • Child care program director
  • Public school teacher
  • Education curriculum specialist
  • Assistant teacher
  • Children's librarian
  • Play therapist
  • Speech pathologist

After completing a degree program, teachers and educators may choose to work in:

  • Early childhood education centers
  • Children's learning centers or museums
  • Early childhood development programs and research centers
  • SmartSteps Early Childhood Education facilities
  • Nursery schools
  • Early head start programs

Courses, Training Programs, and Options with an Online Degree

Early childhood education programs teach students key communication and interaction skills, as well as in-depth knowledge of child psychology and social behavior. Play is an important part of the philosophy, and learning how to develop a curriculum that emphasizes hands-on activities is a top priority.

Courses enable students to work towards a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, or obtain a certificate in Early Childhood Education. A two-year program enables students to work towards certification and complete an early childhood education degree. Training online is another option for students who need more flexibility with their schedule. Common courses with these programs include:

  • Child Psychology
  • Culturally Sensitive Practice
  • Creative Arts and Movement for Young Children
  • Child Growth and Development
  • Positive Child Guidance
  • Children with Special Needs
  • Child Care Administration

An online degree provides flexibility with scheduling and time. In addition, an early childhood teacher can work with other educators and professionals to collaborate on curriculum, projects, and other assignments with ease.

Early childhood educators are encouraged to design curriculums that focus on self-confidence, self-discipline, and curiosity. The Head Start program is designed on an underlying philosophy that focuses on meeting specific needs of each child. Many educators work in teams to develop their programs and also incorporate government-issued curriculum for each class. Early childhood education programs for children focus on developments and relationships for healthy growth. Common areas of study focus on physical development, emotional development, social development, communication and language development, and perception and sensory development.

Early Childhood Education Certification

Certification and licensing requirements vary by state. A teacher may choose to teach in a formal educational classroom setting, and must demonstrate competency beyond a license. A teacher can become nationally accredited with voluntary certification offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. All States recognize this certification, and benefits can include higher salaries and reimbursement for continuing education.

CDA professionals and educators are those that have demonstrated proficiency with nurturing children in four areas of growth that include a child's physical, social, emotional, and intellectual experience. A CDA may be earned in four different environments including:

  • Preschool
  • Infant/Toddler
  • Family Day Care Providers
  • Home Visitor

Early Childhood Education Approval and Accreditation

Early childhood education program accreditation is provided by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Four-year degree programs are nationally accredited by the Higher Commission of Education for schools in each region.

Earning Potential and Employment Prospects

Job opportunities for early childhood educators are expected to grow at an average rate through 2014, with a steady demand for experienced professionals in most states. The job market for teachers varies by region, and attractive positions are dependent on state and government funding available. An early childhood teacher may choose to open up their own independent daycare center or teaching facility, and will need to complete licensing and certification per State guidelines to do so.

Median annual earnings for early childhood educators were $41,400 in 2004. The salary can increase with certification and experience. Related occupations include:

  • Teacher assistants

  • Librarians

  • Administrators

  • Child counselors


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