While not legally mandatory for child care workers, an associate's degree is commonly required by employers in the industry. These programs include hands-on experience in a child care center and are offered by vocational/technical schools and community colleges. A child care certification is something often sought by employers, so graduates should consider pursuing this designation after earning an associate's degree.
- Program Levels in Child Care: Associate's degree, child care certification, bachelor's degree
- Prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent; may require placement tests
- Program Length: Two years
Associate of Child Care Degree
Students take courses in various aspects of early childhood education and child development. Business management skills pertinent to running a child care center also might be taught. Additionally, students gain experience working directly with children. Course topics usually include the following:
- Nutrition for young children
- Technology for educators
- Special needs children
- Language arts
- Curriculum for early childhood education
- Recognizing child abuse
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Graduates of associate's degree programs in child care, sometimes called child development or early childhood education, are prepared to work with young children in schools or day care centers. They also might start their own child care businesses.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that jobs for child care workers could increase by 14% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). The BLS attributed this anticipated growth in part to increased emphasis on the importance of educational programs for young children. The median salary for child care workers in May 2014 was $19,730, the BLS reported.
Professional Certification and Continuing Education
According to the BLS, some employers prefer to hire child care workers who hold professional credentials. The Council for Professional Recognition offers the Child Development Associate (CDA) designation, while the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA) Commission offers the Child Care Professional (CCP) designation. Both organizations evaluate child care providers in several areas, including experience and communication with families, as well as through classroom observation. Renewing professional certification requires training updates through completion of continuing education classes. A graduate with an associate degree in child care might go on to earn a 4-year degree in early childhood education.