Associate's degree programs in early childhood education can prepare graduates to become teaching assistants, while bachelor's degree programs in the field can prepare them to earn a teaching license. Master's degree programs in child care are ideal for aspiring school administrators and may only admit current teaching professionals. Associate's and bachelor's programs typically include a student-teaching experience. Master's programs may be available in a variety of formats, including online.
In addition to a high school diploma or GED, students looking into an associate's degree may be required to take a college placement test and meet with a child care program representative. Bachelor's degree students may require SAT or ACT scores, a statement of purpose and a resume. Graduate students may be required to present Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, reference letters, and a resume, along with a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 2.8-3.0.
Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education
Students interested in working in child care can enroll in a 2-year degree program for early childhood education, which offers practical skills and foundational theories in teaching. Future child care providers learn to nurture and instruct children from birth through six years of age. Furthermore, they learn the importance of building relationships with parents in order to support child development outside of the classroom. At the associate's degree level, future child care professionals participate in student-teaching experiences. General education topics will be studied, in addition to taking education classes such as:
- Nutrition and health for children
- Child and parent relationships
- Child behavior modification strategies
- Teaching special needs students
- Introductory reading and writing
Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education
Child care college programs at the bachelor's level prepare students to teach and result in a Bachelor of Arts or Science. Majors develop skills for dealing with children younger than six and prepare for licensure as early childhood or elementary school educators. Depending on the program, concentrations may be available in math, reading or science teaching methods. Other possible concentrations include diversity education and behavior management. Degree-seekers participate in educational seminars and practica and take courses in sciences, social sciences, math and language arts as well as:
- Child mental and physical development
- Child care observation and assessment techniques
- Technology in the classroom
- Music and education
- Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL)
Master of Education
This professional child care program is generally geared toward current educators seeking advancement opportunities and administrative skills. Classes are typically offered on weekends or evenings, and some programs are offered entirely online. Concentrations are often availabile in elementary, secondary or ESOL education. Graduate students usually complete a thesis. Courses include:
- Teaching students with literacy delays
- Advanced teaching techniques
- Educational politics
- Leadership in education
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
With proper child care credentials, such as Child Development Associate or Child Care Professional certification, graduates of an associate's degree program for early childhood education are eligible for entry-level opportunities as preschool teachers and teaching assistants. As of May 2015, teacher assistants earned a median annual salary of $24,900, while preschool teachers (except special education) earned a median annual salary of $28,570, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Furthermore. the BLS noted that from 2014 through 2024, employment of teaching assistants was predicted to increase at an average rate of 6%, while hiring of preschool teachers was expected to increase 7%, both rates about as fast as the average for all occupations.
The BLS noted that from 2014-2024, employment of kindergarten and elementary educators was predicted to climb 6%, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Kindergarten teachers (except special education) earned a median annual salary of $51,640 while elementary teachers (except special education) earned a median annual salary of $54,890 as of May 2015.
Popular Career Options
Those with a master's degree in education can work in public and private elementary, middle and high schools, as well as non-profit sectors. Specific job titles may include:
- Primary school teacher
- Secondary school teacher
- School program coordinator
- Assistant principal
Additional graduate degrees and certificates are available in the field of education, but vary according to special interest. For example, a Ph.D. in Special Education prepares child care workers with the tools to implement a constructive and understanding learning environment to those with physical and mental disabilities or disease.
Child care degree programs can be completed at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's level depending on what career those interested wish to pursue. Undergraduate students will complete student teaching experience along with typical coursework, while graduate students may complete a thesis.