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Child Care Degree Programs and Majors Overview

Most degrees specifically in child care are offered at the associate degree level. Degrees at the bachelor's and master's levels fall under the early childhood education or child development titles. Students in these programs have the opportunity to focus their studies in many areas of specialization.

Essential Information

The typical curricula for child care degree programs include learning methods, multicultural education and child psychology. Some child care degree programs may be offered online, and internships and supervised experiences are important components of both on-campus and online programs. Undergraduate degree programs typically focus on child psychology and early childhood education. Master's degree programs in child life and child development emphasize research methodologies, classroom management and early childhood learning environments. Graduates might pursue child care-related careers in public or private schools, as well as in Head Start programs or social services agencies. Generally, the only educational prerequisite for pursuing an associate or bachelor's degree in child care is having a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some bachelor's degree programs in require satisfactory completion of liberal arts coursework before applying to the major, as well as completion of an entrance interview. Candidates to master's programs are required to have a bachelor's degree. Some schools require that the bachelor's degree be in a subject related to children's education, such as elementary education, early childhood education or child development. No matter the degree level, candidates are subject to a background check prior entry.

  • Program Levels in Child Care: Associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees
  • Child Care Program Fields: Child Care, Residential Child Care, Childhood Education, Child Development, Early Childhood Management, Child and Youth Care, Child Life
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent; bachelor's degree; background check
  • Program Specializations: Infant-Toddler, Preschool, Teacher Aide, Director, Leadership and Supervision, Instruction and Curriculum, Montessori Early Childhood Education
  • Experiential Learning: Practicum; Internships
  • Other Requirements: Thesis may be required for some master's programs

Associate Degrees in Child Care

Associate degrees related to child care include both Associate of Arts (A.A.) and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees. These programs may carry a variety of names, such as early childhood education, child care and development, child care professional, early childhood management or residential child care. Sometimes there are specializations within the degree, including director, infant-toddler, pre-school or teacher aide. Child care courses deal with numerous aspects of the discipline, and they often include a practicum that provides the learner with experience in a professional child care setting. Specific course topics for the child care element of an associate degree can include:

  • Child development and psychology
  • Exceptional special-needs children
  • Multicultural education
  • Child guidance
  • Working with parents
  • Practices in education

Bachelor's Degrees in Child Care

Opportunities to earn a bachelor's degree in early childhood education are easier to find than other bachelor's degrees in child care. However, degrees may be found in early childhood care, child and youth care, child development, and child life. Some of the early childhood education degrees may be earned online. The main drawback of online learning is the lack of opportunity for supervised experience as part of the degree program. Thus, online students might need to seek out an internship before landing paid employment. Much of the coursework required for a bachelor's degree in child care programs varies widely from school to school and is dependent on the focus of the program. However, most programs require courses such as these:

  • Child psychology
  • Child development
  • Early childhood education
  • Development of curriculum
  • Parenting issues
  • Social services

Master's Degrees in Child Care

Most colleges and universities that have an education department will offer a master's degree in early childhood education. This degree will often offer a choice of several specializations. These can include leadership and supervision, instruction and curriculum, and Montessori early childhood education. These courses prepare future teachers to not only implement curricula, but also to evaluate and design them. They may need to accommodate special needs children into the curriculum. One of the goals is to encourage the natural inquisitiveness of the children and provide ways for them to explore their environment. This degree also prepares the student to teach child care courses at colleges and universities and to assist in educational research projects. Most master's programs require a minimum of 32-34 credits. Many of the subjects will be the same as those offered on the bachelor's degree level but with more in-depth coverage. Some schools will require a thesis, but most offer that only as an option. Courses may include:

  • Classroom management
  • Interventions for special needs children
  • Assessing and improving instruction
  • Research methodology
  • Learning environments for early childhood
  • Curriculum development for specific subjects

Popular Career Options

Bachelor's degree in child care programs allow individuals to work in all types of settings where child supervision is needed. Some examples are shown below:

  • Social service agencies
  • Public schools
  • Private schools
  • Head Start programs
  • Pre-school programs
  • Day care centers

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2012, 24% of all child care workers were employed by child day care centers. Another 29% were self-employed. Overall, the BLS expects child care jobs to increase by about 14% from 2012-2022, and predicts that job opportunities will be good. Pay is usually quite low, but is generally better with more education. In May 2014, the median annual salary for all child care workers was $19,730, which equates to approximately $9.48 per hour, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education Information

While an associate degree in child care-related subjects generally prepares the student for such entry-level jobs as Head Start teacher's assistants or nannies, receiving a bachelor's degree can lead to jobs, such as Head Start teacher or manager of child care centers. A master's degree can open the field to include teaching child care at a college or university or performing research regarding the education of children.

The Council for Professional Recognition offers its Child Development Associate credential to those who have experience in the field of child development or child care. No specific degree is required to pursue this credential, though the council does set a minimum number of hours of education needed to be eligible for the credential. Additionally, some work experience is required.

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