The goal of early childhood development diploma programs is to prepare students to work with children from birth through age 8. The difference between a diploma and an associate's degree in early childhood development can be as little as one semester, as associate's degrees take two years to complete. Most diploma programs in early childhood development are found in technical colleges.
To be considered for admission, students should have their high school diplomas or GEDs, a minimum 'C' level GPA, and be ready to submit their ACT or SAT scores.
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Early Childhood Development Diploma
While earning an early childhood development diploma, students learn about curriculum, guidance and standards for working with young children. Because of a push for national child care credentialing, the curriculum for most diploma programs is identical. Students study developmentally appropriate classroom guidance and management techniques. General education core courses in English, math and social studies are usually part of the program. Students will generally be required to complete a 3-6 credit hour field experience. Other courses required in the programs address:
- Children with special needs and their families
- Development of infants, toddlers and pre-school children
- Health and safety practices for child care providers
- Methods and materials for developmentally-appropriate evaluating and planning
- Methods, techniques and materials to encourage creative expression
- Strategies in planning for and teaching infants and toddlers
Pre-employment education requirements range from none to a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, depending on the state and childcare or school settings. Some jobs may require additional education. Career possibilities include:
- Pre-school teacher
- Early childhood paraeducator
- Early childhood special educator
- Diagnostician of needs of young children
The number of child care jobs was expected to grow as fast as average rate of 5% from 2014-2024, according to predictions by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Salaries are often low, based on data from the BLS; the mean hourly wage in May 2015 was $10.72. Workers also often leave these jobs for further education or to meet family needs.
In 2010, the District of Columbia and 49 states required lead child care workers in at least some settings to have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. The Council for Professional Recognition offers the CDA for six settings, two of which are for individuals. One of the requirements for this credential is 120 clock hours of formal education in child care within the prior five years. Individuals also must be able to be evaluated as the lead caregiver in the setting for which they seek a credential.
The CDA must be renewed after the first three years, and every five years thereafter. Requirements for renewal include 4.5 continuing education hours, taken through schools that have early childhood development programs. In addition, those who have earned a diploma in early childhood development may go on to earn an associate's degree.
For students who are passionate about early childhood development, obtaining a diploma in the field will help them learn necessary skills to become childcare workers. Some states require workers to hold the Child Development Associate credential, which requires continuing education to maintain.