What can you do with an early childhood education degree? There are more options in this extraordinarily important line of work than one might think. Sure, there’s teaching in a traditional school setting – those with Early Childhood Education degrees are typically well-suited for anything between pre-school and third grade – but that’s certainly not all. The field of Early Childhood Education is a vast one, with professionals working in the classroom, in stores, in private daycares and learning centers, and even in the child’s home.
A degree in Early Childhood Education sets you up with many different marketable skills – an understanding of the educational, cognitive, and emotional development of children, the ability to create age-appropriate learning materials and lessons to best help children develop, leadership skills, collaborative skills (with both parents and other educators), and so much more. As such, a degree in Early Childhood Education is attractive to any employer working with children, schools, parents, and educators. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the employment possibilities for someone with an Early Childhood Education degree, both in and out of the traditional classroom setting.
Pre-school is a critical time in a child’s development, and as such, pre-school teachers are hugely important to the development of children before they reach kindergarten. Pre-school teachers help their students to develop motor and social skills, as well as basic educational skills like reading, writing, and counting. Pre-school is a child’s first experience with organized schooling and, therefore, the role of a pre-school teacher is also one of creating an educational experience that will ease the transition into the classroom and set in motion a lifetime of excitement for learning.
Pre-school teachers with a degree in Early Childhood Education are highly coveted, and pre-school teachers can expect to make an average salary of around $27,000, with top salaries reaching over $50,000 a year.
Kindergarten teachers act as a bridge teacher, transitioning students from pre-school to elementary school. Like pre-school teachers, kindergarten teachers are likely to have a classroom with many students experiencing the classroom for the first time and must be prepared accordingly. Also, like elementary school teachers, kindergarten teachers need to have a well-rounded educational background, as they’ll be teaching everything (reading, math, etc.) in their own classroom.
Kindergarten teachers typically keep an eye on students’ academic and emotional standing as well in order to set goals for both the class and individual students as they are prepared for first grade and beyond. Kindergarten teachers generally make an average of $50,000 per year, though that number can fluctuate depending on location and educational background, ranging anywhere from the $30,000s to the $60,000s.
Elementary School Teacher
Generally teaching first- through fifth-grade, elementary schools educators are expected to have a broad base of knowledge, as they are responsible for teaching most subjects within their classroom. Whether it’s math, literature, science, or art, an elementary school teacher needs to be able to cover it with his or her students. As such, a solid general education is recommended, and a bachelor’s degree (with the proper certification) is required to become an elementary school teacher.
Early Childhood Education majors who go the elementary school teacher route can expect to earn a median salary of about $50,000, though some can earn into the $80,000s depending on location and experience. Oh, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job growth in the field to be around 12% in the next decade, which is higher than the average, so a degree in Early Childhood Education could translate into plenty of teaching opportunities moving forward.
Teacher assistants (or paraeducators/paraprofessionals) assist lead teachers in the classroom. While the median pay is much lower than a lead teacher’s salary would be, the responsibilities are also lessened, with teacher assistants expected to work with individual students or small groups while the lead teacher handles the classroom as a whole. The teacher assistant’s role is usually to help reinforce the new material that the lead teacher has taught. Teacher assistants also help prepare materials for lessons, keep track of student attendance, reinforce classroom rules, and generally help the lead teacher supervise the children during the school day.
Teacher assistants are usually required only to have a high school diploma, making the position a perfect fit for an Early Childhood Education major that is still in school. It allows students in the program to get used to working with young children in the classroom environment without having to commit to the full workload that comes with being a lead teacher. Teacher assistants earn around $24,000 per year, making this a good supplemental job while earning an Early Childhood Education degree.
Outside of the Classroom Positions
Home-Based Childcare Worker
Perhaps more commonly known as a nanny, a home-based childcare worker is in charge of the health, education, and safety of the children in their care. Between providing structured activities, ensuring educational, nutritional, and emotional development, and communicating with parents about the child’s needs and growth, the home-based childcare worker is more than a mere babysitter – they may well be the most important figure in a child’s life outside of the parents themselves.
Salary and requirements can vary greatly for home-based childcare workers. The requirements are largely up to the individual families, and often a student in an Early Childhood Education program will be a perfect fit for both the family and the student – allowing the student to get practical training with young children while earning a degree. Home-based childcare professionals earn between $14,000 and $35,000 per year, largely depending on the number of children in their care.
Let’s take a step away from hands-on work with children, as an Early Childhood Education degree qualifies you for so much more than just life in a classroom. A Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education – plus some experience in business or marketing – can set you up for a career as a sales representative for all kinds of products aimed at children. Sales reps are responsible for selling products like toys, children’s literature, and food and drink – really, anything marketed for children, parents, and/or educators.
Sales representatives can earn between $40,000-$60,000 depending on experience, promoting products to store buyers, at conferences, and online. And who better to help create, promote, and sell these products than someone with an education and background with young children? Sales is an excellent choice for Early Childhood Education degree holders who are looking for something different than the traditional classroom path.
While jumping straight from an Early Childhood Education degree to running research studies may be a bit of a stretch, getting into research could be a career goal for ECE degree holders looking to further their education by getting a Master’s or even a Doctorate. Carrying out studies on children and educational practices with respect to their development, researchers are also expected to get funding for their research through grant writing.
While the educational requirements are higher than some of the other careers on this list, the average salary – upwards of $75,000 – is significantly better as well. Researchers aren’t limited to academia either, as government, non-profit, and for-profit organizations are all possible employers for well-educated and prepared researchers.
Consultants are skilled professionals in the field of education that are brought in to schools, daycares, and other public and private institutions to help develop curriculum, create programs, set regulations, and determine learning outcomes for the organization’s children. Consulting work can range from helping to adjust standards and expectations to helping to create an entirely new program for an organization not yet involved in child care and education.
Because Early Childhood Education majors learn a variety of skills – understanding and encouraging development in children, interacting and collaborating with parents and administrators, communicating and leading, and so on – those with a degree in ECE are well-suited to consult and can expect to make an average salary that ranges anywhere from $48,000 up to $80,000.
If you’re interested in the development and enrichment of early childhood students but are more interested in setting up the curriculum than actually teaching it, a career in administration may be the right path for you. Day cares, learning centers, and other similar institutions all require an administrative staff to create and implement the curriculum, ensuring students are being taught to the standards of the center. There are a number of different types of centers, from federally-funded schools and Head Start programs, to independently owned and operated centers, to national chains like Kumon or Montessori. These centers can also vary in terms of the age of their students, from preschoolers to college students, but since we’re focusing on Early Childhood Education, let’s look at pre-school educational administration.
Pre-school educational administrators establish the educational standards of the center, as well as observing and adjusting lessons and providing professional development opportunities for their staff. Pre-school educational administrators can earn in the $40,000-$50,000 per year range, and generally only a high school diploma is required (along with the necessary certification). However, with the practical experience that one will get within the program, as well as the up-to-date knowledge of educational practices and standards for children enrolled in pre-school, a bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education will give anyone looking to become an Educational Administrator at a pre-school a leg up on the competition.