The Benefits Of Early Childhood Education Degree Programs
While most people are aware that an early childhood education degree is needed for jobs that are specifically centered on teaching children — such as public or private kindergarten teacher positions — the much wider application of these degrees may not be as widely recognized. In fact, early childhood education degree programs cover a wide scope of understanding of a child’s development, both mental and physical, typical and atypical, and they give a measure of understanding of the many factors that can affect this development. Often narrowly labeled a ‘teaching degree’ in the common vernacular, these degrees are beneficial, and even necessary, in careers that span a wide array of interactions with children, parents, and other educators.
Aside from courses in education and development, programs typically include additional courses that broaden the spectrum of use for the degree. Kaplan University, for instance, includes business and management instruction, enabling the graduate to apply what they learn within the program to run a daycare or preschool. Thus, an early childhood education degree may be valuable not only in entering a career, but for the entrepreneur as well — not only for the daycare employee, but for the person who would like to start his or her own daycare. Kaplan’s program also promises to grow skills in child advocacy and curriculum design, making it a boon for those who hope to work with disadvantaged or disabled children, and even for those who would exercise their creative skills in writing children’s books and creating educational materials.
Administrative And Other Careers
The obvious benefit of a well-rounded program is that it opens up the widest range of possibilities for its graduates. The skills gained in such a program provide a background for not only teaching children, but also for taking on the task of school administrator, running the day-to-day concerns of a daycare or preschool, or otherwise overseeing an educational institution. In order to run a school, neither business knowledge nor knowledge of child development and education on its own is enough; both are necessary.
Meanwhile, as society’s understanding of the importance of early learning grows, the market for materials to foster these skills booms. From phonics sets centered around popular characters, to smartphone apps, to video and television programs, products that help the youngest learners discover colors, letters, and words are a broad market for the creative designer. Designing and marketing a product that is effective and desirable again requires dual skill sets in both early education and business management.
For those whose desire is to teach, now is the perfect time to pursue a career in this field. The demand for skilled and educated teachers in public schools is on the rise. Teachers are needed who have skills in using technology, an understanding of differentiated education, and the flexibility to learn and incorporate new skills and materials as they become available. Because children with a wide range of learning styles and ability levels will likely be in the same classroom, the strong understanding of developmental ranges gained from a sound degree program will be useful here.
The rising debate about the effectiveness of certain educational materials is also driving a growth in private schools. Here, the ratio of students to teachers is typically lower, and more individual attention will be expected for each student. Parents entering their child in a public school will also often have higher expectations for achievement. Here, a degree that is extensive and well-rounded will help teachers communicate with parents about the individual needs of their offspring, as well as provide insight on different educational paths for children with different abilities
Another place that the early childhood education degree is necessary is for working in learning centers devoted to those with developmental or physical disabilities. Programs available today typically cover assistive technology, which includes learning aids such as text-to-speech software, adaptive keyboards for limited mobility, and a wide range of other devices that help a student with a physical disability complete his education. An early childhood education degree program will also cover learning disabilities and developmental delays. Whether a child is on the autism spectrum, has been diagnosed with ADHD, or suffers from sensory processing disorder, a skilled teacher can provide him with the best possible education for his abilities and interests.
Childhood development courses specifically address how development and learning can be altered by brain injuries and exposure to harmful substances before birth, as well as delving into genetic and environmental causes for developmental delays and disorders. Understanding the specific challenges a student faces is particularly beneficial to a teacher in a special needs classroom or learning center. It’s also a key skill for an educator reaching children in long-term hospitalization or physical rehabilitation facilities.
There are also classroom programs designed for the academically gifted. While it may be intuitive to assume that children who handle academic skills with ease can be largely left to their own devices, the truth is that keeping these students challenged can be the key to ensuring that they put their ample skills to use in learning, as opposed to preventing the rest of the class from doing so. Furthermore, heightened academic skills can sometimes be comorbid with struggles in social development. A degree in early education also includes instruction in how to address these special challenges so that the students who have the most ease at academics can also gain the maximum value from their class time.
Daycares and Preschools
There is currently a push in the United States towards providing educational opportunities at younger ages. In the U.S., the age at which schooling is compulsory varies by state, but most children enter a classroom by age five or six. It’s common for children entering kindergarten to be expected to know colors, numbers, and letters of the alphabet, among other basic building blocks of knowledge. However, these basics, which are most easily acquired naturally through play during the years when a child’s brain is growing at its fastest, aren’t available to all children.
Children whose homes do not provide opportunities for early learning can enter kindergarten at a disadvantage compared to their peers. The same is true for students who will attend an English-speaking school but may not hear English spoken in their home much, if at all. Because of the number of students who are entering kindergarten already struggling to catch up with their classmates, there is a push for universal preschool. This would make pre-kindergarten education available to all children as early as three years of age.
Early childhood education degree programs now include communication skills for interacting with ESL (English as a second language) students and for childhood development from birth, so they are well-designed to prepare students for the new jobs that will open as the demand for preschool teachers continues to grow.
Aside from public preschools, many private daycares also offer educational instruction for children as young as three, and these institutions often require that their teachers have a degree in early childhood education. Even in institutions that do not focus on education, child care is greatly facilitated by an understanding of developmental needs.
Working With Parents
It’s impossible for every parent to take a full set of courses in child development and education. Thus, those who do study in the field have an advantage in being able to reach out to parents. Child advocates may find that coursework in child development helps them serve as a communication facilitator between a struggling child and his parent, caregiver, teacher, principal, or social worker. The understanding of mental and physical development these programs foster can benefit a school counselor, who finds herself in the position of explaining to a parent why his communication style isn’t reaching his child. It can be advantageous for a school resource officer who has the opportunity to reach a child and be the last line of defense, keeping a student in school and out of juvenile detention systems. School nurses, principals, and secretaries all find that a background in childhood education facilitates communication with their charges, and can be the difference between a contentious or cooperative relationship.
Why an Early Childhood Education Degree?
An early childhood education degree is required for virtually every teaching position in a public or private school. It is a necessity for most positions in public and private preschools, and many daycare centers. It may be required for other positions in public and private schools, including counselor, secretary or receptionist, nurse, and administrator. It is also a requirement for most other types of educational positions in learning centers, group homes, and distance teaching programs.
Aside from positions in which it is required, an understanding of child development provides a background for creating lesson plans and supplemental materials, opening a daycare or preschool center, designing apps, movies, and games that foster learning, and assisting parents in developmentally appropriate communication and care of their young children.
In short, the benefits of early childhood education degree programs apply to everyone whose career will, in any way, relate to the education and development of elementary-age and younger children.