Early childhood education is the formal teaching of children, typically age 5 or younger. During this integral stage of education and development, children participate in play-based activities to encourage discovery, awareness, and understanding of the world. Early childhood educators design curriculums with an emphasis on the major stages of cognitive, emotional, social, psychical, and creative development. At the bachelor’s degree level, prospective teachers will receive a comprehensive introduction to the field of early childhood care and education, while learning valuable classroom instruction and management skills.
Why a Bachelor’s Degree?
The first step in preparing for a career in early childhood education is earning the formal education and certification requirements mandated by your state. Most states and school districts require teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate. Prospective teachers, childcare workers, and preschool directors should earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education to meet the needs of their state and receive the most comprehensive training in the field. If you want to go back to school to sharpen your teaching skills or advance positions, the bachelor’s degree will help you prepare for continuing professional education.
Getting Into a Bachelor’s Degree Program
Admissions criteria for the bachelor’s degree in early childhood education vary from school to school. Most bachelor’s degree seekers are required to have the following educational requirements:
- High school diploma or its equivalent
- Desired score on the SAT, ACT, and/or entrance exam
- Minimum required GPA
Inside an Early Childhood Education Bachelor’s Degree Program
The online bachelor in early childhood education can be completed in four years or less, depending on your course load and pace. Undergraduates will be required to take a variety of general education and core classes simultaneously. Some major courses may include: child development, curriculum development, guidance and discipline, early childhood literacy, creating learning environments, and children’s literature.
Online students will use a learning management system like Blackboard or Moodle to access their courses, assignments, and grades. Students can also use these sites to communicate with their instructors and classmates about school. Whether you’re taking a few classes online or completing an entire degree program from home, you should take advantage of the academic, financial, and career services available through your school.
What’s Next for Early Childhood Education Bachelor’s Degree Holders?
Graduates of the early childhood education program will be qualified to do several jobs in education. A common path for bachelor’s degree holders is to become kindergarten and elementary school teachers, special education teachers, and childcare workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate and annual salary of all three occupations is expected to be good for several years. For example, employment of kindergarten and elementary school teachers and special education teachersis expected to grow 17% by 2020, whereas childcare workers are projected to grow 20% by 2020. Not only do these professions have optimistic job outlooks, but they also have favorable salaries. According to the May 2012 Occupational Employment Statistics, kindergarten and elementary school teachers made an average annual salary of $53,030, special education teachers earned $60,240, and childcare workers made $21,310.
Although the bachelor’s degree in early childhood education qualifies graduates to become teachers and other school personnel, there are many employers and positions that require more education and training beyond the undergraduate level. The next step for people who want to further their instructional knowledge and skills is to pursue a master’s degree in early childhood education. Earning a master’s degree can open the door to more advanced job opportunities and higher earnings in education.