How To Become An Early Childhood Educator?

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    An early childhood educator works with children from birth to third grade or approximately age eight in most states. This teacher works with students in public or private school settings, at elementary schools of all kinds, and in federal- and state-funded programs for early intervention with children from birth to kindergarten, such as Head Start. This guide provides information on how to become an early childhood educator, what they do, and the salary and job outlook for this occupation.

    A child's early years are the most critical for their educational development. Early childhood is defined as birth through age eight. Internally, their brains form vast numbers of neural connections during these early years.

    Physically, emotionally, and educationally, this is the time that shapes a lifelong foundation for mental acuity.

    The child's genetic make-up and experiences contribute to social, emotional, and physical development. It is a time when children learn about language, thinking, and the ways to experience the world around them.

    Thus, experiences play a vital part in the child's early development and education.

    Early Childhood Education is one of the best investments our society can make. The landmark work of the Nobel awarded Economist James Heckman helped change the view of early development by showing that early childhood education keeps more children in school, creates more successful students, and produces graduates that become economically productive and active citizens. Conversely, children that lacked early childhood education were far worse off in learning, performance in school, and long-term success.

    The job prospects for Early Childhood Education have improved in recent years and appear to be on an upward trend. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects above-average growth in occupations like preschool teachers and early childhood educators. For example, the Bureau projected a gain of 50,000 preschool teacher jobs in the ten-year period that ended in 2016 and is still expecting growth.

    Despite the urgency of the need for early childhood education in the lives of every child, the salaries and rewards for early education providers have lagged behind other types of teaching. Without sufficient rewards, early childhood education will suffer. In addition, higher wages help preschool educators pursue higher levels of education, professional certifications, and specializations.

    Early Childhood Educator Job Description

    Early childhood teachers specialize in the learning, developmental, social, and physical needs of young children. These educators provide a safe and comfortable environment where young children can learn not just early academics but also social, motor, and adaptive skills.

    Educators working with students in early childhood specialize in childhood learning and developmental health.

    Educators teaching pre-kindergarten (pre-K) through third grade can expect to teach core subjects such as reading, math, science, and social studies according to the curriculum set out by their school or district. Educators will also provide opportunities and activities for structured and unstructured play and light snacks during the school day.

    Children's behaviour and development are discussed regularly with parents. Those working in an at-risk program such as Head Start can expect to make home visits and counsel parents.

    Early Childhood Educator Requirements and Common Tasks

    To work as an early childhood professional in public schools, state certification is typically required. This certification is most commonly earned through a traditional bachelor's degree program with a major in early childhood education (ECE).

    One major responsibility for early childhood teachers is providing a safe and fun learning environment for young children, which involves planning and arranging the learning environment(s) and providing careful supervision with an eye to safety.

     In many classrooms with young children, an early childhood teacher will also supervise a teacher's aide or teaching assistant to assist with younger children's physical and learning needs.

    Educators must also plan and provide developmentally appropriate learning lessons and structured activities to advance children's understanding of fundamental skills.

    Structure in an early childhood learning environment is especially important as children learn from routines and become comfortable learning and expressing themselves appropriately.

    Early childhood teachers teach the basics of knowledge to pre-primary school students. Taking a holistic approach, early childhood teachers focus on basic literacy and counting skills and promote development in art and music. They are also responsible for their students' basic health and well-being and must also focus on helping students with their basic physical development skills.

    Duties And Tasks

    • Plan and structure indoor and outdoor structured learning classes.
    • Use various materials and equipment to develop motor skills, cooperative social skills, confidence and understanding.
    • Promote language development through storytelling, role play, songs, rhymes and discussions.
    • Observe and evaluate students' progress and discuss with parents and staff.
    • Monitor nutritional health, welfare and safety needs of students.
    • Participate in community and family support programs.

    Becoming An Early Childhood Educator

    Since teaching younger children requires a specialized set of skills, educators working with students in early childhood typically begin their careers by earning a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, child development, or a closely related area of study. In order to qualify graduates for teacher licensure, most states require that the state board approve such a program of education for teacher preparation. For traditional students pursuing a bachelor's degree, the typical process is as follows:

    • Complete a teacher preparation program in early childhood education that is approved by your state's board of education.
    • Complete a student teaching practicum in an early childhood program.
    • Take your state's required tests for educators.
    • Apply to your state's board of education for a teaching certificate or license.
    • Begin applying to open early childhood teacher positions.

    Once accepted into a bachelor's degree program, students will typically spend the first two years of study earning general education credits. The second two years of the bachelor's degree program will focus on courses in childhood development, methods of teaching children, and theories of learning. In addition, students can expect to complete at least one internship or practicum working with small children in a classroom setting. 

    Many early childhood education programs include several separate classroom engagements to prepare teachers for the job's demands. After graduating, prospective early childhood teachers will be ready to become licensed to teach and earn their early childhood endorsement through testing such as the Praxis Series. However, state testing requirements for early childhood certification vary from state to state.


    Previously licensed teachers, or those who already earned a bachelor's degree in another subject, may be able to add an early childhood endorsement to a teaching certificate by completing a master's program in early childhood education or development. 

    A master's degree in early childhood education provides opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of learning in childhood and a more developed skill set for working with small children. In addition, many master's degree programs offer avenues for specialization within the early childhood education field, such as special needs or gifted and talented. Master's program graduates will then take the required tests to earn an early childhood endorsement in their state.

    Steps to Becoming a Preschool Teacher

    Earn An Undergraduate Degree

    Preschool teachers are required to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in early childhood education.

    The hopeful education teachers need on where they work.

    For example, preschool teachers at Head Start programs can get a job after completing an associate's degree, while those who want to work at public schools must earn a bachelor's. During their degree programs, prospective preschool teachers take coursework in children's literature, early childhood education theory, children and families, issues in education, and children's psychological and physical development.

    Degree programs in early childhood education may include:

    • Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education

    Each school shapes its curriculum offerings to meet their choices about the training and education needed to fulfil an educational leadership role. In early education, the associate degree is the first step towards a bachelor's degree.

    The associate degree is also the entry-level degree for some types of education occupations. The Associate of Arts degree or Associate of Science degree is built to prepare the student for completing a bachelor's degree. The Associate of Applied Science usually denotes a degree intended to help the graduate go to work in an occupation or profession.

    • Bachelors of Arts or Science in Early Childhood Education

    This type of degree offers coursework to prepare graduates for preschool teaching, credentials, and certifications. It is a foundation for a successful career in education. These programs are often offered in conjunction with a teacher preparation program that provides access to state teacher licensure.

    If intended for a licensure program, the curriculum would include an internship and practicum coursework for hands-on experience.

    • Master's in Educational Leadership and Administration

    Once you have a bachelor's and some experience under your belt, this type of program will allow you to advance your career, either into the directorship of a childcare facility or preschool or as a principal at an elementary school. In addition, you can take the classes for this degree instead of the continuing education courses you would usually take to maintain your teaching license.

    • Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Administration

    A master's in the entry-level requirement for teaching at the college level, but a doctorate will make you an obvious choice for the positions available at that level. With this degree, you can teach the educators of tomorrow and eventually even chair the education department at your university.

    Complete any Required Exams

    Each state sets teacher certification and licensing requirements for public schools within its boundaries. Teaching students and aspiring ECE teachers must carefully check the requirements in their state for licensing, testing, and educational attainment.

    Many private schools adopt the same or similar testing requirements as the state. For assurance of quality, many private employers prefer to hire teachers with state teaching licenses. Some professional educator testing concerns have developed standard tests that many states have adopted for licensing procedures.

    State-Based Tests

    The states of California and New York are large employers of public and private school teachers. Each state has developed a comprehensive testing regimen with unique state-based competency tests. For example, in California, teachers must pass the California Basic Education Skills Test. This credential does not work in New York, where teachers must pass the New York State Teacher Certification Examination. California also uses NES Assessments and other types of testing as acceptable alternatives for some teacher categories.


    Praxis is a series of standardized tests administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The traditional and widely used standard tests are the praxis tests; forty states use the Praxis series in their state examination and licensing processes.

    The Praxis core tests cover reading, writing, and mathematics. In addition, Praxis offers subject testing in over 90 titles, and they have Principles of Learning Testing (PLT testing) in the Early Childhood Education.


    The edTPA is a recent addition to national standardized testing. This standardized testing system seeks to establish national standards, a consistent set of teacher performance requirements, and standardized terminology for every teacher's elements.

    The edTPA system has student-age and grade-specific testing and 27 teaching subjects. Today, 18 states use edTPA in their testing requirements for a teacher license.


    The National Evaluation Series is a computer-based testing protocol administered by the Pearson organization.

    Unfortunately, some states do not accept the NES. Therefore, students and aspiring preschool teachers must consult with their state department of education to determine the exams that work for their situation. However, the states of Arizona, California, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin accept NES for some types of state certification.

    Get Classroom Experience

    Experiential learning is an important part of becoming an educator, so preschool teachers must get experience in the classroom to get a job.

    To obtain this experience, students participate in internships where they work as assistant teachers under the supervision of a licensed educator. The number of hours of classroom experience teachers need depends on the state they work in.

    Preschool teachers have a large responsibility to care for the physical and emotional well-being of their students. State teacher standards require varying lengths and types of student or practice teaching.

    childhood education

    State-approved ECE college and school curricula contain preparation courses with hands-on teaching (practicums) and internships in which students teach under observation by an experienced, licensed teacher. 

    Earn A License

    Early childhood education graduates who want to work for public schools must obtain a license to get a preschool teacher position. Each state has its specific requirements for licensure. However, preschool teachers are typically required to complete a bachelor's degree and a competency examination.

    Earn A Certification

    Depending on where they live, preschool teachers may be required to obtain a Child Development Associate (CDA) certification issued by the Council for Professional Recognition. To receive this designation, people are required to complete a written examination and demonstrate education and experience. CDA credentials must be renewed every three years.

    Get Hired

    Preschool teachers pass a background check in the licensing process, and they must maintain a personal history that shows good character and civic responsibility. In some states, the salaries for teachers is higher than the national averages, and applicants find some competition for positions.

    In many parts of the country, particularly in some urban centres, school districts have trouble filling vacancies.

    Some states offer loan forgiveness incentives to attract students to attend their colleges and teach in their schools after graduation.

    Helpful Skills and Experience

    Early childhood educators have a love of children, an understanding of the needs and abilities of children, and a passion for teaching. Educators who work in the early childhood field must possess essential character traits such as caring, patience, flexibility, and compassion. These educators must also possess high-level knowledge of childhood development and the content areas to be taught.

    Previous experience working with small children, especially in a classroom setting, is sought by most employers looking to hire early childhood professionals.

    Early Childhood Educator Salary and Job Outlook

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn a median annual salary of $57,980 and have job growth prospects of 3% from 2018 to 2028.1 Preschool teachers, who teach ages three to five, earn a median annual salary of $29,780 per year and have higher job growth prospects of 7% from 2018 to 2028.2

    Childcare workers earn a median annual salary of $26,210 per year.3 As schools work to decrease student-teacher ratios amid student enrollment increases in most areas of the country, job prospects for early childhood teachers should remain positive.

    Additional information

    Before undertaking practical placements required by courses, students will need to obtain a Working with Children Check. A National Police Certificate may also be required.

    Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. In addition, you will need to register with the teaching board in your state or territory. Teachers are required by mandatory reporting laws to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.

    You may also be required to hold an approved Provide First Aid Certificate and have completed anaphylaxis management and emergency asthma management training. Contact the Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority for more information.

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    2. Type of Education and Philosophy. ...
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    When choosing a childcare centre, you as the parent have the right to expect it will provide a safe, supportive place for your child's self-identity and awareness to grow. It's important that educators in your choice of centre value each child's individual interests and opinions and treat them with respect and love.

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