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Required Qualifications for Early Childhood Education Jobs

By The Room 241 Team November 24, 2012

A broad array of jobs and careers await those who choose a career in early childhood education, and each of them requires distinct early childhood qualifications. People who enter this career field generally enjoy working with small children and often find research about child development interesting and invigorating.

While many people who enter this career field intend to do some sort of teaching, there are many more opportunities out there. Degrees can be specialized so those entering the field can find a niche that is right for them.

Preschool or kindergarten teacher

This is the most common job for people who earn degrees in early childhood education. Qualifications typically vary based on an individual’s state of residence. A preschool teacher most likely needs an associate’s degree and some work experience, while a kindergarten teacher more than likely needs a bachelor’s degree and a year of student-teaching experience.

However, more and more, early childhood programs look for those with extensive knowledge in this field, which can greatly benefit students’ development. There are many highly successful ECE educators who earn their MEd to advance their practice and their career.

Many underestimate the rigor of this position and the foundational knowledge and various skills needed to meet all students’ needs. Understanding core concepts such as the value of play-based learning and the importance of social-emotional learning can significantly impact classroom management, student growth, and the learning community overall.

Lauren Harness is one such example; she is an alum of Concordia University-Portland and earned her MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: Early Childhood Education. In a recent interview with Concordia, Harness spoke about her experiences as an early childhood educator: “It really is a commitment to have it in yourself to say, even when it gets hard, I’m in it for the long-run. I’m in it for the kids.”

Early childhood special education teacher

Another Cavalier alum, Mary Flynn, is a preschool special education teacher. Working with students who have special needs in early childhood education requires a range of skills and a strong foundation, she explains. People need to “be able to write IEPs, work with children who have disabilities, and communicate with families. You need to be patient, willing to learn, and flexible. We are often the first experience families have with special education. You will not only be a case manager to your students, but you will also be a support system for parents/guardians.” Those interested in pursuing this career should have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a passion for helping a variety of young learners. 

Preschool or kindergarten program coordinator or manager

An early childcare center requires a program coordinator and a program manager with years of work experience. A program coordinator position often does not require more than a bachelor’s degree, but it certainly can give you a leg up on the competition. It can also enable you to advance your career if you want to eventually become a program manager, which typically requires a graduate degree. Having a MEd for this type of position enables you to improve and expand your role and responsibilities, overseeing curriculum, interacting with key stakeholders, managing specific program initiatives, etc.

As a program manager, those responsibilities not only increase in breadth and depth, but you also serve as a leader, manager, and mentor to the program coordinator, your educators, and other staff members. If you’re set on a becoming a program manager or program director, check out this detailed description.

Cavalier alum, Andre-MarQui Mitchell-Franklin is an education coordinator in a childcare center and earned his MEd in Educational Leadership. He recently took on the role of education coordinator for the childcare center where he’s been an educator. After accepting the position he says he helped them “implement the use of an observation-based assessment system for curriculum and design that interacts with the K-12 stakeholders in our city. We’ve been creating a partnership that creates a bridge between what is being learned in early education and what is expected for entering primary education. I’ve had the opportunity to share this approach with many of our sister centers throughout my company, in hopes that this trend will continue. What it allows is for a clear understanding of the manner in which our students are learning, and for those members of primary education to understand our approach in the same respect as their own; we have lesson plans, we have goals and objectives to meet, and we also have assessments and inter-rater reliability observations that prove our students growth.” Clearly, there is a great deal of responsibility and the chance to make a lasting impact in a position like this within early childhood education.

Childcare professional

Childcare professionals often work in daycare centers or similar facilities.  Typically, an associate’s degree or high school diploma is required for this type of position. Many employers require childcare professionals to undergo special training and pass a variety of background checks. Safety is a huge priority at childcare centers, so employees must be screened to ensure the children are in capable hands. Childcare professionals should be patient, flexible, empathetic, and attuned to young children’s various needs, from nutrition to their mental and emotional well-being. These giving professionals should have extensive experience working with children, leading group activities and connecting with them one-on-one. 

Business owner

Some people opt to start a business focused on early childhood development. A bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree in early childhood development is recommended, as is a degree in business. Some businesses include child swim schools, music lessons, parent and child developmental classes, and gymnastics facilities that promote healthy habits in young children. People entering this field by running their own businesses have a lot of say over the shape of their careers, and the options are practically endless. However, it’s important to have a clear vision, mission, and business plan with goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). 

Child development professor

After spending years in this field, some people cap their careers by becoming professors of early childhood education and development. Typically, people who become professors have a doctorate and years spent in the field working with students and staff. This is an exciting career path that gives people an opportunity to work with educators of the future and share their own knowledge.

No matter what career path you choose in early childhood education, it is important that the well-being of children is at the forefront of your mind. Whether you are a preschool teacher working hands-on with children each day or a professor teaching teachers about how young minds learn, you have the opportunity to have a lasting impact on the next generation.

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