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Early childhood program directors manage preschools.
Teaching Careers Updated October 2, 2018

Early Childhood Education Program Manager

By Robbie Bruens October 4, 2012

Early childhood education program managers provide safe, stimulating environments where young children can thrive. Doing the job right requires vision, expertise and a commitment to helping children in the opening stages of their development.

These managers use a mix of approaches to supervise and motivate teachers and other staff who nurture the learning abilities of preschool and kindergarten children. If you’re passionate about leadership and logistics and you have a strong interest in education, a career in early childhood education program management may be a good choice.

This guide is an overview of the job duties, required education and likely salary of an early childhood education program manager. Read all the way through, or use these links to jump to a specific destination:

At-a-glance
> Early childhood education program manager job description
> Who makes a good early childhood education program manager?

In depth
> What early childhood education program managers do
> Where early childhood education program managers work
> Educational and certification requirements
> Income estimates
> Pros and cons of being an early childhood education program manager

Professional development
> Continuing education
> Leading academic early childhood education programs at the university level

Related careers
> Other jobs

Best of the web
> Sites and Twitter handles to follow

At-a-glance: early childhood education program managers

Minimum education Bachelor’s degree
Median salary $45,670 (BLS)
$40,843 to $63,508 (PayScale.com)
$47,000 (Indeed.com)

Early childhood education program manager job description

An early childhood program manager oversees social, academic and emotional development of the youngest students. The most familiar programs are in preschools, where children begin their education through play and interaction with other children, but other programs may organize staff visits to the homes of children to help parents provide a high-quality education.

As an early childhood program manager, your time will probably be split between an office and the site where the program is being implemented, which could be a day care center, preschool or other location.

Your job duties include hiring and supervising staff who work with the children, managing the program’s budgets, and ensuring the program meets the children’s social, emotional, educational and health needs. The work hours are likely to be the standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with additional hours during the week and over the weekend if needed.

Who makes a good early childhood education program manager?

Someone who is:

  • Attentive to details
  • Service oriented
  • Good at planning and organizing
  • Empathetic and sociable
  • Highly diplomatic
  • Skilled in identifying problems and brainstorming potential solutions
  • Excellent at written and oral communication, and presentation
  • Comfortable working independently and collaboratively
  • Passionate about connecting with teachers and students
  • Qualified with a degree in early childhood education or educational leadership

Interested in becoming an early childhood education program manager?

Check out this video that will give you a better sense of what’s involved in early childhood education program management:

In depth

Let’s take a more detailed look at what early childhood education program managers do, where they work, how much they earn and more.

Where early childhood education program managers work

You could work for a wide range of employers, including:

  • Head Start and other government agencies
  • Public and private preschools
  • Kindergartens (usually part of elementary schools)
  • Day care centers
  • Nonprofit organizations (like the YMCA)
  • Family child care homes
  • Waldorf schools
  • Montessori schools
  • Parent cooperatives
  • Recreation centers
  • Hospitals with child care centers or other early childhood programs
  • Businesses with child care programs for the children of employees
  • Reggio Emilia schools
  • HighScope schools
  • Democratic free schools
  • After-school enrichment programs
  • Universities

Most early childhood programs are run by schools and child care/day care centers. Some are run by other organizations such as businesses that provide special services to their employees. Others follow a specific educational philosophy, such as Waldorf and Montessori schools.

Early childhood programs usually serve young children ages 2 to 5. Some programs may serve infants younger than 2, while others may include children up to age 7 if they’re designed to integrate a broader age range in a single classroom.

What early childhood education program managers do

If you work as an early childhood education program manager, your day-to-day responsibilities may include:

  • Hiring, directing and leading program staff
  • Overseeing daily activities
  • Preparing plans and budgets
  • Monitoring financial affairs
  • Supervising teachers and caregivers
  • Establishing/enforcing early childhood program policies
  • Providing training and professional development for staff members
  • Meeting with parents
  • Resolving conflicts between staff and parents
  • Ensuring the physical environment of the facility is in good condition

Program managers must also review their staff and facilities to ensure compliance with local, state and federal standards. They may be responsible for promoting the child care center’s image and reputation.

Education and certification requirements

To work as an early childhood education program manager, you are usually required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience in child care or a related field. Many employers expect prospective job candidates to have a master’s degree or doctorate in an education-related field.

Licensing requirements for the profession vary according to state laws. You can search licensing requirements by state on this website.

Income projections

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a child care administrator is about $45,670. Here are a few estimates of the annual salary of an early childhood education program manager:

  • $45,670 (BLS)
  • $40,843 to $63,508 (PayScale.com)
  • $47,000 (Indeed.com)

Pros and cons of being an early childhood education program manager

As you think about becoming an early childhood education program manager, make sure to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the job.

Pros

  • Influence the lives of young children in a meaningful way
  • Experience the creativity and curiosity of young children firsthand
  • Protect children from harm
  • Usually earn full health and retirement benefits
  • High projected growth and opportunities

Cons

  • Ensuring safety and high-quality care for hundreds or even thousands of children is an enormous responsibility that causes considerable stress
  • Managing an institution means dealing with lots of bureaucratic challenges
  • You may have to work with difficult or hostile parents and families
  • Less opportunity to work one-on-one with children than teachers and caregivers
  • Salary lags other administration jobs in education

Professional development for early childhood education program managers

If you’re just getting started in the world of early childhood education program management, seek internships or entry-level positions in the administrative offices of an early childhood education program or another institution serving young children.

As you’re mapping out your approach to becoming an early childhood education program manager, read as much as you can about early childhood education policy, including blogs and Twitter feeds. The better informed you are about early childhood policy, the more likely you are to find job openings and have informed conversations with potential employers.

You’ll also want to seriously consider earning an advanced degree in a field related to education. An advanced degree can boost your resume, potentially increase your earning power and unlock new job opportunities.

Benefits of continuing education

If you’re serious about becoming an early childhood education program manager, think about pursuing a master’s degree or doctorate. Once you have decided to get an advanced degree, start researching the area of focus you want and the programs that best serve your professional goals.

What kinds of programs can help early childhood education program managers?

Concordia University-Portland offers online degree programs that can help prospective early childhood education program managers sharpen their skills and prepare to lead more prestigious programs:

MEd in Educational Leadership
EdD in Educational Administration

These programs guide enrollees to cultivate executive leadership traits such as critical thinking, creative problem-solving and informed decision-making. Coursework emphasizes communication and collaboration, teaching students how to make a virtue of complexity and embrace innovation, imagination, and invention.

Leading academic early childhood education programs at the university level

If you work as an early childhood education program manager for years, you may want to set your sights on advancing to a new position that furthers your professional development and career goals. Many universities have academic programs focused on early childhood education, and university administrations often look for experienced early childhood education program managers to lead these programs.

Academic early childhood education programs serve adult students studying to become early childhood educators, aides and analysts. Some are even studying to become program managers themselves. These university-level academic programs want real-world expertise in their teaching and administrative staff. As an experienced early childhood education program manager with many years of accomplishment behind you, you would be an ideal candidate to work for or even lead such a program.

Managing an academic early childhood education program can be a very rewarding job. You would influence thousands of students who will later go on to serve young children in schools, day care centers and more. This type of position also generally pays more than a job directly managing an early childhood education program.

Jobs for early childhood education program managers beyond early childhood program management

Early childhood education program managers may also work as teachers, instructional coordinators, assistant principals, principals, or as an educational administrator at a college or university.

Teacher: Early childhood education program managers can easily become teachers if they obtain a teaching credential and have a strong educational background in the subject they plan to teach.

Professor: Early childhood education program managers can become professors if they earn a doctorate in the area where they wish to research and teach.

Instructional coordinator: Early childhood education program managers are well-positioned to become instructional coordinators. Instructional coordinators should complete a master’s degree related to curriculum and instruction and may be required to have a teaching or education administrator license.

Academic advisor: With a master’s degree in an education-related field, you can transition into being an academic advisor at either the K-12 or college/university level.

School principal: You will need a master’s degree in an education-related field to become a school principal. Most states also require public school principals to be licensed school administrators.

Education administrator: Early childhood education program managers can become administrators of colleges and universities with years of experience and a master’s degree in an education-related field, such as educational leadership.

Best of the web: our favorite early childhood education program manager blogs, websites and Twitter handles

The web makes it easy to connect with prominent early childhood education program managers. Here is a list of our favorite websites and Twitter handles, in no particular order.

Favorite early childhood education program websites and blogs

Favorite early childhood education program Twitter handles

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