Early Childhood Education Degrees
Early childhood education degree programs are different from elementary and high school level programs because there is more than the curriculum and lesson preparation. You will have classes that focus on the variety of theories and approaches to early childhood education. It is important to have knowledge of the development theories of Freud, Piaget, Skinner, and Erikson in this field. These classes will also help educate on the variety of approaches to early childhood education: Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia. Within early childhood, you are teaching every subject area along with social, emotional and physical skills. Having a strong comprehension on child development, plus the subject knowledge is vital to becoming a successful early childhood educator.
Is Early Childhood Education for Me?
To some outsiders, it may seem easy to teach preschoolers. Many ask whether there is any teaching going on. However, when you have more knowledge of preschool, you’ll see that every part of the day is a learning experience for the preschool set. They learn to share resources on the playground, and they discover science when someone digs up a worm in the dirt. Of course, the learning is facilitated by you, the teacher. Here are some of the attributes you’ll need to succeed.
As a pre-K teacher, you must have the patience and discipline to approach every part of the day as a learning experience. After all, the students are experiencing everything for the first time. You will need to have the ability to see students as learners, not as children in need of a babysitter.
Consider the rapid-fire needs of a single toddler and then multiply that by every student in the room. They all need something at once, and every need is individual and unique. To be an effective classroom supervisor, you will need to be able to handle each situation as it arises, and you will have no control over how fast the situations present themselves.
Leadership abilities are also pertinent to preschool teacher. You will need to establish a sense of trust and respect from the students. Very often, you may be the first non-familial adult they encounter in their lives, so you need to make them feel welcome and free to learn and express themselves. As their instructor and leader, you will need to balance the boundaries of guidance with an open approach that encourages exploration and learning.
Pre-K teachers must be creative, love children and have the flexibility to change course in midstream. Your creativity will be stretched as you try to create lesson plans that will be stimulating, have an educational focus and be within the scope of your students’ abilities. It will be important to challenge their abilities without causing frustration. With time, you’ll learn how to create assignments that provide enough challenge for everyone, and that are adaptable for the more advanced in the class.
Flexibility in a preschool classroom is vital to success. The little ones have quick attention spans and sometimes they finish activities well before you planned. Being able to think on your feet and adapt to the situation is vital to keep the flow of the day intact, and to maintain the respect and esteem you need from students.
Early Childhood Education Degrees
You can choose between an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. An associate’s degree typically takes two years to complete so you can get into the classroom sooner. This is a great route if you intend to focus your career on private preschools. Preschools operated through a state’s Department of Education usually require early childhood education teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree and possibly a full teacher’s license.
Once you have earned a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and passed your state exams, you are qualified to become an early educator. In addition, you can also earn a master’s degree to increase your knowledge and receive an increase in pay and become more valuable to schools and districts.
There is also the possibility of earning a double major. With several preschool and early childhood programs across the country involving special education or inclusion, special education is a growing area and an addition to your traditional early childhood educator degree. It may give you more job opportunities and options when looking for a teaching position.
You are required to renew your certificate usually every three to five years depending on your state’s requirements. In order to renew that certificate, a certain amount of professional development or education credit hours are required. Since those are a necessity in keeping your teaching position, it might be a good idea to earn them while earning a higher-level degree. Along with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, some choose to add an emphasis or endorsement to their degree or certificate. There are a variety of options of endorsement areas including the following:
- English as a Second Language (ESL)
- Special Education
It is beneficial to research state requirements in adding endorsements to your certificate, and also research future places of employment that may require certain endorsements before being eligible for hire in their programs.
Sample ECE Curriculum
No matter where you decide to earn your degree, most programs are going to have the same curriculum requirements. There may be some small differences across online to campus programs, but most programs will include classes such as the following:
- Introduction to Early Childhood Education
- Foundations of Early Childhood Education
- Young Child Development
- Early Literacy
- Assessment in Early Childhood
- Understanding the Culture, Diversity, Family and Community
- Human/Young Child Development
- Strategies and Methodologies in Early Childhood
- Theories of Early Childhood Education
- Health and Nutrition
- Classroom Development
- Art, Music, Creative Development
- Learning Through Play
What to Look for in Online Early Childhood Education Degree Programs
In today’s world, technology, busy schedules and juggling family with school, online school sounds like a great options. There are several accredited universities and programs that offer a quality bachelor’s and higher programs in early childhood education.
Accreditation is key to choosing an online degree program as it ensures that your school and coursework have been vetted by professionals and key academic advisors in the field of ECE. Without accreditation you may not be able to apply for federal financial aid to help you pay for your education, and when it’s time to transfer credits should you move or choose to pursue a bachelor’s or postgraduate degree, you may discover that your previous hard work and accomplishments are not eligible for transfer.
Some accreditation agencies to look for when researching early childhood education programs include:
- National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA)
- Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation
- National Association for the Education of Young Children
Most early childhood education programs do require a certain amount of practicum and internship hours so be prepared and do your research on what requirements your online program has. There are also online programs that require hybrid classes or a few campus visits, so if you need to work full-time or keep up with your daily schedule, prepare for any program obligations that may come up.
Early Childhood Education Professional Certification
There are several certifications available for preschool teachers and the one you need to earn may depend on your state’s requirements.
The Council for Professional Recognition offers the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. To earn it, you need to complete certain coursework, gain experience in the field, be observed and pass an exam.
Other states may require you to earn the Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) credential from the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. To earn this certification, you’ll need to complete similar requirements as the CDA credential.
Before you get started, it may be worthwhile to find out what your state requires. Discuss these matters with your academic advisor so that you are sure to take the courses you need to pursue your career.
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