Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education

Early childhood is a period when important physical, cognitive and emotional growth occurs. Positive stimulation, caring adults and activities that encourage creativity and exploration are important factors in a child’s early years. For that reason, early childhood education makes a huge difference for all children. If you are considering entering this important field of work, here’s what you should know about earning an associate’s degree in early childhood education.

Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education Courses

Every degree is built on a series of courses. For your AA in Early Childhood Education, you will take a wide range of courses that may include, but is not limited to:

Introduction to Early Childhood Education: You will gain an overview of the field, including: philosophies, history, public policies, trends and career paths available.

Nutrition and Health: You will learn about the impacts of nutrition on the physical and mental life of a child.

Childhood Development: Theories of physical, cognitive and social development are introduced. You will also learn the importance of helping children expand their motor and cognitive skills.

Family Dynamics: This course will teach you how family impacts the life of a child.  You will learn about the different parenting styles as well as contemporary issues that impact families.

Childhood Literacy: When children are exposed to reading and storytelling at an early age, they have a basis for higher literacy later on. You will learn how to select the most developmentally-appropriate literature for the children you teach.

Early Childhood Curriculum: You will learn how to encourage academic, social and emotional development through the curriculum you design. The course will expose you to various curriculum models you can use in your career.

Issues and Trends in Early Childhood Education: This course will set you up with the tools to stay current with events that impact your field, including legislation.

Practicum: In this course, also known as an externship, you will work in a real preschool or some other related place of work, such as a social service agency that serves children and families. You may be asked to write a series of short reports about your experiences that culminate in a final paper. This experiential learning process will be the capstone to your education.

Skills You’ll Learn

While you study early childhood education, you will do more than learn to repeat a bunch of terms and theories. You will begin to create a skill-set that will prepare you for the job market. More importantly, you will develop techniques that you can use to make a positive impact on the life of a very young person.

You will learn how to plan extensive lesson cycles that encourage literacy, social skills and emotional development. Further, you will be able to tailor these lessons to meet the specific developmental and educational needs of the children in your care.

One key skill you will develop through your studies is communication. The more you understand about the children in your care, the easier it will be to listen to them. You will also learn how to best express yourself and your expectations for them. This communication also extends to your fellow teachers, as the typical preschool classroom usually involves multiple teachers. Your ability to work with your co-teachers will determine how well the children learn and develop in your care.

Though you may not consider it a skill, your education will foster your own creativity. It will do that by providing you with the tools you need to better understand the children in your care. When you understand their specific needs, you can create the sorts of materials and lessons that will have the best impact on their developing minds.

Where Can I Work with an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education?

There are a number of career paths you can pursue with an associate’s degree in early childhood education.

Preschool Teacher: Most who earn an associate’s degree in early childhood education enter the workforce as preschool teachers. When you are prepared with an associate’s degree, you can lead the way with effective lesson plans and approaches to learning and development. Your work can make a lasting impact on both students and their parents.

Administrator: You can take over more of the bigger picture issues of running a preschool. Your expertise in creating a curriculum will guide the teachers you work with. Since you will not be in the classroom, you can oversee issues like the nutrition provided by the school as well as other functions, such as parental visitations and field trips.

Teacher’s Assistant: TAs often work one-on-one with children who need special attention and generally act as extra support for the lead teacher.

Director: As a director, you’ll hire the teachers you feel will be the best fit, design the optimal curriculum and create policies and procedures that will result in the maximum success for everyone. This may be the sort of position you will need to grow into, but your associate’s degree will put you on track for this sort of responsibility.

Child and Family Social Worker: Your specific knowledge of childhood development and family dynamics will prepare you for success in the social work field. Depending on your state’s rules and regulations, you might need to become licensed, so check with the state board of social work where you live. Some states may also require a baccalaureate degree for this position.

The careers listed here are just a starting point for you to consider. Keep in mind that you can always expand on this list by completing a four-year degree later on. Your associate’s degree can be a springboard to later learning and career success.

Online Associate’s Degrees

Online colleges and universities now offer an excellent way to land a degree and jumpstart your career in early childhood education. When you study online, you can prioritize your family and job. In fact, online education offers an opportunity for you to expand on your learning by working in a preschool or child services agency. Your assignments will take on new meaning when you can see the concepts applied in the real world and your discussion board posts and replies will have greater meaning and depth.

When you select an online university, make sure that it offers you the exact sort of freedom that you need. While all of them allow you to be anywhere in the world to take the courses, some are more structured than others. That is, courses might require that you log in at certain times of the day for chat-room discussions or other scheduled events. Make sure that you clarify this sort of issue prior to enrolling so that you are assured of the best educational experience possible.

It’s also vital to check on your college’s accreditation. This is a very important issue, especially if you intend on working towards a four-year degree or if you ever need any sort of state licensure. Since there are many different accrediting agencies, find out which one has accredited your intended school and do a bit of research. You might contact a state university and make sure that they will accept your course credits. This way, you can be sure to build on your hard work later on.

Online education, just like traditional campus learning, can either be a passive or an active experience. When you engage your instructors and fellow classmates with questions and open communication, the learning process will be more complete and rewarding. When you start your degree, consider your time in “class” as an opportunity for learning and growth.

If you feel your calling includes teaching, then the next step is to find the right school and begin working towards an associate’s degree in early childhood education.

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