Child Care Management Degrees: Associate, Career Diploma & Online Info

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What will you learn in a childcare management degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a diploma and associate's and potential careers.
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Studying Childcare Management: Degrees at a Glance

Employees in the childcare management field provide nurturing and educational care for infants and preschoolers. Professionals in the industry understand how children develop during their formative years, the importance of nutrition and the laws that govern childcare organizations. Diploma programs offer a very basic education in the creation of appropriate programs and experiences for small children. The associate's degree takes education a step further by integrating general education courses. Both programs can prepare you for entry-level positions in childcare management, domestic childcare, self-employment or work in preschools and daycare centers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that entry-level opportunities pay relatively low salaries. In addition, changes in regulations require 50 percent of preschool teachers to possess a bachelor's degree in a related field. Many programs require the successful passing of a criminal background check prior to admission.

Diploma Associate's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level positions working with infants through preschool age children in multiple settings People who want to work as preschool teachers
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Childcare worker ($21,000)*
- Teacher assistant ($25,000)*
- Preschool teacher ($30,000)*
- Academic administrator ($97,000)*
- Academic editor ($53,000)*
Time to Completion Several months to 2 years full-time 2 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 9 to 40 credits
- ACT or COMPASS test
- Clear background check
- Roughly 60 credits in general education and core courses
- Portfolio
- Internship or field experience
- Clear background check
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Diploma in Child Care

The diploma in childcare prepares graduates to work in before and after care, preschool and childcare centers. You will learn to have a positive effect on children using the appropriate disciplinary techniques, communicating professionally and designing age-appropriate experiences. The diploma does not prepare graduates for teaching opportunities and each state may have different guidelines for obtaining teaching positions. Schools structure programs to offer a basic education in the theoretical concepts related to child development and safety.

Pros and Cons


  • Short program length will facilitate quick entry into the field
  • Some programs transfer credits to an associate's degree
  • You may achieve marketability because many positions require a high school diploma


  • Program length may mean financial aid is unavailable
  • Salaries are relatively low for graduates of diploma programs
  • You will compete with those who hold an associate's degree

Common Courses and Requirements

Diploma programs range in length and number of credits. Some provide a basic education through 9 credits in early childhood coursework. Others offer a more intensive training and require more credits and field experience. Students learn about the physical, emotional and cognitive development of children. In addition, nutrition, safety and designing enriching activities are important components of diploma programs.

Schools also provide training for working with infants and toddlers, which requires coursework in health guidelines and sanitation techniques. You can expect to take courses in early education, child development, health and safety for children, childcare profession and guidance principles.

Online Class Info

Online diploma programs exist and offer courses similar to campus-based curricula. Distance education programs may require a satisfactory grade in a computer essentials course or online orientation classes. Schools design programs for working professionals who would like to advance in their careers or who have little knowledge of the industry.

Stand Out with This Degree

Gaining certification can give you an edge in a competitive market. The Council for Professional Recognition offers the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. The CDA validates a childcare worker's skills in four setting: preschool, infant and toddler, family childcare and home visitor. Approval for each setting requires that you meet specific criteria including possession of the appropriate education credentials and reading and writing proficiency.

Learning another language during your studies can boost your employment potential. Some childcare facilities operate in a bilingual setting and require that staff encourage children to utilize more than one language.

Associate's in Child Care Management

The associate's degree provides an in-depth education that focuses on building communication, business and childcare skills through a combination of general education and core courses. Colleges structure programs to offer elective coursework that further explores issues in childcare settings. Your selected program may require that you participate in courses that involve working on-site with children. Associate's degrees prepare graduates for work as preschool teachers or directors of their own facilities.

Pros and Cons


  • Programs offer hands-on experience through internships or class environments with children
  • Preschool teacher or paraprofessional opportunities are available to associate's degree holders
  • You can transfer your credits to a bachelor's degree program


  • You will need a bachelor's degree by 2013 to work in Head Start programs
  • Seeking certification may extend your education beyond 2 years
  • States enforce different regulations for teaching opportunities

Common Courses and Requirements

Graduates of the associate's degree program are qualified to teach students concepts that provide a foundation for elementary school. You will learn to plan and execute a curriculum that meets the needs of individuals and groups of children. Most programs require a criminal background check in order to participate in field experiences or internships. Following are some common courses:

  • Curriculum development
  • Assessment
  • Creative activities
  • Classroom management
  • Paraprofessional roles
  • Program administration

Online Course Info

Similar to the diploma program, the associate's degree is available in a complete online format. Some courses, such as creative activities for children and technology classes, include a laboratory component. Your selected program may require an early childhood capstone practicum. The practicum may require a portfolio that outlines behavioral case studies, collection of relevant data and learning activities that you developed during the capstone.

Stand Out with This Degree

The ability to interact with compassion, maturity and professionalism is important for childcare professionals. Taking advantage of internships, capstone projects or field experiences will enhance your marketability. Developing a portfolio that outlines your early childhood education philosophy, demonstrates your development of creative activities and documents your behavioral analysis skills communicates your competence to employers. Once you graduate, seeking the appropriate national and state-level certifications will give you an edge.

In addition, if you do not plan to pursue a bachelor's degree, the Certified Childcare Professional credential, which is conferred by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation Commission, validates your competence working with small children.

Degree Alternatives

The BLS reveals that candidates who possess a bachelor's degree will fare better in a competitive market. Pursuing a bachelor's degree in early childhood development can open a new career track that leads to education administration in a childcare setting or employment as a teacher at the kindergarten level in a public school.

According to the BLS, education administrators earned an average mean salary of $51,000, as of 2011. Kindergarten teachers earned $52,000 during the same period. While a bachelor's degree costs more and takes longer to complete, the overall return on investment may be worth consideration.

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