Child Day Care Training: Certificates, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a child day care training program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a certificate and associate's and potential careers.
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Studying Early Childhood Development: Credentials at a Glance

Childcare workers offer children a nurturing and safe environment centered on creative learning activities and socialization. Jobs in early childhood development require responsible job candidates who are free from criminal histories. The certificate in early childhood development offers a basic education geared toward those interested in entering the field quickly. The associate's degree offers foundational knowledge and can prepare graduates to transfer to a bachelor's degree program.

The early childhood development and education landscape is changing. In 2013, childcare workers employed at Head Start facilities will need to at least be working toward earning an associate's degree or higher, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Preschool teachers working for Head Start will need at least a bachelor's degree at that time. The BLS also revealed that while salaries for entry-level jobs are relatively low at about $21,000 per year, job candidates can expect average or above-average job growth over the 2010-2020 decade (www.bls.gov).

Certificate Associate's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level positions working with infants, toddlers and young children in daycare centers People who want to begin a career as a preschool teacher working with children ages 3-5
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Childcare worker ($21,000)*
- Teacher assistant ($25,000)*
Career paths are similar for both programs with the exception of:
- Preschool teacher (typically requires a bachelor's degree) ($30,000)*
Time to Completion Several months to 2 years full-time 2 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 30 units
- ACT or COMPASS test
- Negative background check
- Roughly 60 credits
- Internship or field experience
- Negative 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).

Certificate in Early Childhood Education

Courses in the early childhood education certificate program discuss family relationships, cultural diversity and curriculum development. The regulations implemented by your state, the setting in which you work and employer preference determine the minimum education required for employment. Many schools tailor certificate programs to meet the guidelines of the state in which the school resides. The certificate program can prepare you for entry-level opportunities in daycare centers. Some schools offer certificates that focus on early intervention or teaching.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Your certificate may make you more marketable for positions that require a high school diploma
  • The job growth rate for childcare workers (20%) and teacher assistants (15%) are expected to be average to above average over the 2010-2020 decade*
  • Many programs offer concentrated coursework that provides a strong foundation for entry into the field

Cons

  • Salaries are relatively low for entry-level positions (childcare workers earned a mean salary of $21,000 and teacher assistants earned $25,000 annually)*
  • Program length may have an effect on your ability to obtain financial aid
  • Your credits may not transfer to an associate's degree program
  • Advancement beyond childcare worker or teaching assistant positions will be difficult without furthering your education

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

Courses and Requirements

The certificate program, which is roughly 30 credits, offers courses that provide the foundational knowledge required to care for children and achieve any required certifications. Some programs are competitive allowing two cohorts of approximately 15 students each. You can gain skills in instruction, childhood development and creative learning methods. Following are some common courses offered in certificate programs:

  • Observation and assessment
  • Curriculum development
  • Language arts for children
  • Children with special needs
  • Health, nutrition and safety
  • Field experience

Online Course Info

A diploma option is available online. Schools design programs to meet the needs of working professionals and may offer accelerated courses. Online programs provide training similar to campus-based certificates. Since online programs are delivered using distance-education techniques, consider inquiring about the program's ability to meet your state's minimum education and training requirements. In-person, supervised field experiences are often required. These allow you to work with children in a real childcare setting.

Getting Ahead with This Credential

Achieving the appropriate state certification or licensing is imperative to gaining employment. In addition, acquiring knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, and first aid can often boost your marketability. Many employers prefer candidates who have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential - a nationally recognized certification conferred by the Council for Professional Recognition. You may also consider the National Child Care Association's Child Care Professional (CCP) credential. Both certification programs have minimum eligibility requirements, including experience, additional coursework and a high school diploma.

Teaching children the importance of technology is fast becoming important in childhood development facilities. Schools continue to implement new technologies and facilities to provide access to modern computers. If you plan to become a teaching assistant, seeking technical certification, such as the Microsoft Office Specialist credential, may make you stand out in a competitive market.

Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education

Associate's degree programs in early childhood education can provide a well-rounded foundation, and the credits you earn might transfer to a bachelor's degree program, which could be necessary to work in some facilities, such as Head Start. With an associate's degree, you could be prepared for entry-level teaching opportunities in daycare centers or preschools.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Higher education will make teaching opportunities available in preschools
  • Programs offer internships or field experiences, which provide practical experience
  • With the appropriate experience, you might qualify for daycare director opportunities

Cons

  • Salaries are not much different than those earned by certificate holders
  • Competition with bachelor's degree holders will be keen
  • Continuing education courses to maintain certification will require a long-term investment of time and money

Courses and Requirements

These associate's degree programs combine general education courses with topics in education, human growth and interpersonal communication. You can learn about how children develop, and participate in cooperative education, internship or field experiences. Some programs require a portfolio, which establishes your understanding of monitoring behavior, recording daily interactions and designing curricula. You will take approximately 60 credits in elementary games, preschool management, toddler development, assessment tools, introduction to teaching, leadership and general education coursework.

Online Course Info

The online associate's degree provides essentially the same courses offered by traditional programs. You may take laboratory courses in conjunction with classes in creative exercises or computer technology. Schools usually structure programs to appeal to working professionals or those seeking advancement opportunities. Online programs may require you to complete in-person components, such as working or interning at a real childcare center. This can usually be completed near your home or where you already work.

Getting Ahead with This Credential

Similar to getting ahead with a certificate, seeking the appropriate certification is essential to gaining employment with an associate's degree. In addition, researching and pursuing licenses that are available to you can make you more competitive. Taking advantage of internships will provide the hands-on experience required to enter the field with confidence. Consider creating a portfolio during your internship or field experiences to present to employers. Your portfolio should include creative activities you developed, evidence of your behavioral analysis methods and your early childhood education philosophy.

Degree Alternatives

Pursuing a bachelor's degree will provide more employment opportunities, make you more competitive and provide increased salary potential. For example, the BLS reported that job growth for preschool and childcare center directors could grow by 25% - faster than average - over the 2010-2020 decade. In addition, education administrators of preschool and childcare center programs earned a mean wage of $51,000 annually. While the bachelor's degree program requires a higher investment of time and money, you might consider the degree for long-term career growth.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AS in Science in Liberal Arts (Human Services)
      • AS in Arts in Liberal Arts
      • AS in Science in Liberal Arts
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  • Marysville, CA

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  • Wytheville, VA

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  • Woodland, CA

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  • Snyder, TX

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  • Richmond, KY

    Eastern Kentucky University

  • Carson City, NV

    Western Nevada College

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Excelsior College

  • AS in Science in Liberal Arts (Human Services)
  • AS in Arts in Liberal Arts
  • AS in Science in Liberal Arts

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