Preschool Teaching Degrees: Associate's, Bachelor's & Certification Info

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What will you learn in a preschool teaching program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of associate's and bachelor's degree programs and potential careers.
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Studying Early Childhood Development: Degrees at a Glance

Preschool teachers deliver comforting, nurturing and creative care and education for children 5 years of age and under. Professionals in the field understand how children develop mentally and physically during their early years. Some teachers specialize in special education and assist students with developmental delays in achieving their highest educational potential. Employers seek job candidates who possess strong communication, customer service, people and instructional skills. Keep in mind that the education requirements for teaching positions vary by state.

The associate's degree program can prepare you for positions in childcare center, home daycare or preschool settings. The bachelor's degree program offers the education required to pursue center director opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that positions in the field would grow at an average through faster-than-average pace from 2010-2020. Preschool teachers would see a 25% increase in positions and special education teachers would see a 17% increase (www.bls.gov).

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level positions working children 5 years of age and under in several educational settings People who want pursue a position as a preschool or special education teacher
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 ($30,000)*
- Preschool and childcare center director ($51,000)*
- Special education teacher ($56,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credits
- Negative background check
- Roughly 120 credits
- Internship or field experience
- Negative background check
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent

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

Associate's in Early Childhood Development

The associate's degree program offers the basic knowledge required for entry-level careers in multiple childcare or educational settings. Some schools offer specializations in early childhood education or special education. You might find programs structured to meet the needs of individuals planning to pursue a bachelor's degree in a related field. Special education programs emphasize abnormal psychology, programs development for special children and a range of other important topics. Many programs require that students successfully pass a criminal background check to gain access to internship or field experience opportunities.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Childcare workers would see a 20% increase in jobs over the 2010-2020 decade*
  • Programs offer flexibility through specializations and elective coursework
  • Your credits might transfer to a bachelor's degree program

Cons

  • Some positions paid relatively low mean annual salaries; childcare workers earned a mean annual salary of $21,000**
  • Competition against bachelor's degree holders might present a challenge for preschool teacher opportunities
  • Pursuing relevant certifications or licenses requires a financial commitment and addition time over the life of the career

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

The associate's degree program offers a blend of introductory courses in curriculum development, child development and education practices. Courses in child nutrition and familial interaction round out your education. Keep in mind that some programs require a portfolio, which demonstrates your understanding of behavior monitoring and other important concepts. Following are some common courses offered by the programs:

  • Child growth and development
  • Child health
  • Administration of programs
  • Positive guidance
  • Specials needs programs
  • Creative experiences for young children
  • Early childhood literature

Online Degree Info

The online associate's degree program delivers a learning experience similar to campus-based options. Schools design curricula to emphasize the application of early childhood theories in a wide range of educational environments. Keep in mind that some courses might require fieldwork components that require access to children. People already working in the industry with access to an appropriate facility might fare best learning through a distance-education program.

Stand Out with This Degree

Industry-standard certification can boost employment prospects and some employers and states require it. The Council for Professional Recognition offers the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. The certification can validate your understanding of early child development theories. Experience may also influence access to jobs; some states require that candidates possess related experience. Consider working in a childcare or home daycare setting to gain practical exposure. Check with your state to determine licensing requirements; many states require individuals working in the public school system to possess some form of licensing, which may require a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education

The bachelor's degree program provides advanced training in safety, infant education and education psychology, to name a few. You learn to develop appropriate curricula, administer testing and evaluate student performance. Some programs prepare students to work with children from birth through 8 years of age. In addition, you gain teaching experience in early childhood settings. Schools design programs to deliver the training and education required to take the teacher certification examinations required by the state.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Preschool and childcare center directors would see a 25% increase in jobs from 2010-2020*
  • Special education teachers earned relatively competitive mean annual salaries of $56,000**
  • Employers seek individuals with higher education and many states require a bachelor's degree, at minimum

Cons

  • The BLS reports some states require special education teachers to pursue a master's degree after licensing
  • Advancement to education administration in many school districts requires candidates to further their education
  • Economic conditions at the state and local government levels can influence the availability of special education teacher positions

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

The bachelor's degree program delivers a range of field experiences incorporated into several courses. You might find that programs require a practicum. Some programs offer electives that explore mathematics, literature and exceptional youth. Many colleges deliver the program through a college of education, which might require the completion of courses in technology for educators and in diversity. You can expect to take classes in art and creativity, music and creative movement, child health and nutrition, play activities, urban schools, child development and teaching reading.

Online Degree Info

The online bachelor's degree program delivers courses and practicum requirements similar to traditional options. Schools design online programs for people seeking higher education, unlicensed teachers or people who are seeking entry into the field. You might take courses in effective teaching practices and be required to participate in a supervised demonstrative teaching experience.

Stand Out with This Degree

Experience, certification and licensing influence access to positions in special education and education administration. States and employers might require that applicants for some positions possess experience in early childhood education. Similar to the associate's degree program, pursuing the CDA credential might improve job prospects. In addition, the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation administers the Child Care Professional program. Public school positions require a license. You must pass the appropriate examinations required by your state, including subject exams. Consider pursuing relevant internships or field experiences to gain practical knowledge of working with children.

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