Study Child Care: Associate's Degree & Certificate Info

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What will you learn in a child care program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of a certificate and associate's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Child Care: Programs at a Glance

You may find child care certificate and associate's programs under titles such as early childhood development. These programs teach students about children's social and biological growth. Education and certification requirements for child care professionals vary by state, work setting, employer and position. Many employers prefer candidates with college education. In 2013 the Head Start program will require child care workers to have associate's degrees. Head Start preschool teachers, who must already have associate's degrees, may need bachelor's degrees starting in 2013. Public school preschool teachers often need bachelor's degrees and licensure.

Some states and employers also require certification; possible designations include the Council for Professional Recognition's the Child Development Associate (CDA) and the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation's Child Care Professional (CCP) credential. The BLS' 2010-2020 employment growth projections indicated that child care workers may see a 20% increase, while preschool teachers may see a 25% increase.

Certificate Associate's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level positions working with young children in child care settings People who want pursue positions in private preschools or Head Start programs
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Child care worker ($21,000)*
- Teacher assistant ($25,000)*
Career paths are similar for both programs with the exception of:
- Preschool teacher ($30,000)*
Time to Completion About 1 year full-time 2 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 30 units
- Observation or experiential training (some programs)
- Background check in programs with practicum requirements
- Roughly 60 units
- Internship or field experience
- Background check in programs with practicum requirements
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent

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

Child Care Certificate

The certificate program offers the basic education required to meet the needs of children in daycare settings. Most programs require that potential students successfully pass criminal background checks. Programs are designed for those new to the field and those who already work in the field and are looking to expand their education. You learn about the early stages of childhood development and teaching methods applicable for children from birth to age 8.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Child care positions are expected to grow rapidly (20-25% from 2010-2020)*
  • Short program length can quickly prepare you for an entry-level position
  • Some programs transfer credits to an associate's degree program

Cons

  • Child care positions paid relatively low salaries (mean salary of about $21,000 in May 2011)*
  • Advancement in the field might require that you pursue higher education
  • Background check is necessary to participate in practica and gain employment

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Your courses may be grounded in educational, psychological or sociological foundations. Many schools require that students complete a minimum number of observation or practical training hours. Additionally, some programs prepare graduates for certification exams. Following are some common courses offered by the programs:

  • Behavioral guidance
  • Health and nutrition
  • Early childhood education
  • Math and science for children
  • Language arts for children

Online Certificate Info

You can find options for an online certificate program in child care. You may learn similar concepts as in an on-campus program. Some programs are offered by career training schools and incorporate a range of courses in communication, stress management and home-based day care business. Additionally, some online programs have a field work component while others don't.

Stand Out with This Degree

Not all employers or states require child care workers to earn certification. If you apply to a job where certification isn't required, you can still obtain one or more credentials to set yourself apart from the competition. To earn CDA certification, you need a high school diploma or its equivalent, 120 hours of relevant coursework and classroom observation experience. After completing the requirements, you must fill out an application packet that is reviewed by the organization.

You can also gain additional experience by working as a nanny or babysitter while earning your certificate. States don't implement requirements for these professionals, according to the BLS.

Associate's Degree in Child Care

Associate's degree programs are similar to certificate programs, but you may learn more in-depth concepts about child development and teaching. Programs may cover curriculum development and assessment practices. Consequently, child care associate's programs can prepare you for some teaching positions.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Program credits might transfer to a bachelor's degree program
  • May qualify for teaching positions at private schools
  • Associate's degree programs may provide you with more practical training than certificate programs

Cons

  • Salary may not be much higher than positions obtainable with a certificate (preschool teachers earned about $30,000 annually in May 2011)*
  • Competition with bachelor's degree holders for Head Start programs may present a challenge; by 2013, 50% of preschool teachers must possess bachelor's degrees*
  • States require bachelor's degrees for preschool teachers in public school systems

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Unlike a certificate program, you complete general education classes in an associate's degree program. In addition to learning about child development, you can expect to take courses in family involvement, language and literacy, classroom management, computer technology and social issues. Some schools offer concentrations, such as those related to child care administration. You typically take an internship or practicum to round out your education with the appropriate hands-on experience.

Online Degree Info

The few online associate's degree programs in child care are available if you're looking for a program format with more flexibility. You might need to complete an online skills assessment to gauge your computer proficiency, and typically you must have access to a computer that meets certain technology specifications. Some schools design their programs for students to move at their own pace; upon completion of examinations, the school sends new coursework and materials. Some schools require that you have access to common technologies, including the Internet and productivity tools.

Stand Out with This Degree

Similar to the certificate program, obtaining the relevant certification can improve your job prospects. In addition to the CDA credential, the CCP credential can also benefit you. To earn the CCP designation, you must complete 180 hours of coursework, classroom observation, 720 hours of practical experience and pass an exam.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Indiana Wesleyan University

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Indiana Wesleyan University

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