Early childhood education is the aspect of teaching where young children are instructed by professionals outside of the family in a setting other than the home. The term ‘early childhood’ usually refers to the part of childhood that comes before the time when children are sent to school. This is generally around age five in most countries, so early childhood refers most commonly to the ages from two up to five. However, the National Association for the Education of Young Children defines ‘early childhood’ as the years before eight.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there were about 550,000 teachers employed in early childhood education in 2008. The median salary for a teacher in early childhood education is $39,500. If you are a kindergarten teacher working in a large city such as New York, with a master’s degree you could see a salary as high as $67,000 annually. Preschool teachers usually earn less; in New Jersey, the median salary is $30,500 in this field.
It is expected that the numbers of children who are enrolled in early childhood education, including preschool, kindergarten and early elementary school, will spike during the next 10 years. This will occur at the same time as the retirement of many teachers in the ‘baby boom generation.’ So, it is logical that there will be a major increase in need for teachers in this field. Remember that salaries in this field can vary widely depending upon location. View a complete list of education careers & salary options.
Jobs & Careers
In a job in early childhood education, you generally will be working with children from infancy generally up to the age of eight. You will need to find creative methods to assist them in learning the skills that are necessary for the development – emotionally, physically and intellectually.
As an early childhood teacher, you will need to plan interactive and educational lessons that have a basis in play. You need to have a lot of hands-on learning, as this is the main way that children at this age will learn. Some of the tools you will learn to educate these young children include:
- Computers and software
Some of the activities you come up with in your job may include exercises to build problem-solving skills. These may include working with building blocks, puzzles and clay. You also might include group activities that build upon social skills and mutual cooperation.
A master’s degree in early childhood education is becoming more and more important so that you can obtain substantial teaching roles for many young children programs. For example, you will be qualified to be a lead teacher in 30 states in state-funded, pre-kindergarten school programs with your master’s. Your advanced degree will give you the opportunity to enhance the lifelong learning capabilities of your young students.
There are many online programs available today to obtain your master’s in childhood education. You will be able to ideally address the learning needs of children in many settings, including public/private schools, Head Start programs, child care centers, and other related organizations. Your online master’s degree program will combine strong theory and research with a practical experience program. So, while you can complete most of your degree online, remember that you will probably need to complete a practical experience component in the classroom.
A master’s degree in early childhood education will prepare you to effectively address the learning needs of children from three to eight years-old. To become an effective early childhood education teacher, your master’s program will require you to become proficient in such areas as:
- Child psychology – understanding the curiosity of children, and how they explore their environment
- Management of the classroom for young students
- The learning environment of early childhood
- Family engagement and involvement in learning
- Effective strategies to bridge achievement gaps
- Learning theories for special education and/or child supervision
Grants & Scholarships
- PATCH Scholarships – Hawaii -$750. The PATCH Scholarship program allows people to increase their knowledge in current developmentally appropriate practices and increase the number of people entering into the early care and education profession.
- T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Project – North Carolina -The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Project gives scholarships to child care workers to complete course work in early childhood education and to increase their compensation.
- Florida State University College of Education Scholarships -The College of Education is pleased to offer a number of scholarships to its students every year. All students who intend to be registered for the coming academic year are eligible and encouraged to apply. We appreciate the generous private support of the many donors who make these awards possible each year. Scholarships are offered at both departmental and college levels.