For women who want to nurture and guide the next generation, a degree in early childhood studies or education can launch a career. Early-childhood degrees qualify their holders for work with children from birth to age 8 in workplaces ranging from day care centers and elementary schools to public programs such as Head Start. Plus, studies in early childhood form the basis for advanced degrees in education, psychology and social work. In addition to career diversity, early-childhood work comes with the benefits of above-average job growth.
Elementary schools offer several career opportunities. In some states, early-childhood majors can work as teachers in kindergarten through third grade, either with mainstream or special-education students. In other states, early childhood grads can add a teacher’s credential to lead a classroom. Other options include grade-school paraprofessional, such as as teacher’s aide, special education assistant or library assistant. Paraprofessionals may tutor individual students, score tests, prepare instructional materials, keep attendance records and help with classroom management and student monitoring. Finally, grade schools need early-childhood experts to operate school-age care programs that supervise children before and after school.
Early childhood studies prepare students for careers with infants and toddlers in private daycare centers and preschools. Options include lead teacher or teaching assistant. Preschool teachers can focus on special education students ages 3 to 4, giving individual attention and working closely with families to determine instructional needs. Some graduates may advance to daycare center director, though requirements vary by state. Some states require directors to have an associate’s degree in early childhood education, while others mandate a bachelor’s degree. Plus, states may require certification and a certain amount of experience in the field before they grant a facility director’s license.
Early-childhood jobs are abundant in the public sector. Head Start, the federal Department of Education program that provides early education to children 5 and under, hires early-childhood grads as teachers, home visitors and program directors. Head Start also needs staffers for divisions of health services, parent involvement services and child development services. State and local social services agencies employ early-childhood professionals as case managers who help children of needy families. A career as a child life specialist is a possibility, as well. Child life specialists teach children and families to cope with challenging life events such as chronic illness and hospitalization through play, self-expression and education. Employers prefer at least a bachelor’s degree, though some expect child life specialists to have a master’s degree.
An early-childhood studies degree can be the foundation for advanced studies in other fields. Graduate work in education, physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, psychology, nutrition and social work are all options. Grads can also pursue advanced studies in human development and counseling.
Career opportunities should be strong for early childhood majors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts job gains of 25 percent from 2010 to 2020 for all preschool workers and teachers. That’s well above the 14 percent average for all U.S. jobs. The BLS credits the expansion to population growth and growing awareness of the importance of early childhood education. Jobs in the child day care services subsector could grow 30 percent, while positions inside elementary and secondary schools may grow 12 percent. Grads with a bachelor’s degree are likely to find more opportunities that those with less education.
- California State University, Channel Islands: Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Studies
- Boise State University: Early Childhood Studies Career Options
- Macomb Community College: Career Opportunities
- University of Washington: Early Childhood and Family Studies
- Sonoma State University: Early Childhood Studies
- American Federation of Teachers: Your Career as an Education Paraprofessional
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Preschool or Childcare Center Director
- Child Life Council: What Is a Child Life Specialist?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Job Outlook
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