Training students to make a difference in the lives of children is the
main goal of an early childhood education program.
Some programs offer associate's degrees. Many also offer bachelor's and
master's degrees. Doctoral degrees are available, too.
Note that different programs may lead to different careers. If you
want to teach in a kindergarten or elementary school, you'll likely need a
bachelor's degree. If you want to work in a preschool, day-care or other child-care
position, a two-year program may be enough.
Many two-year programs allow you to go on to a bachelor's degree.
Entrance requirements vary. For some programs, you just need a high
school diploma. For other programs, you need a high school diploma plus marks
that are high enough to get you into university. For postgraduate programs,
you need an undergraduate degree.
Programs of this kind often require references and an application essay.
You can also expect to undergo a security screening before enrolling.
Once you're in a program, expect to take a range of courses. The
field draws from many academic disciplines -- psychology, sociology, anthropology,
politics and law.
You will study program planning, curriculum development, and health
and nutrition issues.
You will also get practical experience. You may spend several weeks
working with children under the supervision of professionals through placements.
After you graduate, consider getting a professional certificate.
In many parts of the U.S., it is mandatory. Forty-six states plus the District
of Columbia require a child development associate (CDA) credential.
In high school, take courses in subjects like psychology, sociology
and anthropology if you can. Some high schools also offer courses in family
studies and parenting.
"Anything related to the social sciences would certainly be helpful," says
Renee Ouellette. She is the coordinator of an early childhood education program.
Volunteer experience with kids is also important. There are lots
of opportunities with children's camps, religious groups, community groups
and organizations like the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts.
Babysitting is also a good way to get some experience along with some extra
A first aid certificate, a second language, and the ability to play one
or two instruments may also be helpful.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Child-Care
Early Childhood News
Information about early childhood teaching
National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care
An online handbook for child-care providers