Early childhood educators teach children who are not yet old enough to be a part of a traditional K-12 school program. Developmental preschool education programs, sometimes referred to as Pre-K, are designed specifically to help ensure a child's future success in school.
Young children are offered a wide range of activities and experiences to help them become ready to learn. Teachers work on skills such as school readiness, cognition, pre-reading, art, music and even foreign language. Learning is often guided through play.
Early Childhood Education Graduate Degrees
Earning your degree in Early Childhood education, especially at the Masters level can help you become a leader at your school and improve your classroom performance. Working with children can be the most rewarding experience for teachers.
Bachelors programs can give you a foundation in pre-K and elementary education. Once you earn your bachelor's and start working in the field, you can have a better idea what kind of master's level education you want to pursue. If you already work in the field and want to go further, the best thing you can do next is compare degree programs and start talking to guidance counselors about how to align them with your career path.
If you do not yet have your Bachelors degree, consider viewing this page for a comprehensive list of 85+ Bachelors in Early Childhood Education Degree Programs at universities in the United States.
How To Become An Early Childhood Education Teacher
If you love kids and want to be an integral part of their development, consider the following qualities that early childhood educators should possess. Teachers who are also parents understand that you have to be adaptable to children’s ever-changing needs, and ways of learning. Every child is unique and discovering the world at different rates and attaching to different methods of learning techniques. A graduate level degree can help you go beyond your bachelor’s skillset and dive deeper into qualities teachers need.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children lists 12 Characteristics the effective early childhood teachers need. Among them are respect, high energy, authenticity, sense of humor, love of learning, and most of all: passion.
Even though you are the leader in your classroom, and the children are a fraction of your age, you must respect their ideas, thoughts, and ways that may seem off-beat to you. Sometimes, the student is truly the teacher, and their wonder may give you insight and keep your skills evolving.
To work with young kids, you simply must have the energy to go an 8 hour day in several different directions at once. They are learning their world light years faster than you – so be on your toes. Authenticity is something you can only have if you’re truly passionate about teaching.
The Early Childhood Real World Experience
Graduate level programs typically include a capstone, which is a self-driven research project that helps you find your voice as an educator and tie your education together. Capstone projects are also beneficial because you get to work with a mentor who will help you move through the final stages of your program. During this time you may have lots of opportunities to connect with educators and other professionals who can open doors and help you prepare for your next role – or discover new opportunities you never thought of before.
Career Paths for Early Childhood Educators
Many early childhood careers start in the classroom at all types of pre-K and elementary schools. There are many ways you can pursue positions in education working with young children. With your masters degree you can receive salaries that are higher than you would receive with just your bachelors. The jobs you purse at both degree levels can be worlds apart as well.
For instance, if you love working with kids and want to help those with the greatest needs, you can become a special education teacher. These teachers focus on many types of health conditions, including autism, dyslexia, deaf students, and others.
Another position that graduates can aim for is Instructional Coordinator. In this role you would help create and manage your school’s curriculum. You would play a sort of quality assurance role, and be qualified to work in elementary schools, or other age levels if you decided to pursue other avenues. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Instructional Coordinators can make a median wage of $61,550 a year.
School Principal positions typically require masters degrees or higher. To be a good principal in today’s complicated education landscape, principals must be able to juggle many types of tasks and know how to delegate appropriately while making sure the school is running smoothly. Sound like a lot? Yes, your hands would be full, but if you love leading others and inspiring young adults, becoming a principal may be your ideal role. The median pay for elementary, middle and high school principals is $89,540 per year (source).
Typical Early Childhood Education Curriculum Topics
What you’ll learn in your early childhood degree program greatly depends on what kind of degree you choose to earn. Here are some common courses you can take:
- Standards-Based Curriculum and Student Assessment
- Child Development
- Reading and Literacy Instruction
- Research Methodology
- Technology and Childhood Education
Your course topics will vary by school as well. Be sure to have an outline of all your expected courses before you enroll in a Masters in Early Childhood Education degree program.
Salary and Career Outlook for Early Childhood Professionals
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for Education Administrators in Pre-K and Childcare is $52,190 per year. This can reach up to $87,120 in the top tier (source).
Speak to schools in your area, and those who offer online programs to learn more about the career expectations and career paths you can map by pursuing new degree levels in Early Childcare Education.
Interview with a Early Childhood Masters Degree Graduate
Why did you decide to pursue an M.Ed. degree?
I decided to pursue an M.Ed. degree when I was working on Wall Street. I had a bachelor of science in Finance and was working on Wall Street, but I felt unfulfilled and knew I needed to make a difference in the lives of others. When I found out I could get an advanced degree to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher, I jumped at the opportunity!
What is your primary area of interest within the field of education?
My primary area of interest within the field of education is early childhood and elementary education. I love working with young children and molding them to become the citizens of tomorrow’s America! Eventually, I would also like to add foreign language to my license so I can share my love of world language with my students.
Please describe the M.Ed. program you chose to attend
I chose to attend the M.Ed. program at Brooklyn College because they offered an advanced degree program without having to repeat a Bachelor program first. I thought this was unique, and since I wanted to get into the field quickly, it seemed like the best option. Also, the program’s courses were primarily offered in the evening, so I was able to work full time in the field, gaining invaluable experience while taking a part-time course load. A chunk of the coursework was very interactive and allowed me to use my skills readily in the classroom where I taught.
Why did you choose the school you attended?
I chose Brooklyn College because it was nearby and easy to get to while living and working in Brooklyn. I also chose it because of the distinction it offered to new teachers. Furthermore, it gave me the most bang for my buck as a CUNY.
What did you like about the program?
I liked that the professors were knowledgeable and were able to offer concrete examples of their lessons. They also gave us the tools that we could use immediately in our classrooms, offering a very hands-on and interactive approach to learning. It is the way I learn best, and I feel it also helped us create the same type of atmosphere in our classes. I also liked the fact that I did not have to break the bank to complete my student teaching requirement. They accepted my first year of teaching as my student teaching experience.
What did you not like about the program?
There is not much I didn’t like about the program. There were certain professors that expected things out of us that we were not all prepared for – like venturing out to “not-so-great” neighborhoods for field work and expecting us Brooklyn-dwellers to own cars to get there. Only about 3/20 students had vehicles for this. It worked out in the end, but I cannot understand to this day how and why she expected us to own cars when we lived in Brooklyn!
Were you employed while taking classes? If so, how did you manage your time?
I was employed full-time while taking classes. As I mentioned earlier, it was great that the classes were offered in the evenings. I had to stay super-organized while taking my classes at Brooklyn College. I used my prep time during the school day wisely and then used about an hour each afternoon to prep for the next day’s class. Once I got home it was a shift to my own school work. I would read or do a little studying and then take a light meal with me to class. My evenings off would be devoted to studying and preparing for the next class meeting. To lighten the load, I kept my course load light each semester by only taking two classes. It took longer to complete my degree but worked wonders for my sanity and GPA.
How did you pay for your graduate degree?
I paid for graduate degree through student loans as I was living alone at the time.
Did you participate in any research or special projects while in school?
I did participate in some research and special projects, working closely with one of my favorite professors. She was a great inspiration to me, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to work so closely with her.
What should a student look for when choosing an education program?
A student should look for a school that is going to be aligned with their own pedagogy. One should consider their own ideas about education when choosing a suitable program. I did not actually consider this when I chose my program, but as it turned out, I was happy with the results and I feel I got a very quality education for a great value.
What do you intend to do with your degree?
Ideally, I would like to teach. I want to get a job teaching in an elementary school. Unfortunately, I moved far from Brooklyn, and I’ve spent the past seven years looking for a teaching position. I love teaching 2nd, 3rd and/or 4th grades, and am hopeful that I can get into one of those opportunities. Sadly, where I live I am a tad overqualified. But, I am willing to go all out to get to where I want to be.
Did you make use of your school’s career services office during your job search?
I did not because once I graduated I moved halfway across the country. I suppose I should probably try to see if they might be of assistance now. I might have to get back to you on this one!