Though we learn something new every day, the earliest years of our lives — from birth to age eight — are considered the most critical to our development. Social and emotional skills, literacy, fine motor skills, and the first displays of deductive reasoning, among others, are all essential to human growth, putting a fine point on the everlasting demand for degree-holding Early Childhood Education professionals.
“People sometimes think of Early Childhood Education as babysitting, but there’s so much more than that,” explains Dr. Allison Rief, Lead Faculty for the University of Arizona Global Campus Department of Education and Liberal Arts in the College of Arts and Sciences. “You need to be up-to-date on regulations, practices, and policies.”
“Within the field, experience and a few classes used to mean you could be a classroom lead. There’s this movement to professionalize the profession, and now you need that degree.”
The Head Start program, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is among those that have tightened education requirements, Dr. Rief adds. From the director level down, Head Start has implemented staff qualifications and competency requirements that include, among others, a bachelor’s degree — specifically an Early Childhood Education degree — for many positions.
What Is an Early Childhood Education Degree?
An Early Childhood Education degree* program combines developmental and educational theory with the communication and instructional skills needed to become, in Dr. Rief’s words, “a hands-on educator.”
“Our courses, for example, are based on current research, in a field that is always changing,” she says. “We combine the theoretical with the practical, and the assignments are connected to things that are done every day in the classroom.”
As any educator will tell you, an open mind is easier to expand. An Early Childhood Education degree will widen your perspective and expose you to new experiences and ways of thinking — through your curriculum and classmates. Among other outcomes, an Early Childhood Education degree will give you the ability to:
- Design developmentally appropriate teaching strategies to implement professional learning standards and curriculum focused on meeting the academic and developmental needs of children
- Summarize principles of child development, including cognitive, physical, linguistic, social-emotional, and affective domains that define healthy, respectful, supportive, and developmentally stimulating environments for children
- Analyze effective strategies that focus on collaboration and communication with families, communities, and colleagues to foster positive and supportive relationships that impact learning and development of children
- Promote ethical standards through reflective practice and collaboration, critical application of current research and theories, and identification as an early childhood professional and leader while continually advocating on behalf of children and families
What Can You Do with an Early Childhood Education Degree?
Early Childhood Education is concentrated on the years leading up to about third grade, Dr. Rief explains. The last year, she says, is considered the most important.
“Kids are learning to read rather than reading to learn,” she adds.
If you’ve graduated and are looking to make an immediate impact in Early Childhood Education, your degree can position you for a number of opportunities, including:
- Daycare Provider
- Teacher Assistant
- Recreation Worker
- Camp Counselor
When combined with certification, (which varies by state)**, an Early Childhood Education degree can put you on the path to becoming a lifelong educator. And the field could really use you. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand is growing for qualified educators in preschools, day cares, and other childcare facilities.
The state in which you live can also play a significant role in your career development. For example, Education Week found that preschool enrollment for 3- and 4-year-olds is greater than 50% in 10 states, including New York, Illinois, and Louisiana. Where there are more children enrolled, you will likely find more child care facilities and more opportunities to make an impact.
How Long Does it Take to Earn an Early Childhood Education Degree?
A bachelor’s degree program in Early Childhood Education is typically a four-year program; however, the length can vary depending on how much time you’re able to commit to school.
The Global Campus online Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education, for example, allows students to take one class at a time, for five weeks at a time, with the goal of graduating in four years. The program is comprised of 120 credits, which includes the major course requirements (42), general education requirements (43), and elective credits (35).
Is Early Childhood Education an Honorable Profession?
This is the question you should ask yourself before considering a degree. The opportunities are available, and the requirements are reasonable, but above all, a career in Early Childhood Education requires an unwavering commitment to children.
If you demonstrate that same commitment in college, you’re likely to have a very rewarding career, she explains.
“Early Childhood Education students need energy, compassion, excitement, creativity, flexibility, and limitless love,” Dr. Rief says. “Working with young kids is so rewarding because they love coming to school. When you’re that age and you’re in school, you learn from play. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”
If you’re ready to take the next step and pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education, contact an advisor about your bachelor’s degree today.
*Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.
**An online degree from the University of Arizona Global Campus does not lead to immediate teacher licensure in any state.