what is early childhood education

Early Childhood Education Degree and Career Overview

An Early Childhood Education degree can help prepare you for a rewarding career teaching children in the preschool age. Early childhood educators are responsible for caring and educating young children. The areas of study within this career focuses on both the cognitive and social development and includes various activities that engage a students abilities to flourish. At Gwynedd Mercy University, you can earn an early childhood education degree in four years and gain real-world experience through our hands-on learning approach. This in-demand degree program allows students to get real-world experience that make a difference in the lives of children within the Philadelphia community.

What is Early Childhood Education?
Early Childhood Education Workplaces
Early Childhood Education Degree Requirements
Early Childhood Education Salary Information
How to Become an Early Childhood Educator
Your GMercyU Path to a Career in Early Childhood Education

What is Early Childhood Education?

Early childhood education describes the period of learning that takes place from birth to 8 years old. There are several types of early education programs, including those that are federal, state or privately funded. The curricula and approach often vary at the preschool level, but there are generally agreed-upon standards for the types of learning addressed in early childhood education settings.

There are many career paths you can take, including teaching, managing a daycare, and providing in-home care for children. Below are some examples of early childhood education careers:

  • Preschool Teacher: Preschool teachers introduce young children to education and prepare them for kindergarten. They plan curricula that are age appropriate, and introduce themes and concepts children will expand upon in elementary school. They also look for signs of emotional or developmental issues, and bring them to the attention of parents or guardians. The early childhood teacher job description can vary between childcare centers.
  • Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher: Kindergarten and elementary school teachers create lesson plans for math, English, social studies and science, but also teach students the soft skills they need to be successful in school. They communicate with parents about their child’s progress and prepare students to take standardized tests.
  • Nanny: Nannies and other childcare workers care for children while their parents are out of the house. These workers are responsible for bathing and feeding the children, supervising their play time, and organizing activities for them.
  • Childcare Center Director: The director of the childcare center oversees all of the preschool teachers and childcare workers. They are responsible for hiring and training staff, planning the budget, developing the educational standards and programming for the center, and meeting with parents to discuss students’ progress.
  • School Counselor or Psychologist: Working in elementary schools, counselors and psychologists can diagnose learning disabilities or cognitive, emotional or behavioral problems in young students. Together with parents, the counselors and psychologists can design and implement behavior modification programs for students.

Early Childhood Education Workplaces

Pursing a career in early childhood education can lead you to work in various types of workplaces. Commonly, early childhood educators will work within a school setting but can work from care centers or private residences. Listed below are potential workplaces for early childhood education professionals.

  1. Public Schools
  2. Private Schools
  3. Special Education
  4. Kindergarten Centers
  5. Daycare
  6. In-Home Nanny

Early Childhood Education Degree Requirements

Being an early childhood education teacher is an important job. You’ll be charged with building the foundation of the youngest learners; all future teachers will build upon the foundation you lay. Because of that, it’s important that you understand the early childhood education degree requirements in the state in which you plan to work.

In Pennsylvania, all early education teachers in public schools must hold a bachelor’s degree and state certification. Nonpublic schools, including religiously affiliated schools, have their own degree and certification requirements. These degree requirements are for teachers in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.

State certifications can vary, but early education teachers in Pennsylvania will need to pass Pearson’s Pennsylvania Educator Certification Test Early Learning Modules 1,2 and 3 in order to achieve teacher certification.

Early Childhood Education Salary Information

As with many professions, early childhood education salary information is dependent upon many factors, including education level, geographic region, and work environment. Below you will find the national median salary information for possible early childhood education careers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Position Salary
Preschool Teachers $28,790
Childcare Center Director $46,890
Nanny and Childcare Workers $22,290
Teacher Assistants $26,260
Kindergarten and Elementary Teacher $55,490

How to Become an Early Childhood Educator

In order to become early childhood educator, you must have already obtained your high school diploma and enroll in an early childhood education program. Depending on the specific career path you choose, you will be recquired to obtain an Associate's Degree or a Bachelor's of Science in Early Childhood Education to get started. It's often reccommended to get outside experience working with children, such as working at summer camps or volunteer roles within your community. Listed below are the steps to become an early childhood educator.

  1. Enroll in an Early Childhood Education program
  2. Gain experience through student teaching or volunteer work
  3. Obtain an Associate's Degree or a Bachelor's of Science in Early Education degree
  4. Earn your Child Development Associate (CDA) teaching credentials

Your GMercyU Path to a Career in Early Childhood Education

All education students at Gwynedd Mercy University enter into the general Education Studies program. After you complete 45 credits and pass the Basic Skills Assessment Test as required by the state Department of Education, you can enter into a teacher certification program to obtain a degree in early and special education. GMercyU students start classroom observations as early as October of your freshman year. In total, you’ll spend eight semesters in a classroom, providing you with the best resources and faculty members as you work to develop your teaching skills.. You’ll also have access to the Hobbit House, our on-site, licensed, private academic lab school, giving you real-world experience right here on Main Campus.