How to become an early childhood education specialist

Early childhood education specialists are fundamental to the development of a healthy, well-adjusted population. These professionals are formative in the shaping of young minds, and their work continues to influence our thoughts and behavior throughout our lives. While it's not easy being tasked with imparting habits that will carry into adulthood, it's a privilege and a public service to be involved at such a crucial juncture in the growth of society. So how do people join the growing ranks of teachers and directors of child care organizations?

What skills do early childhood education specialists need?

There are several important qualities that characterize successful early childhood education specialists:

  • Communication skills: The ability to collaborate with assistants and special education teachers and to relay needs to parents and administrators is crucial
  • Creativity: A knack for planning engaging lessons while adapting to different learning styles
  • Patience: The capacity to work with a variety of personalities, backgrounds, abilities and learning styles — all at once

How to become a preschool teacher

One possible path for an early childhood education specialist is to become a preschool teacher. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that this career will grow 17 percent nationally between 2012 and 2022, which is significantly faster than the 11 percent average for all jobs in the U.S.

The minimum educational requirements for this job vary by the type of institution:

  • Child care centers typically require a high school diploma and certification in early childhood education
  • The Head Start program requires an associate degree
  • Public schools typically require a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a related specialization

There are several nationally recognized certifications that can prepare early childhood education specialists for their careers. Be sure to check with the accrediting agencies for the most recent requirements, and check with any prospective employer about which certifications are preferred:

  • Child Development Associate (CDA), acertificate from the Council for Professional Recognition
  • Child Care Professional (CCP), a designation from the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation

The requirements for licenses vary by state, but they usually involve a bachelor's degree, the completion of an exam and continuing education credits throughout one's career.

How to become a child care center director

Another career path for a childhood education specialist is to become a preschool and child care center director, which the BLS also projects to have faster-than-average growth of 17 percent between 2012 and 2022. This position entails a number of responsibilities, including:

  • Directing and leading staff
  • Overseeing daily activities
  • Preparing lesson plans and office budgets
  • Maintaining all aspects of the center's program

Similar to becoming a preschool teacher, the prerequisites vary by state, but a background check, proof of immunizations and a child care certification (CDA or CCP) are normally the minimum requirements.

How to become a kindergarten teacher

A third option is to become a kindergarten or elementary school teacher, professions that are both expected to grow by 12 percent nationally (about average)between 2012 and 2022.

While the educational requirements vary by state, a bachelor's degree is a minimum requirement to teach at public schools, in addition to the completion of a teacher preparation program for licensing.

Find out more about bachelor degree options at sponsored schools like Colorado Technical University.

The visual below explores these career options for aspiring early childhood education specialists, including salary information, and it also includes a full list of sources. Working with children can be challenging, but it's also considered one of the most honorable services to society.

How to become an early childhood education specialist
Embed in your site:
Share this Infographic