Early Childhood and Child Development Careers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in early childhood education are currently growing faster than average. This trend is due to a number of different factors, including the growing population of preschool-aged children and the consistent demand for early childhood services.

Historically speaking, educational services for children ages 5 and below were considered a luxury. Just a couple of generations ago, most young children received no formal academic instruction before grade school. Instead, they were taught by their parents or simply left to their own devices.

Research in the field of early childhood education has changed this, though. Because we now know the important cognitive benefits of academic instruction at a very early age, the demand for early childhood education services remains on a steady incline.

Jobs in Early Childhood Education

Though there’s no shortage of jobs available for early childhood education professionals, positions in this field haven’t always been associated with the best pay. Careers in education have long been regarded as underpaid occupations, despite their importance. Even so, there are positions in early childhood education that pay well. In this article, we’ll explore some of the highest paying jobs in the field by degree level.

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High-Paying Jobs in Early Childhood Education for Associate’s Degree Holders

Preschool Teacher

early childhood education salary

Salary Potential: $55,350

The job of a preschool teacher may not be the first that comes to mind when you think of the best paying early childhood education jobs, but the potential is there to earn a handsome salary.

Preschool teachers are at the forefront of the early childhood education field. These are the men and women who are tasked with providing the necessary and appropriate academic services to America’s children. Their duties are numerous, and they can vary from day to day. Some of these responsibilities include creating lesson plans, teaching children early learning concepts such as numbers and shapes, meeting with parents about their children’s progress, and reporting to supervisors regarding their students’ educational goals and objectives.

A minimum of an associate’s degree is required for jobs in preschool education. Many employers will require a bachelor’s credential, however. In addition to this formal academic training, preschool teachers may also need professional certification such as the Council for Professional Recognition’s Child Development Associate (CDA) license.
Many preschool teachers attend graduate school to continue their studies in the field of early childhood education. A master’s degree can position these educators for pay raises and/or promotions.

Although the earning potential for preschool teachers is well over $50,000 per year, not all preschool teachers make this much money. In fact, the median annual wage for early childhood educators was just under $30,000 as of 2018.

Popular Degree Programs for Preschool Teachers

Prospective students considering a career in preschool education have many different options to choose from. For example, The Ohio State University offers a top online associate’s degree in early childhood education from its College of Education and Human Ecology. Students enrolled in this program will take courses such as Child Development, Managing and Supporting Behavior in Social Contexts, and Family Development, for example.

Those who desire a bachelor’s credential in early childhood education may consider Indiana University-Bloomington’s Bachelor of Science in Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education . This four-year option emphasizes hands-on experiences and features an optional teaching license in Reading.

Teacher Assistant

Salary Potential: $41,020

Surprisingly, the position of teacher assistant can be one of the top high paying jobs in early childhood education for entry-level candidates. Teacher assistants perform important duties every day to support the education and development of young children. These professionals work alongside licensed early childhood educators to provide instruction and aide during the learning process. They may also help teachers with administrative duties such as recording attendance and grading papers, for instance.

Teacher assistants are usually required to have an associate’s degree in early childhood education to work in public schools. Private institutions may be more lenient with their employment requirements; some require candidates to have just a high school diploma or equivalent along with some work experience. In addition to formal academic requirements, some schools may require teacher assistants to be certified in CPR and/or first aid.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual wage for teacher assistants in 2018 to be just $26,970, but the top ten percent earned over $40,000 that same year. This earning gap may be attributed to experience in the field, advanced degrees, and geographical location.

Popular Degree Programs for Teacher Assistants

Prospective teacher assistants may be interested in the Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks . This fully online program features classes such as Foundations in Nutrition and Physical Wellness, Positive Social and Emotional Development, and Introduction to Children With Special Needs.

On-campus programs in early childhood education are also available. For example, Wake Technical Community College offers an Associate in Applied Science in Early Childhood Education . Flexible scheduling options are available to enrolled students, including evening classes and hybrid formats.

High-Paying Jobs in Early Childhood Education for Bachelor’s Degree Holders

Early Childhood Special Education Teacher

Salary Potential: $97,070

As one of the highest paying jobs in early childhood education, special education teachers who work in the field of early childhood education have the potential to make nearly six figures per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Not all professionals will earn this much, though. The BLS also reports that the median annual wage of early childhood special education teachers in 2018 was just under $60,000. Fluctuations in pay can be attributed to specific employers, job experience, and geographical location.

These types of education professionals have very challenging jobs. Every day, they must assist very young children with disabilities to achieve their learning goals. The disabilities these children struggle with may include physical, emotional, and/or learning disabilities. Some children may have minor disabilities that require minimal modifications to the learning environment, while other children may have severe disabilities that require much more.

In addition to hands-on instruction in the classroom, early childhood special education teachers must develop lesson plans and adapt them to the unique needs of their students. They must also assess each students’ progress and communicate their findings with supervisors and parents.

Popular Degree Programs for Early Childhood Special Education Teachers

For individuals looking for preparatory programs in early childhood special education, Grand Canyon University offers a dual degree program in early childhood education and special education . The program is offered online and on campus. The University of Maryland offers a similar Bachelor of Science program.

Preschool Childcare Center Directors

Salary Potential: $83,730

Preschool childcare center directors hold advanced leadership positions in the field of early childhood education so it’s not surprising that they stand to make some of the most impressive salaries in the field. These professionals are responsible for overseeing the operations of early childhood education centers such as preschools and childcare centers. Their duties and responsibilities are wide-ranging and include supervising preschool teachers and teacher assistants, developing early childhood education programs and curricula for students, and communicating with parents about their children’s learning goals and progress.

Though preschool childcare center directors stand to make well over $80,000 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), not all of them enjoy such handsome salaries. The median annual wage for these directors was just $47,940 in 2018. This discrepancy in pay can be explained by factors such as work experience, advanced training and degrees, and geography.

Most positions as preschool childcare center directors require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. Some employers prefer candidates with some formal training in management and leadership. Despite their academic training, candidates are expected to have several years of work experience in childcare and/or early learning in order to be considered for this position.

Popular Degree Programs for Preschool Childcare Center Directors

Brandman University offers a program designed to prepare students for roles as preschool childcare center directors. This BA in Early Childhood Education features course titles such as Introduction to Curriculum for Young Children, Child Growth and Development, and Principles and Practices of Teaching Young Children. The University of Toledo offers a similar online program featuring a fast-track option.

High-Paying Jobs in Early Childhood Education for Master’s Degree Holders

Early Childhood Instructional Specialists

Salary Potential: $102,200

Instructional specialists have some of the highest paying jobs in early childhood education. These professionals are responsible for developing educational programs and curriculum for preschools and childcare centers. Their auxiliary duties may include training teachers in curriculum guidelines and instructional methods, reviewing and selecting textbooks and other curriculum support materials, and analyzing learning outcomes.

Top-earning instructional specialists in early childhood education can make over $100,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Actual salaries will depend on a variety of different factors, though, including years of experience, employers, and geography. The BLS reports that the median annual wage for instructional specialists in 2018 was $64,450.

To become an instructional specialist in the field of early childhood education, candidates need a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. Typically, employers will also prefer that applicants have some experience in the field. Many instructional specialists are former teachers or school administrators.

Popular Degree Programs for Instructional Specialists in Early Childhood Education

Online master’s degree programs in curriculum and instruction are quite popular. Sam Houston State University offers one of the leading online MEd offerings in the field. This 30-credit hour option does require some face-to-face meetings for research purposes.

One of the top on-campus options for prospective instructional specialists is Portland State University’s Master of Curriculum and Instruction . The program features both MA and MS tracks and emphasizes research in social justice.

High-Paying Jobs in Early Childhood Education for Doctorate Degree Holders

Early Childhood Education Professor

Salary Potential: $175,110

Some of the highest-paid professionals in the field, early childhood education professors have the task of training prospective educators and support staff to practice their craft. These experts in early childhood education pass on their knowledge and experience to their students and prepare them for the rigors of the classroom.

Professors in early childhood education are well-compensated for their contributions to early learning. Some of these instructors have the potential to make up to $175,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual wage for postsecondary teachers in the field of education was $64,780, however.

Early childhood education professors need a doctorate credential in order to teach at the university level. Some community colleges will hire candidates with only a master’s degree, however.

Popular Degree Programs for Postsecondary Teachers in Early Childhood Education

Northcentral University offers a convenient online Doctor of Education (EdD) in Early Childhood Education for students with aspirations to work as early childhood education professors. The program is asynchronous in nature and designed to be completed within 40 months.
Louisiana State University is home to one of the best on-campus doctorates in early childhood education. Its PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Early Childhood Education is offered through the university’s College of Human Sciences and Education and requires a minimum of 90 credit hours of graduate coursework.

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Frequently-Asked Questions About Careers in Early Childhood Education

If you’re considering a career in early childhood education, you’re bound to have a few questions. Below, we’ll address some of the most common questions we receive about these positions. Keep in mind that the information provided is general in nature. Specific details about employment opportunities and positions in early childhood education will vary.

Q: Are jobs in early childhood education in demand?

A: Yes. Many of them are. As the population of young children increases, so does the need for early childhood educational services.

Q: What type of degree do I need for a career in early childhood education?

A: Degree requirements vary depending on the specific job title. For instance, some of the lucrative careers featured in our ranking require just an associate’s degree in early childhood education while others require a more advanced credential such as a master’s or even doctoral degree.

Q: What schools offer degrees in early childhood education?

A: A whole lot of them do! According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are over 500 institutions of higher learning in the United States that offer some type of degree in early childhood education.

Q: How do I choose which school to attend for an early childhood education credential?

A: Choosing one of the many available early childhood education programs available can be a difficult decision. There are many factors to consider, including school accreditation and recognition, tuition and fees, flexibility, curriculum, and more. While objectively speaking, there may not a single best program, with careful consideration, you can find the best program for you.

Q: How much will an early childhood education degree cost?

A: It varies. While it’s possible to find affordable early childhood education programs for $5,000 per year, many other programs cost more than $30,000 annually. Financial aid may also be a consideration, depending on your individual circumstances.

Q: Are online early childhood education degree programs available?

A: Yes. An increasing number of colleges and universities are offering their academic programs online. This includes both undergraduate and graduate offerings in the field of early childhood education.

Q: Which professional organizations exist in early childhood education?

A: Many different professional organizations and associations in the field of early childhood education are open for membership. Some examples are listed below:

  • The Association for Early Learning Leaders
  • Council for Exceptional Children
  • National Head Start Association
  • National Association for Family Child Care
  • The National Child Care Association
  • Association for Childhood Education International

Q: Do employers in early childhood education offer raises?
A: Sometimes. Depending on your position, you may receive a raise in pay after years of working in the same role, after earning an advanced degree, or in exchange for more work responsibilities.
Q: What other benefits do careers in early childhood education offer?
A: In addition to a good salary, jobs in early childhood education are often associated with other benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid vacations, and more. Of course, these extras will vary from employer to employer. For public school teachers, benefits may vary based on school district.

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