For individuals who wish to pursue a career in Early Childhood Education (ECE), getting a degree is the first step. People pursuing a career in this field typically work with young children, in this case, infants to children up to 8 years of age. Graduates in Early Childhood Education can find employment in a variety of public and private sector settings such as preschools, churches, daycare centers, child care resources and education agencies, community centers and more. They can also work as an aide for teachers. This is an attractive career option, especially for people who enjoy being around and working with young children. The skill sets that are typically required include a patient yet attention commanding demeanor, an ability to be innovative yet also be able to use traditional techniques. These professionals need to be well versed with the developmental stages of early childhood as different techniques are needed to deal with young children as compared to older children.
In today’s internet age, education online has become more accessible than ever before. Online degrees have grown in popularity in the last few years and there is a rapid rise in the number of students choosing an online degree over a traditional on-campus degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), one in three students in the USA is now taking at least one class online. There are several amazing programs available online which are offered by various universities. Most of these programs are not in any way inferior to a program offered on-campus. Career opportunities for people with an online degree are only on the rise.
Some pros of doing an online degree are:
- There is more flexibility to study as and when you want and at your own pace. This is especially useful for people who work or have a family to look after.
- It is possible to do a number of degrees at the same time.
- You can cut the cost of relocating or commuting to the university.
- You can learn anywhere and anytime you want.
- It is easy to review the lectures as they are always available online.
- It is possible to study at the university you like regardless of whether it is located in your country or close to where you live.
Online degrees in ECE are generally available at four levels i.e. an associate degree, a bachelor degree, a master degree and doctoral degree. The more advanced your degree level is, the more varied your career options become. Let’s take a look at these different degrees.
Associate: With an associate degree, you can work in the niche that you are qualified in. The mean average salary of an individual with an associate degree in ECE is $27,130 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Bachelor’s: Though a bachelor’s degree is not mandatory to work in this field, it does makes the individual more employable in the eyes of the employer. Studies have shown that preschool teachers with a bachelor’s degree are much more likely to be employed than those without one. A bachelor’s degree not only increases employment chances for preschool teachers but also qualifies an individual to teach up to grade three, thus opening up higher paid employment opportunities. A bachelor’s degree also qualifies the individual to take up a career as a preschool and childcare center director. Common roles that students with a bachelor’s degree take up are child care center administrator, children’s museum director, social worker, etc.
Master’s: A master’s degree adds on to the knowledge which is gained during the bachelor’s program. There are various specializations in the topics covered during the bachelor’s program. A master’s degree seeker will have the opportunity to take part in research and development of new educational methods. A master’s degree also qualifies graduates to become a principal.
Ph. D: This program is ideal for individuals who wish to take up a leadership role in this field. Graduates with a doctoral degree can conduct important research, design curriculums, take part in policy making and work as a faculty member in a university.
Like any other degree, ECE programs also offer a number of specializations that students can take up depending on personal preferences or skill sets. It is best to do the required research about specializations before enrolling in a program. Some of the commonly offered specializations include physical fitness, art, history, mathematics, science and special education. Taking up a specialization can help students become well rounded ECE professionals. Specializing in a certain area may also improve employment opportunities after graduation.
Choosing the right university and program
Choosing the right university and program is the most important decision that students have to make as this can influence future job prospects. As there are hundreds of universities to choose from, selecting the right one becomes a difficult task. Schools offer programs which have varied focuses, and it is hence crucial to evaluate your own interests and career goals. The right school for someone else might not fit your educational needs and may not be the right one for you. It is also important to take into consideration the kind of accreditation the college has. Accreditation is a symbol of quality of the college itself and the program. It shows whether a certain college or program lives up to the set quality standards. Employers often take the accreditation of the university into consideration while looking for new employees. Accreditation status can have a big impact on the chances of receiving financial aid or to transfer credits to another degree or school, if needed. The information about accreditation is generally easily available on the website of the school.
Choosing the right program is an important task and depends on your career goals, current education levels, the field you want to venture into and other such things. There are a number of bachelor, master, certificate programs to suit your individual requirements. It is important to think carefully about the major that you want to pursue as this has biggest impact on your job prospects in the future. You will learn about completely different skills as each major emphasizes on different things. Studies have shown that your major has a bigger impact on career prospects and earnings than where you do the degree.
Below is a list of top ten universities, offering a degree in ECE:
- Alabama State University
- Albany State University
- Alvernia University
- American Public University System
- American Public University System
- Appalachian State University
- Arizona State University
- Arkansas State University
According to the BLS, the job prospects in this field are only expected to grow in the coming years. The expected growth in employment for preschool teachers is about 17% which is faster than the average rate. This might have to do with the rise in educational standards in the country. More children are attending preschool and more parents are hiring ECE teachers for private tutoring.
The bottom line
A career in ECE can be a very gratifying, especially for individuals who desire to work with children. It is advisable to thoroughly do your research about the various universities, programs and career options before taking the decision to enrol in a program.
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