Early childhood is a critical phase in the cognitive and physical development of human beings.
“People in early childhood education are passionate about their work because they know what a difference it makes,” says Katherine Green, PhD, faculty lead for Capella University’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program.
Earning a master’s degree, such as an MS in Education with a specialization in Early Childhood Education or Early Childhood Education Studies, may help individuals progress in the field. (Additional certification for teaching positions may also be required. These rules vary from state to state, Green says.)
Employment settings to explore include:*
- Public or private school
- Childcare center
- Individual or family services
- Head Start** center
- Government – federal, state, local
Related job titles to explore include*:
- Early childhood specialist
- Early childhood curriculum designer
- Preschool lead teacher
- Preschool or childcare center director
- Head Start** program director
*These are examples intended to serve as a general guide. Some positions may prefer or even require previous experience, licensure, certifications, and/or other designations along with a degree. Because many factors determine what position an individual may attain, Capella cannot guarantee that a graduate will secure any specific job title, a promotion, salary increase, or other career outcome. We encourage you to research requirements for your job target and career goals.
**Head Start, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families across the country.
Creating a Career
What does it take to succeed in early childhood education? “You definitely have to enjoy children,” Green says. “You also have to be flexible and engaging. You have to enjoy getting down to the child’s level, understanding their motivations, how they see the world, and what’s likely to be going on in their heads.”
Classroom teaching is a popular way to apply an early education degree, but it’s not the only job available. Some ECE degree holders work in administration – developing staff, budgets, and funding that support and expand early childhood opportunities. Others decide to be advocates for young children in other ways, working in government agencies and Head Start programs.
Finally, specialists in ECE may also decide to go into college-level teaching, instructing others in early childhood education and developing studies that explore the benefits, challenges, and needs within the field. Green, who has taught individuals of every age from 2 to 80 years old, says she chose to earn a PhD in early childhood education so she could advance her passion for ECE at every level. “People in early childhood love what they do. They’re strong advocates for the children they work with—children who don’t yet have a voice in politics and society.”