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What is Early Childhood Education?

Early Childhood Education is one of the most valuable parts of a person's education. When children receive the attention and nurture they need in those early years, they have a foundation for later personal and academic growth. As their teacher and mentor, you will help them unlock their innate talents, mold their interpersonal interactions, and foster positive thoughts and behaviors that will serve them for a lifetime.

As their teacher, you can help form a curriculum that introduces students to fundamental subjects: reading, writing, mathematics, and the arts. You might even introduce the basics of science with little experiments growing beans or demonstrating how a magnet works. With a little creativity, there's no telling what sort of talents you will unlock.

Nationally, the BLS shows that Early Childhood Education is growing at an average rate of 7%. If you work hard, are dedicated, and satisfy the Montana Board of Education, you can become a teacher in under five years. The future belongs to your students, so make it a good one.

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Steps to Become an Early Childhood Education Teacher in Montana

There are few professions as richly rewarding as teaching. The thrill of seeing a child's eyes light up when she grasps a new concept or idea is amazing. Teachers also nurture developmental hurdles such as learning to cooperate in groups, seeing someone else's point of view, or exploring critical thinking. Each of those are small parts of a teacher's job and might all coincide in a single day.

It's not hard to see that Montana needs highly qualified teachers at all levels, from pre-k onwards. Here are the standard steps you must take to become a licensed early childhood educator in Montana:

Early Childhood Education is a vital part of any student's growth and development. Studies have shown the enormous benefit students receive from preschool and other early childhood experiences. This is why states are paying more and more attention to this aspect of education. If you are drawn to work with youngsters in the pre-K years, or even up through 3rd grade, you will not only experience an amazing sense of job satisfaction, but you will provide those kids with a foundation on which to build a life of learning. Your very presence in the classroom will make a lasting impression.

You'll note that Montana schools offer a wide array of degrees and specialties for elementary/early childhood educators. However, if you desire a different specialty and find one offered from a public University in another western state, you can attend that school without paying out-of-state tuition. However, make sure that your program is fully accredited and that the degree will be acknowledged by the Montana Board of Education.

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Step 1. Earn Your Degree

If you intend on becoming licensed by the state, you should attend an educator preparation program that is either accredited by NCATE, CAEP, or MACTE and/or is acknowledged by Montana's Office of Public Instruction. Your degree program should include accepted in-class curriculum as well as a student teaching experience.

You should be aware that Montana does not license teachers for preschool education. They have a license that includes preschool special education, but their requirements for teaching preschool itself are 2 years’ experience at a facility licensed by the state, a CDA credential, or an associate degree in a related field. Most Head Start positions will require at least an associate degree, so obtaining at least that will give you more options for employment.

You do have the option of obtaining a Pre-k through 3 endorsement with the Montana Early Childhood Project. This gives you a way to express your level of expertise in the subject.

However, you will require licensure to teach Kindergarten or elementary school. And to obtain that, you’ll need to finish a teacher preparation program, most of which culminate in a bachelor’s degree. If you already have a degree in a pertinent or related field, you can go through a program that will prepare you for licensure without conferring another degree.

If you’re interested in administration, higher-level teaching, or special positions such as school psychologist, then you’ll need a different form of licensure with different requirements, such as a masters degree.

Step 2. Pass Your Exams

Montana's Office of Public Instruction requires that you pass a PRAXIS exam. If you intend to teach preschool through grade three, you need to take the Early Childhood Education test. Future educators who wish to teach K-8 will take Elementary Education: Content Knowledge. The Content Knowledge test covers the four main areas of education:

  • Reading and Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies
  • Science

Montana also requires all it’s licensed teachers to take a free, online course titled ‘An Introduction to Indian Education for All in Montana’. This course focuses on the native Indian groups from Montana’s history and the effect the European arrival had on them. It’s a concerted effort by the Montana education system to include cultural awareness in education right from the beginning of a child’s educational career.

Step 3. Standards and Qualifications:

To fully qualify for licensure in Montana, you will need to submit your official academic transcripts, a fingerprint background check, and a recommendation from the dean of your department that recommends you for licensure.

Popular Career Choices

  • Preschool Teacher
  • Kindergarten Teacher
  • Elementary School Teacher
  • Special Education Teacher

Online Accredited Teaching Preparation Programs

  • Class I Professional Teaching License:
    This is the premier teaching credential in Montana. To achieve this license, you will need to complete a master's degree or achieve certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standard. You will need to take the course: An Introduction to Indian Education for All in Montana. Finally, you will need to show proof of three years successful teaching experience in Montana or five years if you achieved a license through an alternative preparation program.
  • Class II Standard Teaching License:
    This is the standard license that you will qualify for upon graduating with your bachelor's degree from an accredited Montana college or university. You will need to have completed a student teaching experience, passed the Praxis I or II for your specialty area, and successfully completed the course: An Introduction to Indian Education for All in Montana.
  • Class V Provisional Teaching License:
    Provisional teaching credentials are provided to teachers seeking an alternative route to certification. This path is for those who have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, but who wish to change careers. You should have a plan of study that will allow you to complete all coursework requirements within three years and qualify to enter the professional educator preparation program. You should also complete the course, An Introduction to Indian Education for All in Montana.

To achieve a teaching credential for Early Childhood or Elementary Education in Montana, you'll need to complete a degree through an accredited college or university that is acknowledged by the Office of Public Instruction. There are ten total programs in the state that meet Montana's Professional Educator Preparation Program Standards (PEPPS).

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Top Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Programs in Montana

  • Carroll College
    Degrees Offered:
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Bachelor’
    • ESL/ Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language; Bachelor’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
    • Montana Board of Public Education
  • Montana State University - Bozeman
    Degrees Offered:
    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s
    • Educational Leadership and Administration; Master’s & Dr.

    Accreditation By:

    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
    • Montana Board of Public Education
    • CAEP
  • University of Providence:
    Degrees Offered:
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Montana Board of Public Education
    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Rocky Mountain College:
    Degrees Offered:
    • Educational Leadership and Administration; Master’s
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Montana Board of Public Education
    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • The University of Montana
    Degrees Offered:
    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s, Dr., & Post-grad Certificate
    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; Post-grad Certificate
    • ESL/ Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language; Undergrad Certificate

    Accreditation By:

  • University of Arizona

    Degrees Offered:

    • Montana Board of Public Education
    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
    • Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education
    • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
    • American Speech Language Association-Council on Academic Accreditation (ASHA)

    Accreditation By: General Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission

Additional Specialization Certifications

  • Special Education:
    You can achieve this special credential as a bachelor's degree or by taking additional coursework later in your career. SPED is a calling that will involve working with a very diverse population.
  • Art Education:
    Students can unlock so much about themselves through art. They may find that creating pictures helps them learn, or they might work out personal issues in their painting, drawing, or even clay creations. With a specialty in Art Education you will help propel students to new heights.
  • Gifted and Talented:
    Even kids with the highest IQs need help in their education. Rather than being incapable of keeping up, they find the work all too easy and become bored. Without an outlet in a gifted and talented classroom they might develop behavior problems or become disenchanted with education altogether.
  • Class 6 Specialist – School Counselor:
    Students need more than simple academic instruction. They are developing into adults, which is hard enough, but then they might have familial or personal issues to sort out. When you offer a kind ear and helpful words, they can overcome their difficult situations and thrive.
  • Class 7 Native American Language and Culture:
    Montana is home to many Native Americans. They comprise a significant part of the culture in the state. Thus, the educational system has tried to embrace them and requires teachers to take at least one course to help them understand their culture. To qualify for this certification, you must meet tribal standards for competency in their language and culture.

Potential Careers and Salaries for Graduates

  • Public schools:
    Public schools are perhaps the most popular career choice for teachers. They are relatively standardized, well-regulated, and most university education programs are designed to prepare teachers for the Montana public education system. Further, since public schools require licensure, they tend to compensate teachers better than the alternatives.
  • Private childcare:
    With a degree in early childhood education, you may find a family to hire you to help their children learn and grow in an intimate setting. The pay for these private jobs is dependent on your ability to negotiate, the current market, and your experience and specific credentials. While most private childcare jobs are focused on preschool-aged kids, your credentials might land you a job teaching homeschooled children.
  • Private schools:
    Private schools are an option whether or not you have a Montana teaching credential. Though they might not pay as well as their public counterparts, you are likely to have more creative license in your classroom. You won't be encumbered by many state regulations regarding course content or other concerns. Though you won't need a teaching credential, your principal is likely to prefer candidates that have degrees in early childhood education, or significant experience working with the targeted age group.
  • Head Start Programs:
    This federal program has been a boon to the entire field of early childhood education. The state is home to 20 programs that help the state's youngest kids get a great start on life. To qualify for a teaching position with Head Start you should have an associate degree, if not a bachelor's in Early Childhood Education. If your degree is in another field you can qualify for employment with significant experience, ‘Teach for America' preschool training, or if you have passed the appropriate Praxis II exam.
  • Community-based programs:
    For this Montana career option, you should have a high school diploma, associate degree, or even a bachelor's degree in early childhood education. The most important qualifiers for this position are your background check and experience.
  • Faith-based programs:
    If you wish to make your faith a part of your career, then there is no better way to integrate those parts of your life. When you work for a faith-based program, you will help youngsters with their faith while you help them move through their developing years.
  • Military programs:
    Teaching in the military is a great way to impact many young lives while traveling the nation and world. You might work on one of the large bases in Germany, or perhaps you'll be posted in Hawaii. You will need a teaching credential to qualify, but if you want a life of adventure, this is a career path that will not disappoint.

Early Childhood Education Teaching Salaries in Montana

  • Preschool Teacher:
    Preschool teachers are found in a wide variety of environments. Some preschools are conducted out of a person's home and others are in institutional buildings on military bases. Your students might be with you for a half-day or perhaps a full. Depending on your school, some kids will only attend a select few days per week.
  • Search Programs Offering Early Childhood Education Majors

  • Elementary School Teacher:
    As an Elementary School teacher, you are most likely to teach in public schools. You will need a full teaching credential.
  • Professor of Education:
    If you are interested in education as an academic subject, you might prefer working in post-secondary institutions preparing undergraduates for their future lives in elementary and secondary school classrooms. At a minimum, you will need a master's degree in education, but a doctoral degree will help you gain a full-time, tenured position.
  • School Principal:
    Once you have been teaching for a few years, you might consider moving up into school administration. You will assist teachers in dealing with problem students and communicate with your local school board and parent groups.
  • Special Education Teacher:
    In this position you'll help students that range from Ivy League bound students working with dyslexia to those with profound difficulties. Your classroom should be a place where students feel safe and have the space and time they need to learn and grow at their own pace. SPED teachers also put together Individualized Education Plans that are very detailed documents which outline a student's future educational goals.
  • ESL Teacher:
    Students who have come to school from other linguistic cultures often need help acclimating to our English-dominated culture. If you love languages, then this is the field for you. When you help a youngster master English, you also help her parents, who might rely on the child for translation and other assistance.
  • School Psychologist:
    To achieve this specialty, you'll need an education that has been accredited by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) to practice as a school psychologist. Your days will be filled with helping students overcome their personal and academic difficulties.
Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Preschool Teacher $28,500 $29,100 $34,200
Professor of Education $60,200 $70,200 $99,100
School Principal $73,600 $79,100 $86,600
Special Education Teacher $41,200 $46,400 $58,000
ESL Teacher $41,100 $40,500 $50,900
School Psychologist $54,100 $61,000 $73,200

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