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What is Early Childhood Education?

Early 2019 saw a boon to New Jersey's Early Childhood Education programs when Governor Phil Murphy passed a funding initiative that bestowed $27 million on 33 state districts. Called Preschool Education Expansion Aid (PEEA), these funds will directly impact the lives of 2,320 New Jersey children, their parents, and their communities.

“Expanding early childhood education is among the smartest investments we can make for the future of our state,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Providing children with access to high-quality education is a vital component of building a stronger and fairer New Jersey where children and families can thrive.”

The Governor's words are backed by University of Chicago economist, and Nobel Prize winner James J. Heckman who has done extensive research on Early Childhood Education. Dr Heckman's research shows that investment in low-income children aged birth through five years yields a return up to 10%.

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Steps to Become an Early Childhood Education Teacher in New Jersey

To become a fully-licensed Early Childhood Education/Preschool teacher in New Jersey, you must pass a lengthy series of evaluations. First you should complete a four-year degree, inclusive of a state-approved teacher-preparation program. After that, you need to pass the required test(s) for your specialty area. New Jersey then asks for a background check, special coursework, and a mentoring/evaluation period before you attain your Standard Certificate. It's a long process, but it is worth it.

Teaching is the hardest job that you'll ever do. However, once you work through the licensure process for New Jersey and decorate your first classroom, you'll find that each subsequent day is a pleasure. Even on the hardest days, you can always rest assured that you have given the students what they needed to succeed. For some, your mere presence will be enough. Others will require hands-on help, and sometimes the independent and more-dependent students will change from day-to-day.

Teaching is a profession, but it's also a calling. When you can say that your passion is also your career, there are few others who will be able to say the same. If you've decided that teaching in an Early Education Classroom is for you, then it's time to find a teacher-preparation program, apply, and enroll. Your future awaits!

Step 1. Earn Your Degree

The first major step towards becoming a teacher in New Jersey is a bachelor's degree following a state-approved teacher-preparation program. Not only should your program be state-approved, but you must graduate with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. You may waive the GPA requirement if your Praxis II scores are sufficiently high. However, your GPA should still be no lower than 2.75.

Possibly the most important part of the degree program will be the capstone student teaching experience. You must not only spend the required number of hours teaching in an age-appropriate classroom for the degree you’re looking to receive. You must also complete a form titled, Verification Completion: 24 Hour Early Childhood Preservice Program. This will verify your required pre-service hours and allow you to sit for your exams.

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Step 2. Pass Your Exams

Sometime around the time of your graduation, you should take a standardized test that is administered by the Educational Testing Service. For New Jersey, budding educators who wish to teach preschool through third grade need to take the PRAXIS II subject test titled, Early Childhood Education.

The test breaks down as such:

  • Language and Literacy: 30%
  • Mathematics: 25%
  • Social Studies: 14%
  • Science: 14%
  • Health and Physical Education; Creative and Performing Arts: 17%

On the other hand, if you decide that you'd rather teach Elementary school, you can take the requisite PRAXIS II test, Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects. This test is a comprehensive examination that comprises four sub-tests that measure your competency across the major academic subjects. You can take all of the tests at once by choosing test code 5001. However, if you'd like to space out the tests, you may take them individually.

Sub-test Name and Praxis Code Length Number of Questions
5002 Reading and Language Arts 90 minutes 80
5003 Mathematics 65 minutes 50
5004 Social Studies 60 minutes 60
5005 Science 60 minutes 55

Step 3. Standards and Qualifications

New Jersey also requires that you submit a criminal background check and that you complete their Physiology and Hygiene requirement.

Your background check will include a set of fingerprints for the FBI and New Jersey law enforcement. If you have any infractions on your record, including major traffic violations such as a DUI, you should include a letter accounting for those incidents. If you have court documents proving that you have completed all requirements stemming from your sentence you should include those.

The Physiology and Hygiene requirement can be satisfied by a course in biology, health, or nutrition. This coursework should appear on your official transcripts. Your teacher-preparation adviser should certainly make sure you take an approved course. If for some reason you did not take such a course, you may satisfy the state's requirement by taking a 35-item True/False exam in your county's office of education.

Step 4. Mentoring and Evaluation

In New Jersey, you begin your career in the classroom with an Initial Certificate or the Certification of Eligibility with Advanced Standing (CEAS.) You'll be signed up for the Provisional Teacher Process Program (PTP.) As you work in the classroom, you will be mentored for the first thirty weeks.

Following your mentorship period, you will be evaluated by your district supervisor. You must also be considered effective, or highly effective for a total of two years. This will be determined by way of three district observations of 20 minutes each.

Once you have successfully passed this mentoring and evaluation process, you can apply for a Standard Certificate.

Popular Career Choices

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

Additional Specialization Certifications

  • Reading :
    Teaching children the basics of reading and literacy is one of the most important things you can do as a teacher. The earlier kids learn to interact with and comprehend text, the faster they will be able to grasp larger concepts and develop their critical thinking abilities.
  • Students with Disabilities :
    Sometimes called Special Education, credentials in this field will enable you to work with a wide range of students. Your students may have mild to severe mental disabilities, or they may be diagnosed with other troubles, such as emotional disorders. Your specialty certification will focus you on specific populations so that you can be as effective as possible.
  • Deaf or Hard of Hearing :
    Young deaf children don't often have deaf parents. Thus, your skills with American Sign Language will help you teach the fundamentals of interpersonal communication, including lip-reading. You may also work with them on reading and writing, as well as other subject areas.
  • Blind or Visually Impaired :
    Students with visual impairments face a world that relies on visual cues, so you will need to teach the adaptation necessary to survive and thrive. Braille is one necessary skill, and you may need to teach your students to navigate in the world with a walking stick or a helper dog.
  • School Counselor :
    Kids come to school to learn. They are also in the midst of developmental turmoil. Children will need someone to talk to who can work with them on their problems. You might be able to diagnose a child with a mental disorder or discover some trouble elsewhere in their lives. School Counselors are a necessary part of any Early Childhood faculty.

Top Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Programs in New Jersey

Accreditation is important in most academic fields, but it's especially vital for prospective educators. That's because if your school isn’t accredited then you won't be able to attain a teaching credential. While most teacher-preparation programs are state-approved and accredited, make sure to check prior to enrolling.

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Here you'll find a brief list of potential teacher-preparation programs in New Jersey:

  • Rutgers University – New Brunswick

    Degrees Offered: Joint bachelor's/master's initial teacher certification program

    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s
    • Educational Leadership and Administration; Master’s, Dr., & Post-grad Certificate
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Master’s, Dr., & Post-grad Certificate
    • Reading Teacher Education; Master’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Master’s & Dr.

    Accreditation By:

    • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • The College of New Jersey

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bilingual and Multilingual Education; Post-grad Certificate
    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master's
    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching: Bachelor's
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Hearing Impairments or Deafness: Bachelor's
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Specific Learning Disabilities; Post-grad Certificate
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Bachelor's, Master's, & Post-grad Certificate
    • Kindergarten/Preschool Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s & Post-grad Certificate
    • Physical Education Teaching and Coaching; Bachelor's & Master’s
    • Reading Teacher Education; Master’s & Post-grad Certificate
    • Special Education: Bachelor's, Master's, & Post-grad Certificate
    • Teaching English as a Second Language: Master's & Post-grad Certificate

    Accreditation By:

    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
    • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University – Metro Campus

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bilingual and Multilingual Education; Master’s
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Specific Learning Disabilities; Master's
    • Educational Leadership and Administration; Master’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
    • Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
  • Pillar College

    Degrees Offered:

    • Elementary Education: Bachelor's

    Accreditation By:

    • New England Commission of Higher Education
    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Places You Can Find Employment Opportunities

  • Public schools
    Most teachers choose to make their careers in their state's public-school system. After all, public schools are where most of us are educated, and where you are most likely to be inspired for the profession. Public Schools offer a competitive paycheck, ample resources, and you can transfer around the state if you need. Most other states will recognize your license, if you need to move away from New Jersey.
  • Private childcare
    So many parents need to work away from the home, or else they have other obligations that require professional assistance. That's where you come in. Your background in Early Childhood Education will make you a top pick for parents who need someone to not only watch their kids, but to also offer educational benefits.
  • Private schools
    You might choose private schools if you wish to develop a specific teaching style. For preschool children, you might wish to teach Montessori-style or perhaps Reggio Emilia is your thing. If you teach Elementary ages, you could teach in a fully private institution or even a Charter School.
  • Head Start programs
    This federal program has been providing preschool care for low-income children since the mid-1960's. Considered by some to be an entitlement, Head Start is really a vital investment in communities and similar programs have been shown to yield up to 10% returns. You might not need a New Jersey (or other state) teaching license, but it won't hurt when it comes time to apply.
  • Community-based programs
    You can do so many things in community-based programs. You could teach art, music, or theater. Some programs teach kids the early fundamentals of sports such as soccer. You could bond with fellow ECE professionals to get a grant for a special project or after-school program of your own. After all, congress recently approved over $5 billion in block grants for preschools and ECE development.
  • Faith-based programs
    If you wish to practice your religion while you work, look for a faith-based preschool to work in. Your local synagogue, temple, mosque, or church may have opportunities for you to teach children from like-minded families. Your community may also have standalone schools that are based in your particular faith.
  • Military programs
    Once you attain your New Jersey teaching credential, you can apply to teach on a United States military base. There are bases worldwide that need teachers to educate soldiers' children. You might end up teaching in Germany, Alaska, Japan, or even Hawaii. If you would like to teach children while learning about a new culture, this is a great opportunity.

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Potential Careers and Salaries for Graduates

  • Preschool Teacher
    This career path is one of the most important jobs in our society. Young PreK students need instruction and nurturing from trained professionals. If you have bona fide credentials and good experience, you might one day consider starting a Preschool of your very own.
  • Elementary School Teacher
    To teach in an Elementary classroom, you'll need to have a working knowledge of the four basic academic disciplines: language arts, science, mathematics, and social studies. You'll also need to have the empathy and insight to work with your chosen age group.
  • Professor of Education
    This is a great career if you wish to work on educational research, or simply remain in the classroom to assist up-and-coming teachers. You'll need a doctoral degree if you wish to land a full-time, tenure-track position, but when you start graduating tomorrow's top teachers, it will all be worth it.
  • School Principal
    If, after five years or more in the classroom, you start wishing to affect education from a higher vantage point, you can achieve a master's degree and work on landing a job in administration. You might need to work as a Vice-Principal for a few years, but soon you'll mentor teachers, guide curriculum, and more.
  • Special Education Teacher
    Special Education is a term that encompasses a wide range of sub-specialty areas such as: hearing impairments, blind students, emotional disorders, and cognitive disabilities. No matter what your specialty, you will impact students in a profound way, giving them the confidence to go forward and lead their best lives.
  • ESL Teacher
    New Jersey is a popular entry-point for families from across the globe. Jersey City is one of the most diverse towns in the nation. Thus, you will find that there are many students seeking help as they learn to navigate our English-dominated culture.
  • School Psychologist
    Children need more from school than simple instruction in the 3-Rs, they also need guidance as they learn to navigate a sometimes-confusing world. Your expertise will help to identify students who may be in trouble and help them manage their problems with skill.
Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Preschool Teacher $33,300 $32,600 $49,600
Elementary School Teacher $49,600 $56,400 $58,100
Professor of Education $60,200 $101,500 $102,600
Elementary School Principal $73,500 $89,700 $128,600
Special Education Teacher $41,200 $46,300 $58,000
ESL Teacher $37,000 $40,900 $55,900

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