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What is Early Childhood Education?

North Carolina is a wonderful and diverse state that stretches between the ocean to the mountains. The state has diverted Lottery funds to ensure that all low-income families have access to pre-k education. The city plans to allocate $82 million dollars to pre-k in the upcoming school year and then increase that to $91 million for the next.

In the past, families in North Carolina had to sit on a waitlist in hopes of a spot for their youngsters. With this new initiative, the state expects to eliminate that waitlist by 2020. Given that strong preschool programs bolster long-term academic performance, and that the richest nations enroll up to 80% of their kids in preschool, this new funding will help NC catch up with the rest of the world.

On the national front, the federal government passed legislation that approved 5.2 billion dollars in block grants for childcare and development. This will be a boon to North Carolina's existing movement to boost Early Childhood Education.

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Steps to Become an Early Childhood Education Teacher in North Carolina

The first step toward becoming an Early Childhood Education Teacher in North Carolina is to decide that teaching, and child development in general, is your passion. Education is not like other professions. The classroom is a very challenging place that insists that you wear multiple hats: teacher, disciplinarian, social worker, parent, entertainer, and mentor. Often those hats are interchanged in rapid succession. However, you will receive successes that carry more weight than that of any large sale or business success.

After that, you will need to meet certain qualifications to satisfy the North Carolina School Board. The largest part of you teacher preparation will be your education. This is where you can begin to narrow your focus according to your academic and age-group focus. For Early Childhood Education, you'll have to demonstrate competency in the main academic areas but then you can specialize in Special Education, the arts, or even physical education.

Teaching is one of the fundamental parts of human society. Since we first emerged, we have taught one another, especially our children, to manage the society or environment we live in. All over the globe, human cultures have devised means by which to help youngsters become adults. Now we have specialists to help the young learn to navigate our society. You will thus be one of the most important people in a child's life. Indeed, you will be one of the most important people in the community.

Teaching should be first considered a calling, then a profession. That's because this is more than a career path, or a way to confer information. Rather, teaching is how we hand down knowledge and wisdom to younger generations and thus perpetuate our culture for future generations to enjoy.

Step 1. Earn Your Degree

Your academic training is the largest, and most important, part of your path to becoming a teacher. As you study, you will become knowledgeable of teaching methods, pedagogical theories, and current thinking on human development. Your early childhood education program should also include a student teaching experience, which many programs set up to be the capstone to your training.

Some key courses you'll take include, but are not limited to:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Human Development
  • Exceptional Child
  • Classroom Management

If you need to work during your time in college, try to work in education to some degree. You could work in a preschool as a teacher’s assistant, for instance, or take a job with the public schools as a Paraprofessional. In North Carolina, you will need to have at least two years of college credit to your name, or an associate degree, for that position. Regardless, if you focus on attaining classroom experience, you will have an easier time landing the job you want upon graduation.

Step 2. Pass Your Exam

Unlike many states, North Carolina does not require you to pass a specific test if you intend to spend your career as a preschool educator. However, if you decide to move up into Kindergarten, or almost any other position, you will need to pass the Core Academic Skills for Educators test, which is comprised of three separate tests:

  • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading
  • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Writing
  • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Mathematics

North Carolina allows you to take the tests separately in three sessions, or all at once. Some other states require that you take the comprehensive, three-part exam the first time. Then, if you fell short on a section, you can return to re-take that part. You can make this decision, but it would be more efficient to take and pass all three on the first attempt.

Step 3. Acquire and Upgrade Your License

Keep in mind that your education must be from an accredited educator preparation program that the state of North Carolina's Department of Public Instruction acknowledges as valid. Once you have graduated, you should submit your transcripts, background check information including fingerprints, and any required letters of recommendation.

If you have any infractions on your adult record, you will want to account for those in writing. You should detail the nature of the charges and the subsequent sentence. If you have court documentation to verify that you have paid all fees and satisfied any other stipulations in your sentencing, you should include that as well. Provided that the infraction was not related to children, your application should pass through.

Once this happens, you will receive the Standard Professional 1 License, which is good for 3 years. You must gain professional experience each year. After these years, you can apply for and receive your Standard Professional License 2.

In order to maintain this licensure, you must complete 7.5 “renewal credits” in literacy, early childhood education, and general studies every 5 years. Your employer can help you determine what courses or workshops are appropriate.

Popular Career Choices:

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

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Additional Specialization Certifications

As your career continues, you may find that you would like to specialize in certain areas such as Special Education, Advanced Learning and Gifted Education, or English as a Second Language (ESL).

Special Education:
This is a specialty area that often requires you to have a very specific focus. You might have a general classroom full of wonderful children who have been diagnosed with things varying from developmental disabilities, hearing impairment, visual impairment, or some variety of learning disorder. To qualify for this specialty area, you will need to pass the Praxis II test that correlates with your specific area.

There are tests for the following areas:

  • Adapted Curriculum
  • Behavioral/Emotional Disorders
  • Cross Categorical
  • General Curriculum
  • Learning Disabled
  • Mentally Disabled
  • Visually Impaired

Advanced Learning and Gifted Education:
To add this specialty to your license, you will need to complete a 12-16 semester hour state-approved program. Your program might require a practicum over the summer, and then you will need to pass a Praxis II test with a minimum score of 157. The state notes that the most successful test-takers are in a graduate program for Gifted education or have an undergraduate degree and several years in the field working with especially talented students.

English as a Second Language:
You can add this specialty to your license with approximately 15 semester hours of college credit. You will then need to pass the appropriate Praxis II examination and pass with a minimum score of 155.

Top Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Programs in North Carolina

Initial License:
As a new teacher, you will first qualify for an initial license. This credential is valid for three years.

Professional Educator's Continuing Licenses:
Once you have passed the initial three-year period, you can attain a Professional Educator's License. This credential is valid for five years.

North Carolina has more great colleges and universities per square mile than most places. The University or North Carolina has been ranked in the top five universities nationwide and the state's private colleges are also excellent. That is to say, you should easily find a college or university near you that will help you land a teaching credential.

  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    Degrees Offered:

    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s, Dr., & Post-grad Certificate
    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s, Master’s, & Post-grad Certificate
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Hearing Impairments Including Deafness; Bachelor’s & Master’s
    • Educational Leadership & Administration; Master’s, Dr., & Post-grad Certificate
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s & Master’s
    • Reading Teacher Education; Master’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s, Master’s, Dr., & Post-grad Certificate

    Accreditation By:

    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
    • The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
  • University of Alaska Anchorage

    Degrees Offered:

    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s, Dr., & Post-grad Certificate
    • Curriculum and Instruction; Master’s & Dr.
    • Education/Teaching of the Gifted and Talented; Post-grad Certificate
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s & Master’s
    • Kindergarten/Preschool Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s & Master’s
    • Reading Teacher Education; Master’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s, Master’s, & Dr.
    • ESL Teaching; Master’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

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Potential Careers and Salaries for Graduates

  • Public Schools
    North Carolina is a great state in which to teach in public schools. This career path will provide countless opportunities from the shores to the Appalachian Mountains. Public school teachers naturally have opportunities in every North Carolina town as well as a state-guaranteed salary structure and other benefits.
  • Private Childcare
    If you wish to work with individual families to help their children prepare for later schooling you can find ample opportunities if you have a degree. Many families value professionals with dual language skills, or special experience in their field. If you are seeking a long-term career in education, seek out families that need a childcare professional who can help with their child's early learning experiences.
  • Private Schools
    Private schools don't often pay as well as North Carolina public schools, but they do offer teachers a bit more leeway in terms of curriculum. Further, you won't need to maintain a state license and your class sizes are sure to be much smaller than those in public schools. While private schools don't require a state license, you may want to demonstrate multiple years of experience or other training in your field.
  • Head Start Programs
    This program was started in the Kennedy administration and provides preschool for low-income families. Preschool has been found to have a profound impact of young people and your work with their children will be very important indeed. This program doesn't always require a state license to teach for them, but it will benefit you to have a North Carolina teaching credential.
  • Community-based Programs
    These programs might entail anything from an after-school program to an arts and performance curriculum. You won't likely need much education or licensure to work for these programs. However, hiring managers might prefer relevant experience.
  • Faith-based Programs
    These might be church-sponsored preschools or a part of a faith-based school that serves older kids, too. Most often you'll find faith-based programs as part of large churches, but there are many stand-alone religious schools that teach all ages. This is a good choice if you wish to integrate your faith into your career in palpable, concrete ways.
  • Military Programs
    Your North Carolina teaching credential will qualify you to teach on military bases worldwide. This is a great option for adventuresome educators who see the needs military kids have.
  • Preschool Teacher
    This profession educates children in their prekindergarten years. You need to have ample creativity to create lesson plans to stimulate and engage the little ones, who might be easily distracted. You might consider learning an instrument or honing your skills in one or more visual art fields.
  • Elementary School Teacher
    This occupation can indicate a teacher in any grade from kindergarten to fifth grade. You will need to pass a Praxis II exam that covers math, reading, and writing. Elementary School Teachers provide the fundamental knowledge that facilitates student success for a lifetime.
  • Professor of Education
    Teaching Education at the college level can be just as important as teaching little ones in preschool. That is, you will teach young college students how to be teachers. You will help inspire generation after generation of aspiring educators as they venture out into the world.
  • School Principal
    To become a principal in North Carolina, you will need to first attain a valid teaching credential. You must then complete a graduate program in school administration. Many educators work towards an administrative position after several years in the classroom. Your experience will pay off later, so assess whether you have enough prior to entering a master's program.
  • Special Education Teacher
    This occupation is one of the most richly rewarding in education. In North Carolina, you need to attain a specific license in your area of specialization. Specialty areas include, but are not limited to: mental disability, learning disorders, and visual impairment.
  • ESL Teacher
    As more and more non-English speaking families make their homes in the United States, we need more ESL teachers to teach their children. With your help navigating an English-dominated culture, you can help shape tomorrow's leaders.
  • School Psychologist
    Children sometimes have more trouble than mastering academic subjects. Whether they have problems at home or with the kids at school, you can help them overcome these problems. When you help the youngsters in your school to navigate their early lives, they can move on to become thriving, successful adults.
Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Preschool Teacher $25,200 $29,100 $32,000
Elementary School Teacher $39,800 $41,200 $47,700
Professor of Education $50,000 $104,400 $104,400
School Principal $61,800 $68,000 $74,100
Special Education Teacher $35,000 $40,600 $50,000
ESL Teacher $35,000 $40,600 $50,000
School Psychologist $51,000 $60,100 $67,200

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