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What is Early Childhood Education?

Early childhood education in Pennsylvania ranks well among the states; it is in the top one-third in early childhood education rankings. The State of Pennsylvania has increased its emphasis and resources for Early Childhood Education in recent years. Modeling off the successes in neighboring states like New York and Connecticut, the Governor announced initiatives starting in 2017 that significantly increased resources and elevated the government’s commitment to early learners and teachers.

The laws of the state require teachers to complete a state-approved teacher preparation course. The anticipated growth rate is strong due to the emphasis on educational qualifications for teachers in public and private schools. Pennsylvania’s Department of Education oversees the standards for teacher education, testing, and licensure.

Teachers holding an initial teaching license must renew their certifications by completing continuing education and filing for renewal within five years. The state offers a Professional Educator Records Management System that teachers can access online. Teachers can track their status and progress towards completing required continuing education requirements. They can also use the PERM system to locate and identify available courses needed to maintain licensure and renewal. To renew their certification, teachers must complete one of the below-listed continuing education requirements during the active period of the license.

  • Six credits from an accredited university
  • 180 approved continuing education credits
  • Six in-service credits approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

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Steps to Become an Early Childhood Education Teacher in Pennsylvania

The most direct way to become an ECE teacher in Pennsylvania is to complete a state-approved teacher preparation program and an accredited college or university in Pennsylvania. The state department Education maintains a listing of approved college and schools, specializations, and whether they have teacher preparation authority. Students must qualify for the examinations needed for licensure in their area or areas of focus.

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Pennsylvania seeks to offer every child the advantages of an excellent start in learning. The critical years between birth and age eight form the foundation for a lifetime of learning, positive contributions, and achievement. The prospects for early childhood educators in Pennsylvania are strong. Increased demand for participation drives the growth of Early Childhood Education in Pennsylvania as parents and advocates work to improve access to these vital educational advantages.

Step 1. Earn Your Degree

Students must complete coursework in good academic standing and earn a recommendation from the degree-issuing institution for licensure in one or more fields of teaching. Typically, schools require a minimum grade point average in core courses to grant a recommendation for licensure.

Though you could earn a degree in a related field, if you want to work with children it’s probably best to earn your degree in early childhood education, or at least make sure that you take a significant number of courses covering development, literacy, learning through play, etc. You will be eligible for licensure as a preschool teacher if you have completed at least 24 semester credits covering these subjects.

Additionally, make certain that your program is an approved teacher preparation program that culminates in the degree. If you earn the degree, but haven’t been through a preparation program, you will not be ready to take your exams and earn licensure.

Step 2. Pass Your Exam

The initial educator certification in the State of Pennsylvania requires a completed bachelor’s degree from an accredited, state-approved, successful completion of a required practice teaching term.

The requirements include the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA).. The second battery of tests is part of the PRAXIS series. Teacher candidates must pass the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators modules including reading, mathematics, and writing. The next series of Praxis tests are the Praxis Subject Assessments. Teacher candidates must take and pass tests in each area that they intend to teach. The final part of the testing series is the pedagogy examinations which must be matched to the grade-levels that the candidate wants to teach.

Step 3. Apply for Your License

Once teacher candidates have completed their teacher preparation program, required tests, and background investigation, they can submit an application through the Pennsylvania Teacher Information Management System. The candidates must provide the below-listed documentation.

  • Verification of a bachelor’s degree with strong academic achievement
  • Proof of completion of an approved teacher education program
  • Proof of passing test scores on all required competence and assessment exams
  • Payment for application processing fees

Popular Career Choices

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

Online Accredited Teaching Preparation Licensure and Certifications

Teachers can be certified in multiple subjects, age, grade level, and subjects. Special education is an area of frequent combination with Early Childhood Education. Teachers may also combine Talented and Gifted instruction with Early Childhood certifications.

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Alternative Licensures

Alternative certification supports several methods for teacher certification and four types of licenses.

  • The Pennsylvania Temporary Teaching Permit/ABCTE Passport to Teaching - This permit can authorize teacher candidates with an education degree to teach. However, they must then earn the Passport to Teaching credential from ABCTE.
  • The Pennsylvania Teacher Intern Certification Program - This certification also works for those who already have a degree. They must complete an intern education program but this certification allows them to teach full-time as they do.
  • Pennsylvania Teacher Emergency Permit - If there is an open teaching position, but a qualified candidate cannot be found to fill the role, a college graduate from an approved school can receive this permit, allowing them to fill the position for no more than one year or until the position can be filled with a full-time educator. If they complete their licensure requirements in this time, they can be hired on full-time themselves.
  • Licenses for Teachers from Other States - Reciprocity agreements can provide temporary licensure for applicants from out-of-state who qualify. The applicant must have either an active teaching certification and 2 years of experience or a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) Credential.

Pennsylvania Alternative Teacher Certification

In some cases, Pennsylvania accepts teachers that have not completed an approved teacher preparation program. This allows teachers that did not come through the traditional system of teacher preparation programs to gain certification and licensure. The alternative licensure accepts teachers with various alternative types of qualifications but is intended for those who have a degree without the accompanying preparation program completed.

Candidates for certification still need a degree and they must complete a teacher prep program and the same exams as traditional-path educators. They can do this by completing the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA) prior to entering a preparation program, earning a master’s instead of a bachelor’s degree while taking their preparation courses, and then taking the necessary tests after they complete their degree.

Top Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Programs in Pennsylvania

The state of Pennsylvania is part of the Department of Education’s Middle States region; the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) is the regional accreditation agency that provides the most widely accepted form of educational institution accreditation. Specialized accreditation agencies provide an additional layer of program certification for education programs. The CAEP and the National NCATE provide specialized accreditation for childhood education and elementary education.

  • Lehigh University

    Degrees Offered:

    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s
    • Curriculum and Instruction; Master’s & Dr.
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Master’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Master’s & Dr.

    Accreditation By:

    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
    • Commission on English Language Program Accreditation- English Language
  • Drexel University

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bilingual and Multilingual Education; Post-grad Certificate
    • Education/Teaching Individuals in Elementary Special Education Programs; Post-grad Certificate
    • Education/Teaching Individuals with Autism; Post-grad Certificate
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s, Undergrad, & Post-grad Certificate
    • ESL Teaching; Post-grad Certificate

    Accreditation By:

    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
    • Commission on English Language Program Accreditation- English Language
  • Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus

    Degrees Offered:

    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s, Dr., & Post-grad Certificate
    • Curriculum and Instruction; Master’s & Dr.
    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Bachelor’s, Master’s, Dr., & Post-grad Certificate
    • ESL Teaching; Master’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
    • Commission on English Language Program Accreditation - English Language
    • NCATE- National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
  • University of Pennsylvania

    Degrees Offered:

    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Master’s
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; Master’s
    • Reading Teacher Education; Master’s & Dr.
    • ESL Teaching; Master’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
    • Commission on English Language Program Accreditation - English Language Instruction
  • La Salle University

    Degrees Offered:

    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Autism; Master’s
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals in Early Elementary Special Education Programs; Bachelor’s & Master’s
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Autism; Master’s
    • Reading Teacher Education; Master’s
    • Special Education and Teaching; Master’s

    Accreditation By:

    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Additional Specialization Certifications

  • PK–12 :
    Teacher candidates applying for an initial Instructional PK–12 certification must pass a basic skills test called the Fundamental Subjects: Content Knowledge test, and they must complete the appropriate Praxis test(s) for each area of authorized instruction. The certification areas include American Sign Language Proficiency Interview, Reading Specialist, and Technology Education.
  • Special Education :

    The state offers specialization in special education with specific testing for each level, as follows in the list below.

    • Special Education: Hearing Impaired PK–12
    • Special Education, Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students
    • Special Education, Teaching Speech & Language Impaired PK–12
    • Speech-Language Pathology
    • Special Education: Visually Impaired PK–12

    The state requires an extensive safety check for teaching license applicants. This requirement applies to teachers in public and private schools. Teacher candidates must initiate the process by applying to the Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History (PATCH) system in order to comply with Pennsylvania law requiring background checks for all applicants for employment in public and private schools. Applicants for teaching positions must complete a fingerprint-based state and federal background check and present the completed background investigation to qualify for Pennsylvania educator certification.

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Potential Careers and Salaries for Graduates

  • Public Schools
    in Pennsylvania employ early childhood teachers that have completed a teacher preparation program and obtained a teaching license. The licensure requirements include a detailed background check pursuant to Pennsylvania Statute 153.
  • Private Childcare
    employers provide a substantial amount of employment for early childhood education. Private childcare often competes with other private providers and some public programs. The trend in private childcare is to require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or higher levels of achievement.
  • Private Schools
    provide early childhood education, many schools serve families with children at toddler ages through the early elementary school years. The schools must compete with public schools that require teachers with state licenses, thorough background checks, and continuing education. Private schools often seek the same or higher levels of qualifications and experience.
  • Head Start Programs
    are major employers of early childhood educators, preschool teachers, and teacher assistants. Head Start programs are federal and state government-sponsored education programs that focus on families that demonstrate financial limitations that could prevent participation in early childhood education. Head Start plays an essential role in providing opportunities for vulnerable population groups.
  • Community-Based Programs
    offer childcare and early childhood education services. These community-based institutions often offer no-cost or low-cost services to families in need. The community basis offers opportunities to form strong relationships between the organization, the students, and the student’s families.
  • Faith-Based Programs
    can use their own standards for hiring teachers. If they wish to become licensed, then they have to meet state requirements for private licensed schools. These requirements usually include bachelor’s degrees and licensure for teachers.
  • Military Programs
    seek to provide the best early childhood education services for children of military families. Military child education and childcare programs follow the national trend towards requiring bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education or higher levels of certification, study, and academic achievement.

Early Childhood Education Teaching Salaries in Pennsylvania

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Preschool Teacher $31,000 $34,800 $36,100
Elementary School Teacher $44,500 $51,400 $67,400
Professor of Education $60,200 $101,800 $102,800
Special Education Teacher $43,200 $43,700 $47,400
ESL Teacher $39,300 $40,400 $50,900
School Psychologist $54,200 $61,000 $73,100

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