Are you an aspiring early childhood education student or current educator looking to enhance your career? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field is expected to grow by three to seven percent between 2018 and 2028. Educating young children is important for short and long-term intellectual and social development. Early childhood educators are responsible for teaching children basic skills, planning and implementing a curriculum, organizing activities, establishing schedules, maintaining progress records, and watching for signs of emotional or developmental problems.
There’s a vast array of resources available to assist individuals pursuing or expanding upon an early childhood education career. As an early childhood education student or professional, you should utilize what these various options have to offer. Depending on your current educational status and professional goals, you may find any of the following helpful:
- Study Resources
- Job Boards
Top Resources for Early Childhood Education Students
For prospective students, the first step to choosing a good early childhood education degree program is selecting an accredited college or university. Every institute of higher education can choose to become accredited. There are numerous regional, national, and programmatic accrediting agencies, each with very specific requirements that schools must meet in order to acquire and maintain accreditation. Becoming an accredited institution affirms a commitment and adherence to national standards agreed upon by experts in the field.
Many colleges and universities are regionally accredited by one of the six regional accreditation agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
Additionally, institutional departments, schools of study, and individual programs may seek accreditation specific to their field. Ideally, early childhood education students should look for colleges, universities, and programs accredited by the NAEYC Commission on the Accreditation of Early Childhood Higher Education Programs.
Accreditation is not mandatory, so some higher education institutions do not or cannot pursue it. However, attending unaccredited colleges and universities is strongly discouraged. These programs hold far less value for employers and students may be unable to transfer credits or qualify for further education in the future. Most preschools and elementary schools will only consider candidates who graduated from accredited higher education programs.
Questions About Financial Aid
Paying for an early childhood education degree can seem daunting. This task is especially difficult for recent high school graduates receiving little to no financial support from family or current professionals with a limited income. Fortunately, there are several options available that can help alleviate the fiscal burden of earning a degree. Financial aid in the forms of scholarships, grants, work study, and loans can help offset at least some of this. Financial aid money can be used to cover tuition, fees, room, board, books, and in some cases whatever the students deems necessary to complete their schooling.
Students should apply for financial assistance through government-funded aid programs by submitting a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application. The FAFSA will determine the amount of government aid you can receive each year as well as being used as an application for many scholarships.
Education Scholarships are one of the best forms of financial aid because the money awarded does not have to be paid back. Funds are often provided by individuals or private organizations supporting a specific mission or message. Scholarship amounts can also differ significantly, with some amounting only a few hundred dollars while others cover all education-related expenses. The criteria for applying also varies, but may relate to a number of factors which could include financial need, academic performance, athletic ability, religious affiliation, career goals, or race. There is no limit to the number of scholarships a student can apply for.
Similar to scholarships, grants do not require repayment. There are some distinct differences, however, including where the money primarily comes from. Most grants are funded by state governments, the federal government, or the educational institution itself. Award criteria are often based on merit, need, or career goals.
Federal Work Study
Students may also qualify for work study, or federally funded jobs on campus. Federal work study provides money directly to students while they are enrolled in higher education programs and can be used to cover education-related expenses, sent directly to start paying off loans, or taken out as pocket money each week. Recipients must demonstrate financial need and are responsible for finding work with higher education institutions. Money earned does not need to be repaid. This form of financial support is not regulated, however, so the funds may be used any way students see fit.
Other common forms of financial aid are federal and private loans. Whereas scholarships, grants, and work study funds are often considered “free money”, loans are borrowed finances that must be paid back (plus interest) after graduation. Federal loans are often preferred because interest rates are kept low by the government. However, students can only qualify for a limited amount of federal loans each year, and the funds are sent directly to the institution. Private loans like Sallie Mae, on the other hand, sometimes have higher interest rates, but are usually readily available and the funds are paid to the borrower.
Associations for Students
Students working towards early childhood education degrees should strongly consider joining one or more related associations. While associations are often perceived as a resource for professionals, most also support student interests. Many organizations establish divisions specifically for students and young professionals in the field. Students may also be able to join field-specific associations available on college and university campuses.
Becoming a member of an early childhood education association offers a wide variety of benefits. Every organization is different, but most give members access to field-related resources, training, certifications, conferences, continuing education, scholarship, and networking opportunities.
Some of the best early childhood education associations for students or with student memberships include:
- Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI):
The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI), now CE International, provides knowledge, understanding, and perspective about children’s education worldwide. Student benefits include access to the CE International magazine, special alerts, professional development training, courses, and resources.
- National Head Start Association (NHSA):
The National Head Start Association (NHSA) is a non-profit organization committed to the belief that every child has the ability to succeed. Student benefits include members-only news, professional development webinars, conferences, training evens, networking, scholarships, resources, and discounts.
- Council for Exceptional Children (CEC):
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is a professional association of educators dedicated to advancing the success of children and youth who are gifted. Students receive 20% off any individual membership rate and gain access to publications, networking opportunities, webinars, continuing education programs, discounts, and a career center.
- The Association for Early Learning Leaders:
The Association for Early Learning Leaders is a non-profit organization intended to strengthen the knowledge, skills, and abilities of early learning professionals to ensure quality programs for young children. Student Emerging Leader members gain access to free webinars, exclusive forums, newsletters, training, and discounts.
- National Education Association (NEA):
The National Education Association (NEA) is the nation’s largest professional employee organization committed to advancing the cause of public education. Student members gain access to helpful tools, career resources, news, legal services, discounts, and discussion forums.
Student or Open Access Journals
As an early childhood education student, you should also read professional journals. Research and theory publications often offer recommendations for effectively utilizing standard practices. Reading them is an easy way stay informed about current news and trends. This ensures you know what is happening in your field and how it ultimately impacts your future career goals. Developing a habit of reading education journals now will also better prepare you to function as a professional.
Many professional journals require paid subscriptions, which can pose problems for students. There are, however, some open access journals that can be read for free. Some free early childhood education journals include:
Early Childhood Education Study Resources
Early childhood education students should also take advantage of the many study resources available. Course materials provide a lot of important information, but you can also learn a lot through online platforms. These resources can add significantly to your understanding of teaching principles and will help you succeed throughout your academic career. Many companies and organizations offer free, high-quality, educational learning opportunities to anyone interested in pursuing them. Some of the following resources may help you develop and hone the necessary skills to excel in your academic and professional pursuits.
- Early Childhood Professional Learning (ECPL):
ECPL provides free professional learning and resources to support educational programs by implementing evidence-based practices that improve outcomes for young children and their families.
- The Library of Congress:
The Library of Congress offers classroom materials and professional development to help teachers. Resources include lesson plans and state content standards.
- Advancement Courses:
Advancement Courses offers resources to help new teachers succeed. Students can take online courses on lesson planning, working with parents, and more.
- What is Early Childhood Education?
- What are the Different Teaching Styles?
- Alternative Teaching Methods
- Piaget vs. Vygotsky vs. Montessori Teaching Methods
- Vygotsky's Social Development Theory
- Piaget's Stages of Early Childhood Development
- Do Kids Need Preschool? Pros and Cons
Technology is constantly evolving. There are new, ground-breaking advancements introduced every day, many of which have huge implications for early childhood education students and professionals. There are countless apps designed specifically for educators of all ages, most available for free or at little cost. App function ranges significantly and includes expanding learning environments, creating lesson plans, preparing lecture subjects, and enhancing student engagement.
The following apps may be beneficial to students interested in pursuing a career within the realm of early childhood education:
Kahoot lets teachers turn boring classes into fun activities. Teachers can prepare questions that students can answer using the app, transforming curriculum into a playable game.
- Google Classroom:
Google Classroom can be used by educators to distribute assignments to students and grade those assignments. It also allows teachers to store classroom materials and make announcements.
- Teach Learn Lead:
Teach Learn Lead is similar to Facebook, but solely for teachers. It allows educators to interact, discussing various issues in order to create more effective lesson plans. The app also creates polls.
Seesaw allows teachers to make student portfolios that can be shared with parents to view progress and achievements. Students can also upload and store their work, while teachers can easily track students’ yearly weaknesses and strengths.
Remind lets teachers communicate with parents and students outside of the classroom. It can be used to make group chats, class announcements, or send individual messages.
In addition to enrolling in an early childhood education program, studying hard, and getting good grades, students must apply for a student teaching position. While the education field does not offer internships per say, all future educators are required to complete a series of student observations, as well as a semester of student teaching. Student teaching is considered part of the curriculum and necessary for graduation and licensure.
There are several benefits to student teaching. Most importantly, it provides hands-on experience in actual classrooms. The lessons learned during this period offer valuable insight and ultimately make transitioning from education student to professional educator much easier. Student teaching also gives students an opportunity to work with the specific age group you are interested in before completing your schooling, testing for your license, and applying for jobs.
Student teaching assignments are generally made through the college or university being attended, so there is no need to apply. Work with your advisor to ensure you are placed at a school that fits your future career goals. It is important to note programs that do not offer student teaching do not include licensure. Student teaching is a great way to learn how to survive your first year as an early childhood educator.
Resources for Students and Professionals
Teaching Licensing Options
Teacher licensing requirements vary by state. All states require public school teachers to be licensed or certified in the specific grade level they teach. While those teaching in private schools may not require a license, going without one will limit employment opportunities.
Every state has different licensure requirements, but they generally include the following:
- Earning a bachelor’s degree with a minimum grade point average
- Completing a student teaching program
- Passing a background check
- Passing a general teaching certification test
Prospective teachers are encouraged to find their states’ specific requirements at their State’s Board of Education website.
Additionally, once certification or licensure is awarded, educators are responsible for completing professional development classes each year. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a different subject can pursue alternative routes to licensure but, again, regulations vary by state.
Many states may allow you to work with students if you have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. The CDA requires coursework, experience in the field, a written exam, and observation. CDAs must be renewed every three years and can be obtained through the Council for Professional Recognition
The following are examples of a few education-related licensing options:
Whether you are a recent graduate looking for your first teaching job or a current professional in need of a change, becoming familiar with some of the top teaching job boards is important. General employment search engines can be helpful, but the following sites focus solely on education positions available across the nation.
It is important to realize that temporary jobs for educators are different than in other professions. Those who fill in for full-time, professional educators when they are sick or on vacation are called substitute teachers. In order to be considered for substitute teaching positions, most states require you to have worked as a teacher previously. Most school districts have openings for substitute teachers available all the time. While these positions are unsalaried, it is possible for individuals to make a living on substitute teaching alone.
Those interested in temporary education positions should not seek out standard temp agencies. There are, however, substitute teacher staffing agencies available to help you find work. Many states run their own substitute teaching platforms, but others opt to utilize organizations that manage the process for them. This can relieve stress and eliminates the need for maintaining an effective substitute teacher pool. While there are national substitute teacher staffing agencies, smaller companies can be found in almost every state.
The following agencies may be helpful when looking for temporary early childhood education positions:
Resources for Early Childhood Education Professionals
Professional Early Childhood Educator Associations
While students are encouraged to join early childhood educator associations, it is almost a necessity for teaching professionals. The membership benefits are often similar (training, publications, networking, discounts, etc.), but teachers arguably need these things in order to be successful.
As previously mentioned, maintaining teacher licensure requires continuing education. Many associations and organization offer training and courses that fulfill these requirements, some online, some at special events, and some through annual conferences. Additionally, policies and practices in the education world are constantly changing. In order for teachers to remain informed about current issues, regulations, and standards, they need easy access to career resources. Most associations make the task of reading journals, attending conferences, and participating in training a lot easier with reminders and discounts.
Early childhood education professionals can also get a lot out of the networking opportunities offered by association memberships. Forums and easy-to-access networks allow teachers to easily share ideas or ask questions that can greatly enhance classroom practices. Having a larger network also helps education professionals find employment opportunities that best suit their career goals.
Some of the most prominent early childhood education associations for professionals include:
Popular Early Childhood Education Journals
Similarly, early childhood education professionals should read publications pertinent to their field. Whether journals are open to anyone or offered exclusively for association members, they help educators stay relevant in the ever-changing world of academics. Subscribing to and reading professional journals will ensure you remain informed about recent policy changes, upcoming events, prominent trends, helpful resources, and new technology.
Some of the most prominent early childhood education journals are published by professional associations. While you will have to pay for membership, these organizations ensure you receive information that is current and relevant. Alternatively, you can find a number of free journals online as well.
Industry Conferences for Early Childhood Educators
Yet another great way for early childhood educators to stay connected and informed is through attending professional conferences. There are hundreds of conferences hosted for educators of all demographics throughout the world each year. Most events are relatively inexpensive or free to attend and some employers may actually fund the experience. While every conference is different, most attendees will be able to choose from a wide variety of developmental opportunities taking place over two to four days.
These conferences offer educational workshops, keynote presentations, and networking opportunities. The goal is to connect with like-minded professionals, share ideas, and expand upon your knowledge in the field. It is also a good opportunity to ask questions, discuss difficulties, and share current projects or initiatives.
Some of the most prominent conferences for early childhood education professionals include:
- National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Annual Conference:
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Annual Conference is the largest early childhood education conference in the world. Thousands of teachers, administrators, students, and researchers can attend hundreds of presentations and exhibits.
- National Early Childhood Inclusion Institute:
The National Early Childhood Inclusion Institute is one of the best educational opportunities for individuals involved in caring for and educating children with special needs. Participants can attend groundbreaking sessions and free courses provided by world-class experts.
- Annual International Conference on Young Children with Special Needs & Their Families:
The Annual International Conference on Young Children with Special Needs & Their Families is an international conference for professionals working with children with special needs. Early intervention and early childhood special education professionals can learn, network, and collaborate.
- Zero to Three Annual Conference:
The Zero to Three Annual Conference helps professionals working with children three and younger to connect with their peers. Attendees can participate in and be inspired by innovative presentations on topics pertinent for early childhood education professionals.