Requirements for Early Childhood Certification

Learn about the requirements to obtain early childhood certification. Find out more about what you can do with this certification, so you can determine whether it is the best field for you. Schools offering Early Childhood Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career at a Glance

Early childhood educators teach young children, generally under the age of eight. An early childhood certification is required for many positions and designates that educators have the skills to teach this age group. Read below to find out more details.

Required Degree Certificate or associate's degree; some positions require a bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Early childhood education
Certifications CDA or state-specific certification/licensing for early childhood educators
Key Skills Organizational, creativity, communication, physical stamina, patience
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 10% (all preschool teachers)
Median Salaries (2018)* $27,830 (preschool teachers in child day care services); $46,770 (preschool teachers in elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is an Early Childhood Certification?

An early childhood certification demonstrates that a teacher has met a certain set of standards and have the necessary qualifications to teach young children. Teachers who obtain this certification have demonstrated that they understand the developmental changes that occur during early childhood and can adapt their teaching to match these changes. They have experience in lesson planning, curriculum, and working with children with special needs. Teachers with an early childhood certification incorporate young children's family, social, and learning background to create the best learning environment.

The requirements for the early childhood certification depend on the state, but typically include education, training, and an exam. Teacher should check with their specific state to find out more about the exact requirements. All states require public school teachers to also obtain a license.

What Are the Education Requirements?

The minimum requirements are high school diploma and a certificate or associate degree in early childhood education. These programs typically take one to two years to complete, and include coursework in child growth and development, early childhood curriculum planning, children with special needs, family and community involvement, and psychology. The programs may also include a fieldwork or practicum component, where students gain experience working with young children.

Some state certification programs may require a bachelor's degree, especially for those who plan to work in a public school.

Is Training or Experience Required for the Early Childhood Certification?

Some form of training or experience is typically required for obtaining the early childhood certification. This can generally be achieved through a certificate or degree program. Through fieldwork, students gain experience in observing children in their care and learn how to design educational programs tailored to an individual child's needs. They learn how to work with families and communities to support the educational growth of the children in their care. Students collaborate with other professionals and strengthen their skills in using the methods they learned in the classroom.

Some states require the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential before becoming certified. This credential is offered by the council for Professional Recognition. It requires coursework, training, and an exam. Those interested in this credential must also be observed working with young children. The CDA is renewed every three years.

Are There Any Required Exams?

Some states may require an exam, depending on the certification or license. Many states require the PRAXIS Early Childhood Education exam, which is administered by ETS. This exam covers topics such as language and literacy, social studies, mathematics, physical education, and creative arts. Some states, such as California, administer their own exams. Students should check with their state's certification board to ensure they are completing the appropriate exams.

What Jobs Are Available with an Early Childhood Certification?

Teachers with an early childhood certification can work in a variety of settings, such as child day care centers, nursery schools, preschools, and elementary schools. they can be found working for religious and social organizations, family services, and individual families. Some may work for private companies, in on-site day care centers or schools.

Teachers in public schools generally work during regular school hours and are on a ten month schedule. Those in daycare positions and other settings generally work year round, and have hours that match a parent's work schedule.

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