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Teacher Education for Early Childhood Teachers

Early childhood education teachers can work with children as young as infants, and they're often the first teachers that kids encounter. Read on to learn more about academic and licensing requirements, as well as how much you might earn as an early education teacher.

Is Studying Early Childhood Education For Me?

Overview of the Field

A bachelor's degree in early childhood education (ECE) can prepare you to teach academics in preschool and lower elementary school grades. The National Association for the Education of Young Children defines ECE as teaching children from birth up to eight years of age (www.naeyc.org).

As an ECE student, you'll fulfill the standard general education requirements for a bachelor's degree and take courses in child development and ECE philosophy. You'll also pursue topics in educational psychology and technology, child health and instructional methodologies; diversity training may also be part of your program. Common course topics can also include the study of children's literature, learning disabilities and classroom management. Classroom observations and student teaching practicums will also be required.

Professional Duties

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ECE teachers plan, present and assign lessons in reading, writing and basic arithmetic. Most ECE teachers have a core class for which they instruct all or most subjects. Some ECE teachers specialize in an elective area, such as art, music or physical education, rotating through classes for short periods during the day or week. Some of these teachers, such as kindergarten teachers, work part-time (www.bls.gov).

Salary Information

As reported by the BLS in May 2013, preschool or early childhood education teachers and elementary school teachers earned median annual salaries of $27,570 and $53,590 respectively. During that same time period, kindergarten teachers in particular earned a median annual salary of $50,230 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Become an ECE Teacher?

Education and Licensing Requirements

Academic and licensing requirements for teachers vary by state and are subject to changes in state and federal legislation. Public schools usually require a bachelor's degree, preferably in education, and a state-issued license. NCATE, also known as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, accredits 656 institutions, some of which have online education programs. To maintain your license, you'll have to participate in professional development and continuing education courses and activities throughout your career.

Alternative Licensing Requirements

If you have a degree in a field other than education or are licensed in another state, you must enroll in your state's Alternative Teacher Certification Program (ATCP). ATCP programs allow non-majors or out-of-state teachers to earn a teaching license by completing comparable coursework, state testing and clinical studies. An ATCP can take from one semester to two years to complete and could require a fee. Some school districts could help you obtain an emergency license, allowing you to teach while you complete the requirements. Private schools do not require teachers to be certified; however, most will only consider candidates with a 4-year degree.