Learning does not start at kindergarten. From birth, children are exploring, experiencing, and learning from the world around them in a variety of way. The process of shaping this time of rapid development in a formal setting is known as early childhood education.
What is Early Childhood Education?
Early childhood education is the branch of academia that involves teaching children from birth to approximately eight years old. The focus is largely on preparing students for a lifetime of learning, which involves the development of their social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
“At these early levels, educators are trying to encourage learning through natural context,” says Donna Elder, Ed.D, associate dean of National University’s Sanford College of Education. “You want children to explore the world through conversations, reading, play, and other ways that they would naturally learn from in a family environment. You ultimately want to create a space where children have a lot of opportunities to talk with each other and experience new things.”
Important topics in the field include learning and brain development, peer cooperation and collaboration, early cognition, and emerging literacy.
Working in Early Childhood Education
What is early childhood education like as a career? The field offers a variety of exciting and rewarding job opportunities — and demand for many of these positions is on the rise.
“Early childhood is a growing area of importance,” Elder says. “There’s been increasing emphasis placed on it the last several years. The move to transitional kindergarten has shown the importance of allowing children to be involved in education at an early age. Interacting with other children and learning language at that stage is so important.”
When it comes to entering the field, National University’s Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education is a powerful tool. Common roles that this degree can qualify you for include:
- Childcare center aide: Prior to entering the formal school setting, many children learn and are cared for in daycares, after-school programs, and similar environments. With a bachelor’s in early childhood education, you will typically qualify to work as an aide in one of these childcare centers. While a bachelor’s is not always required, the degree can set you apart when applying for jobs, and prepare you to excel once you secure the position.
- Preschool teacher: Preschool is often a child’s first introduction to structured education. As a preschool teacher, you are responsible for instructing children under the age of 5 in the motor, social, and language skills they will need to succeed in kindergarten. Demand for educators qualified to fill this role is on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of positions for preschool teachers is expected to increase by 10 percent between 2016 and 2026 – a faster-than-average rate in the U.S.
- Special education teacher: While the majority of early childhood education professionals work with younger children, some pursue positions teaching grade school children with special learning needs. However, in addition to your bachelor’s in early childhood education, you will need to earn a teaching credential in order to work in the classroom with these students.
- Preschool or childcare center director: Interested in leading? Another early childhood education role growing in popularity is that of preschool or childcare center director. The BLS predicts that demand for these leadership roles will rise by 11 percent between 2016 and 2026. In addition to prior work experience, you may need a master’s degree in early childhood education to apply for some of these positions.
Your Early Childhood Education Degree
Earning a bachelor’s degree can be a powerful step toward beginning a rewarding career helping young children. Wondering how to get a degree in early childhood education? With both online and on-location options, National University makes it more convenient than ever to advance your education.
The National University Bachelor in Arts in Early Childhood Education degree program is based on the latest theories, contemporary perspectives, and research findings in the field. Through the carefully designed curriculum, students acquire the knowledge, skills, and field experiences they need to develop as efficient and effective professionals in early childhood education.