BA in Early Childhood Education: Beginner’s Guide to Finding a Program
Research indicates that the early childhood years are the most important developmentally, as a child’s brain develops more in their first few years than in the rest of their lives. The skills that children learn during their early childhood are those that will deeply influence their entire experience from school years through adulthood.
So, what exactly is early childhood education? At its most basic, early childhood education is the period when children first begin their social, emotional, and cognitive development. During this time, they learn how to interact with others, begin perceiving the cause and effect of their actions, start recognizing their emotions, and begin building the basic intellectual skills to set them up for elementary learning and beyond.
The definition of the “early childhood” years varies broadly—some define them as the period from birth through the preschool years before a child enters kindergarten, while others consider them to span through age eight.
If you want to be a part of offering children access to high-quality education during this critical period, you may want to earn your bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. Getting a BA in early childhood education provides the opportunity to shape young minds and, depending on your program, earn your state teaching certificate so that you can work in public and private schools throughout your state.
Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education Requirements
First, it’s important to understand what type of bachelor’s you’ll want to get—e.g., is early childhood education a BA or BS degree? The answer is: both!
In general, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree typically focuses on the humanities while a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree focuses on science and math-related subjects. However, with an early childhood education bachelor’s degree, this isn’t necessarily the case. Instead, categorizing a program as a BA or BS is more indicative of how your college or university philosophically considers the vocation of teaching: as an art, or as a science.
Though less common, some states differentiate the two by their eligibility for state licensure. While most programs should, in theory, meet the teacher certification requirements, some states consider a BA in early childhood educationless rigorous than a BS degree and the coursework won’t qualify for a state teacher license. If being a teacher is your goal, consult your Board of Education for more information on the specific degree you need to become a licensed early childhood educator.
Each state’s requirements for a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education will differ. Generally, though, you can expect your degree to take anywhere from three to five years to complete, depending on your school’s program. Courses you may take include:
- Principles of Education
- Early Childhood Education Fundamentals
- Instructional Practices for Teachers
- Educational Philosophy for Teachers
- Current Issues in Education
Additionally, your bachelor’s degree in early childhood education will likely include hands-on student teaching, often as the capstone to your studies.
Many private and government agencies recognize the importance of early childhood education, which is why there are so many financial aid programs for students in this field. The Bright Horizons Scholarship Program awards scholarships of $250 to $1000. Some scholarships are available on a state-specific basis, like the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children. Loan repayment assistance may be provided. National Education Servicing offers teachers help with loan forgiveness, loan cancellation, and loan deferment.
BA in Education vs. Early Childhood Education
So, what’s the difference between a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and a bachelor’s in education?Early childhood education is considered a specialized discipline within a broader education program, and a BA in early childhood education prepares you specifically to work with children from birth to eight years old, teaching in a preschool or with the younger ages in an elementary setting. It also concentrates more deeply on the emotional and physiological development of children due to their younger age, including speech and motor skills.
A BA in education, on the other hand, allows you to explore multiple disciplines, such as elementary or secondary education. You’ll likely work with older children who don’t need the same type of help with developing basic life skills (for example, a high-schooler likely knows how to tie their shoes). You can also pursue concentrations in specific subjects like English, math, and science.
What Will I Learn in an Early Childhood Education Bachelor’s Program?
Your bachelor’s degree in early childhood education will teach you the foundation of early cognition, looking at research to better understand how to support and usher the cognitive development process. You may study how children learn, how their brains develop, and how to make the most of early learning opportunities.
You’ll learn practical skills, like how to use play time as a primary learning tool and how to expand those principles to learning through music, art, and physical movement. Your program should teach you how to design lesson plans appropriately, working with both families and school staff to create active learning environments that serve kids of multiple ages and maturity levels.
You’ll also get practical field experience in the form of student teaching. Many find that this aspect of the curriculum helps define whether an early childhood education degree is truly the right path for them. There’s no better way to understand the day-to-day experience of working in early childhood education than by being around little ones and putting your skills into practice!
What Can You Do with a BS in Early Childhood Education?
After earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, you may be able to take on several types of jobs, depending on your interests and whether your program qualified you for your state teaching license.
Careers in early childhood education include:
- Preschool Teacher
- Daycare/Childcare Worker
- Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher
- Childcare Center Director
You’ll work with young kids typically between three and four years old, helping prepare them for kindergarten. You’ll help support early social skills and language development, as well as teach basic problem-solving and support motor skill development. You may also find yourself involved in big milestones like learning how to read and count.
You’ll spend your days with toddlers under three (and even infants as young as six weeks), supervising their basic well-being and supporting schedules and routines that include feeding, naps, and playtime. Social development is a key part of this age group, and you’ll often find yourself teaching little ones how to appropriately interact in groups, take turns, and share. You’ll also be responsible for supporting developmental milestones like speech, crawling, walking, and potty training.
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher
You’ll start introducing concepts like math, science, writing, and reading in age-appropriate ways. You’ll also build upon the soft skills that students began developing in preschool, including behaving appropriately with their peers, respecting and interacting with other adults, and playing creatively and independently. Depending on your age group, you may also start issuing and grading papers and projects.
Childcare Center Director
In this role, you’ll use your knowledge gained through your early childhood education degree to lead teachers and staff in designing programs that support social, emotional, and cognitive development initiatives and milestones. You’ll supervise the day-to-day activities at your workplace, set program and facilities budgets, and hire and train new teachers. You’ll also be responsible for creating the community within and around your school—functioning as a point person or conduit between parents and staff, as well as creating events for teachers and families to interact in fun and creative ways. Above all, you’re responsible for ensuring the safety of your students and staff.
Is a Degree in Early Childhood Education Worth It?
Taking your education to the next level by getting your bachelor’s degree in early childhood education may pay off in several ways. Not only can you improve your community by teaching the next generation, but you may also contribute to research and high standards in the field of education.
An early childhood bachelor’s degree offers some of the most flexible and impactful career pathways in all fields of education. Graduates can become teachers of young children, childcare workers, and childcare center administrators. You can nurture your students’ growth and foster deep emotional connections, feeling the excitement as they finally master learning their colors or buttoning their coat. For many, there’s no greater reward than knowing they’ve tangibly affected a child’s life and influenced who they will grow to become in adulthood.
While education is a notoriously underpaid field, there are still plenty of paths to a healthy salary, especially if you continue to pursue additional certifications or a master’s degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2020 data for preschool teachers lists an average salary of $31,930; however, kindergarten and elementary teachers average double that, at $60,660.
2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for preschool teachers and kindergarten and elementary teachers represents national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed August 2021.
Start Your BA in Early Childhood Education
Are you ready to shape young minds and make a major impact on a child’s life? A career within early childhood education may be a perfect fit. Schools offering a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education should meet your goals and fit your needs, whether through flexible, online courses, in-person lessons, or a hybrid program.
Find a degree program near you and get started down the path of your rewarding new career.
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