Earn Your Early Childhood Education Certification & Guide

An ECE Certification Degree & Career Guide

Components of an ECE Certification

An early childhood education (ECE) certificate can lead to a successful, stable, and rewarding career with plenty of room for growth opportunities. Individuals who choose this profession should possess certain traits and skills such as compassion, patience, superior communication, and creativity. They must also have a deep love for children and an open mind to diversity in every capacity.

Children are easily influenced during these ECE years, and their exposure to education throughout this time will mold their views toward education and teachers for the remainder of their educational experience. People who pursue this career path will learn to channel the energy and natural curiosity of children and harness it toward educational success. These educators must also pay close attention to changes in behavior and developmental progress to be able to provide the most optimal educational experience possible, including catching any learning disabilities early on, when they can be treated most effectively.

Where Can I Work?

An early childhood education certificate will provide you with several potential places of employment; however, the job opportunities with just a certificate will be limited in comparison to those with higher degrees. You could work for most public and private schools in some capacity. It is possible to apply to jobs at a childcare or daycare center. An often-overlooked job for certificate graduates is a position within various religious organizations to help care for young children in their community. You can also work for corporations with on-site childcare or educational institutions for children with special needs. And both public entities and government organizations hire people with ECE certificates. A certificate in early childhood education is an excellent way to increase your current salary, to achieve entry-level positions without a degree, and to pursue jobs that require specialization. With a teaching license, you could work in nearly any school, even at the college level. You may one day even become a principle.

Some of such potential career paths include the following:
- Preschool Teacher

This position is highly dependent upon the employer’s requirements, as many public preschools require a bachelor’s degree; whereas, other preschools (private) may only require a certificate. As a preschool teacher, you will help children with their behavior, cognitive, social, and academic skills to ensure they have a successful educational career. You will also be required to assist with basic care needs as preschoolers are typically between the ages of two and four. A preschool teacher has an average income of $31,200 per year.

- Teaching Assistants

This is one of the most common careers for people with a certificate in early childhood education. These assistants work in both traditional classrooms and special needs classrooms. Assistants are supervised by the primary classroom teacher. The teacher will assign tasks to the assistant. These tasks might include material preparation, observing students, behavioral management, and tutoring sessions. A teaching assistant has an average income of $23,700 per year.

- Personal Care Aide

Many career opportunities for certificate holders are located in the home of a client rather than in a school setting. You might choose to become a personal care aide (PCA), or assistant, to help children with special needs in their residence. A PCA steps in when a family has to be away from the home, or if the child’s needs are too much for the family to care for on their own. The PCA might take the student to the doctor, give them medicine, and provide basic care. They will also help to integrate and transition the family and the child into a proper educational environment when the time is right. A personal care aide has an average income of $29,800 per year.

- In-Home or Center Childcare or Tutoring

Another career path in a residence is to work as an in-home teacher or tutor. These individuals help students with a solid developmental foundation that allows them to excel from day one of their school experience in kindergarten. You will help to determine the best strategies for the young student to learn and communicate so they are not left behind with the presence of more students in a classroom setting. These same skills can be put to use in a childcare center that provides foundational learning to young children but will likely only require part-time employment. An in-home teacher has an average income of $36,700 per year.

ECE Certifications and Requirements

The early childhood period runs from birth to about third grade or age eight. Early childhood is a special time in a child’s development and teaching children in this age group requires special skills, knowledge, and abilities. In early childhood, children are perfectly prepared to learn. They have driving curiosity and determination to understand the world around them. Early childhood educators learn ways to capture this amazing energy and prepare their students for a path of educational success.

Language and literacy are the cornerstones of curriculum throughout early childhood education. With an ECE certification, you will learn ways to work with students at varying degrees of development, you can even earn special needs teaching certification. You will be introducing linguistic and phonological skills to students and teaching them the structure of stories. These skills are essential in the development of thinking abilities and problem-solving techniques in children.

Math is also of critical importance for children to be able to function as adults. Whether or not math is a strong suit for you, you’ll need the skills to incorporate math lessons into everyday life so that children learn more easily. You might learn games to play or ways to use daily activities to teach math skills. If you seek licensure, you will be tested on basic math skills to ensure you have enough of a foundation to teach kids.

You will also be teaching or assisting with basic science lessons. A simple introduction to sciences is an important aspect of comprehending the subject. This could mean introducing items from the sea or other natural objects to the classroom. Early childhood educators teach students to study their surroundings and draw conclusions.

Additional courses you might take include classroom behavior management, child growth and development, family and community, art and music, general teaching techniques, and much more.

Regular Educator Certifications

- Teacher Licensure

Many states use precise teaching exams that test by subjects and by student age or education level. For example, in some states, elementary teachers have licenses to teach grades one, two, and three, while Pre-K licenses cover ages three to five. States also require training, education, and certification on specialties like special education, language development, and teaching children with disabilities.

Most states use some form of standardized teacher examinations like the PRAXIS Series. Some large population states like Florida, New York, and California use unique state-developed tests and testing procedures.

- CDA (Child Development Associate Credential)

The CDA is a national credential that requires a minimum level of formal general education, a high level of early childhood education, and expertise from field experience. The Council on Professional Recognition issues the CDA through authorized training methods. The CDA requires a high school diploma, or GED; applicants must complete ten or more training hours in each of the eight CDA competency subject areas. The ten hours per subject are part of a total of 120 hours of formal early childhood education training. The applicant must perform 480 hours of field work with children in the 3-5 age range.

The CDA requires a passing score on the exam and approval from a verification visit by a Professional Development Specialist. The specialist uses react, observation, and reflection to assess the CDA applicant and report a score to the Council on Professional Recognition.

College Level Certifications for Special Needs

Special Education is the body of knowledge that informs how teachers work with individual differences and particular needs, specifically with students who need extra help learning. The process consists of planning for the individual and a system for monitoring teaching procedures, adapting the learning environment, and using technology and equipment. Overall, the teaching must respond to the individual student’s situation. A policy was established in law by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Teachers can get special education teaching training at several educational levels.

The BS in Special Education is the most widely accepted credential for special education. The Master’s Degree in Special Education prepares graduates for college-level teaching, leadership, and policy positions.

- Teaching the Talented or Gifted

In a typical teaching setting, a classroom teacher provides the attention that students need, consistent with the teacher to student ratio. When students need additional attention, it’s often because the students have difficulties, cause difficulties, or need a slower pace of learning. The least likely students to get extra attention are the gifted students. Many of tomorrows leaders and educators will likely come from the ranks of the more than three million gifted students in the US.

There are about 8,000 teachers specially trained and certified to work with talented and gifted students. Student teachers can qualify for Talented and Gifted teaching roles by attending an accredited college or university that offers a BS in Elementary Education or Early Childhood Education with a specialization in Teaching the Talented and Gifted. Some public and private school systems require a higher level of expertise than a bachelor's degree; these positions may even require a full master’s degree in Education with a concentration in teaching gifted and talented students.

- Teaching Individuals with Speech or Language Impairments

Speech or language teaching is a specialized area of study in the teacher preparation curriculum. It is also a subject area for a Master’s Degree in Education. While a bachelor’s degree with a specialization certification is enough for most public-school systems, many employers ask for a master’s degree in education with a concentration or major in speech and language developmental disabilities. Students can get certifications from the state licensing authority by passing a test specifically for or including speech impairments and language development delays.

- Teaching Individuals with Hearing Impairments and Deafness

Teaching early childhood students that have severe disabilities requires formal college-level education. Deafness training includes use of technology and machines that can improve learning. With formal education hours, students can take a state exam that will qualify them to teach children with disabilities, and specifically the combination of hearing and visual impairment. Some states differentiate by age group while other issue a certification to teach at all age levels.

- Teaching Individuals with Sight Impairments and Blindness

Teaching children with full or partial sight impairment requires knowledge and skills beyond the typical early childhood range. Nationally the effort continues to ensure that such services will be available to students in all parts of the US. Students must attend college-level programs that specialize in methods and techniques for teaching students with sight impairment.

- Teaching Individuals with Physical Impairments

Teacher preparation programs orient teachers in identifying physical impairments that interfere with development and socialization. Students can go beyond these orientation level courses to develop an undergraduate specialization. At the master’s level, students can develop an expertise in working with children with moderate to severe physical limitations.

Specialty Certifications

- CPR Certification

CPR is the short term for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. CPR is a life-saving technique that one can use in an emergency to try to restore heartbeat and breathing while waiting for medical assistance to arrive. This type of first aid can help an unconscious person whose heart and breathing have stopped. There are slightly different CPR techniques for infants and toddlers than for adults, and there is a separate procedure for babies. Parents, teachers, and any member of the public can get CPR training from a number of sources. The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association provide standards for CPR training which can add assurances of quality when the courses are AHA or Red Cross Compliant. Teachers can get training from the AHA or Red Cross, or from local instructors listed with the Red Cross, AHA, and local agencies. In most cities and towns, teachers can get certified at local fire departments, police departments, and public schools.

Some schools require that certain teachers are CPR certified or will offer a higher salary to those who are.

- Pediatric First Aid

Children’s first aid is immediate care for injuries or conditions that range from simple cuts and bruises to life-threatening emergencies. Certification in pediatric first aid is often bundled with training in CPR and AED. Some national public interest groups offer pediatric first aid training including the Red Cross, the National Safety Council, and state government approved programs at community colleges, schools, and four-year institutions. State teacher licensing authorities and certification agencies have approved pediatric first aid courses for continuing education requirements for licensed teachers and registered certificate holders.

- Foreign Languages

Second language courses are growing in popularity in preschool and elementary education. Research supports the idea that a second language increase intelligence and lays a foundation for later language learning in English and international languages. Among US schools, there had been a growing demand for education in Spanish and French. States control teacher certification and determine what kind of certification is needed. In typical subject certification, students can demonstrate competency by passing a subject-specific examination or showing academic study (e.g., 24 credit hours in Spanish or French). Some states accept native speakers in foreign languages as proof of competence when combined with teaching certification in teachable subjects like mathematics, or science.

- AED - Automated External Defibrillator Training

Defibrillator training enables emergency first aid that stimulates a heartbeat for a person that experienced a heart stoppage. The AED is a device that transfers electric pulses to the area around the heart. The electric shocks stimulate the heart to resume beating and pumping blood needed for the brain and other parts of the body. The minutes after a heart attack or other stoppage are critical. The average time to arrival of an EMT or ambulance unit in the US is more than 12 minutes; each minute without heartbeat and circulation reduces the chances of recovery. The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer in-person and online instruction in the AED. Certification requirements typically need in-person instruction and certification.

- Child Abuse Identification and Reporting

Suspected child abuse reports are required by state law for ECE teachers and childcare providers; ECE teachers are mandatory reporters. Two states make every person a mandatory reporter. Under the NAEYC standards, Early Childhood Educators have a duty to detect and report abuse and to work to prevent it. ECE educators are in the ideal position to look for signs of child abuse by observing physical and behavioral indications, and report confirmed or suspected cases.

States offer training and certification under their laws. For example, the State of New York provides Child Abuse Identification Workshops and issues Certificates of Completion. California also has strict mandated reporter requirements that include preschool teachers, teachers, and childcare providers. Teachers and childcare providers can consult the federal government HHS, Children’s Bureau, their state laws, and state government requirements.

Skills & Attributes You Will Learn

A certificate program in early childhood education will teach you some of the skills and attributes you require to be successful and to effectively teach children, though not all of the necessary attributes of a teacher can be learned. The following are some of the essential skills and attributes:

  • Adaptability and flexibility are highly regarded in teaching today. All children do not learn the same way, nor do they learn at the same speed. Early childhood education professionals must be able to adapt lesson plans to cater to the ways in which students learn best. They must also be flexible in their strategies and approaches to reach every student rather than just a few.
  • Passion and creativity go hand-in-hand throughout ECE. Most program participants already inherently have a passion for teaching and a love of being around children. These natural attributes easily lead to the ability to be creative in the classroom. Creativity is far more likely to keep kids enthusiastic and energetic about learning activities than most other teaching methods. This helps to increase participation and engagement, and it will result in an overall positive experience.
  • Compassion is another vital attribute for professionals in early childhood education. These professionals must be compassionate toward the home lives from which many children originate. Some children are born with greater advantages than others and some face family tragedy at far too young an age. ECE professionals must be compassionate to all circumstances to help students overcome emotional and physical obstacles in life, outside and inside the classroom.
  • Excellent communication is another essential piece of the skills and attributes puzzle. You will learn the best ways to communicate with people from all walks of life. It is imperative that you are able to communicate with the child by both speaking to and listening to your young students. You must also be able to communicate with parents, bosses, and even potential investors if you work in a private school setting. The best ECE professionals have open communication with everyone involved in making the educational experience of students an exceptional one.

Summing Up

Early childhood educators work in many settings including university research, government policy-making organizations, and private sector technology and development organizations. Most critically, they work in classroom settings and in direct contact with children in the range of three to eight years of age. They have responsibility to guide intellectual and social growth while ensuring a physically and emotionally safe learning environment.

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What to Expect?

With an ECE certificate, you can expect to have a highly rewarding career with children. Whether your work with toddlers, elementary kids, or children with special needs, you will not be without challenges, too. You can expect to incorporate playtime throughout your day as a way to teach lessons in a fun and engaging manner. You will also help to teach developmental skills that assist with personal, physical, and language development. All employers will expect that you are able to leave your personal issues at home. It is imperative that you are able to remain calm and rational, and act with the highest decorum at all times as these years will influence the way children view education for the duration of their career.

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