Can you look back and remember playing school with your childhood friends? Did you often find yourself playing the role of the teacher? Are children often drawn to you because you’re fun, creative and yet still responsible? Do you enjoy being around children and helping them learn and create?
If you answered yes to these, you have a lot in common with those who choose to study Early Childhood Education and those who work as teachers now. You might consider this major for the aforementioned things and because you’ll learn how to create and manage a nurturing and safe learning environment where children grow, thrive and develop.
This degree is offered at the associate’s and at the bachelor’s level. Prospective students might find it helpful to take the following courses while still in high school: AP English Language, a foreign language, sociology, family and consumer studies and AP psychology. These of course are not required, but help students achieve success and excel in their program.
Once in their college programs, students will find themselves taking childhood development, classroom management and behavior, curriculum methods, instructional design, instructional resources and technology and parent-child relations. These of course vary based on particular schools, but still hold true for most programs.
What to know before you apply
Students will find that it makes the process easier if they are caring, patient, and creative. Teamwork skills are vital too. You’ll want to teach cooperation to your students, and you’ll need it yourself — chances are you’ll be working with an aide or another teacher.
During your junior and senior years, you’ll spend lots of time in classrooms, gradually moving from observer to active participant. You’ll probably visit a number of schools that adhere to different educational philosophies, so you can find out which approach suits you best.
No matter what the model, you can watch how teachers create a caring and stimulating classroom, how they involve parents in the learning process, and how they work with students on both academics and issues such as self-esteem. Before you graduate, you’ll spend a semester student teaching and putting into practice all you’ve learned.
Early education majors don’t necessarily have to go into teaching, they can use their degree to be an education administrator, educational counselor, a preschool teacher, a librarian, a school psychologist and a special education teacher.
Colleges offering related fields of study
• Barry University —Miami Fla.
• Gannon University — Erie, Penn.
• Monroe Community College — Rochester, N.Y.
In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics listed early childhood education majors who worked as kindergarten or elementary school teachers as making $53,090 a year.
> For more career and major information, visit NextStepU.com.