What Can I Do with an Early Childhood Education Degree?

Photo of an early childhood educator working with a group of children.

Working with kids has an obvious appeal. Those silly, inspiring and exciting little learners are certainly a handful, but their infectious enthusiasm is also as good of a reason as any to come into work every day with a smile. Those kiddos can keep you young at heart and the everyday fun surprises that accompany working with them are a delightful change of pace.

If you relate to this sentiment, it’s no wonder you’re interested in a career in early childhood education. As you’re researching the path to pursuing a job in this field, you’re likely asking yourself, “What can I do with an Early Childhood Education degree?”

It turns out there are multiple answers to that question, and multiple educational options to consider. Keep reading to learn more about what to expect in an Early Childhood Education (ECE) program and a breakdown of the potential roles these programs can prepare you for.

What to expect from an Early Childhood Education degree or credential program

Before enrolling in any program, you want to know what you’re going to get out of it. A formal education in this field will provide you with the building blocks for ECE principles, while furthering your leadership and administrative skills.

At the bachelor’s degree level you will not only be prepared to help develop young children physically and emotionally, but you’ll also gain business know-how and advocacy fundamentals as well. Curious about what types of courses you might encounter? Here’s a glimpse into the Rasmussen University curriculum.

Early childhood education courses

Here is a sampling of courses offered in the Rasmussen University School of Education programs:

  • Early Childhood Education Curriculum and Instruction: This foundational course sets the stage for promoting the healthy development of young children academically, socially and emotionally. Students will examine developmentally appropriate methods for writing and assessing behavioral objectives, lesson plans and activity goals.
  • Foundations of Child Development: This course requires students to explore developmental domains, theories and characteristics of children from birth to age eight. Students will learn the key considerations of developmentally appropriate practice and review learning theories used to support children as they grow.
  • Dynamics of the Family: This course helps students understand how families influence the growth of children. Students will learn about different types of family systems and parenting styles and how educators can support their success.
  • Language and Literacy Acquisition: Students will examine how infant, toddler, preschool and school-aged English language learners acquire language and literacy. Students will be exposed to examples of early childhood programs that support children’s home languages, and explore how to create an environment that sustains English language learners.
  • Planning with a Purpose: This teaches students how to effectively plan children’s activities to aide in their holistic growth. Topics covered include how to write learning objectives, reviewing different curricula and methods of implementing curriculum, how technology can be integrated into activity planning, and how to assess the quality of an activity.
  • Organizational Management in Early Childhood Education: This course trains students on practical guidance on policies, procedures, roles and responsibilities viewed through the lens of adhering to best practices for children and families. Students will also examine some of the external factors that influence the operation of early childhood programs, including political and societal trends.
  • Early Childhood Education Advocacy, Research and Policy: In this course, students will explore trends in the ECE field. They will examine current research and national, local and legislative policies. Students will also develop the skills needed for critiquing and analyzing research findings and their effects on early childhood education.

Common early childhood education job titles

One way to get a better idea of what you can do with an early childhood education degree is to examine job postings from ECE employers themselves. We used real-time job market software to analyze over 51,000 job postings seeking candidates who’ve studied early childhood education.

Here’s a sampling of the ECE job titles we found*:

  • Preschool teacher
  • Infant teacher
  • Childcare teacher
  • Toddler teacher
  • Teacher’s assistant or aide
  • Child care center director
  • Nanny

As you can see, many of the positions seeking trained ECE professionals focus on direct education roles with job titles that may sound pretty similar—who knew there was such a variety of “teacher” titles?

But that’s only telling part of the story. While the big picture duties of teacher positions in early childhood education tend to be similar in that they aid in the development of children, there are some key differences in the details.

Teacher’s assistant or teacher’s aide positions tend to be a common entry point into the ECE field. These education professionals play a key role in keeping any center or classroom running smoothly. They assist teachers and directors with preparing for daily activities, maintain classroom spaces and serve as a much needed extra set of eyes, ears and hands throughout the day. This role typically does not require an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, but non-degree credentials like an Early Childhood Education Certificate or Diploma can be an excellent way to highlight your dedication to the field.

The roles at the teacher-level also tend to have some variety in titles and duties. Teachers have more control over how their classrooms will operate for the day. These teachers help create lesson and activity plans for classrooms that are tailored to the age group they’re working with—many centers split their learners by age, with infants (0-12 months), toddlers (1-3 years old) and preschoolers (3-5 years old). These educators will assess and document child development progress, inform parents of milestones and set the overall plans for the day. The typical education required for these roles can vary quite a bit depending on employer, but many prefer candidates with an Associate’s degree or higher.

Director-level ECE roles typically require professionals who can take on the direct education of young children while also managing the important administrative duties that come with running a preschool or child care center. Their work often includes setting staff schedules, maintaining supply inventory, meeting with families of potential students, evaluating employee performance and the overall management of a child care facility. These advanced positions require a strong mix of skills to navigate, many of which can be honed in a Bachelor’s degree program.

An Early Childhood Education credential or degree can also be an appealing option for nannies or other home-based childcare providers. While these roles aren’t as well-documented by our analysis of job postings, they are an important part of the ECE landscape. Formal ECE-focused education not only provides a foundation of child development knowledge, but also a nice way for potential clients to validate a provider’s understanding and dedication to quality early education.

Keep in mind that employers aren’t always consistent with job title naming conventions and the education required to fulfill these roles can also be influenced by state and local regulations that may not always be uniform. Before picking an education path be sure to research what employers in your specific area are seeking.

What will you do with your Early Childhood Education degree?

Now you have a better understanding of what to expect from an Early Childhood Education program and the array of potential careers. Your next step is to determine which level of education can help you land your desired ECE career.

Rasmussen University offers multiple ECE credentials to help equip you for the path ahead. Learn more about our programs in our article, “6 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rasmussen University Early Childhood Education Programs.”

*Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 51,283 early childhood education job postings, February 1, 2019 – January 31, 2020)

Graduates of Early Childhood Education programs at Rasmussen University are not eligible for licensure as a teacher in an elementary or secondary school. A Bachelor’s degree and a state teaching license are typically required to work as a teacher in a public school and some private school settings. States, municipalities, districts or individual schools may have more stringent licensing requirements. Students must determine the licensure requirements in the state and school in which they intend to work.
Childcare facilities and the states in which they are located establish qualifications for staff who work with children, and often implement guidelines regarding age, education, experience and professional development. Students must determine the licensure requirements for the state and facilities in which they work.
This program has not been approved by any state professional licensing body, and this program is not intended to lead to any state-issued professional license. For further information on professional licensing requirements, please contact the appropriate board or agency in your state of residence.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2020.

About the author

Will Erstad

Will is a Sr. Content Specialist at Collegis Education. He researches and writes student-focused articles on a variety of topics for Rasmussen University. He is passionate about learning and enjoys writing engaging content to help current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.


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This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen University to support its educational programs. Rasmussen University may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. External links provided on rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen University does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

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