Becoming an Early Childhood Educator is quite different from being a regular teacher because of the peculiarities and the age of children involved. Young children have unique development needs that require educators with specific skill sets and qualities. And Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) play a vital role in a child’s growth as 85% of brain development occurs before the age of 5.
In most countries, an early childhood educator works with children from birth to third grade or approximately age eight. Besides, this kind of teacher can also work with students in public or private school settings, at elementary schools of all kinds, and in federal and state-funded children programs for early intervention from birth to kindergarten.
Early Childhood Educators also create safe and interactive learning environments where children develop social skills, build self-esteem, and become lifelong learners — making it one of the most important and rewarding careers in education.
Going further, this article will provide you with information on how to become an early childhood educator (anywhere in the world), the perks of being an ECE, and more.
Personal Requirements for an Early Childhood Educator
Before you think of being an Early Childhood Educator, you must assess yourself to know if you possess the natural qualities for handling young children. Here are some personal requirements for an Early Childhood Educator.
- Must love working with young children
This is one of the most important requirements before considering a career in children education. You must have an intrinsic motivation for Early Childhood Education – love being around children and be given to grooming them.
- Patience, Creativity, and Enthusiasm
Patience, enthusiasm, and creativity are necessary qualities for both a regular educator and an ECE. Engaging young children in lessons that will grow their cognitive and socio-emotional skills requires patience, creativity, and lots of positive energy.
- Dedication and commitment
If you are passionate about Early Childhood Education, you must also know how to commit to grooming young children. Every day as an Early Childhood Educator is different, and dedication is needed to respond to the children’s unique needs irrespective of what is going on in your life. In addition to this, you must be willing to accept responsibilities and work with a team.
- Understanding that Every Child is Different
Understanding that children have different learning styles and personalities, and cultural backgrounds are necessary for becoming an ECE. These differences will help you tweak your teaching styles and techniques to the needs of the children in your care.
- Good Communication and Organization skills
In addition to being creative and patient, you must also possess the communication skills needed to interact with young children; know how to respond to their mumblings and physical gestures. Working with young children also means communicating with their parents regularly about their child’s progress and needs, and knowing how to handle parents’ expectations.
Early Childhood Educator
Early Childhood Educator Job Requirements/Description and common responsibilities
While some personal qualities qualify you to be an ECE, you need a proper certification to work as an early childhood professional in public schools. This certification is earned through a bachelor’s degree program with a major in early childhood education (ECE). One of the responsibilities of early childhood teachers is providing a safe and fun learning environment for young children, which involves planning and arranging the learning environment(s) and ensuring careful supervision.
Early childhood teachers specialize in the learning, developmental, social, and physical needs of young children. These educators provide a safe and comfortable environment in which young children can learn early academics, social, sensory-motor, and adaptive skills. Early Childhood Educators can also teach core subjects such as reading, math, science, and social studies according to the curriculum set out by their school.
In many classrooms with young children, an early childhood teacher can also work as a teaching assistant who assists with children’s physical and learning needs. ECEs are responsible for developing appropriate learning lesson notes and classroom activities structured to advance children’s fundamental skills.
How to Become an Early Childhood Educator
Since teaching younger children requires a specialized set of skills, educators working with students in early childhood typically begin their careers by earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, child development, or a closely related area of study. Most countries, states/regions require that such a program be approved by the authorized board of education. For a regular teacher or student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in ECE, here is the general process:
- Complete a teaching program in early childhood education – one that is approved by your state’s or country’s board of education.
- Complete a student-teaching practicum in an early childhood program.
- Take the required tests for educators.
- Apply to the authorized board of education (in your country, state or region) for a teaching certificate or license.
- Begin applying to open early childhood teacher positions.
How it works
Once accepted into a bachelor’s degree program, students earn general education credits, focus on courses in childhood development, methods of teaching children, and theories of learning. Students also undergo internships, working with young children in a classroom setting.
Many early childhood education programs include several separate classroom engagements to prepare teachers for the demands of the job. And after graduation, prospective early childhood teachers will become licensed to teach. However, state program requirements for early childhood certification vary from country and state to state. So, enquire about what is necessary for your region, and act accordingly.
Furthermore, for previously licensed teachers—or those who already earned a bachelor’s degree in another discipline—you can obtain an early childhood teaching certificate by completing a master’s program in early childhood education or development. Note that a master’s degree in early childhood education also provides opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of learning in childhood and more developed skills for working with young children. Many master’s degree programs offer avenues for specialization within the early childhood education field, such as special needs.
Early childhood educators must possess essential character traits such as caring, patience, flexibility, and compassion. These educators must also possess high-level knowledge of childhood development and have previous experience working with young children, especially in a classroom setting.