Career Pathways Tool >> Working with Children

My ideal career is a:

Teacher of Young Children (Child Care, Head Start, and Pre-K Based Programs)

The job of teaching preschool children in a center-based program can be both extremely rewarding and challenging. Between birth and the time a child is ready to go to kindergarten, children experience remarkable developmental changes. The daily activities of a teacher of infants are very different than those of a teacher of four-year-olds. Teachers may work with typically and atypically developing children. Yet all teachers need certain skills and knowledge to perform their jobs well. Teaching young children requires that you have knowledge about and learned skills in:

1.  How children grow and develop.

2.  Planning activities for children in a creative learning environment.

3.  Securing a safe and healthy place for children to play.

4.  How to communicate with an increasingly diverse population of children and their families.

5.  Effective group management strategies.

6.  A commitment to learning how to best educate and care for the young child.

Within any center-based setting, teachers may be found in a variety of positions. The beginning teacher may be called an Assistant Teacher or Teacher's Aide and work with and under the supervision of a more educated, experienced teacher. Sometimes in larger programs a teacher who has more education and experience is given the title of Lead or Mentor/Master Teacher. This position may entail more planning and supervision of other teachers, as well as center administrative responsibility. All individuals who work directly with young children should be certified in CPR and first aid and have a criminal record check, in addition to having coursework, credentials or degrees in early childhood education. 

Teaching young children in center-based programs can vary by auspice or setting. Most commonly, teachers are found working in child care centers. These centers include those operated by Head Start programs, places of faith, schools, colleges, mental health agencies, non-profit groups, non-child care employers/industry, chains/corporations, or for profit providers. Some programs operate only a few hours a day, a few days a week; others are open twelve hours or more a day, five days a week. Some operate under state or federal regulations; others operate without any external oversight. The auspice of the program can make a big difference in what is expected of teachers and what teachers can expect in terms of compensation, career advancement, work environment and the quality of early care and education provided to the children. In many states these programs can choose to be a part of the state's Quality Rating System to demonstrate the provision of higher quality early care and education.

There is increasing interest in and funding for prekindergarten programs focused on helping three- and four-year-olds acquire the skills for success in schools. Pre-K programs are found in diverse settings and often have state or federal funding. Some are targeted to children at risk for school failure. Others are universally available. Teachers in those settings often earn substantially more than teachers working in traditional child care centers and must have higher levels of education and/or a teaching license.

Job possibilities at:

Child care centers

Private preschool programs

Head Start programs

Publicly-funded prekinder­garten programs

Recommended education:

Child Development

Associate (CDA) Credential

Associate's degree in Early Childhood Education/Child Development

Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education/Child Development

Typical salary range:

$16,430- $49,660