What Do Early Childhood Educators Do?
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Writer & Reviewer
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- Early childhood educators are essential in building an educational foundation for small children.
- Not only do you need the right education for teaching, but you also need certain skills to excel.
- The desire to make a difference in kids' lives will go a long way in helping you succeed as an early childhood educator.
If you're considering a career in early childhood education, odds are you enjoy working with kids — at least a little.
A career in education can be very rewarding, but you should also know what skills you need to excel in the field. For starters, it requires a lot of patience and preparation.
And understanding what childhood educators do on a daily basis can help you pick the right focus for your career. Early childhood educators can work as elementary school teachers, preschool teachers, and special education teachers.
But before you decide on a specific job in the field, you should understand exactly what becoming an early childhood educator entails and what it takes to become one.
What Is the Career Outlook for Early Childhood Educators?
One thing about teachers? We'll always need them. Young children need people with the patience and skills to guide them through the start of their journey in education.
So what's the main focus of an early childhood educator? They help kids with early language development, reading, and social skills. Plus, they plan lessons and develop new and engaging activities for kids.
But it's not all fun and games: They're also constantly diffusing sticky situations between kids and actively interesting students in subjects they might not care about (yet). Because of that, teachers need to be creative in their approach to teaching.
Jobs in education are expected to grow 7% between 2021 and 2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Plus, jobs for preschool teachers are projected to grow by 15% in the next decade. So if you do well with little kids, this career might be a good option for you.
|Job||Median Salary (May 2021)||Job Growth Rate (2021-31)|
|Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers||$61,350||4%|
|Preschool Center Director||$47,310||8%|
|Special Education Teacher||$61,820||4%|
*Accurate as of November 2022
Source: Payscale and the BLS
Popular Online Early Childhood Education Programs
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What Are the Expectations for an Early Childhood Educator?
Early childhood educators must create a fun but adaptable learning environment. Generally working with kids from birth through third grade, these teachers help kids develop skills they'll use for the rest of their lives.
In this role, you'll need great communication skills, creativity, organization, and enthusiasm. At a young age, kids want to have fun in the classroom — and it's your job to make sure that happens.
If you want to become an early childhood educator, most states require a state certification. Bachelor's degree programs focusing on early childhood education may include certification requirements in their curricula.
The purpose of this program is to teach you the skills necessary for working with children, as well as the art of lesson planning.
Planning is key: The better you plan, the more success you'll find in the classroom. With a bachelor's degree, you can expect to teach core subjects and provide time for unstructured play, which is important in learning at this stage.
But if you continue into a master's degree, other career options — some of which aren't even teaching — may be open to you.
While there are many important skills you'll need for this job, there's none more important than patience.
Young kids are just that — kids. They're full of energy and just as full of unpredictability. You never know what each day will bring, so arming yourself with patience (and maybe stickers) is key.
Sticking to a structure can help manage some of the chaos. Strong organizational and planning skills can go a long way.
Lastly, get yourself excited about the subjects you'll be teaching. Showing enthusiasm will help get the kids excited about what you're teaching and will help them engage in any activities you plan.
As an early childhood educator, your biggest responsibility is supervising your students. You need to pay attention to what they're doing and how they're interacting with others. This will help create a safe learning environment.
You'll also need to introduce schedules and reinforce daily routines. For the most part, they'll do better when they know what to expect.
But there's more to it than just supervision: You must provide age-appropriate lessons, communicate with parents, and address any individual needs.
At the end of the day, you'll serve as the foundation for a child's education.
Why Should You Become an Early Childhood Educator?
Just as with any job, there are pros and cons to becoming an early childhood educator.
Pros of Becoming an Early Childhood Educator
- Making a difference in a child's life through education
- Working in an engaging and active work environment
- Enjoying summer and holiday vacations
- Having variety and opportunity for creativity in the classroom
Cons of Becoming an Early Childhood Educator
- Children's high energy demands a lot of physical and emotional labor
- The need for adaptability and planning in curriculum design
- Kids depend on you for all instruction and guidance
- Difficulty maintaining a routine because of kids' unpredictability
Is a Career in Early Childhood Education Right for You?
If you like working with kids and strive to make a difference in their lives, becoming an early childhood educator may be the career for you. Just make sure to come prepared with patience, compassion, energy, and adaptability.
But if you have difficulty embracing flexibility, it may not be the best fit for you. Kids take a lot of work, attention, and enthusiasm to learn. And while the work is rewarding, it's not for everyone.
Burnout can occur in any job. But to avoid it in your teaching career, be sure to consider what interests you about the field. Think about your long-term goals and what skills you already possess. Ask yourself what your "why" is: What inspires you to work with small children?
Once you reflect a bit, you might be surprised by the results. And the answers may point you to a job in early childhood education, or they may not. Either way, understanding your career goals, interests, and skills is key to taking that next step in your decision-making process.