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Choosing a career in early childhood education

Though some may disagree, educators of young children have one of the most important jobs in the world. Teachers are the ones who create an educational foundation that students will build upon for the rest of their lives. From the building blocks they gain in early childhood education, these little ones go on to become the doctors, lawyers, and thinkers of the next generation. As such, it takes a number of special traits to be an ECE.

If you are someone passionate about working with young children, helping them to explore the world around them, and providing them with the tools to continue down the path of learning, you may want to consider a Child Development Associate Credential™. As the Council for Professional Recognition explained, it's the most widely recognized credential in the field. Today there are more than 37,000 teachers who hold a nationally-transferable CDA.

To further your career as well as gain insight into today's best teachings for young students, consider completing your CDA through ProSolutions Training. From there, you open up a world of possibility within ECE. As you take the first steps to establishing a career in ECE, consider these job opportunities to find the one that's right for you:

1. Preschool teacher
As one of the most common professions in ECE, many educators begin their careers within a preschool setting. As the Early Childhood Education Zone explained, whether they're in a public or private school, or within a child care center, most will start as an aide or assistant to the preschool teacher. The needs of preschoolers differ quite drastically from those in later elementary school grades and as such, observing under an experienced educator is the best way to learn. 

Start your early childhood education career as a preschool teacher.Start your early childhood education career as a preschool teacher.

What is unique about the role of preschool teacher is that the required credentials and the type of position can change exceptionally from one state to another and even from one classroom setting to another. As a result, the salary can be expected to vary greatly depending on the aforementioned factors.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average for a preschool teacher is $28,790. The job outlook for preschool teachers is among one of the most promising in any industry, with a forecast 10 percent growth over the next decade.

2. Child care worker
For those interested in areas of infant and toddler development, a job within a childcare facility could be right for you. In a preschool setting educators focus on crucial stages of growth, which can include language and nutrition, according to Learn.org. Requirements will again vary by state, but most will expect that you at least have an associate degree. While key responsibilities surround caretaking, educational activities and lessons are also encouraged. 

The BLS reported that child care workers make an average of $21,170 per year. This career opportunity would be great for someone looking for part-time work, though full-time positions are available as well. 

3. Special education paraprofessional
If you enjoy working one-on-one with students, especially those with learning or mental disabilities, consider working as a special education paraprofessional. In this role, you may be paired with one individual who requires constant supervision within a larger classroom or, you may have several students with disabilities that may not be as severe, explained the Houston Chronicle. While the special education teacher focuses on instructing, your role is to ensure that the student's needs are being met, that communication is open, and that he or she is in a position to learn. As the source noted, this job can be both frustrating and exhausting at times.

Last year, there were 1,308,100 people working as teacher assistants and the median salary for a paraprofessional was $25,410.

4. Self-employed caregiver
If you prefer a smaller, more personal setting when working with young children, you may want to consider being self-employed as a nanny or caregiver. In fact, about 33 percent of child care workers are self-employed, according to WorldWideLearn. Many families prefer a private nanny, especially one who has a background and credentials in early childhood development. This means that your CDA puts you a step above others vying for the same position. In addition to taking care of the children and getting them to where they need to go on time, you'll be creating an educational environment conducive to their developmental stage within their own home.

Moreover, you'll be able to create close bonds with both the children and their parents all while being your own boss and holding flexible hours. The median annual salary for caregivers that are self-employed is $21,710.

5. Childcare center director
Forging a career as an administrator within the ECE field is another possibility. In addition to ensuring that your center's early childhood education program is succeeding, you will be responsible for training and hiring staff, managing budgets, developing new programs, overseeing each classroom, and much more, explained the Early Childhood Education Zone.

"ECE administrators can make as much as $85,000."

Parent outreach and communication is also important. Substantial experience is often required for this role as administrators oversee nearly every aspect of a childcare center from its teachers to its students.

While the average salary of childcare center directors is $44,000, the earning potential for professionals in this role is as high as $85,000.

6. Child protective service assistant 
Social services, especially youth services, is always in need of strong, dedicated workers to advocate for the needs and health of kids across the country. With a CDA that gives you the understanding of early child development, you could use your associate to help protect and even improve the lives of young children in your area. As WorldWideLearn explained, you will be working with youth in environments that may be dangerous or uncomfortable. In this role, it's not only your skills and knowledge that are important, but your passion for helping others as well.

Employees in this field earn an average of $31,860.

No matter what career path you choose to follow in the field of ECE, know that you will be making a difference in the lives of children every day.