While college courses are generally not required to open a child-care center, many directors earn a degree in early childhood education. You also could pursue a second major or take selected courses in social organizational development or business administration, which would provide business acumen and people-management skills to help your center succeed.
Early Childhood Education as Your Foundation
The work for a bachelor's degree in early childhood education generally requires 120 to 134 course hours, depending upon the university. The first half of these hours establishes a strong liberal arts base. The final 40 to 50 hours typically explore the ever-changing science of education, including a hands-on practicum in classroom teaching. A bachelor's degree is not required to open a child care center in the United States. However, in his second State of the Union address, President Barack Obama advocated making "high-quality preschool available to every child in America." By pursuing serious preparation and a degree, you could put yourself on the cutting edge of a trend in early childhood development.
When the Fast Track is Not Necessarily the Solid Track
Top-ranked universities in the field of early childhood education are continually developing new courses and methods, but you must be there in person to learn the latest from the best. Even some promoters of online courses in early childhood education acknowledge that a profession so dependent upon sensory interaction needs some amount of in-person classroom time.
Your First Two Years of Study
As an early childhood education major, your first four semesters often are focused on education core classes. At Vanderbilt University, the University of Texas at Austin or Stanford, three of the top early childhood education departments in the country as ranked by "U.S. News and World Report," even freshman education majors gain experience in a practice classroom. Other universities also have on-campus day-care centers and nursery schools, where students gain valuable, guided practice as teachers or assistants.
The Professional Orientation Years
After you finish the initial course work, the more focused part of your education begins. Now, you might take up to 12 course hours of early childhood foundation studies. This will be strengthened with 24 tor 30 hours of education pedagogy, various courses exploring innovative teaching methods, theory and research in early childhood learning. Sometime during the final two semesters, education majors are directly engaged in the field experience of practice teaching. The more advanced the education department, the more student-teaching experience you likely will gain prior to graduation.
Preparing for the Business of a Child-care Center
At the start of your freshman year, ask your academic adviser in education about business and sociology courses that might help to develop your knowledge and skills as a child-care center owner. You might decide to pursue a business minor or a double major -- education and business. The extra work will prove invaluable later. These courses outside the education curriculum can help you create a knowledge center for children as well as a profitable, well-run business.
Holly Hunt lives in the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver, Washington. She has published more 150 pieces in papers, magazines and online. She holds an MFA from the University of Arkansas in creative writing. She also worked as a tenure-track professor in the humanities.