An early childhood education certificate allows you to obtain an entry-level position in a school or daycare. Early childhood educators work to prepare children for entry into school. The focus is on physical, cognitive and creative development of the child. In order to facilitate this development, anyone working with the children needs to have a minimum standard of training.
The classes in an early childhood education program will focus on technical information. You will learn about the development of young children, effective teaching strategies, different topics taught to children and health/safety/nutrition of the young child. All certificate programs require an internship where you work in a childcare setting in order to apply what you've learned. The coursework is designed to satisfy the requirements for certification by an organization, whether it is state or national. For example, the Council for Professional Recognition outlines goals and areas that early childhood professionals should meet. These include safety, health, cognitive knowledge, communication knowledge, and several other guidelines. Setting a standard for early childhood educators ensures that children receive a similar quality of education across the country.
A certificate program takes about one year to complete and will get you into the workforce quickly. To be certified by state or national organizations will require additional time since the governing bodies that issue credentials require experience working with children. While the internship that you complete during your coursework will satisfy a portion of that requirement, you will have to accumulate the remainder when you begin working. The Council for Professional Recognition requires 480 hours of experience working with children. Other organizations and state governments will have different requirements.
Once you graduate from a certificate program, you do not automatically become a credentialed childcare professional; you must apply for a license or certificate via the appropriate procedure according to your state requirements. Many states use national organizations to certify childcare professionals. The Council for Professional Recognition is the leading certification body in the United States. It awards the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, which all 50 states use in childcare center licensing regulations. In other words, to work in a government funded or subsidized center, you must have the CDA. Applicants need to have completed 120 clock hours of formal child care education and 480 hours of experience working with children.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), childcare workers earn a median hourly wage of $9.12. The highest paying industry is residential care facilities at $10.56 and the lowest paying is day care at $8.39. The top 90 percentile of early childcare associates earn an average of $14.24.
To become a fully licensed teacher, you must hold a bachelor's degree. A small percentage of the courses in an early childhood education certificate will apply towards a higher degree. The courses in a certificate program are primarily technical, narrowly focused and not transferable because the course content is not standardized between institutions. A bachelor's degree in early childhood or education will focus not only on additional educational topics but also liberal arts courses, such as history and government, which are similar throughout the disciplines.