With an early childhood education associate degree, you can work in a variety of settings – including public and private settings, church-based programs – even home-based programs hosted out of your own home. If you’re more interested in a standalone childcare provider setting, there are three primary steps on the career ladder, and they all start with that associate degree credential.
Early Childhood Educator
At the most entry-level, with an associate degree in early childhood education, you can become an educator. You may be a part-time floater, going from class to class to relieve teachers and maintain child ratios, or you may be a full-time educator in a room with another teacher or two.
Early childhood educators have a major role in a student’s day. Depending on the age of the children, you could help facilitate lesson plans, change diapers, administer bottles or plate snacks and lunch – the list goes on and on.
With some experience and some additional certificates in the early childhood education space, you may be more qualified to be a lead teacher. The lead teacher is the primary teacher in the classroom. They’re the ones who are most responsible for following the curriculum and creating and administering lesson plans. They’re likely also the ones who are interacting with parents at a higher level.
Lead teachers do the exact same activities we listed above and are heavily involved with their classroom and the activities throughout the day. However, some of the prep work may be delegated to another teacher.
At the top of the ladder in an early childhood education setting is the director, or principal. There are likely also assistant director and principal roles, too.
These leaders are likely based outside of the classroom and focus primarily on the administrative and operational factors in running a center. They work with the Department of Social Services to ensure the facility meets all of the requirements, and they work with representatives during regular, routine inspections. They handle all the human resources of hiring and firing teachers, communicate with parents to update health records, organize before and after school transportation and they ensure all vendors and purchasing is timely (think food deliveries and laundry services).
But given staffing shortages and the nature of childcare, a childcare director may still roll up their sleeves and change the occasional diaper and fill in for a teacher as needed.