Concerns about child literacy have led to a renewed focus on high-quality preschool programs—and created new career options for educators with an early childhood studies degree.

A young boy at a table smiles at someone off camera.

State and federal education reform initiatives are focused on establishing a greater number of high-quality preschool programs across the country. Why? Nearly 34% of children entering kindergarten lack the basic language skills needed to learn how to read, and by fourth grade, 65% read at or below the basic reading level.*

As a result of efforts to improve literacy, early childhood education professionals are finding more career opportunities in both traditional and nontraditional environments.

Traditional Early Childhood Education Career Settings

Opportunities for early childhood education professionals in traditional settings are expanding to meet the growing demand:

  • Preschool or Child Care Center Director—The responsibilities of these positions include overseeing day-to-day operations, managing the center’s finances, supervising teachers and other staff, and communicating with parents about issues and concerns.
  • Early Childhood Education Specialist—This position can entail being both a classroom instructor and a family counselor. The role may include helping develop personalized education plans for children and family members, assessing children’s progress, and communicating with parents. Specialists work in schools, child care centers, nonprofit organizations, preschool programs, and other government education programs for low-income and disadvantaged families.
  • Early Childhood Special Education Teacher—Children with physical and mental disabilities need educators who understand their learning obstacles and can successfully guide them at the preschool stage. Special education teachers are experienced in teaching general and specialized curricula as well as art- or music-related instruction specifically designed for special education students.
  • Early Childhood Education Program Specialist for Government—These program specialists may be found at the U.S. Department of Education and other related government agencies. Their responsibilities include researching, designing, testing, and implementing new educational programs, as well as improving existing ones. Program specialists follow current educational trends and develop plans and initiatives that provide solutions to current early childhood education program issues.

Nontraditional Early Childhood Education Settings

Graduates of early childhood education degree programs are also in a good position to qualify for expanding career opportunities in nontraditional settings such as:

  • Curriculum Development Specialist for Nonprofit Research Institutes—The mission of some private, nonprofit organizations is to improve upon existing educational policies and programs. To that end, they provide extensive educational research and technical services to government and public entities. Early childhood education specialists are involved in the research, development, adaptation, and implementation of early childhood learning curricula nationwide.
  • Child Case Manager at Social Services Agencies—Early childhood education professionals may work with at-risk and disadvantaged children and help change the trajectory of their lives. Other social-services-related positions include family services worker, home visitor, human resources specialist, community care licensing analyst, and childcare resource and referral specialist.
  • Preschool Admissions Coach—Why do parents need a coach to enroll their toddler in nursery school? In New York City—and other major cities—preschool can cost anywhere from $12,000 per year for five mornings a week at a neighborhood child care center to as much as $40,000 per year for a prestigious preschool connected to an elite private elementary school. The advice of an experienced admissions coach can be the difference between a child being accepted or denied admission. Top coaches can charge up to $150/hour for a phone consultation, $250/hour for a private meeting, and $400/couple for a workshop.

Salaries for Early Childhood Education Professionals

Salaries and hourly fees span a fairly wide range in this field. For example, preschool and child care center directors earned a median salary of $45,260 in May 2014, while early childhood special education teachers earned a median salary of $54,000. Social services managers earned a median salary of $62,740 per year, while preschool admissions coaches in major cities earned $250/hour for private consultation sessions with parents.

Top 5 Early Childhood Education Degree Programs

Explore Walden University's early childhood education online degree programs for graduates and undergraduates. Get the help you need to continue your education and advance your career goals. Earn your degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.


*RIF.org, Literacy Facts & Stats, on the Internet at www.rif.org/pdf/Literacy-Facts-Stats.pdf.

†Forbes, Personal Finance, Secrets of a Preschool Admissions Coach, on the Internet at www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/06/18/secrets-of-a-preschool-admissions-coach.

‡Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016–2017 Edition, Preschool and Childcare Center Directors, Special Education Teachers–Preschool, Medical and Health Services Managers, on the Internet at www.bls.gov/ooh/home.htm.

Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.