There are 2.1 million people employed in the field of early childhood education, according to data from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). That includes all staff involved in early childhood education—teachers, administrators, at-home educators and other ECE professionals.
For all of these professionals, early childhood education salary potential is an important consideration. What can you earn in the various roles? Take a look below for tips on improving your salary, and the best states to become an early childhood education teacher.
Early Childhood Education
If you're thinking of a career in early childhood education, you should know that things are changing for the better. According to the advocacy group Pre-K Now, 30 of the 38 states that support pre-kindergarten programs increased their enrollment in 2007, and state spending per child for pre-kindergarten programs went up for the first time in over five years.
Related to this increased focus on the value of pre-kindergarten education, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, job outlook for preschool teachers is expected to grow 17 percent through 2022. There are now great job opportunities for those looking for a career in early childhood education. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
How Much Will I Earn?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for preschool teachers is $27,130, with preschool and childcare center directors earning a median annual salary of $43,950. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.
The Path to Higher Wages
The normal career path in early childhood education will generally follow an upward path of promotions. If you enter the industry on the ground level, you might start as an assistant teacher and improve your salary after you become a teacher, and then a lead teacher. Eventually, with more education and experience, you can advance to the role of director of a school or center. With greater responsibilities come greater financial rewards.
While finding an early childhood education job in a different city or state can offer you higher pay, you may not want to relocate. Pre-K Now suggests that teachers can also improve their wages with additional education or specialized training. Teachers sometimes begin their careers in a preschool with an associate's degree in early childhood education. Those who hold bachelor's degrees generally qualify to teach kindergarten through third grade. Teaching a higher grade level typically results in a higher salary. Getting a master's degree or adding another endorsement onto your resume will also help, and may also open up more job opportunities.
Career Opportunities in Early Childhood Education
With the increased focus on the value of early childhood education and the subsequent wave of new jobs, those qualified to teach young children can anticipate a broad range of career opportunities. Not only can they make a difference in the lifelong learning experiences of their students but they can positively influence the quality and standards of the programs they teach—making the outlook and prospects even better for the next generation of teachers.