What do Early Childhood Teachers do?

Because there are so many possible jobs for early childhood educators, it’s difficult to come up with a single definition of what they do. Even training levels vary, with people in this field holding degrees ranging from bachelor’s to doctorate degrees. Some early childhood or day care workers have only a high school diploma and may not even have a bachelor’s degree. When someone is referred to as a teacher, it usually means that they have at least a bachelor’s degree.

To answer the question of what many early childhood educators do, the simple answer is that they teach. They could work with children in pre-school, nursery school, or daycare settings to develop and implement curriculum that is consistent with educational and developmental theories for young children. College students are typically taught theories about children’s learning capacity and development, but these theories are not always the same. An early childhood teacher could work in a variety of ways, depending on the philosophical bent of their workplace. Even if they have a degree, some teachers are required to complete additional training if they work for Waldorf or Montessori programs.

Early childhood educators aren’t limited to working with children in preschool. Many have teaching credentials and could teach kindergarten through third grade in public or private schools. Teachers in this position are typically responsible for developing curriculum that meets school district standards, and they may be responsible for teaching 20 or more students at a time. They assess student work, work with students to help them develop skills, and meet with parents to discuss issues. Again, special knowledge of early childhood development makes these teachers particularly adept at working with the age group of students they teach.

Some early childhood educators have earned advanced degrees in this field, such as master’s degrees or doctorates. These degrees expand the scope of what these educators can do. A teacher with a master’s degree may work not only with students but also as a supervisor in a daycare or preschool setting. They could own, design, run, and/or manage environments for pre-elementary education.

These teachers may also be in charge of developing curriculum for use in early childhood education others. Many people create learning programs, write educational materials for young children, or conduct research that could address and suggest changes to the way early childhood education is delivered. Doctoral graduates may join think tanks that evaluate early childhood education in general, continue to write or research, and many of these professionals go on to teach at the college level, training a new generation of early childhood educators.