early childhood vs elementary education careers

Early Childhood Education vs. Elementary Education: Which Career Environment is Right for You?

If you love children, have a passion for teaching, and want to make a difference in people’s lives on the day-to-day, you may be considering a career in education. It’s no wonder why. Teachers are some of the most valued, respected, and impactful professionals out in the workforce today.

Teaching is a career for some, a calling for others, a passion for many. And within the field, there are many different directions you can take. From preschoolers to fourth graders to high school seniors, all young people deserve great teachers. The question is, where do you fit in?

If working with young children is where your heart lies, you might be considering an early childhood education, or an elementary education career. You might be deciding which environment aligns best with your career goals, which demographic fits with your passions, and also which career path is most attainable for you now.

The early childhood education vs. elementary education debate is a common one among aspiring teachers. Ultimately, the choice will come down to your interests, your goals, and your ability to commit to learning of your own. In this article, Goodwin College breaks down the elementary vs. early childhood education career paths, to help you determine your next steps.

Elementary vs. Early Childhood Education: Ages Taught

The most obvious distinction between elementary education and early childhood education is the ages of children you will teach. Elementary education implies teaching children in kindergarten through fifth grade, or ages 4 to 11, approximately. As an early childhood educator, you work with much younger children, from birth to preschool age. Early childhood educators work with newborns, infants, and toddlers.

Due to the different age groups taught, elementary and early childhood educators will often have different workplaces, as well. Elementary educators typically work in the public and private school systems, though may also work in community or administrative settings. Early childhood educators can work in a variety of different workplaces, including preschools (such as those with a Reggio Emilia focus), daycares, after school programs, as well as in government, social service, and non-profit settings.

Early Childhood Educators vs. Elementary School Teachers: Requirements

One of the most important questions to ask yourself in deciding which career is right for you, is just how much schooling is required to land the job of your dreams. In terms of educational requirements, elementary school teachers generally require a bachelor’s degree. In order to teach in most elementary schools today, you must also hold elementary education licensure. Some states require elementary school teachers to now have a graduate degree as well.

In the early childhood education field, educational requirements vary depending on the school and your role in the classroom. For example, assistant ECE teachers and school readiness assistant teachers only need an associate degree. An associate degree in early childhood education is also the standard for private sector infant, toddler, and preschool teachers. To land a career in the public school system, or earn advanced ECE careers such as Curriculum Coordinator or Early Childhood Director, a bachelor’s degree would likely be required.

As an aspiring teacher, you should also think about which skills are needed in both the elementary education and early childhood education fields. In elementary education, you will need to be well-versed in areas such as lesson planning and basic subjects such as mathematics, science, English, and history. In an elementary education degree program, you will be taught these skills at each relevant stage of childhood development – kindergarten through even middle school age. This differs from an early childhood education program, in which you will focus more on young childhood development.

Early childhood educators must be knowledgeable of early childhood development, and skilled in case management, first-aid, childcare, record-keeping, and the basic building blocks of learning: numbers, letters, shapes, and colors. Early childhood education classes will cover the ins and outs of child development, including social, emotional, language, and literacy development as children grow.

Which Education Environment is Right for You?

Which teaching environment speaks to you more, early childhood education or elementary education? While the choice is ultimately yours to make, there are some important considerations to weigh as you consider each potential career.

Elementary education is great choice for those who have a true interest in teaching core subjects like math, science, and history, and who desire to make those subjects interesting for their students. Due to their students being older and having more independence, elementary school teachers must be ready to reason with, engage, and challenge their students each day. Elementary educators can work with children both young and old, but if you prefer to work with children over age five, this career path is best for you.

Early childhood education careers are a great choice for those interested in growing the minds of young children, through creative methods like storytelling, art, music, as well as the basic building blocks of academia. Early childhood education curriculums, generally, are less rigid than elementary schools, as very young children are often encouraged to learn through their own exploration and interests. Early childhood educators’ primary role is to build the foundation of which students’ future learning attitudes and experiences will build. Early childhood education is right for aspiring teachers who are energetic, creative, and ready for whatever comes their way – including feeding, soothing, and holding little ones.

Early childhood education is also a great option for those who wish to work with children, but who do not have the time or flexibility to commit to a four-plus years of school. Goodwin College’s childhood education degrees are flexible, often offered in the evenings and in hybrid online formats for those who have children, jobs, or personal obligations of their own.

Teaching means empowering others, no matter which grade level you choose. If you are interested in pursuing a career in early childhood education, do not hesitate to reach out to Goodwin College at 800-889-3282. You may also visit us online to request more information about our programs.