Transitioning into early childhood education - where do I start?
March 8, 2013 5:56 AM   Subscribe

I want to be an early childhood educator. Difficulty: I'm losing my job in my current field and need to make a next step quickly.

So after my last question (and all the alarm bells that the green pointed out), I've come to realize that I really have very little interest in going further in my current field (nonprofit fundraising) for a number of reasons. For a very, very long time, being an early childhood educator has been in the back of my mind. I previously worked at an organization that provided Early Head Start and Head Start services to low-income kids. I loved being around the kids and I'm very passionate about how critical early childhood education is.

By mutual agreement, I will probably be leaving my job in the next several months. It's just not a good fit for either of us. I have a prime opportunity to start thinking about this transition.

Complicating factors:
1) I have one year to go to finish an MPA degree. I want to finish the degree and possibly use it to work in education policy someday.
2) I have no savings and need a job fairly quickly.
3) Post-MPA, I am thinking about enrolling in an early childhood masters program which requires at least one year of experience with young children.

I've started applying to some jobs that are in my current field, but I have no real interest in them. I would love to take a low-level early childhood job just to start gaining experience, even if that means a big pay cut. Does anyone have experience transitioning into early childhood? What do I need to do now?
posted by anotheraccount to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you start volunteering to work with kids at the Head Start program you previously worked at, with an eye on getting a job there if one opens up? Even if ia job doesn't open up, it would give you good experience to get hired as a teacher's aide at a pre-school or elementary school.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:04 AM on March 8, 2013

Talk to the public preschools in your area (they might be called Early Education Centers). They are always looking for good paraprofessionals, and while the pay isn't great, it'd be an in into the system. You could also get yourself listed as a sub for paraprofessionals. I'd just start calling the school systems in your area and asking about working in their preschool settings.

The public preschools also run close to school hours, so you'd still have time to pursue the MPA degree in the later afternoon and evening hours.
posted by zizzle at 6:09 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you sure -another- Masters is worth the ROI in such a low-paid field? Even outside of the dismal front-line staff pay, the management positions/government jobs are not highly paid. Unless it is a free ride/comes with a paid job at the University I am having trouble reconciling the investment you have already made in your education with additional time/expense of more education when you may find you can move up quickly from an entry level position to management with the education you have. Have a look at current job postings, their experience/education requirements and the salary they offer to see if it truly is worth your time and money.

Good for you in moving in a positive direction after evaluating your current position's expectations.
posted by saucysault at 6:27 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

My wife is a early childhood director - she runs a center for one of the big national daycare chains. Teaching preschool will top out at about $12 an hour (in a high cost of living area) and you'll need several years of teaching to move up to Asst. Director (woo hoo, $14 an hour!) and then eventually Director. I don't think you'll be able to get into management in a Head Start program without building experience in the private sector first. Head Start management does pay better, so those jobs go to experienced Directors from the private sector.

Also, the job is probably not what you think it is. It's basically retail management, in an environment where you are under state regulation, and dealing with other people's kids all day. My wife spends all day dealing with cranky parents that try to sneak sick kids into the daycare, teachers calling in sick, labor hour utilization, food budgets, curriculum budgets, etc. If you actually want to work hands on with kids, you have to be a teacher. And then you are dealing with criminally low pay.

I'm pretty sure my wife would not recommend early childhood education as a career path. It's high stress, low pay, and the stories I hear about the parents some of these kids are stuck with just breaks my heart.
posted by COD at 6:39 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with Rock Steady and zizzle that trying to get in the door as a teacher's aide or similar paraprofessional degree will probably be fairly easy to do. Consider charter schools and private schools in addition to public schools.

If you're trying to find an early-childhood ed job right now that you can take while you work on your MPA maybe consider trying to get a gig at a church daycare on Sundays? Usually church daycares aren't known for their cutting-edge pedagogy or anything but it would be experience nonetheless and it would fit in with your class schedule.
posted by aka burlap at 6:52 AM on March 8, 2013

The only way Early Childhood anything is going to pay is if you get a government job in it (and even then, it's debatable.)

Here's a listing of things on the page.

The good thing about working for the feds is that the benefits are pretty great, and you get a foot in the door to move up and make more money. Also, they'll pay for continuing education.

Getting on is a whole thing, and it's a completely different job search than random private industry. Your resume needs to be a book, you're scored on skills, you'll be asked to answer ridiculously long series of questions, it goes on and on. BUT. Once you're in, you're golden.

So as you'll see, most of the money mentioned in these postings is garbage, but, remember you get great benefits, so there's that.

Other than that, come up with a different plan, because you'll NEVER get a good ROI on a degree in Early Childhood Development (although you can get hired with just 3 classes at some of the posted jobs, so...yeah...that)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:56 AM on March 8, 2013

Teaching preschool will top out at about $12 an hour (in a high cost of living area) and you'll need several years of teaching to move up to Asst. Director (woo hoo, $14 an hour!)

Paraprofessionals in my son's public preschool are paid $14/hour, and we live in a high cost of living area. The teachers get paid significantly more than that.

I'm not sure early education is always low-paying and unrewarding. But it probably helps that my son's preschool treats the staff and faculty all as professionals.
posted by zizzle at 7:23 AM on March 8, 2013

Consider looking into Montessori.
posted by Dansaman at 9:38 AM on March 8, 2013

Start looking at taking some early child development/education classes now at your school or local community college. Most ECE jobs are looking for at least 3-12 units.

Keep CPR and first aid certifications up to date.

Do you speak any other languages? Maybe start learning whatever language would be most useful for your area's preschool programs. I have a BA in Child Development and have a hard time truly qualifying for positions because I don't speak Spanish.
posted by Swisstine at 11:11 AM on March 8, 2013

« Older WOAH - We're going to Ikea!   |   Stop-gap strategies for work anxiety Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.