There are many careers for an early learning professional

Early learning offers a wide variety of career options, including:

  • Providing childcare in a family home.
  • Owning a child care center or working in a child care center as a teacher, assistant or director.
  • Teaching in an ECEAP or Head Start publicly funded preschool.
  • Offering professional development to staff.
  • Working as an Early Achievers coach.
  • Teaching in a college-level early childhood education (ECE) program.
The core competencies focus on professionals’ skills and knowledge in standard ECE areas.
Download Core Competencies

Education Levels for an Early Learning Professional

Whatever level of education they have achieved—from high school diplomas to graduate degrees—early learning professionals will find a diverse range of positions and career opportunities.

1
High School Diploma

For some positions, early learning professionals must have a high school diploma (or its equivalent, such as a GED). Typically, a diploma is awarded at the end of four years of study, when the student has met general educational requirements at an accredited high school. The requirements may be set by local, state or provincial authorities, so they vary from one jurisdiction to another.

Careers

Child Care Center Assistant
Child Care Center Assistant

A Child Care Center Assistant demonstrates competency to implement program activities under the direction of a lead teacher. An assistant teacher must provide developmentally appropriate early childhood education and ensure a safe learning environment for all. View DEL Licensing site for more information: http://www.del.wa.gov/laws/rules/licensing.aspx

Minimum Qualifications: The Child Care Center Assistant Teacher must be 16 years of age and a DEL background check is required

Preferred Qualifications: Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education

Child Care Center Lead Teacher
Child Care Center Lead Teacher

A Child Care Center Lead Teacher is directly responsible for the care and education of children and must provide developmentally appropriate early childhood education and ensure a safe learning environment. The Lead Teacher must demonstrate competency to observe and assess children's development, plan children's curriculum based on child development knowledge, design the learning environment, implement and supervise developmentally appropriate learning activities, build positive relationships with children, plan guidance strategies for children,  involve parents, and honor differences.  View DEL Licensing site for more information: http://www.del.wa.gov/laws/rules/licensing.aspx

Minimum Qualifications: The child care center lead teacher must be at least 18 years of age, register with the Department of Early Learning MERIT system, have a verified high school diploma or equivalent, and have completed Child Care Basics

Preferred Qualifications: Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education

Child Care Center Volunteer
Child Care Center Volunteer

A Volunteer helps in the Child Care Center while under the direct supervision and direction of the facility staff.  View DEL Licensing site for more information: http://www.del.wa.gov/laws/rules/licensing.aspx

Minimum Qualifications:  Volunteers must be at least 16 years of age, care for children under direct supervision of a lead child care staff at all times, and may count towards staff-child ratio if all staff qualifications are met, including a background check and Child Care Basics training. 

Preferred Qualifications: 18 years of age, valid First Aid and CPR, and completed Child Care Basics.

Family Home Child Care Assistant
Family Home Child Care Assistant

A family home assistant demonstrates competency to implement program activities under the direction of the family home owner or primary staff. An assistant teacher must provide developmentally appropriate early childhood education and ensure a safe learning environment for all. View DEL Licensing site for more information: http://www.del.wa.gov/laws/rules/licensing.aspx

Minimum Qualifications: Minimum age of 14 and requires a background check (non-criminal background check for 14-16 year olds).

Preferred Qualifications: 18 years of age, high school diploma, valid First Aide and CPR, and completed Child Care Basics.

Family Home Child Care Owner / Licensee
Family Home Child Care Owner / Licensee

A Family Home Child Care Owner/Licensee is a person who obtains a license from the Department of Early Learning to offer ongoing care for one or more children in their own home. The Family Home Child Care Owner/Licensee must plan children's curriculum based on child development knowledge, design the learning environment, implement and supervise developmentally appropriate learning activities, build positive relationships with children, plan guidance strategies for children, involve parents, and honor differences. View DEL Licensing site for more information: http://www.del.wa.gov/laws/rules/licensing.aspx
 
Minimum Qualifications: Meet minimum education requirements by having health and safety certificates required by WAC, at least 18 years of age

Complete Child Care Basics prior to working unsupervised with children, and registered with the Department of Early Learning MERIT system.

Education may include one of the following or higher: GED, Verified high school diploma, WA State Initial ECE Certificate, valid CDA, rated level 3 or higher in Early Achievers, OR Verified 45 credits
of post-secondary education

Preferred Qualifications: Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education

Family Home Child Care Primary Staff
Family Home Child Care Primary Staff

The Family Home Child Care Primary Staff must meet the qualifications of the licensee and can act on behalf of the licensee when the licensee is off of the premises. View DEL Licensing site for more information: http://www.del.wa.gov/laws/rules/licensing.aspx

Minimum Qualifications: Meet minimum education requirements by having health and safety certificates required by WAC, at least 18 years of age

Complete Child Care Basics prior to working unsupervised with children, and registered with the Department of Early Learning MERIT system.

Education may include one of the following or higher: GED, Verified high school diploma, WA State Initial ECE Certificate, valid CDA, rated level 3 or higher in Early Achievers, OR Verified 45 credits of post-secondary education.

Preferred Qualifications: Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education

Family Home Child Care Volunteer
Family Home Child Care Volunteer

A Family Home Child Care Volunteer helps in the licensed Family Home while under the direct supervision and direction of the facility staff.  View DEL Licensing site for more information: http://www.del.wa.gov/laws/rules/licensing.aspx

Minimum Qualifications: Minimum age of 14 and requires a background check (non-criminal background check for 14-16 year olds).

Preferred Qualifications: 18 years of age, valid First Aid and CPR, and completed Child Care Basics.

Head Start Parent Involvement Consultant / Staff
Head Start Parent Involvement Consultant / Staff

Responsible for program planning, oversight, monitoring, reporting and the progress of delivering appropriate family services. Assists with Parent Committees, helping parents to understand roles and responsibilities and working with them to secure community professionals and agencies to speak at parent meetings as well as maintaining community resource information. May also provide training and technical assistance to child development centers and early childhood teaching staff, parents and community. 

Minimum Qualifications: Parent involvement services must be supported by staff or consultants with training, experience, and skills in assisting the parents of young children in advocating and decision-making for their families.

Preferred Qualifications: Bachelor's Degree in a human services field

Head Start Teacher Assistant
Head Start Teacher Assistant

A Head Start Teacher Assistant is employed by a Head Start program and assists the classroom teacher in conducting classroom activities, maintaining the classroom environment, and supervising children; may also assist in planning and record keeping and other classroom related duties. View Head Start Standards for more information http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/standards/hspps

Minimum Qualifications: CDA, enrolled in a program leading to an associate or baccalaureate degree, or enrolled in a child development associate credential program to be completed within 2 years.

Preferred Qualifications: Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education

2
Stackable Certificate

In Washington, early learning professionals can advance their education by earning “stackable” certificates at colleges across the state: The courses in early childhood education that students are required to take will build on one another in a sequential manner and deepen levels of applied learning along the way. Stackable certificates are part of Washington’s system of early childhood education (ECE) statewide credentials. Colleges across the state offer common courses, course titles, course numbers, course descriptions and student outcomes. All courses are aligned with the Washington State Core Competencies for Early Care and Education Professionals. 

Careers

ECEAP Assistant Teacher
ECEAP Assistant Teacher

An ECEAP Assistant Teacher demonstrates competency to implement program activities under the direction of a Lead Teacher. An assistant Teacher must provide developmentally appropriate early childhood education and ensure a safe learning environment for all ECEAP hours regardless of the model type (Part-Day, Full School Day or Extended Day). View ECEAP Standards for more information: ECEAP Performance Standards 

Minimum Qualifications: Employment as an ECEAP Assistant Teacher in the same agency before July 1, 1999 or obtain 12 college quarter credits in ECE or obtain a WA State Initial Certificate or higher or a current Child Development Associates (CDA) credential.

Preferred Qualifications: Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education

Head Start Teacher 3
Head Start Teacher 3

A Head Start Teacher 3 Has the primary responsibility for classroom operation including planning, carrying out activities, maintaining the classroom environment, supervising children; conducts parent/teacher conferences; supervises classroom volunteers; may also supervise teacher assistant. View Head Start Standards for more information http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/standards/hspps

Minimum Qualifications: Holds one of the following: a Washington State ECE Initial Certificate OR a Child Development Associate (CDA) or equivalent credential or higher degree.

3
Associates Degree

To earn an associate's degree, you must complete a program that is at least 90 quarter credits, usually at a community or technical college. These degrees may be designed to transfer to a four-year college or university. A full-time student usually completes an associate's degree in two years. Part-time students will take longer than two years, depending on how many credits they take each quarter. Requirements usually include general education courses in addition to coursework in the major area of study. Depending on the program, an associate’s degree with a major in early childhood education (or early care and education) may be offered as an associate’s degree in applied science, an associate of technical arts degree, or an associate in arts degree. 

Careers

Child Care Center Director and/or Owner
Child Care Center Director and/or Owner

A Child Care Center Director/Owner is responsible for the overall management of the center's facility and operation and ensures that the center follows licensing requirements. View DEL Licensing site for more information: http://www.del.wa.gov/laws/rules/licensing.aspx

Minimum Qualifications: The center director/owner must be at least 21 years of age, have knowledge of child development, have verified education and at least two years of experience working with children the same age level as the center serves.

Education may include one of the following or higher: Washington State ECE Initial Certificate, valid CDA or verified college credits based on center size. The director must have a MERIT account, complete Child Care Basics, register with the Department of Early Learning MERIT system, and meet the health and safety certificates required by WAC.

Preferred Qualifications: Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education

ECEAP Family Support Staff
ECEAP Family Support Staff

An ECEAP Family Support Specialist must maintain flexible hours to build relationships with families, identify strengths and goals, coordinate services for families, link families to community resources, and support family involvement activities at times when parents are available. View ECEAP Standards for more information: ECEAP Performance Standards 

Minimum Qualifications: All persons serving in the role of ECEAP Family Support staff must meet one of the following qualifications. Employment in the same position in the same agency before July 1, 1999; or an associate or higher degree with the equivalent of 30 college quarter credits of adult education, human development, human services, family support, social work, early childhood education, child development, psychology, or another field directly related to their job responsibilities OR a DEL-approved credential from a comprehensive and competency-based family/social service training program that increases knowledge and skills providing direct service to families.

Preferred Qualifications: Associate's of higher degree, or DEL approved Family Support Certificate

ECEAP Lead Teacher
ECEAP Lead Teacher

An ECEAP Lead Teacher is directly responsible for the care and education of children and must provide developmentally appropriate early childhood education and ensure a safe learning environment for all ECEAP hours regardless of the model type (Part-Day, Full School Day or Extended Day). The Lead Teacher must demonstrate competency to observe and assess children's development; plan children's curriculum based on child development knowledge, design the learning environment, implement and supervise developmentally appropriate learning activities, build positive relationships with children, plan guidance strategies for children, involve parents while honoring differences. View ECEAP Standards for more information: ECEAP Performance Standards 
Minimum Qualifications: The ECEAP Lead Teacher must have an associate or higher degree with the equivalent of 30 college quarter credits in early childhood education. These 30 credits may be included in the degree or in addition to the degree; OR a valid Washington State Teaching Certificate with an endorsement in Early Childhood Education (Pre-K-Grade 3) or Early Childhood Special Education.

Preferred Qualifications: Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education OR a valid State Teaching Certificate with an endorsement in Early Childhood Education (Pre-K Grade 3) or Early Childhood Special Education

Head Start Family Support
Head Start Family Support

Primary contact for parents to ensure that the needs of young children and families are addressed in the areas of family and community engagement by working with parents to ensure children receive health and nutrition services per the requirements of the Head Start performance standards and to help determine family goals, assess needs and access services in the community through periodic home visits.

Minimum Qualifications: Family and community partnership services must be supported by staff or consultants with training and experience in field(s) related to social, human, or family services.

Preferred Qualifications: Bachelor of Social Work or related field

Head Start Teacher 2
Head Start Teacher 2

A Head Start Teacher 2 has primary responsibility for classroom operation including planning, carrying out activities, maintaining the classroom environment, supervising children; conducts parent/teacher conferences; supervises classroom volunteers; may also supervise Teacher Assistant. View Head Start Standards for more information http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/standards/hspps

Minimum Qualifications: Holds a job related Associate’s Degree 

RBPD Early Childhood Education Peer Mentor
RBPD Early Childhood Education Peer Mentor

A Relationship Based Professional Development (RBPD) Early Childhood Education Peer Mentor provides mentorship and support to peers. Relationships may be most common across family child care, child care centers and family, friend, and neighbor caregivers.

Minimum Qualifications: Three or more years of experience working directly with children and families, content knowledge and mentoring training, and experience.

Preferred Qualifications: High School Diploma, GED or WA State ECE Initial Certificate; Three or more years of experience working directly with children and families; RBPD training and/or certificate.

WA State-Approved Trainer
WA State-Approved Trainer

A Washington State Approved Trainer designs and provides classes for adult learners using learning objectives, interactions, reflection, application, and assessment. View the Trainer and Training DEL site for more information: https://www.del.wa.gov/Professional/approval

Minimum Qualifications: The Trainer must apply to become WA State Approved through the Department of Early Learning and abide by the policies for state-approved trainers and training delivery.

Preferred Qualifications: Specialty in adult education, experience and education in the content area of the offered training.

4
Bachelors Degree

To complete a bachelor's degree, one must complete 180 quarter credits or 120 semester credits. Full-time students typically complete a bachelor's degree in four years, although this varies with the program and individual student. A number of colleges and universities offer the bachelor’s degree with a major in early care and education. Such majors include:

  • Early childhood education
  • Early childhood and family studies
  • Human development with specialization in ECE
  • Children’s studies/childhood education
  • Elementary education with one of the following endorsements:
  1. Early childhood education
  2. Early childhood special education
  3. P-3
  4. P-3 special education

In addition to completing courses that meet the college or university’s general education requirements, a candidate for the bachelor’s degree must earn the credits specified for the major field of study. (If the student already has an associate’s degree, some credits may transfer.) Some schools offer online degree programs.

Careers

Early Head Start (EHS) Lead Teacher
Early Head Start (EHS) Lead Teacher

An Early Head Start Lead Teacher has responsibility for planning, carrying out activities, maintaining the classroom environment, supervising children, parent/teacher conferences, and supervision of classroom volunteers; may also supervise and/or mentor teacher(s) and teacher assistant(s) at a site; assumes classroom responsibilities in addition to light supervisory, record keeping, and/or planning duties. —View Early Head Start Standards for more information http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/standards/pdf/PDF_IMs/IM2011/ACF-IM-HS...

Minimum Qualifications: Infant-Toddler CDA or Infant-Toddler Certificate/Degree that exceeds 120 education clock hours and 480 experience hours. 

Preferred Qualifications: Bachelor's Degree program in child development

ECEAP Health Advocate
ECEAP Health Advocate

An ECEAP Health Advocate demonstrates competency to implement program activities under the direction of a health professional. View ECEAP Standards for more information: ECEAP Performance Standards 

Minimum ​Qualifications: Employment as an ECEAP Family Support Aide or Health Aide in the same agency before July 1, 2014; OR the equivalent of 12 college quarter credits in family support, public health education, nursing or another field directly related to their job responsibilities.

ECEAP Health Consultant
ECEAP Health Consultant

A Health Consultant provides consultation regarding individual children’s health needs and health education programming for children and families. View ECEAP Standards for more information: ECEAP Performance Standards

Minimum ​Qualifications: Licensed in Washington State as a registered nurse (R.N.) or as a physician (M.D., N.D, D.O.); OR a bachelor’s or higher degree in public health, nursing, health education, health sciences, medicine or related field.

ECEAP Nutrition Consultant
ECEAP Nutrition Consultant

A Nutrition Consultant provides consultation on children’s special dietary requirements and nutrition education activities for children and families and approves menus. View ECEAP Standards for more information: ECEAP Performance Standards 

Minimum ​Qualifications: Registered Dietitian (R.D.) credentialed through the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association); or a Washington State certified nutritionist under RCW 18.138

Family Home Child Care Provider
Family Home Child Care Provider

Licensed family home child care (FHCC) providers offer care for children in the provider's home. Depending on their license, FHCC providers may care for up to 12 children through 12 years of age. 
 

Head Start Health and Nutrition Consultant / Staff
Head Start Health and Nutrition Consultant / Staff

Participates and coordinates the Head Start health and nutritional services program; coordinates assigned activities with other Head Start service areas and with outside agencies; and provides highly responsible and complex administrative support ensuring integration of the Health and Nutrition program with other service areas. 

Minimum ​Qualifications: * Nutrition services must be supported by staff or consultants who are registered dietitians or nutritionists. * Health services must be supported by staff or consultants with training and experience in public health, nursing, health education, maternal and child health, or health administration and are licensed/certified health professionals. 

Head Start Teacher 1
Head Start Teacher 1

A Head Start Teacher 1/Lead Teacher has responsibility for classroom operation including, planning, carrying out activities, maintaining the classroom environment, supervising children, parent/teacher conferences, and supervision of classroom volunteers. They may also supervise and/or mentor teacher(s) and teacher assistant(s) at a site or assume classroom responsibilities. View Head Start Standards for more information http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/standards/hspps

Minimum Qualifications: Bachelor’s Degree in ECE

Policy Roles: Licensing, Advocacy, Policy
Policy Roles: Licensing, Advocacy, Policy

A person in a Policy Role (Licensing, Advocacy, or Policy) supports the early care and education system focused at the community, regional or state level. They provide oversight, policy, system development, and state-wide program implementation. They often lead and/or participate in boards and committees that may establish policy and advocate on behalf of early learning professionals, children, and families.

Minimum Qualifications: Varies though typically an Associates or Bachelor's degree is required. A Master's degree or higher is required for some leadership or advocacy roles.

RBPD Content Specialist
RBPD Content Specialist

A Relationship Based Professional Development (RBPD) Specialist uses professional relationships as a primary method to support professional growth and development for adult learners and implements a reflective cycle of inquiry using an evidence-based adult learning process of goal setting, observation, assessment, action planning, reflection and feedback in specific to areas of expertise that support the early learning field. Example areas of specialty: special needs, mental health, health, PreK-3rd grade.

Minimum Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in area of focus,  RBPD/Adult Education experience

Preferred Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in ECE or Area of RBPD Specialty AND RBPD or Coaching Certificate

RBPD Generalist (Coach)
RBPD Generalist (Coach)

A Relationship Based Professional Development Generalist (RBPD) uses professional relationships as a primary method to support professional growth and development for adult learners and implements a reflective cycle of inquiry using an evidence-based adult learning process of goal setting, observation, assessment, action planning, reflection and feedback. Example roles include Early Achievers Coaches.

Minimum Qualifications:  Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, RBPD/Adult education experience

Preferred Qualifications:  Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education AND RBPD or Coaching Certificate

5
Masters Degree

Students who complete a graduate-level course of study at a university or college can earn a master’s degree. Admission to the master’s program usually depends upon fulfillment of prerequisites (such as a bachelor’s degree). The particular requirements for earning the master’s degree—including required courses, number of credit hours, and internships—depend on the program and on the area of specialization chosen by the student. In the field of early learning, the degree awarded is usually a master of education (M.Ed.), and typically takes two years for a full-time student. The options that students have for areas of specialization (or majors) differ from program to program; examples include early childhood special education and human development.

Careers

ECE College Professor, Faculty, Adjunct Instructor
ECE College Professor, Faculty, Adjunct Instructor

An Early Childhood Education College Professor, Faculty or Adjunct Instructor is employed by a higher education institution and use principles of adult learning to develop ECE courses according to the college and state common course requirements, designs a syllabus, delivers the course, either in person, online or in a hybrid format, gives meaningful feedback, and assess student learning.

Minimum Qualifications: A Master’s or Doctorate degree

ECEAP Mental Health Consultant
ECEAP Mental Health Consultant

An ECEAP Mental Health Consultants observe and/or screen children regarding behavior, emotional needs, and mental health; work collaboratively with parents to address their child’s mental health issues, consult with staff regarding classroom support and interventions for children, refer children and families to local mental health services, and consult with and train staff as needed. View ECEAP Standards for more information: ECEAP Performance Standards 

Minimum Qualifications: Licensed by the Washington State Department of Health as a mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychiatric nurse; or Approved by the Washington State Department of Health as an agency-affiliated or certified counselor, with a master’s degree in counseling, social work or related field; or Credentialed by the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction as a school counselor, social worker, or psychologist. 

Head Start Mental Health and Disabilities Consultant / Staff
Head Start Mental Health and Disabilities Consultant / Staff

Provides supplemental Mental Health and Disabilities services and related educational, technical, and consultative support to children, families and staff. Helps in the identification and accommodation of children with disabilities and behavioral needs. Works with teachers, parents, local education agencies, and community agencies in planning and program development, obtaining professional diagnoses and assessments of disabled individuals, and developing Individual Family Service Plans (IFSP); maintains records and writes reports.

Minimum Qualifications:  licensed or certified mental health professionals with experience and expertise in serving young children and their families and training and experience in securing and individualizing needed services for children with disabilities.

Preferred Qualifications: Master's Degree

P-3 Educator
P-3 Educator

A P-3 Educator works in a program that offers education to children preschoolers through 3rd grade. This is often a public or private school.

Minimum Qualifications:  Public School- Teacher Certification, either Elementary or P-3 and an ECE or ECE Special education Endorsement.

Licensed Private School (PreK - Kindergarten) – Bachelor in ECE.

Private School (Grades 1-3) – Teacher Certification.

Preferred Qualifications: Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education or P-3 and non-expiring teaching certificate