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As stated above, there are many careers related to working with children and families. Since many of you will look into teaching at some point in your early childhood career, let us take a closer look at how that might happen.
As you hone many of the interpersonal traits and dispositions needed, you will also be taking classes to complete the formal education necessary to meet program requirements. This link will take you to our department website where you are able to find more information specific to your early childhood studies here at College of the Desert, including your needed coursework and valuable academic information.
The field of Early Childhood Education has multiple pathways for those who are interested in directly or indirectly working with children and families. This section will explore the education needed to become an early childhood professional, career options, and continuation of education and professional development.
There are many entrance points along the career path in Early Childhood Education. The following pathways are to be used for those who are seeking employment in the State of California. Each state has different requirements and since this text originated in California for the students at College of the Canyons, we will speak specifically for our students and our state.
Child Development Associate Credential (CDA)
While the CDA has been around for 45 years, this is most recognized in states that do not have comprehensive higher education systems in Child Development or Early Childhood Education. Here is some key information taken directly from the CDA website:
- The CDA is based on a core set of competency standards, which guide early care professionals as they work toward becoming qualified teachers of young children.
- The Council works to ensure that the nationally transferable CDA is a credible and valid credential, recognized by the profession as a vital part of professional development.
- CDAs have knowledge of how to put the CDA Competency Standards into practice and understanding of why those standards help children move with success from one developmental stage to another. CDAs know how to nurture the emotional, physical, intellectual, and social development of children. 
For those who hold a CDA Credential, in California, it can be used in the following ways in California:
- Earn your California Child Development Associate Teacher Permit (see permit matrix option 2 under Associate Teacher)
- You can use them as transferable units to a higher education program of study to continue with the additional units you would need to work in a state-funded early education center
Associates Degree for Transfer (ADT) in Early Childhood Education and/or Certificates of Achievement
The California Community College System, to which College of the Desert belongs, offers several options in the Early Childhood course of study. You can earn an associate’s degree, which requires that you complete 24 specific units of CDE coursework, along with the general education requirements of an associate’s degree. The Associate’s Degree for Transfer you earn at College of the Desert is a transfer degree, which means that with your degree, you will be accepted at a California State University and you would enter as a junior (provided that you are continuing your education in either Child Development or a related field). The nearest CSU is Cal. State San Bernardino (CSUSB), Palm Desert Campus. CSUSB has transfer programs in Early Childhood Education and in Child and Adolescent Development. Learn more through our Transfer Center.
You also can earn one or more of the certificates of specialization that we currently offer for our students. Currently, those certificates include specializations in:
- Trauma Informed Care
- Inclusion Practices
- Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM)
- Socialization and the Global Community
- Supervision and Administration of Children’s Programs
It is helpful to make an appointment with a counselor to ensure that you are taking the right courses for general education as well as map out your course of study. It is also important that you speak with the Child Development and Education department faculty advisors to gain a better understanding of the specific eight courses you need to take to earn your degree or certificate and to follow the suggestions of taking them in order.
Several institutions of Higher Education offer Bachelor’s degrees for those pursuing a career in working with children. In-state, those institutions can be California State Universities (CSU’s), University of California (UC’s), or private institutions. One of the best ways to choose an institution is to find one that meets your financial needs and the needs you have as a student to be successful.
As indicated above, the same is true for Master’s Degrees. Again, it is best to find an institution that will work best for you and your career goals.
Fewer higher education institutions offer doctoral degrees in Child Development/Early Childhood Education. However, in the state of California, a group of higher education faculty is currently working with institutions to offer this degree. We know from this study - Transforming the Workforce 0 – 8 , that the more knowledge a practitioner has about how children grow and develop, the more prepared that practitioner is to provide high quality environments that are supportive and responsive to the needs of children and their families.
Child Development Permit
In response to the implementation of state-subsidized preschool, California developed a permit structure that details what the personnel at each level are authorized to do and the education and experience requirements for those levels. The current six‐level permit structure is based upon a career ladder approach with each level increasing in coursework preparation and commensurate authorization or responsibility. Please see the Appendix for the Permit Matrix. Most coursework is completed by candidates at community colleges. 
New Teacher Comments
When I started my first ECE class I thought I would get my degree, get a job, and be done. Now I know that was just the start. To be a good teacher is to be a lifelong learner.
Don’t be afraid to join organizations and go to workshops and conferences. I was petrified to go to my first one, but it was so much fun. I learned a lot that I could instantly take back to my classroom and met so many new and helpful people.
Find a more seasoned teacher or someone you feel comfortable with. You will have many questions and need a sounding board. Later, when you know more, you can ‘pay it forward’ with another new teacher.
Pause to Reflect
What will help you as you begin your journey into the world of Early Childhood Education? What advice might you have for others as they begin their own journey?