Individual Career Development

Career development reflects an individual’s vision, goals, motivation, and approaches to learning. It addresses the possibility of an overall career path as opposed to focusing only on the current job.

Many different career choices are available to support the field of early childhood education (ECE) and development. With the required training and education, one can work in a variety of settings. These may include Head Start and child care programs; public schools; religious organizations; government agencies; nonprofit organizations; medical and health-related services; and social service agencies. One could work directly with children and families; offer supervision and staff training; provide support and training to parents and other caregivers; or deliver community outreach and education about the needs of children.

Career development provides a chance to explore potential career goals and plan steps to achieve them. The employer benefits as professional development may allow for the formal development of an employee's position within the organization. The Office of Head Start requires a minimum of 15 clock hours of professional development per year. Optimally, these experiences support individual professional development plans and career goals.

A career development plan defines the training, qualifications, and credentials that staff must demonstrate at various levels of professional responsibility. It outlines a path for professional advancement and achievement from entry level to the highest position in the field. Designing a Career Development and Management System for Head Start offers some of the essential elements of such a plan. Many states have developed career ladders that can be useful in planning career development for early childhood professionals.

The individual career development resources below may be useful to program managers, directors, supervisors, staff, T/TA providers, parents, volunteers, consultants, and potential employees.

Aspects of Individual Career Development

Your Career Path

Before you consider an ECE career, you may want to find out if it is the right choice for you. Take this survey and find out!

Career Ladders in Early Childhood

Below are examples of the ECE career ladders and lattices. They outline a pathway for professional advancement and achievement from a classroom aide, assistant teacher, and beginning provider through multisite program director.

The first document, Quick Look: States that offer Multiple Credential is developed by the Office of Childcare’s Technical Assistance Center. It provides an overview of credentials and aligned professional development systems (PDS), and examples of States that offer multiple credentials.

Quick Look: States that Offer Multiple Credentials (CO, IL,NH,CS,WI, etc.) [PDF, 135KB]

State Examples:

Distance Learning

Virtual learning—also called online learning, e-learning, or distance learning—is becoming a common way to pursue post-secondary education. It provides flexibility in taking classes for working professionals as it is available 24/7! Learners can access coursework from the convenience of their home, and no travel is required. However, not everyone is a candidate for virtual learning options. Find out if it's right for you.

Post-Secondary Education

Learn about community colleges and universities and how their options fit into your college plans. Find community colleges that are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

ECLKC Career Center

Explore job openings in Head Start on the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) Career Center.

Personal Stories

Read personal stories of successes and challenges in realizing dreams and achieving career goals.

Office of Head Start Leadership Institute

Building on the success of the previous Office of Head Start (OHS) Leadership Institutes in 2011 and 2013, the 2017 Leadership Institute will take place at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, IL on April 6 and 7, 2017. The two-day Institute will focus primarily on the new Head Start Program Performance Standards. The sessions will target program leadership's role in understanding and implementing them with their staff, governing body, and parents.

Last Reviewed: March 2017

Last Updated: March 1, 2017