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, training and technical assistance (T/TA) providers, parents, volunteers, consultants, and potential employees.
Aspects of Individual Career Development
Careers in Early Childhood
Learn about the many career choices in the ECE field.
- What Careers Are Available in Special Education, Early Intervention, and the Related Services?
- Choosing a Career in the Field of Early Childhood
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.
- California Early Childhood Educator Career Ladder Project: Final Report November 2011 [PDF, 1MB]
- The Connecticut Charts-a-Course Career Ladder
- Louisiana Pathways Child Care Career Development System
- The Nevada Registry: Career Ladder Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- New York: Career Paths in Early Childhood Education
- Pennsylvania Keys to Quality Early Learning Career Lattice
- Texas Early Childhood Career Lattice
- Vermont: Early Childhood Career Ladder
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 Job Center
Explore openings in Head Start programs on the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) Job Center.
Teachers and Institutions
These resources are appropriate for post-secondary education teachers and institutions.
National Centers:Office of Head Start
Last Updated: January 4, 2021