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We’re not going to sugarcoat the facts: a career in childhood education is challenging and competitive, and sometimes you’ll wonder why you ever decided to embark on this path in the first place.

Ultimately, however, it’s one of the most rewarding careers out there. There’s nothing like having a proper role in a child’s intellectual, emotional, and physical development. Not only that, children will bring a smile to your face on a daily basis, they always keep you on your toes, and you’ll find that you develop as a person just as they do!

Becoming a childhood educator is not straightforward, however. You’ll need the necessary education, experience and drive to make a career in this field a success over the long-haul. Interested in making a real and lasting difference in children’s lives? The following is what you need to consider to start your career.

Obtain relevant qualifications

If you want to work in childhood education, you’re going to need the relevant qualifications. This not only gives you the knowledge base you need before starting your first job, but it’s essentially a compulsory requirement in the industry. Almost 90% of childhood educators have, at the very least, a diploma on their CVs.

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Many also have undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications. Finding the right course can be difficult, especially considering the wide range of ‘cash cow’ degrees available. While we don’t want to push you towards an individual institution, we do recommend looking at some of the following:

Make sure your course is recognized

Different countries have different accreditations and a number of courses offered in the field.

Look for decent work placements

The value of childhood education courses comes both from the teaching you receive and the hands-on experience you’ll get. Look for courses that go beyond the classroom and offer supervised work placement opportunities.

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This offers the valuable opportunity to work in a registered care facility under the supervision of a professional. Iron out your mistakes before you’re qualified and you’ll have a far easier time once you’re a fully-fledged professional.

Affiliations to other organizations

Childhood Education programmes should ideally have close affiliations with professional bodies and other universities or colleges. This opens up your options once you’ve completed your qualification, whether you want to get a job straight away or go on to further study.

Register with the relevant authorities

Australia has an excellent programme to ensure early childhood teachers go through the necessary vetting process. This is great for the parents as it gives them the peace of mind they deserve, but it does mean that any potential childhood educators need to go through some hurdles before they can work in the industry.

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Be aware of what you’re getting into

In addition to going through the official requirements, you also need to be aware of what you’re getting into before making the plunge. We’ve already given it a brief mention, but it’s worth going in-depth on the fact that being a childhood educator is a very challenging profession.

The salary

While childhood education pays relatively well, all things considered, but it’s not a job that’s going to make you rich. The median salary is around $24 per hour, but this will vary slightly depending on your location.

Gender split

Childhood education is dominated by women, with only 1.7% of the industry being made up of men.

Hours worked

This is a tricky one. The ‘official’ hours worked hover around the average of 37.5 hours per week, but the actual time you’ll spend will be a little bit higher than that. Think learning new relevant skills, reading up on the latest developments in the industry, and preparing work and activities for the children.

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The expectations

The role of a childhood educator is rewarding due to the impact you can have on young minds. This, however, brings a hefty dose of responsibility. You’ll be expected to implement advanced programmes to develop the mental, physical, and social development of the children you work with. You’ll also have to supervise them at all times, including helping them with their meals, using the toilet, and ensuring their environment is kept clean, safe, and fun.

Finally, the most challenging aspect isn’t necessarily the child, but the parents. Understandably, most parents are heavily invested in their children and want the best for them. For the childhood educator, this often means being second-guessed, interrogated, and sometimes being put under unfair pressure. While most parents are on your side, there will be the odd one that will give you a real headache.

This guest article has been provided by Sofia Lockhart.

Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Jan Vašek.