Stanly Community College (SCC) is looking to grow the teacher pipeline through its Early Childhood Education (ECE) Program, but stereotypes about the kind of work and pay available after graduation has made it harder to recruit new talent.
Those who earn their Associates in Applied Science in Early Childhood Education can work in prekindergarten, Head Start facilities, preschools, childcare, childcare resource and referral agencies, but those who continue to higher levels of education have a wider choice of career opportunities and higher wages.
"We want people to know, it's not just childcare," said Cyndie Osborne, SCC's ECE program head, instructor and advisor. "Most students today want to make sure they're going to go to college to earn a living wage, so they leave behind their dreams of working with young children because they think it is not possible. That is unequivocally not true." The average salary range for jobs in early childhood education depends on education level, and can range from $17,490 – $54,780, according to Child Care Services Association, a national advocacy organization to promote affordable, quality child care.
Osborne said there are well-paying and rewarding jobs for graduates with degrees in Early Childhood Education beyond an Associate's degree, and the evidence is right on the SCC campus. Christy Hopkins, an ECE instructor, was a Family Childcare Home Provider while earning her AAS in ECE, then after her Bachelor's degree worked in a local Smart Start Partnership agency, and moved to a being a college level instructor after her Master's Degree in the field. Students with a Master's degree in the field could work at a college or university as an instructor like Hopkins. Hopkins said she primarily taught seated classes at the college, but that has shifted in recent years, along with her job duties. "I have been teaching for many years, and I enjoy working with students both online and here on campus," she said. "Technology has advanced, so I now teach online almost all the time. But I still connect with those students virtually through meetings and coaching sessions."
Osborne is another example. After receiving her bachelor's degree, her first job was a Training and Curriculum Specialist for the Air Force. "It is possible to have a rewarding career in Early Childhood Education and earn a living wage," Osborne said. "Our community's children need the very best and brightest advocates, and we can't afford to lose them because of a misconception about our industry. Students can get help paying for their education if they meet eligibility requirements."
Students seeking degrees and certificates in ECE and who work in licensed childcare facilities earning less than $18.00 per hour can access the TEACH (Teacher Education And Compensation Helps) Scholarship to help offset the costs of going to college. There are a couple of options for the TEACH Scholarship for those who qualify: 1) sponsorship by their childcare facility are usually required to fulfill a contract with their employer in exchange for the sponsorship, 2) a Working Scholars program, a stipend-based scholarship, is for students whose employer will not sponsor them on a comprehensive scholarship.
SCC offers different pathways for those looking to get into or further their career in early childhood education, including three different associate degrees, two of which transfer to all public universities in the UNC System that offer Birth-Kindergarten Licensure and non-license Bachelor degrees, a diploma, and five various certificates. Each of these tracts emphasizes different areas of the ECE industry. SCC offers more flexible class schedules to accommodate prospective students, including a fully online ECE program.
To learn more about the Early Childhood Education programs at Stanly Community College, visit https://catalog.stanly.edu/current/programs/early-childhood.html/.