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What’s the Difference Between Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education?

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When thinking about early childhood education vs elementary education, one can deduce by the names that  the two disciplines must have lots of crossover, and they do. However, the varied fields focus on specific age groups, which at those particular stages in development are pretty significant. There are many ways to prepare for careers in the field of education including specific degree programs in each of these fields. While you can easily get an associates degree in early childhood education, and enter the field, there is more room for higher pay and career advancement the further you go with your education. A bachelor’s degree in early childhood education will put you in a good position as far as career potential goes. The same is true for the field of Elementary Education. We will get into the nuances in a minute. In the meantime, there are many bachelors degree programs in Elementary Education that can lead you to a certification and a soluble income. 

What is Early Childhood Education?

Early Childhood education is a loose way of talking about any education that is offered for young children between the ages of birth and kindergarten. After kindergarten begins we move into what is known as elementary education. Early childhood education in the United States has taken on many twists and turns as far as legislation is concerned. In the United States an early childhood education initiation went forward in 1965, which was the founding of Head Start Programming. This has been fought in recent years, but remains as an asset in early childhood education for families who cannot otherwise afford developmentally appropriate programming for their pre-school aged children. This programming is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. Many families, however, choose to send their children to early education programs that are privately funded, some of which exist in churches and other houses of faith, or in daycare centers throughout the country. Some have a focus, be it faith based, or centered on theory of practice, like Montessouri, or related to play based learning. 

As aforementioned, there have been debates about maintaining Head Start programming or moving to a Universal Pre-K model that is state funded. Georgia was the first state in the union to employ Universal Pre-K. There have been many local initiatives to ensure young people are receiving nurturing and regulated educational programming, including by programs like the Early Education for All program out of Massachusetts. The early childhood education job description generally includes primarily offering safe and nurturing care for children ages birth to five and implementing programming that is developmentally appropriate. There are many regulations that are federal and state based that early childhood educators are expected to follow. So, whether you are teaching children to tie their shoelaces, singing the ABCs, or going on walks to the park, you are trained in some capacity to support the development of very young children. There are a few key concepts that are delivered in early childhood education degree program, which include: 

  • Offering a curriculum that is well rounded, flexible, and age appropriate
  • Addressing, nutrition, child health, and family needs
  • High quality assessment skills
  • Excellent communication skills that can be employed when interacting with parents and family members

What is Elementary Education?

Certainly, there is some crossover when looking at Elementary Education vs Early Childhood Education. Elementary Educators are generally working within an elementary school context, which enables them to collaborate more with other teachers, and often they are working with a set curriculum that they can adapt to their specific classroom of students. The elementary education job description includes creating a safe and nurturing environment for young people to learn age appropriate material and thrive. They are generally responsible for preparing complex lesson plans that are adaptable and multi-level. They are also responsible for preparing homework assignments, providing assessments that can detect learning differences among their students, documenting progress, and reading the needs of their students. Oftentimes, elementary educators are required to administer standardized tests unlike early childhood educators. 

Early Childhood Education vs Elementary Education Salary
As far as salary is concerned, an Elementary Education Salary is higher with more room for growth. You have to understand that there is also more education required, including a certification, for an Elementary Educator then there is for an Early Childhood Educator who does not need more than an associates degree to get started. A mid career elementary educator can make as much as $69 per year, whereas an early childhood educator will generally not get past $42.