What Are the Highest Paying Early Childhood Education Jobs?

Key Takeaways:

  • Early childhood education jobs with a bachelor’s degree offer top salaries, emphasizing the importance of quality education for children.
  • Rapid development in early childhood education is driven by new insights in brain development, population growth, and diverse classrooms.
  • Increased demand for early childhood educators leads to a variety of high-paying job opportunities and improved educational programs.

What can you do with an early childhood education degree? The field of early childhood education is steadily evolving. The programs continue to become more available. As a result, more early childhood education professionals will be required. Early childhood education isn’t the most straightforward career to choose these days. It’s not as simple as earning your degree and then becoming a teacher. Early childhood education professionals are employed at:

  • child care centers
  • as nannies
  • as paraprofessionals in public and private schools
  • as teachers in public and private schools
  • in administrative positions
  • research jobs

What do these pay? And how does one navigate the many paths to any given position within early childhood education? This article seeks to answer some of these pressing questions.

Featured Programs

Ranking the Best Early Childhood Education Jobs for the Money by Degree Level

Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education Jobs

Head Start (Preschool) Teacher

Median Annual for this early childhood education salary: $29,780

image of early childhood education teacher with children and a globe

Preschool teachers are responsible for the care and education of children 2-4 years old. The common preschool teaching jobs are:

public schools

private institution

child care providers

Job growth projection for preschool teachers is 7%, which is faster than average. The education required may vary based on the organization you wish to work for and your state.

Teacher’s Aid

Median Annual for this early childhood education salary: $26,970

image of teacher's aid working with a young child

Teacher’s aids assist classroom teachers by helping with instruction and supervision. They work with children that need special attention in class. They also help prepare the classroom for various lessons and supervise children. They typically work in:


child care centers


other religious organizations.

Job growth for teacher’s aids is roughly 4% and most teacher’s aids need at least an associate’s degree.


Median Annual for this early childhood education salary: $23,240

image of a nanny reading to two children in a blanket fort

There are no state requirements to become a nanny. An early childhood education associates degree would put you at the top rung as far as qualifications go. Nannies are responsible for the care and education of children, normally within the context of a private home. The top 10% of wage earners among private child care providers is $33,100.

Jobs with an Early Childhood Education Degree at the Bachelor’s Level

Grant Writer

Median Annual for this early childhood education salary: $68,430

image of grant writing materials

Grant writers are always in demand. They are often pulled from the pool of people who have experience in the field/industry in which the organization operates. Nonprofit organizations, private schools, and even public charter schools often apply for grants to help supplement their funding. While job growth in the field is currently pretty stagnant, writers working in a grantmaking capacity for religious, civic, professional, and similar organizations make good money. A grant writing job isn’t necessarily something to count on finding, but it’s good to be aware of the possibility so you can take advantage of the opportunity when it arises if you’re interested.

Early Childhood Special Education Teacher

Median Annual for this early childhood education salary: $59,780

special education teacher working with a young asian child. They are playing with toy dinosaurs

It’s often possible to earn certificates in special education alongside your early childhood education degree. If you do this, then you can work with preschool and kindergarten-aged children who have special mental or physical needs. Offering special education services to younger students is more and more important as we learn to identify special needs earlier and earlier. The highest 10% of special education teachers earn $97,070 or more.

Kindergarten Teacher

Median Annual for this early childhood education salary: $55,470

a young kindergarten teacher standing in the doorway of her classroom

With a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and the proper certification, it’s possible to teach kindergarten either in a public/private school setting or at a preschool that includes kindergarten. The growth rate for kindergarten teachers is 3%, which is slower than average. The highest paid 10% of kindergarten teachers make $86,310 per year, while the lowest-paid 10% earn less than $37,780 per year.

Preschool or Child Care Center Director

Median Annual for this early childhood education salary: $47,940

A childcare center director in an orientation with young parents and infants.

It’s possible to become a preschool or child care center director with a bachelor’s degree but some employers also require directors to have a Child Development Associate credential. Directors manage the day-to-day operations of the child care center by overseeing staff, designing programs, and managing budgets. The top 10% of child care center directors earn $83,730.

Early Childhood Education Jobs at the Graduate Level–ECE masters or ECE PhD

Early Childhood Education Professor

Median Annual for this early childhood education salary: $78,470

Professor at a desk with computer teaching a class.

Job growth for postsecondary teachers (college professors) is growing at a rate of 11%, which is significantly above average. A master’s degree is sometimes enough to allow you to teach at the junior/community college level. However, to teach at a four-year university, especially in education, a doctorate is often required. The growth rate projected by the BLS estimates that 155,000 new jobs will be added to the market between 2018 and 2028.

School Principal

Median Annual for this early childhood education salary: $95,310

School principal meeting with mother and two young children.

School principals often have either a master’s in education administration, a master’s in education/education administration, and a doctorate in education administration. Typically school principals also need at least five years of teaching experience. Often more. And the vice principal is often a stepping stone to the principal position. The BLS puts the job growth rate for school principals at 4%, which is average.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

College administrator in front of college building.

These jobs typically require a master’s or doctorate degree in education or education administration. Postsecondary education administrators work for public and private colleges and universities; overseeing student services, academics, and research. The sector is projected by the BLS to have a 7% job growth rate which is faster than average, adding 13,500 jobs to the pool between 2018 and 2028.

Frequently Asked Questions About Early Childhood Education Jobs

How can I get an early childhood education degree for an affordable price?

The first step toward an affordable degree is to earn an early childhood education associates degree. This can be pretty easily done while working part-time. Community colleges are, for the most part, incredibly affordable. Generally, they cost a fraction of what 4-year universities cost, even public 4-year universities. If you can live at home while earning your associate’s degree the cost will be even lower. If living at home isn’t an option for you, then you can use your financial aid to help pay for an apartment and even food. The cost is often still much lower than attending a 4-year university while paying for room and board. Online associate’s degrees can make it even easier to maintain a part-time job while attending college full-time.

Once your associate’s degree is completed, as you can see above, there are many opportunities to work in early childhood education. The cheapest way to continue your degree would be to work a part-time or even full-time job with a public or private school or child care center that offers professional development funds and scholarships to employees. You can then complete your bachelor’s by attending an in-state college or university online, either part-time or full-time. There are many scholarships out there for educators that offer significant funds that would easily be enough to cover the bulk of your cost of attendance. For more information about scholarships for early childhood education, check out our article spotlighting some of the best scholarships available.

This is not the easiest way to earn a degree. It requires you to be much more self-sufficient than many college students. But if you do this, then your reward will be greatly reduced student debt, not to mention already having teaching experience under your belt when you graduate.

What is the best way to advance my early childhood education career?

In education, it’s always a mixture of experience and continuing education. The more certifications you can get, the more flexible you become as a teacher. Having an early childhood education degree is great. Engaging in both lateral and vertical continuing education is a great way to expand your opportunities.

Lateral continuing education means pursuing certifications and educational opportunities that may still be at the undergraduate level. For instance, adding an ESL certification, special education training, and additional training in child development can expand your opportunities. In some cases, you may even find it advantageous to add a second bachelor’s degree in another area of education or management to your repertoire.

Vertical continuing education involves pursuing a master’s degree, graduate certificate, or doctorate. The area of study you choose should align with your career goals. If you wish to move into administration, then you should pursue graduate work in administration. If you wish to continue teaching at the early childhood education level, then a master’s degree in ECE will open doors to the best jobs in the field. If you wish to teach ECE at the college level and do research in the field, then a master’s and doctorate in early childhood education is the way to go.

What can you do with an early childhood education degree? Will I be able to find a good job in the field after I graduate?

Good news! Early childhood education is one of the only major areas of education that has tons of room to expand. Currently, most people can’t afford the pre-K programs out there. However, there is a large political movement to make pre-K for children ages 2-4 universally available in the same way K-12 is universally available. Some major cities (New York City and Philadelphia, for instance) have begun offering universal pre-K. 39 states offer some form of publicly subsidized pre-K currently but it’s not necessarily universally available to all families. So there’s lots of room to grow in early childhood education. Expanding pre-K effectively won’t be possible, however, without enough teachers to fill the positions. So not only is early childhood education a good career choice right now, it’s also important.

What features should I look for in an early childhood education degree?

First, make sure your chosen college or university is regionally accredited. This is normally not a problem with public universities and colleges, but it’s not guaranteed with private schools marketing themselves as universities and colleges.

If you can, choose a program that allows you to choose a minor or earn a certificate in an area like child development. Not only will this help you teach better, but it will open up additional doors in both private and public schools and child care centers. It will be especially helpful if one of your career goals is to manage a child care center.

Certification/licensure is required to teach in public schools in each state. So if this is a career goal for you, then it can be beneficial to choose a program that leads to state licensure. It’s important to note that licensure requirements are different from state to state. Colleges and universities design their programs to meet the licensure requirements in their home state. So the easiest way to ensure an easy licensure process is to attend a school in the state in which you intend to teach.

Choosing a program that offers a range of certificates in different education specialties like special education and English as a second language will allow you to add these certificates to your resume, often for just a few more credits on top of the early childhood education degree. This will prepare you to serve a variety of students in a wide range of professional contexts. These sorts of certificates can open many doors and give you an edge of teachers who don’t have them.

Inquire about your prospective school’s internship and student teaching programs. Once you know the areas of teaching you are most interested in, it’s important to make sure the school you choose has connections to the kinds of places in which you want to teach. This way, your student teaching period gives you experience in the specific areas of education you’re interested in.

You can also see if your school has student organizations that are tied into local or even national early childhood education institutions. Often, professional associations have student chapters that will help you with networking, job hunting, student teaching placements, and mentorships, and some of them even provide scholarships.

CVO Staff

Related Resources:

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics