The best foundation for certification in early childhood education is a bachelor's degree in the field, but certification is also available without a degree. The Child Development Associate and Certified Childcare Professional credentials require a high school diploma or equivalent, experience working with young children and related post-secondary education.
The child development associate credential requires more than 120 hours of college-level coursework and a minimum of 480 hours working with young children. The certified childcare professional credential, also nationally recognized, requires 720 hours of child care experience in a licensed center-based program for children age birth to six years and 180 hours of training in nine areas of professional ability. This credential also requires observation assessments and parent evaluations, as well as writing samples and a plan for continuing education.
Early childhood education programs are available at community colleges, vocational schools and through online programs. Educational requirements for providers of early childhood education vary by state. It is wise to check these requirements prior to registering for a training or degree program. Information about where to take the required training is also often available through the state's public education department.
A bachelor's degree and completion of a state certification examination is required for pre-school work in public schools. Criminal background checks are also standard procedure for all educators.