Education is a field that attracts people who are passionate about changing lives. But that selfless attitude doesn’t mean educators don’t think about their careers at all — and increasingly, educators seeking to advance their careers are working towards a master’s degree in early childhood education (ECE) because of the career paths the program offers.

In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) sees a faster-than-average 10 percent job-growth rate in the coming decade for ECE careers, which speaks to both the range of careers an ECE degree (from an accredited school such as Walden University) can unlock as well as the ongoing demand for new educators and other workers as an older generation of dedicated professionals retires.

Paying it forward

Many of the educators who have made the decision to pursue an ECE degree and career did so as a direct result of their early career experiences. Kristen Johnson, director of the Goddard School, a private preschool and educational daycare, chose to pursue an ECE degree shortly after launching her teaching career. “I began my career teaching at high school, and quickly noticed a significant gap in my students’ approaches toward learning in terms of attention, communication, curiosity and persistence,” she says. “This encouraged me to shift my focus towards helping young children establish a foundational love of learning to aid in their future success throughout school and life.”

Other education professionals seek to “pay it forward” by earning an ECE degree. Monique L. Dawkins, an instructor at United People Organization, earned her degree at Walden University because of her own experience with teachers. “There have been several teachers and mentors that have inspired and motivated me to do my best and persevere through my academic career,” she says. “I admire the fact that, I, as an educator, have the ability to influence the positive outcome of a child and their family’s life, while fulfilling Walden’s mission of serving as a social change agent in the lives of those who are most vulnerable.”

One degree, many paths

One of the great advantages of an ECE degree is the wide range of career paths that can be pursued. “Earning a master’s degree in early childhood has allowed me to explore the vast career opportunities in the field,” Dawkins says.

For Johnson, the reason for this is obvious. “Educated professionals are better equipped to create learning environments and activities for young children that are developmentally appropriate and proven to positively impact learning success,” she points out.

An ECE degree can lead to any number of careers both inside and outside the classroom, including child and family advocacy, public policy, preschool or day care center positions and home-based childcare careers — even education-adjacent careers in higher education, sales, research and administration.

Pursuing passion

As with all education careers, the decision to pursue a master’s in ECE begins with a passion working with children.

“Always remember your passion,” Advises Dawkins. “Earning a degree in early childhood education will afford you the opportunity to expand your current level of expertise to create standards and early learning environments which are conducive and supportive of young children and their optimal development.”

One thing is certain: Early childhood education is a career that opens doors for educators — and their students.