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Who is the Early Child Care and Education Workforce?


By: Kyle Snow

Teachers, family child care providers, program directors, professional development specialists– all contribute to the education of our youngest children. But describing the individuals who make up the workforce serving children birth through age five has been remarkably challenging. 

First, the dedicated people who work with the youngest children are counted in a variety of occupational categories (such as child care worker, preschool teacher, or educational administrator) not necessarily exclusive to early childhood.  Many who care for the children of family, friends or neighbors don’t even appear on any public lists, making data gathering difficult.

Second, there has not been a lot of research describing the early childhood work force. The most recent large-scale nationally representative study of regulated early childhood programs was conducted more than 20 years ago.

That is why the recently released report, Number and Characteristics of Early Care and Education (ECE) Teachers and Caregivers: Initial Findings from the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) from the National Survey of Early Care and Education is especially important as it provides a real window into those professionals and programs providing early care and education to young children before kindergarten in centers and homes.

Some of the early findings confirm long-held views of the field (i.e., largely female, under-paid) while others may be a bit surprising (e.g., number of early educators with college degrees).

Here ’s some of what we learn from this report:

The size of the early childhood workforce

There are an estimated 1 million teachers and caregivers working in center-based programs and 3.8 million home-based teachers and caregivers.  About 41% of center-based teachers work in programs that are at least partly publicly-funded (e.g., Head Start, Early Head Start, public pre-k). Nearly all (97%) of home-based teachers and providers who are listed (included on federal, state or local listings of providers) are paid, while only about 25% of those not listed (individuals regularly caring for at least unrelated child but not listed on any public list of providers) are paid.