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Academic Programs

Quality early childhood education programs (birth through age eight) can have both short- and long-term positive effects on young children and their families. A career in early childhood education presents an opportunity and responsibility to make a difference in how we care for our nation's children.

The Early Childhood Education program is designed to prepare people to work with young children and parents in a variety of settings. Classes help adults to increase their understanding of the physical, intellectual, emotional and social development of children and families, and to apply developmentally appropriate guidance and curriculum methods to meet the individual and group needs of children and their families.

Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education

Pierce College offers an associate degree program in Early Childhood Education which prepares individuals to teach young children in a variety of settings, including:

  • Head Start
  • The Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP)
  • Cooperative nursery schools
  • Child care
  • Private nursery schools

Students fulfill practicum experiences in the college laboratory school on the Fort Steilacoom campus and in community child-care centers and special education and Head Start/ECEAP classrooms.

To transfer to a four-year college or university, students may choose to complete an A.A.S. (Associate of Arts and Sciences) with electives in ECE, or complete both the ECE and A.A.S. degrees. Graduates can transfer into a wide variety of disciplines, including:

  • K-3 elementary education
  • Special education
  • Child psychology
  • Social services
  • Family studies

State Initial Early Childhood Education Certificate

The Initial Certificate may be a point of entry or a continuation of professional development from the Level 1 Core Competencies for Early Care and Education Professionals. This 12 credit course package teaches to and assesses for the competencies comparable to the Child Development Associate (CDA). Unlike the CDA, there is no assessment fee or renewal requirement; rather the Initial Certificate is the first "stackable certificate" providing a foundation for the ECE State Credential and Associate degree. After completion, students are on Step 5 of the state Career Lattice.

The program is designed to prepare students to work with young children and parents in a variety of settings. Classes help adults increase their understanding of the physical, intellectual, emotional and social development of children and to apply developmentally appropriate guidance and curriculum methods to meet the individual and group needs of children and their families.

State Short Early Childhood Education Certificate of Specialization: Infants and Toddlers

The Short Certificate builds on the Initial Certificate as the second "stackable certificate". At this point developing professionals have 5 choices: ECE General, Infant-Toddler Care, School-Age Care, Family Child Care, and ECE Administration. All Short Certificates provide foundation for the ECE Credential and Associate degree and put students on Step 6 of the state Career Lattice upon completion.

Infant-Toddler Specialists work with young children from birth to age 3 in a variety of early care and education programs. It is the responsibility of the Infant-Toddler Specialist to both nurture and provide developmentally appropriate education in safe, supportive environments. The primary role of the specialist is to build relationships with the child and the child's family members. The specialist recognizes and honors the culture and needs of the families in all aspects of the program.

State Short Early Childhood Education Certificate of Specialization: School-Age Care

The Short Certificate builds on the Initial Certificate as the second "stackable certificate". At this point, developing professionals have 5 choices: ECE General, Infant-Toddler Care, School-Age Care, Family Child Care, and ECE Administration. All Short Certificates provide foundation for the ECE Credential and Associate degree and put students on Step 6 of the state Career Lattice upon completion.

Family home providers serve as the business manager and children's caregiver in a home based business. With or without assistants most providers care for a mixed age range from infants to age 12 on a daily basis; other providers serve a limited age group. In managing the home-based business the provider maintains all records and manages the budget. In the caregiver role, the provider plans and carries out activities that meet the needs and interests of the children. It is crucial that the caregiver maintains a safe, clean and healthy environment and provides nutritious meals and snacks. Developing partnerships with families is key.

State Short Early Childhood Education Certificate of Specialization: Family Child Care

The Short Certificate builds on the Initial Certificate as the second "stackable certificate". At this point developing professionals have 5 choices: ECE General, Infant-Toddler Care, School-Age Care, Family Child Care, and ECE Administration. All Short Certificates provide foundation for the ECE Credential and Associate degree and put students on Step 6 of the state Career Lattice upon completion.

Family home providers serve as the business manager and children's caregiver in a home-based business. With or without assistants most providers care for a mixed age range from infants to age 12 on a daily basis; other providers serve a limited age group. In managing the home-based business the provider maintains all records and manages the budget. In the caregiver role, the provider plans and carries out activities that meet the needs and interests of the children. It is crucial that the caregiver maintains a safe, clean and healthy environment and provides nutritious meals and snacks. Developing partnerships with families is key.

State Short Early Childhood Education Certificate of Specialization: Administration

The Short Certificate builds on the Initial Certificate as the second "stackable certificate". At this point developing professionals have 5 choices: ECE General, Infant-Toddler Care, School-Age Care, Family Child Care, and ECE Administration. All Short Certificates provide foundation for the ECE Credential and Associate degree and put students on Step 6 of the state Career Lattice upon completion.

Administrators of Early Learning programs in general are responsible for the overall management of the program's facility and operation; ensuring the program follows minimum licensing requirements, accreditation standards, or other formal / informal standards. The role of administrator or director requires knowledge and skills both in early childhood education/ development and in business practices. The job includes all aspects of program and people management and leadership in order to bring the best to children, families, staff members and the larger community.

Day, evening and some Saturday classes are available; students may attend full- or part-time. Students can begin the ECE program in any quarter.

See the college catalog for program requirements or contact the ECE office for more information.

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