Most parents would consider early childhood educators to play an important role in the development of their children before they reach school age. Yet, many would be surprised to learn that early childhood education salaries do not match up to the level importance we place on this profession.
While the costs of daycare are skyrocketing, child care workers in both private and public facilities tend to make comparatively lower salaries than other professions – even those who do not involve working with our future generations. In a previous blog post, we took a look at other service-related professions that earn more than ECEs that may surprise you. This list includes garbage collectors, hairdressers and taxi drivers.
These low wages mean that many early years educators are leaving the field in search of more lucrative careers. Non-competitive salaries offered by child care employers also make it incredibly difficult to recruit new talent and sustain high quality preschool programs delivered by qualified staff. Increasingly, child care workers are being required to have 4-year degrees, but are faced with some of the lowest earning prospects in the country upon graduation. The history of early childhood education explains many of the influences that have shaped the field of early childhood education into what it is today.
Current Early Childhood Education Salaries
According to the President’s Council of Economic Advisors’ 2015 report, The Economics of Early Childhood Investments, the average U.S. child care worker makes an annual salary of just $21,710. In all 50 states, preschool teachers make substantially lower salaries than kindergarten teachers. In fact, in at least 13 states, preschool educators’ salaries would double if they chose to teach kindergarten instead.
In Canada, the highest hourly wages for early childhood educators are earned in Calgary, Alberta at about $19.00 per hour while the lowest wages are earned in Prince Edward Island at just $12.50 per hour. That leaves quite a range of early childhood education salaries: a full-time child care worker can expect to make anywhere from $25,000 – $40,000.
With low salaries like these, it is difficult for the role of preschool teacher to be competitive with other career choices for prospective preschool teachers, such as elementary education.
Why We Should Rethink Early Childhood Education Salaries
All parents want the best for their children, and society overall does appear to care about educational standards, preschool quality and teacher qualifications. Still, the importance of early childhood educators is often overlooked and preschool education faces challenges due to a lack of investment and lack of priority.
Children who attend great child care programs are more likely to perform well in school, find a job and succeed in their career compared to those who do not. Though studies show that when children attend high-quality early education programs they build a solid foundation for their future, we have not yet used this data to guide further investment in appropriate salaries for educators.
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