The benefits of studying early childhood education

When Sarsha Mennell started her Bachelor of Early Childhood Education in 2019 she thought she would go on to become a classroom teacher, but her studies led her to exciting and unexpected opportunities.

Curtin University graduate Sarsha reading a book to young children
Sarsha's online degree helped her find her calling in early childhood education research. 

A rewarding career

Working in early childhood education means you will play a key role in giving children the right start and foundation for learning that will set them up for later school years. Research shows that these years of learning are critical for future academic and social success. 

Before she started studying through Open Universities Australia, Sarsha worked for 20 years as an education assistant. This role gave her the flexibility she needed as a young mother, but it also allowed her to pursue her passion for early childhood education. 

“I’ve always been passionate about early childhood education, including early intervention and building the foundation skills children need to be successful in their future learning and for the rest of their lives,” says Sarsha. 

An in-demand career 

Early childhood educators are highly sought-after in Australia. The role placed 14th on the government’s top 20 in-demand careers list 2023 and the need for these skills is only predicted to grow. The National Skills Commission’s Employment Projections suggest that demand for early childhood teachers will grow by 21.6% from November 2021 to November 2026.

How much do early childhood educators make?

Childhood educators (those who work in carer roles) can earn between $60,000 and $70,000 per year in Australia. Early childhood teachers with a university qualification  can expect to earn $80,000 to $95,000 per year

A minimum wage increase was recently announced and will come into effect from 1 July 2024, with a further (and likely more significant) wage increase promised by the Federal Government for later this year or early in 2025.  

Key reasons to study early childhood education online  

Sarsha initially approached a local university that was running an online course, but soon found that it didn’t offer the level of flexibility she required to juggle her work commitments.

When she came to Open Universities Australia, she was thrilled with the extra flexibility our student advisors could help her access in Curtin University's Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Education). “They were fantastic from the get-go. It was so easy to register, find a course, and being online I could work full time and study full time.”

Sarsha had the ability to slowly build up how many units she took during each study period to test out how she was going to manage her studies alongside work.

“I just started with one unit until I felt confident enough, and then I moved on to two units before taking on three units in my final study period,” she says. “If I knew I had a lot happening at work or I had a practical coming up, I would just do the one unit so I didn't overload myself." 

Kindergarten children playing in a circle

It was sometimes tricky for Sarsha to take time off work so she could complete her required teaching placements. During year four of her study she gave up work to undertake the practicals she had missed. She quickly started a voluntary job at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child at Curtin University helping with their research.

“They have young children come in to play with digital technologies and robotic toys and learn basic coding. So, I went in as a volunteer to help out with a group of children who were coming in from Curtin’s Early Learning Centre,” explains Sarsha. 

Sarsha’s experience working with children, writing lesson plans and facilitating sessions brought invaluable skills to the Digital Child Research Centre and she was soon offered a research assistant role on a casual contract to fit around her studies.  

Career opportunities in early childhood education

When studying early childhood education you will gain the skills, knowledge and practical learning experience needed to teach young children (aged from birth to eight years) in early education settings. This includes early learning and childcare centres, kindergarten, pre-primary and junior primary classes.

As well as teaching, you can also pursue a career as an early childhood teaching director (developing the curriculum and policies at an early childhood centre), executive officer (collaborating with government and private organisations to improve early education services), or early education researcher.

What’s next for Sarsha?

Sarsha graduated in April 2024 and works as a practitioner research assistant at the Digital Child Research Centre two days a week. She plans to undertake some relief teaching on the other days once her registration comes through.  

She’s excited about the possibilities the future holds. “I always thought when I finished my degree that I would be going to work in a school and have my own classroom,” she says. “I didn't think studying for my degree would open up so many different doors for me, but it really has.” 

“I’m really enjoying working in research, exploring pedagogical principles that promote young children’s engagement in digital technologies through the lens of creativity and computational thinking. It is instrumental to their future.” 

Start a rewarding career you can be passionate about. Discover which early childhood education courses are available online with leading universities. 

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