If you truly love children and prosper at the thought of working with them to develop their self worth and full potential, then a career in the child care industry may just be what you're looking for. The early-childhood educators' sector offers a diverse range of careers including child care assistant in a crèche, three and four year-old kindergarten teacher or assistant and primary school teacher.
Career preparation may begin as early as Year 11 with some students selecting alternative curriculum subjects specialising in either child care, or the broader aspects of child care covered by a course in community development.
Depending on the school's curriculum students select subjects that are generally delivered by outside institutions but co-ordinated by their school. These subjects form part of a Vocational Education Training (VET). VET programs allow students to study towards a TAFE course while they are still at secondary school. It is equivalent to parts 1 and 2 of year 11 subjects and parts 3 and 4 of year 12 subjects.
For example, Year 11 Kilbreda College student Tara Jones is studying Community Development, which involves one day a week attendance at a local crèche where she is paid as a casual worker. Assessment is wholly on the job with her supervisor reporting on her pragmatic abilities. Upon completion of her course Tara will graduate with a Certificate III in Community Services (Children's Services) and can either continue studying for a Diploma of Community Development or obtain work as an assistant in a child care centre.
Students enrolled in a Diploma of Child Care need to complete four one-month placements at various child care centres. The successful completion of a Diploma in Child Care enables graduates to work as a Director of long-daycare centre or room co-ordinator.
Diploma students can then choose to continue onto the Advanced Diploma in Children's Services, which involves studying more specialised modules and selected placements.
The alternative to a diploma is for students to enter into the workforce through the flexible facility of a traineeship, which involves on the job training. Traineeships are still conducted through TAFE and take two years to complete with trainees attending TAFE one day a fortnight and studying off-campus while submitting assignments.
Child care is an enormously rewarding career according to Child Care Director Sue Graham. Ms Graham manages Longbeach Place, an occasional care centre which also conducts three-year old kinder groups. She has been involved in the industry for six years.
Ms Graham said "society underestimates the worth of child care workers and unfortunately the remuneration is low, but the satisfaction of helping children outweighs the low rates of pay".
Students hoping to teach at either four year-old kindergarten or primary school level will need to obtain a bachelor degree, with many universities and institutions specialising by offering a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education.
For example, the University of Melbourne offers a Bachelor of Early Childhood Development enabling graduates to teach up to grade two and grade five in maths. Some students may find they want to teach to grade six across the general curriculum and would therefore need a Bachelor of Primary Teaching.
There are a number of different courses available at various institutions throughout Australia and New Zealand, however due to the breadth and diversity of the industry, students are encouraged to speak to career advisers in order to tailor their specific interests into the right stream.
Universities and other academic institutions hold their open days around August depending on the state and or country.
Prospective students are strongly encouraged to contact their school career adviser and attend a variety of open days in a variety of streams. They are also encouraged to think more broadly and then specialise as they progress through their course. This provides them with the most opportunity should they decide that one aspect of their course does not really interest them.
Source: ASG's Scholastic Newsletter, Careers - Early Childhood Education, pg15: issue 4/2005