Frequently Asked Questions About Working with Children

I think I'd like teaching children. How do I know it's the right choice for me?

Working with children is exciting, rewarding and provides an opportunity to really make a difference in the lives of young people. It can also be challenging. Working with children requires a variety of personal attributes and skills, or the ability to develop them over time.

Some examples of skills are:

  • Knowledge of child development
  • An understanding of the important role of families
  • Professional conduct and good communication skills
  • The ability to plan and create a good learning environment
  • Understanding and respect for cultural difference

Some examples of personality attributes are:

  • Caring
  • Flexible
  • Respectful
  • Patient
  • Enthusiastic
  • Dependable

What kind of job could I get?

The two primary options for teaching children are in Early Care & Education and in Elementary & Secondary Education. Early Care & Education includes child care and development programs for children aged 0-5 years and child care programs for school-age children. For example, you could be a teacher, or a program director in a center-based child development program or you might operate a home-based family child care program.

Elementary & Secondary Education involves becoming a teacher in an elementary, middle or high school, teaching a variety of subjects to a single group of students or teaching specialized subject matter to several different groups of students. In choosing between the two options, it may be helpful to ask yourself what age children you want to teach and what sort of teaching environment you might prefer.

What sort of education do I need?

In the field of Early Care & Education, the requirements for coursework range from a minimum of CPR training to an advanced degree with specialized coursework in Early Childhood Education/Child Development. The requirements depend on the kind of child development setting you choose and the level of position within that setting. Elementary Education requires a Bachelor's Degree plus a fifth year of teacher training. Secondary Education (middle or high school) requires a Bachelor's Degree with a major in a specific subject plus a fifth year of teacher training.

I've heard I may need a license, credential, permit or certificate, what are these?

There are several professional designations for different settings and the terms can be confusing.
A credential is required to teach in public elementary, middle or high schools in California.

A "permit" is required to work in child development programs that receive state funding and is an advantage to anyone who wants to work in center-based child development programs or receive state funding and demonstrate professional growth in the field.

A certificate is awarded by an educational institution (such as the Child Development Department at City College of San Francisco) for completing a designated number of units in Early Childhood Education/Child Development. A certificate is not required but may be looked on favorably by employers because coursework and professional development are documented.

A license is for child care facilities, including both home-based and center-based programs. It is important to know that it is the facility that is licensed, not individuals that own or work in the facility. Community Care Licensing is the agency responsible for issuing licenses in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. They can be reached at (650) 266-8843. Please refer to the Early Care & Education or Elementary & Secondary Education FAQ sheets for further explanation.

Will I be able to use my degree or college credit from another country?

Degrees and college credit earned in a country other than the United States must be evaluated for their correspondence to California requirements. Be aware that evaluation services, though they can be expensive, are necessary if you want to begin the process of using your degree or college credit from another country to fulfill California requirements. The following link to the State of California Commission on Teacher Credentialing- Foreign Transcript evaluation document provides information.

Besides education, what else is required?

In addition to education, some previous experience is also required, both for obtaining the permits and credentials mentioned above and by most employers. Experience requirements vary depending on the child development setting and the position within the setting. Because it takes years to become a skilled, confident teacher experience is always a factor. In general, the more you have the better. Anyone working with children must be fingerprinted, and must also be cleared by a Child Abuse Index and Criminal Records check. A TB skin test is also required for employment.

Please refer to the Early Care & Education or Elementary & Secondary Education FAQ sheets for further explanation.

What if English isn't my first language?

Your home language can be a tremendous advantage in working with children. California's diverse population means that child development programs benefit by hiring bilingual staff. If you plan to work in child care/development programs you generally need to speak some English in order to communicate with English speaking children, parents, and staff. In order to take ECE/Child Development courses at the college level an ESL proficiency of 7-8 is recommended though some courses may be offered in languages other than English.

There is also a great need for bilingual credentialed elementary school teachers. Bilingual teachers need written and spoken language proficiency in both English and another language.