Careers working with young children?

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  • 5 Post By Who Me?

I was wondering what y'all know about different careers working with young kids. I am a junior in college majoring in psychology, and I'm starting to think about what I want to do in the future - yes, I know I have time, but it's still fun to think about and definitely a good idea to start at least thinking about it.

This semester I am taking Infant Development as well as Psychology of Child Behavior and Development, and I've found that the subject is something I am really passionate and excited about. I'm totally hooked! Early childhood developement (from prenatal on) is the most fascinating thing ever! I am certain that whatever I do career-wise, I want it to involve this in some way.

Now the thing is looking into different options, because I know there are a ton out there. At this point, I just have a couple of things I know I definitely don't want to do. I have no interest in being a clinical psychologist/counselor, and I do not want to be a teacher or childcare provider either. I also am pretty sure I want to go to graduate school, but am not interested in continuing my education beyond a master's degree, at least at this point in my life. I'm definitely not looking for a career in research or academia.

I don't feel I have to be directly working with children as part of my job, I just would like my career to have some relation to infant and early childhood development. Right now I'm considering prenatal or pediatric genetic counseling or nursing with a MSN in a relevant specialty. Does anyone have experience with either of these, or have any other thoughts?

Thanks!
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I don't have experience with either of those, but thought I'd throw in my 2 cents. I also came out of college knowing I wanted to work with kids. I majored in Family Studies and thought I'd go into the social work field, but have since realized that it would just be too depressing and draining for me. I currently work for my local Big Brothers Big Sisters agency and it's been a good experience for me. I run a program where high school students are mentors for elementary and middle school students, so I get to work with just about all ages. I adore the kids and have to admit that high school students have done a good job of proving me wrong in my previous thoughts about them.

Anyway, really what I wanted to tell you about was a field I seriously considered. It's a position called Child Life Specialist and basically you go into hospitals and work with sick kids and their families. You are there to help them take their mind off of the stresses in their lives, which can include playing games and doing art projects. That's just the basics, I don't know what the market looks like right for that field, but thought I'd throw it out there.

Good luck, I know how hard it is to try to figure out what you want to do with your career!

ETA: Here's an overview...reading through it makes me want to consider this again! http://www.mayo.edu/mshs/childlife-career.html


Last edited by Jaynee; 09-28-2011 at 01:07 PM.
School psychologist. You need at least a Master's though. My sister is one in the Chicago burbs. She works with elementary age children. You have to be willing to work with difficult parents though.
I know someone (he has a Masters in Lit) who helps college students with disabilities (mostly Autism and AS) adjust to the big change that comes with moving out and going to university. I don't the finer details of it, but he seems to really enjoy it. It's not with young children per se, but I figured I would throw it out there.
I ain't thirsty. There's plenty of fish in the sea, but I don't want all of them, can I have some standards? Or do we just have to settle, for someone's who meh and will do.
"
I don't have experience with either of those, but thought I'd throw in my 2 cents. I also came out of college knowing I wanted to work with kids. I majored in Family Studies and thought I'd go into the social work field, but have since realized that it would just be too depressing and draining for me. I currently work for my local Big Brothers Big Sisters agency and it's been a good experience for me. I run a program where high school students are mentors for elementary and middle school students, so I get to work with just about all ages. I adore the kids and have to admit that high school students have done a good job of proving me wrong in my previous thoughts about them.

Anyway, really what I wanted to tell you about was a field I seriously considered. It's a position called Child Life Specialist and basically you go into hospitals and work with sick kids and their families. You are there to help them take their mind off of the stresses in their lives, which can include playing games and doing art projects. That's just the basics, I don't know what the market looks like right for that field, but thought I'd throw it out there.

Good luck, I know how hard it is to try to figure out what you want to do with your career!

ETA: Here's an overview...reading through it makes me want to consider this again! Child Life Specialist Career Overview
Originally Posted by Jaynee
Wow, that's really interesting! It might be cool to do if I wanted to work while pursuing a BSN in a part-time second degree program. I'm definitely going to look into that.
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I'm going to tell you what I wish people had told me when I was in college.

Figuring out what you are interested in, and what careers sound interesting to you, is only a piece of the puzzle. You also need to think about:
  • Job opportunities (how easy is it to get employed in the field).
  • Location (if the job is primarily at major hospitals, you'd be set up great if you lived in Boston on Philadelphia, but would have a hard time staying in rural areas or areas with less medical schools, etc.)
  • Money. Money is really, really important. I know sometimes when you're young and idealistic it can seem like it's not that important, but it is. And I don't just mean that "having lots of money" is important. I mean that having the money you need to live the life you want is important. This could be very little, or it could be a lot. If you daydream about an apartment in the city and love to shop...you might not be happy in a low-paying job, even if it seems like your "dream job".
For example, what I know about genetic counseling is that it doesn't pay too much, and positions are primarily in areas with major health centers and hospitals. So don't just think about the job description, weigh the job description against being "poor" and having to relocate.
mrspoppers, Nej, Jaynee and 2 others like this.
"I don't know! I don't know why I did it, I don't know why I enjoyed it, and I don't know why I'll do it again!" -BART SIMPSON
I'm going to tell you what I wish people had told me when I was in college.

Figuring out what you are interested in, and what careers sound interesting to you, is only a piece of the puzzle. You also need to think about:
  • Job opportunities (how easy is it to get employed in the field).
  • Location (if the job is primarily at major hospitals, you'd be set up great if you lived in Boston on Philadelphia, but would have a hard time staying in rural areas or areas with less medical schools, etc.)
  • Money. Money is really, really important. I know sometimes when you're young and idealistic it can seem like it's not that important, but it is. And I don't just mean that "having lots of money" is important. I mean that having the money you need to live the life you want is important. This could be very little, or it could be a lot. If you daydream about an apartment in the city and love to shop...you might not be happy in a low-paying job, even if it seems like your "dream job".
For example, what I know about genetic counseling is that it doesn't pay too much, and positions are primarily in areas with major health centers and hospitals. So don't just think about the job description, weigh the job description against being "poor" and having to relocate.
Originally Posted by Who Me?
You're definitely right that those are important to consider. Honestly, the data I'm seeing lists the middle 50% of genetic counseling salaries at $55k-70k, and nursing salaries are similar, and that doesn't seem too bad to me. I've also done my research - there are job opportunities for both genetic counseling and nursing in a lot of places I would be happy living. Anyways, I'll probably end up applying programs for both, as the preparation/pre-reqs are very similar.
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You could be a speech therapist.
There are not too many genetic counseling graduate programs, and I think they are pretty competitive. I have two friends from college who applied to several grad schools for genetic counseling, and neither of them was accepted.

Other ideas I thought of:
-Speech and language pathologist
-Occupational therapist
-Physical therapist

These professions often work with young children, especially SLPs and OTs, and the job outlook is good for them.
I'm going to tell you what I wish people had told me when I was in college.

Figuring out what you are interested in, and what careers sound interesting to you, is only a piece of the puzzle. You also need to think about:
  • Job opportunities (how easy is it to get employed in the field).
  • Location (if the job is primarily at major hospitals, you'd be set up great if you lived in Boston on Philadelphia, but would have a hard time staying in rural areas or areas with less medical schools, etc.)
  • Money. Money is really, really important. I know sometimes when you're young and idealistic it can seem like it's not that important, but it is. And I don't just mean that "having lots of money" is important. I mean that having the money you need to live the life you want is important. This could be very little, or it could be a lot. If you daydream about an apartment in the city and love to shop...you might not be happy in a low-paying job, even if it seems like your "dream job".
For example, what I know about genetic counseling is that it doesn't pay too much, and positions are primarily in areas with major health centers and hospitals. So don't just think about the job description, weigh the job description against being "poor" and having to relocate.
Originally Posted by Who Me?
You're definitely right that those are important to consider. Honestly, the data I'm seeing lists the middle 50% of genetic counseling salaries at $55k-70k, and nursing salaries are similar, and that doesn't seem too bad to me. I've also done my research - there are job opportunities for both genetic counseling and nursing in a lot of places I would be happy living. Anyways, I'll probably end up applying programs for both, as the preparation/pre-reqs are very similar.
Originally Posted by eva223

That is also the median salary given for speech language pathologists, however, those numbers can be deceiving. Therapists who work with young children typically earn much less than that.
I've had two different jobs working with young children.

I had a BA in Psychology and worked for 10 years as an ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapist teaching children with autism. I worked on home programs under a BCBA and then taught in a private school under a BCBA. However, I pretty much platuead in my carreer as lead therapist and would have needed to go onto graduate school to get my Master's degree and BCBA. Some people get their Master's in Behavioral Analysis, but the smart ones actually get their Master's in Special Education with an emphasis in behavioral analysis and then get their BCBA (board certified behavior analyst) certification. It get gives you a little more flexibility.

Although I loved my job and autism is still my passion, I chose to go to graduate school for Speech-Language Pathology instead. Although I still pretty much specialize in autism, I enjoy working with other populations as well. I would love to find a job working in a hospital for a few years, but would love to eventually open my own school for children with autism some day (hopefully with a BCBA). I love the flexibility that being an SLP gives me. Last year, I worked for the school district and only worked with children age 3-5. Now I work in a private clinic and work with children age 1-14. Like you, I prefer the early intervention.
I think that I deceive genius.
I started off going to college so that I could be an SLP, but then I realized that I was really just interested in working with young children so I switched my major to Human Development and Family studies. I currently work for a non profit that does home visits and provides early childhood info and support for famliles. 2 of my co workers have their Master's in Human Development and Family Studies.

Blame it on the cell phone...
I started off going to college so that I could be an SLP, but then I realized that I was really just interested in working with young children so I switched my major to Human Development and Family studies. I currently work for a non profit that does home visits and provides early childhood info and support for famliles. 2 of my co workers have their Master's in Human Development and Family Studies.

Blame it on the cell phone...
Originally Posted by subbrock
Subbrock, your job sounds so cool! What kind of things do you do?
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I started off going to college so that I could be an SLP, but then I realized that I was really just interested in working with young children so I switched my major to Human Development and Family studies. I currently work for a non profit that does home visits and provides early childhood info and support for famliles. 2 of my co workers have their Master's in Human Development and Family Studies.

Blame it on the cell phone...
Originally Posted by subbrock
This is something I would love to do! My degree is also Family Studies.

home visits go something like this: i give some sort of information about their child's language, motor, intellectual, and/or social emotional development at that particular age. we have an activity that supports their one of those domains of development as well as a parenting behavior (communication, responding, attachment, etc). then we reflect on the activity--what the parent observed about the child during the activity and what they observed about themselves. additionally, we talk about topics that affect the well being of the entire family and development centered parenting. at every home visit i bring a book for the parent to read to their child (sometimes i have to read the book if the parent has low literacy skills) and once a month i bring a new book for the child to keep.

we also do screenings (development, hearing, and vision), have group meetings where families in the program meet and talk about a subject (the last one we did was at the library and we talked about temper tantrums), and provide a resource network for the families we serve.
Anyway, really what I wanted to tell you about was a field I seriously considered. It's a position called Child Life Specialist and basically you go into hospitals and work with sick kids and their families. You are there to help them take their mind off of the stresses in their lives, which can include playing games and doing art projects. That's just the basics, I don't know what the market looks like right for that field, but thought I'd throw it out there.

Good luck, I know how hard it is to try to figure out what you want to do with your career!

ETA: Here's an overview...reading through it makes me want to consider this again! Child Life Specialist Career Overview
Originally Posted by Jaynee
That's exactly what I was going to suggest.
"Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.
I have a degree in elementary education. Worked as a preK teacher for several years...ok, but pay was not worth it.

Then I went to nursing school and I'm now a pediatric nurse. Like the pay and the flexible hours.

I can't do floor nursing forever though, so we will see what the future holds for my career.

You could always be a pediatric nurse, then go on to get your masters/PHD for pediatric nurse practioner.

I work with a lot of child life specialtists. They have fun jobs...but I don't think the pay is that great??

Remember if you are dealing with young children you are also dealing with their parents/mothers...and sometimes that takes a special person.
If you live in a big city, especially one that values preschool education policy-wise, early childhood teachers are paid the same as elementary school teachers. In DC, the starting salary for teachers is about 46K. The schools I work with exclusively support preschool and pre-k education. My girlfriend teaches kindergarten in a public school and makes 80k annually in her 5th year (plus her 10k bonus this year for student achievement). She works hard and is a fabulous teacher, so it's great to see her rewarded for it in a traditionally underpaid profession.

Careers that might be of interest based on your initial post:
  • Early Childhood Special Education Teacher
  • School Psychologist
  • Response to Intervention Coordinator
  • Speech-Language Pathologist
  • Behavior Analyst (I concur with doing a concentrated sped program)
  • School Social Worker - school-based social workers provide direct services to children, groups, and classrooms based on the program

At least here, there are great funded programs for special education and even school psychology. Reach out to professors at your university to find info about funded programs that match your interests, then look into them more carefully. If you can get your education with minimal or no student loans, it takes a lot of the pressure off of a higher salary requirement immediately after graduation. And, many times graduate programs are funded because they are high need disciplines, which means job prospects will be stronger anyway.
People rise to the standard expected of them. GC
I have a degree in elementary education. Worked as a preK teacher for several years...ok, but pay was not worth it.

Then I went to nursing school and I'm now a pediatric nurse. Like the pay and the flexible hours.

I can't do floor nursing forever though, so we will see what the future holds for my career.

You could always be a pediatric nurse, then go on to get your masters/PHD for pediatric nurse practioner.

I work with a lot of child life specialtists. They have fun jobs...but I don't think the pay is that great??

Remember if you are dealing with young children you are also dealing with their parents/mothers...and sometimes that takes a special person.
Originally Posted by Krazyblondegurl
This is something I'm really interested in doing. I plan on moving to the NY/NJ area after undergrad, so I've been looking into different second-degree BSN programs. It's still early enough that I could finish all the prerequisites as part of my degree. I'm graduating a year early too, so an extra year of schooling wouldn't even be that bad, from my point of view.
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