COD One of First Colleges in Illinois to Offer Early Childhood Administration Degree

Early Childhood Administration

By Brian Kleemann

The new Early Childhood Administration degree at College of DuPage will provide students with a direct route to the Gateways Illinois Director Credential Level 1.

“We are one of the first schools in the state to develop an Early Childhood Administration degree,” said Jean Zaar, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Early Childhood Education and Care. “It will prepare new students for direct entry into the field and give them the desired Gateways Illinois Director Credential Level 1 that will set them apart from other job applicants.”

Because of recent and upcoming changes in requirements for child care directors mandated by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the organization that licenses child care centers, COD has created the new degree to help students gain the Gateways credential once they complete their coursework, said Cindy Rice, Assistant Professor of the Early Childhood Education and Care program. Students who complete the program and have the credential are ready to work as child care center directors, assistant directors, and preschool and child care program administrators.

In addition, the Gateways Illinois Director Credential Level 1 is recognized by ExceleRate, a quality rating and improvement system.

“DCFS is looking for an associate’s degree with a certain number of courses offered in early childhood administration and early childhood education, so we responded with this new program,” Rice said. “College of DuPage is an entitled institution through Gateways. This allows us to help our graduates earn both an A.A.S. degree and the Illinois Director Credential Level 1, which makes them more marketable.”

A new course, Early Childhood Administration Practicum, is a capstone class created specifically for the 64-credit degree, which was recently approved by the Illinois Community College Board. Students gain practical experience working with a child care center director, staff, young children and families in a professional setting as they complete the 300 documented hours required for the Gateways Illinois Director Credential Level 1.

Zaar said College of DuPage also wanted to make it easier for current employees in the field with a prior degree or certificate from COD to add the new degree to their credentials. For example, students who already completed the Early Childhood Education and Care A.A.S. degree only need five additional courses, including the practicum, in order to earn the new degree and receive the Level 1 designation. Students who have earned the Administration of an Early Childhood Center certificate can build from that coursework toward the degree.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market is strong for early childhood administration careers, with a projected job growth of 14 percent through 2022. The Illinois Career Information System projects a 15.3 percent growth for this field in DuPage County. 

For more information, visit, or call (630) 942-2259.

College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 27,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants nine associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.  In celebration of its 50th anniversary, College of DuPage will host a series of on- and off-campus events throughout the year to highlight the institution’s history and service to students and District 502 residents over the past half-century.

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