04 September, 2020 | Posted by Portobello Institute

What can you do with an Early Childhood degree?

childcare degree

Where will your Early Childhood degree take you?


Do you want to improve your own practice in a childcare setting? Move into management? Open your own facility? Work with a government agency in early years childcare and education, monitoring, management or policy formation? Tutor on childcare programmes? Become a primary school teacher? Whatever your career aspirations, the foundation of your career in childcare in the 21st century is a degree!

Childcare is no longer just a job, it is a professional career where having a degree can open doors to opportunities that you may not have previously considered. In recent years, the focus on improving the quality of childcare provided in all settings has stemmed from the upskilling of core practitioners as they apply their learning in their day to day work. As a result, the role and contribution of Childcare practitioners is becoming increasingly valued by education and government agencies and more importantly by parents and the wider general public.

The increased professionalisation has created new career paths in a wide range of public and private childcare settings and organisations responsible for the management and monitoring of childcare in Ireland. A cursory glance at the jobs in this industry on the various job search sites reinforces the ever-increasing demand for degree qualified childcare practitioners and reveals a wide range of jobs available in the public and private sector.

To excel in this industry you need excellent communication, interpersonal and instructional skills coupled with a great deal of patience and a passion for enhancing the development of children in your care. In the past, those caring for children would have developed those skills by gaining experience in a childcare setting, however, the world of work is changing and qualifications are now essential to work and progress within this industry.


Do I need a degree to work in an Early Years setting?


A recent report states that in Europe, all but four countries require core practitioners (setting leaders) to have a minimum of a degree (European Commission, 2019). Ireland is currently one of the four countries where the degree is not yet mandatory. Denise Flood, Head of Early Years Education at Portobello Institute believes this will change. Based on her vast experience in the industry and having reviewed this and other recent analyses early years childcare and education, she comments;

“This sector is moving to a graduate led workforce and I believe that in the next ten years that new entrants will be required to have a Degree to work in creches and preschools. I believe that the sector will become a fully government funded sector with teachers potentially paid from a central fund. Having a Degree is going to be vital for all practitioners. So If you intend staying in the sector then you will need to upskill your current qualifications”.


How will a degree help me work with children?


All the research indicates that there is a positive correlation between better-trained staff and a better quality service and a recent recommendation at European Commission level states that...

“the availability of highly qualified staff leads to higher quality staff-child interactions and therefore better developmental outcomes for children” (European Commission, 2019, p.6).

After completing the level 6 course, Aoife Quinn quickly became aware of the importance for further education to better enhance her ability to guide the children in her care, and consequently began the BA degree programme at Portobello Institute in 2014. Aoife expresses how lucky she is to be working within early years childcare and education and how fantastic it has been to use the knowledge gained throughout the course in the classroom setting every day.

“Each module completed has given me confidence in my ability as a practitioner and to bring out the best in every child I work with.” For Aoife the course ignited a strong passion in child development, especially in the area of creative development and the children’s ability to express them-selves.

The course has essentially given Aoife access to her passion and has allowed her work within this every day, she says “Completing this course was the best thing I have ever done and I couldn’t be prouder to say I did it with Portobello Institute.”


What are the Career Options?


Own or Manage a Setting: With a degree in early childcare studies, you can open, own, operate, manage, and work within any early years setting in Ireland where you will be eligible for the higher capitation grant under the ECCE scheme.  You can undertake the role of; Room Leader, Facility Manager or Owner/Manager.

Become a Special Needs Teacher
Having completed the degree in early childhood studies you could work in funded special needs early years facilities and become registered with the Teaching Council of Ireland. 

Become a Primary School Teacher If you have your Degree and honours Irish you can apply for professional masters in primary school education which will allow you to work as a primary school teacher. 

Joanne Daley, a recent graduate of Portobello Institute tells of the path she has taken to achieve this goal,

“I initially wanted to do primary school teaching after my leaving cert however, I did not receive the points required to do so. I decided I would look at alternative courses that would help me reach my end goal. I choose the Montessori course as I found the course content appealing, it was a very practical and hands-on course. From completing the Montessori course, it enabled me to confidently apply for the degree program with Portobello. While studying the Degree I was able to work part-time in a Montessori school. I am also now moving on to study my masters, and am experiencing continued success in my career”.

Having completed all this learning in just four years, Joanne, has been accepted onto the Professional Master of Education (PME) in Primary Education with Hibernia College to train as a primary school teacher – her ultimate goal! 


Become a Childcare Tutor in Further Education

For those interested in tutoring, they need to combine their degree with a level 6 teaching qualification  to become a tutor on Level 5 and 6 early years and special needs programmes.

All tutors at Portobello Institute have a minimum of a degree coupled with extensive industry experience.  In fact, many of the lecturers have come through the Portobello Institute degree programme.  Other students have gone on to tutor on programmes run by the ETB’s (Education and Training Boards) in local schools and colleges across the country.  Tutoring at a local college whilst still working in her main job in a childcare setting appealed to Laura Quinn who recently completed the level 7 degree and has now moved on to the level 8. 

Laura talks of the impact of studying for a degree has had on her life and tells us, 

“This course will have a huge impact on my life. Firstly, I have gained so much valuable knowledge that I can apply in my personal life with my own young children, hopefully making me a better parent.  Professionally, I now have been promoted to room leader in my work. Along with this comes an increase in my wages. I also have the opportunity to go and tutor adults at level 5 and 6. Achieving my degree with distinction has given me a huge sense of pride, achievement and satisfaction. Most importantly it has given me the confidence to go ahead and progress to undergo the level 8 program. This in turn will open up even more possibilities personally and professionally”.  


Work for a Government Agency

You can work for government agencies or early years support bodies such as county childcare committees etc.  Roles with these organisations can vary from management and administration of services to monitoring of childcare and education settings?  For instance Tusla are currently advertising for an Early Years Inspector.  In order to apply for the role you must have a Level 8 degree and 5 years’ work experience in a childcare setting.  This is an exciting role where you will use your knowledge and experience to improve the service offered in various childcare settings.  It involves inspecting facilities, investigating issues, advising providers and writing reports.  Constant liaison with other agencies and assisting in the development of childcare policy are also part of the role.  

Obviously, for this role, the experience gained in a childcare setting is essential, however, the knowledge of best practice in childcare provision and management derived from the degree is crucial to effectively undertake this role.


Engage in Postgraduate Study and Research

Many students who have completed the degree programme long to learn more and undertake postgraduate education to masters and doctorate level to pursue their research interests.    Denise Flood, tells us of her own educational journey “the masters is the icing on the cake!  It allows you delve further into  a particular topic (for me that was child protection), to develop an area of expertise which is so important in my teaching at Portobello Institute”.

If you would like to discuss your career path in childcare, please come along to one of our open days and chat to our course directors and tutors or call a course advisor on:

01 892 0000.



European Commission (2019), Council Recommendation of 22 May 2019 on High-Quality Early Childhood Education and Care Systems. OJ C 189, 5.6.2019, p. 6.


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