Early Childhood Career Pathways

ACF provides this statement on Early Childhood Career Pathways as part of our focus on elevating the early childhood workforce in policy and practice.

  • A strong body of research ties the knowledge, competencies, stability, diversity, and retention of teachers and program directors directly to the quality of children's development and learning in out of home programs.Career Pathways logo
  • Career pathways create a sequence of stackable, portable credentials that reflect the sophisticated science of working with young children, combined with the supports educators need to advance their individual career progression on that pathway.
  • Career pathways operate on two levels: a systems approach for the workforce at large and an individual approach for each professional seeking advancement.

This paper focuses on teachers and program directors, with state and local recommendations.

Read the guidance document (PDF)

Brief Series on the Early Childhood Workforce: Pathways to Progress

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council’s (NRC) 2015 report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth to Eight, offers recommendations for building a high quality early childhood workforce with the knowledge, competencies, education, and support to promote children’s development and learning. This series of briefs summarizes the findings in the report to inform early childhood programs, states, higher education, and other interested stakeholders to strengthen the support they offer the early childhood workforce.

  1. Introduction (PDF)
  2. Science of Child Development (PDF)
  3. Ongoing Professional Learning (PDF)
  4. Workforce Knowledge (PDF)
  5. Workforce Development Higher Ed (PDF)

See Webinar Slides — Early Childhood Career Pathways Guidance Document: What Does This Mean for State and Local Programs (PDF)


State Pathways Tools

Shared Terminology Across ECE

Stackable, Portable Credentials

Articulation Agreements


Supports to Advance


ECE Compensation


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