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Career Pathway

What's new? Get the latest early childhood education (ECE) information and resources directly to your inbox.

Pennsylvania's Early Childhood Education (ECE) Career Pathway

In every profession, there is a defined pathway for career advancement, as well as, a defined entry point into the field.  Early Childhood Education (ECE) Professionals should not be the exception. As research on what infants, toddlers and young children need from their early learning settings evolves, so should how the early childhood workforce is prepared. Pennsylvania’s ECE Career Pathway seeks to simplify and guide our profession towards meeting the minimal qualifications and competencies needed for each role an ECE Professionals may have.

Levels and Qualifying Achievements

Click the "+" to expand for more information on each level.

Entry Level

• High School Diploma or GED
• Documentation to verify high school enrollment
• Documentation to verify DHS certification aide status

Rising Level A

  • Verified Child Development Associate (CDA) ready Career and Technology (CTE) graduate OR Enrolled CDA coursework
  • Enrolled School-Age Professional Credential (SAPC)
  • Enrolled in an OCDEL-Approved Certificate or Credential
  • Enrolled ECE Program OR 6 Early Childhood Credits (ECE) credits

Level AChild Development Associate (CDA)

  • Holds a current CDA certificate from the Council for Professional Recognition
  • Current School-Age Credential
  • 9 Early Childhood Education (ECE) credits

Level A Plus

Meets Level A and has completed:

  • 12 or more ECE credits towards an AA/AAS degree in ECE

OR is a Level A AND currently has a one of the following:

  • Director’s Credential
  • Infant Toddler Mental Health Endorsement
  • Infant Toddler Credential
  • Apprenticeship Completion Certificate

Level BAA/AS in ECE

  • ECE focused ASB or AST
  • AA/AS in ECE
  • AA/AS/BA/BS in related field with 18 ECE credits
  • AA/AS/BA/BS in an unrelated field with 30 ECE credits
  • Elementary Ed Degree with 12 ECE credits

Level B Plus

Meets Level B AND has completed:

  • 12 or more ECE credits towards a BA/BS degree in ECE

OR currently has one of the following:

  • Director’s Credential
  • Infant Toddler Mental Health Endorsement
  • Infant Toddler Credential
  • Current School Age Credential
  • Apprenticeship Completion Certificate

Level CBA/BS in ECE

  • BA/BS in ECE
  • BA/BS in related field with 30 ECE credits
  • Elementary Ed BA/BS Degree with 18 ECE credits
  • BA/BA in any field with PreK-4 certification

Level C Plus

  • Meets Level C and has one of the following:
  • Director’s Credential
  • Infant Toddler Mental Health Endorsement
  • Infant Toddler Credential
  • Current School Age Credential
  • Apprenticeship Completion Certificate

Level DMaster's Degree with ECE Content

  • Master’s in ECE

Meets Level C AND:

  • Achieved a Master’s Degree in a related field and has 30 ECE credits
  • Master’s Degree in Elementary Education with 18 ECE credits
  • Master’s Degree in any field & PreK-4 certification

Level EPh.D, E.d with ECE Content

  • Ph.D/Ed. D in an ECE
  • Doctorate in related field and meets Level C or Level D
Important Announcement from OCDEL

PDO 22 #01: Career Pathway Level A Plus Verification Change

In April 2022, OCDEL released this announcement containing clarification on the verification of credits and degrees from nationally accredited (non-regionally accredited) institutions and provides information on a procedural change in the verification of educational transcripts when designating an individual’s Career Pathway level.

In order to apply for the Career Pathway, you need an account in Pennsylvania's Professional Development (PD) Registry. It is free to create an account and directions on how to do so are available on the PD Registry page.

How To...

Prepare & Apply for Initial Placement

Early Childhood Education (ECE) professionals submit credentials and degree information to the PD Registry to receive verification and placement on the Career Pathway to indicate current Career Pathway level in the ECE workforce, and to verify qualification requirements of various Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) programs.

LEARN HOW

Renew Placement

Profile completion and placement on Pennsylvania’s ECE Career Pathway is valid for one (1) year from the original date an individual is awarded a Career Pathway level. Individuals must re-apply for placement annually.

LEARN HOW

Update (or Re-Submit) Placement

An update can be requested if an individual receives another degree or credential and wants their Career Pathway level to be re-evaluated before their annual renewal. 

LEARN HOW

Appeal Placement

An individual requests their transcripts be reviewed again because placement does not match individual’s prediction or placement was made due to individual’s incomplete document upload.

LEARN HOW

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Click the "+" to expand for more information.

Pennsylvania’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) Career Pathway

CP-1Are there any plans to include education or other experience as part of the career pathways (for example, years of child care experience or credits in Psychology or Elementary Education?)

Not at this time. The current Career Pathway system allows several degrees to be considered “related” because they may include some related competencies but do not include all competencies covered in an early childhood education (ECE) focused degree. Credits in these “related” degrees are awarded “half credit.” Pennsylvania’s ECE Career Pathway levels are evaluated on college courses, degrees, and certifications, and/or other OCDEL approved endorsements.

CP-2I have an issue related to my personal Career Pathway placement. How do I get that resolved?

Complete the Career Pathway Placement Review Form when looking to have a pathway placement re-evaluated. This can be filled out by an ECE Professional or by a representative from an Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) or Early Childhood Education Professional Development Organization (ECE PDO) on behalf of an ECE Professional.

CP-3Where can I find help when completing my Career Pathway in Pennsylvania's Professional Development (PD) Registry?

Visit the PD Registry page for resources. If you need additional assistance, email registry@pakeys.org or call 1-800-284-6031.

CP-4What information is required on my transcript for my Career Pathway to be processed?

All college transcripts must have the following:

  • Student name
  • Institution Name
  • Name of degree earned
  • Credits received and grades earned
  • Date and degree conferred (if applicable)

Official transcripts are not required.

Foreign degrees must be assessed and evaluated by a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) or the Association of International Credential Evaluation (AICE). 

Associate in Specialized Business (ASB)/ Associate in Specialized Technology (AST) Policy

ASB AST-1Are you able to go over accredited institutions for the ASB/AST? Is there a list of institutions that are considered non-accredited?

Links to search for an accredited institution can be found in Announcement PDO 22 #01.

ASB AST-2If I have an ASB/AST degree earned at a non-regionally accredited institution, can I submit my information now to have my credits counted (prior to July 1, 2022 will they be counted)?

Yes. Announcement PDO 22 #01 explains that non-regionally accredited ASB/AST degrees and credits will be counted if they are issued prior to July 1, 2022.

ASB AST-3Will someone who is placed prior to July 1, 2022, with a non-regionally accredited degree keep that Career Pathway level during subsequent renewals after July 1, 2022?

Yes.

ASB AST-4What do you mean by credits not being accepted after July? Is it for foreign or national degrees?

Review Announcement PDO 22 #01. Any degrees or credits from non-regionally accredited programs earned after July 1, 2022, will not be counted towards placement on the Career Pathway.

ASB AST-5What is the impact on students who are currently enrolled and not completing degrees until 2024? Would these degrees count as they were enrolled prior to July 2022? What if they are enrolled in an AA or AS in ECE where the institution is in the process of becoming accredited?

Review Announcement PDO 22 #01. Any degrees or credits from non-regionally accredited programs earned after July 1, 2022, will not be counted towards placement on the Career Pathway. After July 1, 2022, students should be encouraged to enroll in and attend a regionally credited school as the credits will not count for a Career Pathway placement until the college is listed as regionally accredited.

ASB AST-6Are students who held these degrees prior to July 2022 going to retain their Career Pathway placements?

Review Announcement PDO 22 #01. Any degrees or credits from non-regionally accredited programs earned before July 1, 2022, will still be counted towards placement on the Career Pathway.

ASB AST-7Were the colleges across the state informed of this change and the impact it will have on their enrollments? How many colleges / students will this impact?

Announcement PDO 22 #01 was released February 7, 2022. Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) were a target group of this communication. The announcement asks ELRCs, PDOs, and other groups to share the announcement.

If there is a particular college that needs outreach, contact Rebecca Lamar (reblam@pakey.org).

ASB AST-8Would there be a pathway for students to enroll and attend a non-regionally accredited college as the college works through the accreditation process?

For credits to count on Pennsylvania’s Career Pathway after July 1, 2022, students should be encouraged to enroll in and attend a regionally credited school as the credits will not count for a Career Pathway placement until the college is listed as regionally accredited.

Logistics

L-1Why is the pathway only good for one (1) year? Why do I have to update every year even if I have an advanced degree and nothing has changed?

To maintain an accurate workforce data set, each professional needs to review and renew their PD Registry profile information, on an annual basis, for accuracy and upload any new education documents. The profile includes personal and employment information, and the Career Pathway. If an individual has not completed any new courses or obtained a degree, they only need to renew their profile and do not need to upload any additional documents.

L-2 Is the Pennsylvania Key going to get quicker about assessing Career Pathways?

Career Pathway assessment will be completed within 60 days of completed submission.

L-3Will the pathway review form be available to complete in the PD Registry instead having to be printed?

There are no plans at this time, but this suggestion will be taken into consideration.

L-4Am I able to submit transcripts even if I have not completed the degree?

Yes. This counts as “some college”.

L-5Do you need to submit a High School (HS) Diploma if you submit your college transcripts?

No. You will need to submit your HS diploma or HS equivalency, if that is your highest level of completed education, or if you are in school currently pursuing your first degree.

Ongoing PD – STARS

O-1What about all the professional development (PD) that long term staff has taken in past years since the beginning of STARS. Will any of the PD ever be counted. It seems as if all of that is just being thrown out the window, even though that is what staff was asked/required to do.

Career advancement through credit-bearing coursework and degree attainment is one component of a successful PD system. Another is a means to obtain on-going PD once a professional reaches their desired job role, so that the professional can remain up to date with changing research and best practice. Both DHS child care certification regulations and STARS performance standards require on-going PD.

Pennsylvania’s ECE Career Pathway levels are evaluated on college courses, degrees, and certifications, and/or other OCDEL approved endorsements for the goal of career advancement.

O-2Are you going to address any new PD for this year? STARS and/or state requirements?

Policy on new PD, STARS and/or state requirements were not addressed during this webinar except those specifically related to Announcement PDO 22 #01. Policy announcements on any new or changing requirements are shared through the Early Education News, ECE Recap, or Special Announcements.

Sign up for newsletters on the Pennsylvania Key website.

Miscellaneous

M-1What if someone is in school currently, but have not completed their whole degree, should they still submit?

An individual may submit an updated education document (i.e. transcript) at any time, however in cases where an individual has already been placed on the Career Pathway and new documentation is uploaded, the new items will not be reviewed until their current Career Pathway placement expires and the individual resubmits for annual review. The exception to this is cases where an individual submits a Career Pathway Placement Review Form. This can be filled out by an ECE Professional or by a representative from an Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) or Early Childhood Education Professional Development Organization (ECE PDO) on behalf of an ECE Professional.

M-2Can you please repeat the site for those who were home schooled?

Requesting transcripts for homeschooling or closed schools can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE)’s website.

M-3Can new staff apply for Career Pathway placement before completing their annual fire safety training?

Yes.

M-4Does an ECE employee ever have to worry that their degree would not be counted if the college/university was regionally accredited when they attended and graduated, but now the college/university is no longer accredited?

No. If the degree or credit was earned prior to July 1, 2022, it will count towards Career Pathway placement.

M-5For credits to be accepted, do they have to be ECE or is general education/ music education/ Special Education also accepted?

Credits from an ECE degree or equivalent degree are fully counted. ECE equivalent degrees can be found via NAEYC’s Early Childhood Higher Education Directory (degreefinder.naeyc.org). The Career Pathway system also allows coursework from several areas to be considered “related” because they may include some related competencies but do not include all competencies covered in an ECE focused course. Credits in these “related” courses are awarded “half credit.”

M-6Do these parameters/guidelines include Family Child Care Homes as well?

Yes.

M-7Are you going to add criteria for each level? Possibly having higher levels more accessible.

Career Pathway levels are based on the professional competencies and are research-based to assure quality. The Professional Development Organizations have funding available to make degree attainment and Career Pathway advancement more accessible.

M-8I have staff with multiple degrees including a master’s in science education and they are entry level. How can we review the criteria and discuss some changes?

The Career Pathway system defines coursework and degrees as ECE equivalent, related or unrelated. Credits from an ECE degree or equivalent degree are fully counted. ECE equivalent degrees can be found via NAEYC’s Early Childhood Higher Education Directory (degreefinder.naeyc.org). The Career Pathway system also allows coursework from several areas to be considered “related” because they may include some related competencies but do not include all competencies covered in an ECE focused course. Credits in these “related” courses are awarded “half credit.”

M-9Will ERAs be returning? I have several staff that committed to continuing their education and a few more with advanced degrees?

At the time of release of this FAQ, OCDEL does not intend to restore ERA.

Last Updated: February 2024

Contact

The PD Registry
registry@pakeys.org

800-284-6031

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