Setting Early Childhood Education Career Goals

December 12, 2023


The task of sitting down and writing out all of your early childhood education career goals can feel daunting. Where should you start? How far in the future should you plan? And, once you have your goals nailed down, how do you start working toward them?

At ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI), we’re dedicated to helping early childhood educators like you meet your personal and professional development goals through online courses, certification programs and more.

That’s why we’ve put together this how-to guide to help you set and achieve your professional goals in child care with ease:

Think about where you want to end up and plan backward.

While it may seem counterintuitive, start your goal-planning session by determining where you’d like to be at the end of your set period of time. Write down your dream destination (e.g. owning my own center, serving as lead teacher, etc.) in as much detail as possible. If you’re having trouble thinking about where you’d like to be, try describing your ideal day instead. What time do you get to work? What are you doing while you’re there? When do you head home, and how are you feeling at the end of the workday?

Get ‘smart’ with your goals.

Once you have an idea of where you want your career to go, map out the steps needed to get there. Take each step and turn it into a goal that can help guide you on your path to professional success.

To ensure the goals you’re creating are realistic and can help you achieve your overall dream, we recommend putting each one through the SMART test. That requires asking yourself whether or not your goals are:

  • Specific: Is the goal clear and concise?
  • Measurable: Are there metrics you can use to determine when you’ve met your goal?
  • Achievable: Is your goal attainable? If not, what needs to happen to make it achievable?
  • Relevant: Does it ladder up to your larger professional goals in early childhood education?
  • Time-bound: Is there a target date for your goal to be met?

By setting SMART goals, you’ll help ensure you’ve have a plan in place to succeed — and knowing that will help keep you motivated along the way.

Write them down.

Studies have shown that people who write down their professional goals are more likely to achieve them, so take a moment to physically write down the SMART goals you’ve created. If you’ve have a personal planner or calendar, input the deadlines for your major goals, along with reminders for when you should be at the halfway point. This will help you remember your goals and ensure you’re keeping yourself accountable for meeting them.

Find support.

Whether it’s your manager, co-worker or best friend, find someone to share your goals with. Talk to them about the motivation behind your goals, how you want to achieve them and what your ideal timeline looks like. Then, ask if they can help keep you accountable along the way via semi-regular check-ins.

Revisit your goals regularly.

Early childhood education career goals are not something you can set and then forget. Like all things in life, your professional goals can grow and change over time. Think about what you wanted in your career four years ago. Is it the same thing you’d want today? With that in mind, schedule time to regularly revisit your goals. Are your priorities still the same? If so, how are you doing in relation to your goal timeline? If you haven’t been hitting the benchmarks you’d hoped to, think about why that could be and see if your plan needs to be adjusted. Even if your goals and timeline are still the same, having that time to revisit your plan can help motivate you to push forward.

Celebrate the wins.

As you work through your goals, be sure to take time to celebrate whenever you successfully cross one off the list. This can be something simple, like treating yourself to an iced coffee on the way into your center, or it can be taking time off to do the things you love most. By celebrating your accomplishments, you’ll be more aware of the progress you’re making and feel more confident about completing the remaining steps.

Whether your goal is to earn your Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™, knock out your state-required hours or start on the path toward a college degree, CCEI and StraighterLine can help you achieve them. Click here to learn more.


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