What Is the Difference Between an Associate Degree and a Diploma in Early Childhood Development?

Those with an associate degree or a diploma in early childhood development generally teach in schools.

Early childhood development programs run the gamut in terms of educational requirements and considerations. Those who hold an associate degree or a diploma in early childhood education are able to work at the same facility; however, an individual with an associate degree cannot perform the same tasks as an educator with a diploma. An associate degree reinforces the basics of childhood development while a diploma explores the fundamentals of childhood education.

1 License

The primary difference between an associate degree and a diploma is a certifiable license. With a diploma, an educator is qualified to work and teach in a pre-school or an elementary school while an associate degree qualifies someone to assist as a classroom aide but not teach. Those with associate degrees can also help with activity planning and preparing students for state testing.

2 Depth of Study

An associate degree takes two years to complete, whereas a diploma in early childhood education takes at least four years. An associate degree involves an introductory curriculum that focuses on childhood growth and development, teaching children the importance of physical health and emphasizing personal safety in and out of the classroom. The degree also teaches basic reading and writing skills. A diploma delves into the theory and study of the growth of a child's developing mind. Graduates with a diploma learn the psychology of childhood, how to plan lessons, participate in first-hand observations with students and how to work with special needs children.

3 Salary

An educator with an associate degree is typically paid by the hour. The median hourly wage was $9.12 per hour as of 2008 and was higher if employed in an elementary or secondary school. The median salary for an educator with a diploma was $47,100 to $51,180. However, educators who obtained degrees higher than a bachelor's earned as much as $80,970 annually.

4 Job Placement

Educators with an associate degree or diploma in early childhood development are both eligible to work at pre-schools and elementary schools. Teachers with a bachelor's or master's degree typically work in the education sector or special childcare facilities. Those with an associate degree take jobs from a wider spectrum, from schools and day care centers to recreation facilities and child volunteer organizations.

5 2016 Salary Information for Childcare Workers

Childcare workers earned a median annual salary of $21,170 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, childcare workers earned a 25th percentile salary of $18,680, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $25,490, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,216,600 people were employed in the U.S. as childcare workers.

Elisa Wiener started writing in 2005. She has written articles for "The Penn," nothingbutpearls.com and has blogged for and updated the website for the company she works for, Superior Jewelry Company. Elisa graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature with a minor in film studies.