Starting this fall, students at Anne Arundel Community College interested in early childhood education will be able to get an associate's degree that will qualify them for jobs in the child care field.
The Maryland Higher Education Commission has approved the 60-credit career program, college officials said.
"The idea is to get the students to know the stages of child development, both physically and emotionally," said Rosemary Wolfe, chairwoman of the college's education department.
After their course work is completed, students will receive an associate's degree in early childhood education that will qualify them for jobs such as director of a child care center, junior teacher in prekindergarten classes, preschool teacher and instructional aide in nursery, kindergarten or at the elementary level.
Students pursuing the degree will take general education courses as well as courses in childhood social, emotional and intellectual development.
"We didn't create new courses for this degree program," Ms. Wolfe said. "We simply repackaged what we had."
In the past, Ms. Wolfe said students who took these classes received an associate's degree in general education. Because the degree was not specifically called early childhood education, those students were not eligible to be licensed by the state, she said.
"So all those students who took the classes and wanted to get those jobs were not qualified," Ms. Wolfe said. "And they lost out."
Everyone who works as a director of a child care center with more than 20 children must be licensed by the state. New state requirements have reduced the qualifications for the license from a bachelor's degree to an associate's degree, Ms. Wolfe said. Until now, Anne Arundel was the only community college in the state that did not have this type of degree program.
College officials predict that the child care field will continue to grow and create a heavy demand for qualified workers.
According to a 1988 survey done by a county child care task force, by 1995, 66 percent of mothers in the county with children under 13 will be working outside of the home.
"This is definitely a growth field," said NancyAnne Burt, director of the college's Child Development Center. "These students want to break into the field and get right to work. When they get this degree, they will be center director material."