Associate of Applied Science degree prepares students for immediate careers in a variety of childcare settings

North Central Michigan College announced today that it will offer an Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education to prepare graduates for careers educating and caring for young children in a variety of settings.

Beginning Fall 2021, the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Early Childhood Education will run in tandem with an Associate of Arts (AA) in Early Childhood Education, giving students the option of immediate entry into the workforce or transfer for completion of a bachelor’s degree.

AAS graduates are prepared to become instructional aides in K-5 classrooms or assist in Head Start programs, preschools and childcare programs.

“The Associate of Applied Science program is ideal for students who want a solid foundation toward a career in early childhood education—or for those who want to take a step toward owning and operating their own childcare business,” said Jennifer Wixson, North Central’s Early Childhood Education program director.

The Associate of Arts program is a better option for a student who wants to become a preschool teacher or transfer to complete a bachelor’s degree, she noted.

“The AA pathway continues to prepare incredible teachers of the future,” Wixson said.

The addition of the AAS degree is well timed to help address a statewide shortage of childcare providers.  Just under 6,700 of the 6,950 childcare providers in Michigan remain open or have reopened post-pandemic, according to Great Start to Quality.  Many are operating at reduced capacity due to social distancing requirements. 

In Northern Michigan, the need for childcare is particularly acute.  A 2018 report prepared for Networks Northwest identified 444 licensed childcare providers in a 10-county region that includes Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim counties.  That number represented a nearly 30 percent decrease of providers over the past seven years. 

One of the largest childcare providers in Emmet County, Northern Michigan Community Child Development Center, reports a current waitlist of 145 children seeking daycare or after-school care.  Assistant Director Jessica Turbiak said the biggest obstacle to increasing capacity is hiring qualified teachers.

“North Central recognizes the incredible need for childcare professionals in our community,” Wixson said.  “The addition of the AAS degree is just one of many efforts to expand our workforce in childcare and early childhood education.”

Students in North Central’s ECE programs learn in a state-of-the-art model preschool with hands-on education and opportunities to work in the field before they graduate.  The college partners with Great Start to Readiness preschool classrooms, Head Start, Char-Em ISD, Boyne City Early Learners, Blackbird Childcare, and Northern Michigan Community Child Development Center.  Education is tailored to support students’ career goals, and classes are available in face-to-face, online and hybrid formats.

North Central Michigan College is an open-door community college based in Petoskey, with additional locations offering classes and services in Cheboygan and Gaylord.  North Central’s mission is to provide exceptional, accessible, relevant higher education of and for the community.  North Central is an Achieving the Dream Leader College with a designation of Veteran Friendly Silver by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.


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Megan Van Horn
Content Media Administrator