America’s early care and education (ECE) workforce plays an important role in young children’s health, growth, and development. In recent years, states have implemented policy and practice improvements to strengthen and sustain the ECE workforce. One such effort is to promote or require increased educational qualifications for the workforce (to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree).

To help states and other early childhood stakeholders calculate the funds needed to increase workforce qualifications, Child Trends developed an Early Childhood Workforce Qualifications Calculator (EC WQC). The calculator allows users to enter goals and estimates the costs to increase the educational qualifications of the current workforce, drawing on either state-provided or publicly available data.

It’s critical to use data to drive decision making, especially as states grapple to support and rebuild the ECE workforce in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although state leaders will need to consider many factors when determining how best to increase qualifications of the ECE workforce, this calculator can serve as a starting point for that work. Considering total costs can also help leaders develop timelines and implementation strategies to best support the ECE workforce. For example, as states face budget challenges in rebuilding from COVID-19, they may start with one sector of the workforce or develop a multi-year timeline for increased qualifications requirements.

The EC WQC provides state leaders with an estimate of the funding needed to increase the qualifications of the current ECE workforce in select early childhood programs in their state. The EC WQC will generate a state-specific cost estimate that can be used by leaders to inform policy recommendations related to increasing ECE workforce qualifications.

When using this calculator, users will be guided sequentially through five items. You will be asked to provide information on your state’s educational goals for the ECE workforce and enter data about the workforce. If your state does not have some of these data, the tool will automatically populate with national and state data from the the Department of Labor (DoL) and the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE).

We encourage users to enter state-specific data wherever possible, as this will increase the accuracy of the calculator.

The calculator provides cost estimates for increasing the qualifications of the current ECE workforce so that associate’s or bachelor’s degrees are considered baseline qualifications. Users have the option of setting educational attainment goals for the following programs, age groups, and teachers:

  • Program type (Head Start or Pre-K, school-sponsored center, other center-based programs, family child care homes)
  • Child age group (infant-toddler and/or preschool-age)
  • Teacher category (lead and/or assistant teachers)

Below are a few types of state data needed to calculate these estimates. Again, if your state does not have these data available, the calculator will use publicly available national and state data.

  • Number of ECE teachers broken down by program type
  • Current educational qualifications of the ECE workforce in your state
  • Presence of a state-required ECE teacher credential, and whether the credential counts toward a degree (or part of a degree) such as the CDA, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree
  • Average tuition within your state for a two-year associate’s degree and a four-year bachelor’s degree

Other considerations include the following:

  • This tool examines early care and education programs for children from birth to age 5; it does not include before- or after-school care for school-age children.
  • This tool is intended to capture cost estimates based on the educational qualifications of the current ECE workforce in a given state. It does not include cost estimates for those who may be entering into the workforce.
  • This tool should be used to generate an estimate for how much it would cost to increase qualifications for the current ECE workforce in a state. However, depending on the accuracy of data available in your state, any costs generated by the tool should be used as general estimates rather than specific anticipated costs.
  • While this tool estimates the cost of raising educational qualifications as a means of further supporting the ECE workforce, this is just one of many indicators of high-quality early care and education. We hope that this tool will be a starting point for future iterations in which other quality indicators are incorporated.

Cost estimate

Getting started

1. Please select your state.

2. Please identify the program type(s), age group(s), and teacher category(ies) of the ECE workforce for which you are interested in examining costs for increasing qualifications.

1. Number of ECE teachers by role, age group, and program type

Please confirm or enter the number of ECE teachers in your state.

If you have a more accurate estimate from a state registry or workforce study, please edit the numbers below.

Please note: Our estimates appear in orange; values you enter will appear in blue.

*Family Child Care Homes that serve mixed-age groups of children (i.e., infants and toddlers, and preschool-age children) are included in the preschool-age category.

Data estimates come from (1) the number of teachers serving infant/toddler or preschool-age children in the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE), and (2) state proportional data for numbers of “childcare workers”, “teacher assistants”, and “preschool teachers” in data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

2. Current educational qualifications of the ECE workforce in your state

Please confirm or enter the following estimates for the current educational qualifications of the ECE workforce based on your sub-populations of interest. We have included estimates for your state based on the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE).

Categories below are mutually exclusive. Always choose a category associated with the established number of credit hours. For example, if a teacher has a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential and some college, then he/she has “CDA but no degree.”

If you have more accurate estimates from a state registry or workforce study, please edit the numbers below. Please note: Our estimates appear in orange; values you enter will appear in blue.

3. Credentials required by your state

4. Your state’s goals for educational attainment

Please select the educational goal(s) your state is hoping to achieve for its ECE workforce.

5. Tuition and fees

According to data from CollegeCalc, we estimate the average tuition fees and cost of obtaining state educational goals. If you have more accurate estimates of tuition and fees, please edit the numbers below.

Please note: Our estimates appear in orange; values you enter will appear in blue.


Congratulations, you’ve reached the end!

Remember, this is only an estimate and may over- or under-calculate the costs needed to increase ECE workforce qualifications, based on the accuracy of the data provided. We encourage everyone to use the estimate generated by the EC WQC as a starting point for discussing new policies regarding educational goals for the ECE workforce, rather than using it as a formal policy or budget recommendation. Specifically, this estimate is intended to help states think through an approach of how best to phase in new qualifications for the ECE workforce given the anticipated costs, such as developing a multi-year timeline or starting with increasing qualifications within a specific sector of the ECE workforce.

While this tool plays a role in supporting the early care and education workforce, we hope to be able to expand it to include more indicators of quality. We also hope your state will find the tool useful and encourage you to share it with others in your network, both within your state and beyond!

If you have any questions regarding this tool, please contact Weilin Li at wli@childtrends.org.

We are grateful for the generous financial support of the Foundation for Child Development