Presents an analysis of the potential for career pathways in early care and education based on a literature review and interviews with experts, conducted between November 2016 and January 2017, regarding barriers to workforce advancement; and reviews promising practices at the national and state levels for workers that are predominantly women under the age of 50.

“[This study was designed] to develop evaluation design options that could address critical gaps in knowledge related to the approach, implementation, and success of career pathways strategies generally, and in early care and education (ECE) specifically. To inform thinking about evaluation design options, [the authors] produced reports on (1) research and evaluation relevant to career pathways approaches, (2) the implementation of existing and past career pathways initiatives, and (3) the potential for career pathways approaches in early care and education. This document is the third of these reports for the project—an analysis of the potential for career pathways approaches in the ECE sector….[The] analysis summarizes current major reports and initiatives relevant to the development of career pathways approaches for the ECE workforce” (p.iii).

“To inform this report, [the authors] reviewed current publications about the ECE workforce released by federal agencies and prominent organizations engaged in ECE research. The literature [the authors] reviewed included a range of descriptive qualitative and quantitative research about the ECE sector as well as relevant policy analysis and recommendations” (p.2).

“As a supplement to [the] scan of the current literature, from November 2016 through January 2017, [the authors] held discussions with 23 experts…with experience with ECE workforce development at the local, state, and national levels” (p.2).

While [the authors’] analysis does summarize relevant literature, [they] did not conduct an exhaustive or formal literature review (i.e. with critiques of existing studies’ designs, methodologies, data sources, etc.)” (p.2).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Findings from the literature review and interviews include: “Career trajectories in the ECE field….[T]he field does not include many job opportunities with family-sustaining wages, compared to sectors that are more commonly the focus of career pathways approaches. For example, in a child care center, there are often dozens of child care workers, and a single director….Low wage jobs dominate the field even as educational requirements for the ECE workforce increase” (p.iv). “Existing career pathways approaches….[There are] few national or state initiatives aimed at creating comprehensive ECE career pathways approaches….[The authors] found promising practices aimed at addressing various barriers to ECE workforce advancement which may represent possible building blocks for development of comprehensive career pathways strategies in the field. Some of these promising practices provide services to individual workers to enable them to obtain more advanced training and credentials in the field….Other promising practices are aimed at clarifying and formalizing the trajectories in the ECE labor market for career progression, such as by creating nationally portable, industry-recognized credentials” (p.iv-v). “Barriers….The barriers to higher wages include the limited opportunities in the ECE field for career advancement, the tension between the labor-intensive nature of ECE work coupled with maintaining child care affordability for families, [and] persistent low wages even as educational requirements increase…. Barriers to obtaining additional training and education include varying definitions and professional standards for ECE occupations across settings and states, limited financial support for postsecondary education, challenges in the articulation of credit and prior learning,…shortage of supports for lower-skilled adults and English language learners, and a scarcity of counselors who understand the ECE field” (p.v). Promising practices identified by experts and the literature review include: • “Wage supplements and compensation” (p.v) • “Portable credentials” (p.v) • “Articulation and credit for prior learning” ( • “Comprehensive career pathways model” ( • “Registered apprenticeship pathways model” ( • “Postsecondary education accessibility” ( • “Supportive services” ( • “Workplace policies and supports to promote advancement” ( • “Investments in ECE workforce data collection and analysis” ( (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)