What to expect as an ECE

As a registered early childhood educator (ECE), you have an important role in the early years of a child's development. Your passion for working with young children and supporting their development can lead to a rewarding career where you:

  • inspire, educate and care for our youngest learners
  • create and deliver inclusive play-based learning and care programs where they can explore, learn and grow
  • play a key role providing quality early learning and care that benefits children, families and the community

Create a lifelong impact

Research shows that quality early learning and child care experiences can have a positive, lifelong impact on children’s learning, behaviour and health.

As a registered early childhood educator, you provide the foundation for children’s learning and success. You can:

  • experience the joy of making a real difference in the lives of young children
  • contribute significantly to your community
  • experience job satisfaction and a sense of purpose
  • positively influence a future generation

An early childhood educator and young child playing with toys.

How to become a registered ECE

To become a registered early childhood educator, you need a diploma or equivalent education. Then you need to register with the College of Early Childhood Educators (the College).

Find out what you will learn.

Step 1: Get your Early Childhood Education Diploma

Diploma programs can be in person, online or a mix of both. There are:

After high school graduation

Most ECEs complete a 2 year diploma program in Early Childhood Education from an Ontario College of Applied Arts and Technology (OCAAT).

To apply you need an Ontario Secondary School Diploma or equivalent, with a Grade 12 English credit.

Equivalent programs

Not all ECEs complete a college diploma program. You can complete other programs recognized by the College of Early Childhood Educators.

All programs could have requirements in addition to high school prerequisites. For example:

  • valid first aid and child CPR certificates
  • health certificates and immunizations
  • police record checks
  • admissions testing
  • experience working with young children

Get an early start in high school

In Grades 11 and 12, you may get an early start with a Child Development Practitioner Apprenticeship through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) and/or related college courses and training through a dual credit program. Talk to your guidance counsellor to see what is available at your school.

After you complete a Child Development Practitioner Certificate of Apprenticeship, you can register for other course and practical requirements that you need to earn an Early Childhood Education Diploma. This is called bridging. In general, you should bridge to the same college where you did your high school apprenticeship training.

Apply for financial support

Find out if you are eligible for OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program).

The Early Childhood Educators Qualifications Upgrade Program offers grants that can help cover the cost of tuition fees if you:

  • have 6 months of past or present employment (some exceptions apply) in an early years setting
  • are enrolled at a recognized institution
  • live and work in Ontario

Learn if you are eligible for an Education Grant and how to apply.

If you receive an Education Grant, you become eligible to apply for more financial assistance under the program.

Step 2: Register with the College of Early Childhood Educators

Once you have earned your Early Childhood Education Diploma, you must apply to the College of Early Childhood Educators (the College) and get a certificate of registration in order to practice.

Application and registration fees

You will need to pay a one-time application fee and a yearly registration fee. Currently the fees are:

  • $245 to apply and become registered in your first year
  • $160 annually to maintain your registration

You can apply for a one-time reimbursement for the initial cost of $245 if you have done all the following:

Why you need to register

To work as an early childhood educator, you need to be registered with the College of Early Childhood Educators. It regulates the profession of early childhood education in Ontario.

By law, only registered members of the College can use the protected titles “early childhood educator” (ECE) and “registered early childhood educator” (RECE). The job titles are protected to ensure that anyone who uses them:

  • meets the requirements for entry into the profession
  • follows the ethical and professional standards set by the College

It is an offence to use the protected titles if you are not a member of the College. If you are found guilty of using a protected title without a valid registration you may be fined. 

Credentials from other provinces and territories

You can register with the College of Early Childhood Educators and practise in Ontario if:

  • you are certified in early childhood education by a regulatory authority of another Canadian province or territory
  • your certificate or licence is considered a match to the Certificate of Registration issued by the College

You will not be required to complete additional material training or assessments. Other registration requirements still apply. You will need:

  • to pay an application fee
  • evidence of good character
  • proof that your licence or certificate is in good standing

Learn more about having your credentials recognized in Ontario.

Individual assessments

You can ask the College to assess your individual education and work experience if you:

  • completed an Ontario, Canadian or international program that is not recognized by the College
  • are not certified in early childhood education by a regulatory authority of another Canadian province or territory

Learn more about individual assessments.

A student smiling in a classroom.

What you will learn

While your learning may start with your diploma program, it will continue throughout your ECE career.

Learning in college programs

In your diploma program, you will learn the theoretical and practical sides of early child development for children up to 12 years old.

You will learn to:

  • identify children’s developmental stages
  • recognize children’s social, emotional, cognitive, language and physical capabilities
  • develop activities that promote learning and build on children’s abilities and interests
  • ensure healthy nutrition and safe environments
  • plan early childhood education that:
    • supports caring and responsive relationships
    • respects diverse cultural and language backgrounds
  • develop your writing and communication skills to work with children, parents and teachers
  • build partnerships with families to support children’s well-being

Early Childhood Education programs also have field placement opportunities. You will be placed in a setting like a child care program, hospital or kindergarten classroom.

Continuing education after you register

The College of Early Childhood Educators requires all ECEs to participate in their Continuous Professional Learning Program.

You will start this learning within your first year of membership with the College. You must complete certain programs and modules each year to continue your membership, whether you are working or not.

The program supports ECEs in: 

  • enhancing their knowledge and skills 
  • strengthening their professional judgment
  • improving their practice throughout their career

It demonstrates that ECEs are members of a distinct and valued profession that:

  • is accountable
  • maintains public trust
  • remains current in practice
  • values ongoing professional learning

Young children clapping and smiling while sitting on a classroom carpet with an early childhood educator.

Career path

ECEs can practise in a wide variety of settings that may include:

  • licensed child care
  • kindergarten and other classroom settings
  • unlicensed home child care
  • family support programs (for example, EarlyON centres)
  • recreation programs
  • postsecondary institutions
  • children’s services
  • transition homes for women and children who have experienced domestic violence
  • hospitals
  • advocacy
  • government

An early childhood educator and a young child playing with toy coins and a calculator.

Wage growth and outlook

Registered Early Childhood Educators in Ontario have good prospects for employment.

As part of the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care agreement we are:

  • creating more child care spaces and increasing the need for more ECEs
  • enhancing professional development opportunities for ECEs
  • improving wages for ECEs who work in licensed child care programs that participate in the program

The Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care agreement is helping Ontario create a system that:

  • is lowering fees for families
  • will deliver an average of $10 a day child care by September 2025

Licensed child care programs enrolled in this system will receive funding.

Wage growth for ECEs who work at a licenced child care program

If you are an ECE working in a licensed child care program, whether or not it is enrolled in the system, you may be eligible for the provincial Wage Enhancement Grant or the Home Child Care Enhancement Grant. Your employer needs to apply for these grants.

Wage growth for ECEs who work at a child care program in the system

Licensed child care programs that participate in the system receive funding to increase wages for ECEs, ECE supervisors and ECE home child care visitors.

These wage increases will provide ECEs working in Ontario with a competitive package.

Starting wage increases

As of 2024, the minimum hourly starting wages for ECE’s and supervisors in participating licensed child care settings will be:

  • $23.86 for ECEs (increasing from $19 in 2023)
  • $24.86 for ECE Supervisors and ECE Home Child Care Visitors (increasing from $21 in 2023)
Table 1: Minimum starting hourly wages for ECEs, ECE Supervisors and ECE Home Child Care Visitors in 2024, 2025 and 2026
YearECE hourly starting wageSupervisor and Home Child Care Visitor hourly starting wage

Increased eligibility for wage increases

Wages will increase by up to $1 per hour every year until 2026 for ECEs who earn less than the eligibility ceiling.

For example, if you are a ECE in licensed child care and earn $25 per hour when you start in in your role, you are eligible for a $1 per hour wage increase each year until 2026.

The eligibility ceiling is not a wage cap. Employers can choose to pay ECE wages above the eligibility ceiling.

Table 2: Increased hourly wage eligibility ceilings for ECE, ECE Supervisor and ECE Home Child Care Visitor
YearECE hourly wage increase eligibility ceilingSupervisor/Home Child Care Visitor hourly wage increase eligibility ceiling

A woman using a laptop and taking notes with a pencil.

Explore job opportunities

There are many job opportunities for ECEs.

You can explore positions on public job boards such as the Job Bank and other online job sites. These platforms list openings in child care centres, preschools, schools and other early learning institutions across the province.

A Google search for a job title will often show a robust list of job opportunities.

You can also create your own child care program by starting a:

The decision to become a Registered Early Childhood Educator is not just a career choice — it's a chance to make a significant difference in the lives of children and their families.