Pennsylvania’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) Career Pathway

PA's Career Pathway Levels

Navigating Professional Development with OCDEL

Discussing Pennsylvania’s ECE Career Pathway with Deborah Wise

View this video on Youtube.

What is a career pathway?

In every profession, there is a defined pathway for career advancement, as well as, a defined entry point into the field.  Early Childhood Education (ECE) Professionals should not be the exception. As research on what infants, toddlers and young children need from their early learning settings evolves, so should how the early childhood workforce is prepared. Pennsylvania’s ECE Career Pathway seeks to simplify and guide our profession towards meeting the minimal qualifications and competencies needed for each role an ECE Professionals may have.

Why a move to a career pathway system?

Career pathways define entry level qualifications and steps one can take to ensure they have the skills, knowledge and competencies needed to fulfill their desired role. The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) aims to support the growth and development of the workforce already in the field, build upon the expertise of our profession and create a statewide framework to govern these efforts.   Establishing shared benchmarks through the career pathway levels helps to do this with predictability and reliability across the commonwealth, while still allowing for flexibility in how one qualifies at each level.

How do I find out what my Career Pathway level is?

Once an ECE Professional uploads their staff qualifications into the PD Registry and that information is verified by The Pennsylvania Key staff, they will receive a notification that they has been placed on the Career Pathway. This will allow ECE professional to see where they currently are and lay out the opportunities for growth, if interested.

What information do I need to complete my profile and apply for my Career Pathway Placement?

Use this checklist (PDF) to identify what information you’ll need to complete your profile.

What do I do if I complete my degree/credential before it is time for me to renew my Career Pathway level?

If you…

  • Complete a degree
  • Have your transcript translated
  • Receive a new credential
  • Earn 6, 9, or 12 ECE credits

…before your next renewal, you need to complete the Career Pathway Placement Review Form as well as upload your transcript/certificate for that degree/credential to your Education tab. Find the form in the PD Registry section of the PA Key website.

What if I want to appeal my Career Pathway level?

The Career Pathway Placement Review Form is available in the PD Registry section of the PA Key website. This can be filled out by an ECE Professional or by a representative from an Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) or Professional Development Organization (PDO) on behalf of an ECE Professional.

How do different degrees place on the Career Pathway?

For a full list of PA’s degrees that count as ECE Degrees or Equivalencies, visit the National Association of Education for Young Children’s degree finder.

For degrees not included in this directory but thought to be an ECE equivalent, verifiers will evaluate the transcript from the program and look for 30 ECE credits.

All credentials, certifications, or endorsements must be current to qualify. If not, Plus status may be lost.

What if I have a foreign degree?

Foreign degree transcripts must be evaluated by a service that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) or the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE). For a full member list of evaluation services please visit: or

Reimbursement for this process is available. Visit the Foreign Degree Evaluation Reimbursement page for eligibility information, application process, and more.

Why is a PLUS level different?

A Plus level is achieved through making significant progress towards the next Career Pathway Level or adding an OCDEL approved certificate/endorsement or credential in a specialized knowledge area.