Author(s):Thilo Schmidt (presenting), Ivo Züchner, Manfred Bröring

Conference:ECER 2016, Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)


Session Information

02 SES 11 A, Motivation and Career Decisions in VET

Paper Session


Room:Vet-Theatre 116

Chair:Barbara E. Stalder


Career entry and conditions of employment of pedagogues in early childhood education in Germany

The career entry of graduates is a central issue of career research in educational science. Consequently universities have repeatedly examined the career entry of its graduates (e.g. Krüger & Züchner, 2002; Krüger et al. 2003; Leuze, 2010; Little, 2008; Smidt, 2016). Typically for many (educational) professions, the career start is marked by some uncertainty. Temporary employment, job changes and low wages are characteristic of this period of time, especially in the field of early childhood education, but also in other educational fields (Schmidt, 2011; Züchner, 2012; Züchner, Schmidt & Broering, in press). Particularly affected are new professional groups, which are not yet established in the labor market.


In the study the career entry and the conditions of employment of two professional groups for the field of early childhood education in Germany are compared: the longtime existing and therefore established educators (Erzieher) with a professional degree (below university level) and the new profession childhoodpedagogues (Kindheitspädagogen) with a university degree. Most of the new Bachelor degree programs of childhood pedagogy in Germany have been set up between 2004 and 2010 at universities of applied sciences (Oberhuemer, 2015a). One of the reasons was the standardization of European diplomas as a consequence of the Bologna Process.


The assessment of the career entry and the conditions of employment of the two professional groups is based on the concept of ‘normal employment’ by Mückenberger (1985). Essential criteria of this concept are permanent employment, full-time employment, regular income, dependent employment, and state-insured employment. It is taken into account, however, that not all of these criteria fit exactly to the educational labor markets in the field of early childhood education in Germany and other European countries (Oberhuemer, 2015b; Züchner, Schmidt & Broering, in press). Based on the structural conditions of the labor market in early childhood education in Germany and the recent state of research our hypotheses are:


-        Due to the currently high demand for skilled workers in early childhood education in Germany (esp. in day care centers), we suppose that both professional groups, educators as well as childhood pedagogues, have little difficulty finding a job.

-        Due to the dynamics of the field of early childhood education it is expected that a large proportion of graduates is working in newly created jobs.

-        Despite the demand for labor, recent research and labor market data suggest that a high proportion of graduates is employed merely in part-time, that a larger proportion has a fixed term contract and that many graduates (also the graduates of the university degree programs) are paid under ‘academic level’.

-        We also suppose that study participants with a university degree have more problems to be placed on the labor market as participants with a professional degree, due to the fact, that the childhood pedagogues, as a new professional group, are less established in the labor market.

-        Finally we suppose that mainly those graduates got hold of leadership positions, who have a professional degree as well as a university degree (and thus also some relevant work experience).


The study is part of a German longitudinal research project on the labor market entry and career development of educational staff in (early) childhood education, that is called ÜFA (Übergang von fachschul- und hochschulausgebildeten pädagogischen Fachkräften in den Arbeitsmarkt). It involves a longitudinal survey and is designed as a standardized web survey with the offer to take a paper-pencil questionnaire instead. Several items were drawn out of relevant and proven questionnaires as the “Diplom-Pädagogen” Survey (Krüger et al. 2003) in order to allow the comparability of the results. A Pre-test was conducted and had the result that a small number of questions were eliminated from the survey.

The study is based on a sample of persons, who participated in the first wave (at the end of their training) and the second wave (6 – 18 months after the training) of the research project. The study participants finished their training in 2013. Participation on the longitudinal survey was voluntary. The adjusted return rate was satisfying (35 %, second wave). The sample consists of n = 583 educators with a college degree and 242 childhood pedagogues with a university degree. Unemployed participants and participants with missing data were excluded.

The data of the surveys was analysed with SPSS. Descriptive and inferential statistical methods were used. For a description of the work fields of the graduates a three-level variable was formed, which is composed of a) the field of early childhood education (mainly preschools and day care centers), b) other fields of educational work with children and youth and c) other fields of work. The variable ‘newly created job’ was operationalized by asking if the graduate replaced another person in its job, or not. To have an indicator for the salary of the graduates, the data of tariff classification (92% of the participating graduates are pay-scale employees) were summarized to larger categories. The hypothesis that participants with a university degree have more problems to be placed into the labor market as participants with a professional degree (below university level), mainly was operationalized by questions that ask for the duration of career entry.

Expected Outcomes

Six to 18 months after the training, approximately 70 percent of the graduates are employed in preschools and day care centers, some also in other fields of educational work. With regard to the field of early childhood education, differences are not significant. For both professional groups – educators as well as childhood pedagogues – the field of early childhood education is equally important (p <.05). The results indicate that the graduates use preschools and day care centers as a relatively ‘easy’ entry into the labor market. 15 % of the childhood pedagogues start their job career in other fields of educational work, such as school social work, youth centers, family assistance, etc. In contrast 25 % of the responding educators is working in such other fields.

The vast majority of the graduates is working on pre-existing jobs (72%). However, nearly a quarter of the jobs were newly created. There is a difference between the professional groups: educators have followed up to 84 % an educator, whereas only 63 % of the new group of childhood pedagogues without a degree as educator followed an educator. Childhood pedagogues, who also had a degree as educators, followed up to 78 % an educator.

More than 98 % of the surveyed educators and childhood pedagogues are in a dependent employment relationship. Significant differences can be found, however, with regard to the question of temporary employment. 61 % of the employed educators, 31 % of the childhood pedagogues with a degree as educator and 46 % of the childhood pedagogues without such a degree are temporarily employed.

Further findings will be presented in the talk. In the discussion, we also refer to comparable findings in other European countries.


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Züchner, I., Schmidt, T. & Bröring, M. (in press). Berufliche Platzierung und Beschäftigungsbedingungen von Erzieher(inne)n und Kindheitspädagog(inn)en nach Ausbildung bzw. Studium. In K. Fuchs-Rechlin, G. Kammermeyer, S. Roux & I. Züchner (Eds.), Was kommt nach Ausbildung und Studium? Untersuchungen zum Übergang von Erzieherinnen und Kindheitspädagoginnen in den Arbeitsmarkt. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Author Information

Thilo Schmidt (presenting)
University of Koblenz-Landau (Germany)
Ivo Züchner
University of Marburg (Germany)
Manfred Bröring
Fliedner Fachhochschule Düsseldorf, University of Applied Sciences (Germany)