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Mel Gravely

What Education Levels are Required for Head Start Staff?

Head Start wants to ensure that the staff and teachers who are serving local families have the appropriate education to do so.

The Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center (ECLKC) hosts a series of briefs that outlines all the educational requirements for the majority of Head Start staff positions, everything from Executive Directors to Home Visitors. Those briefs rely primarily on descriptions given in the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS), with some accompanying information from the Head Start Act.

For easy reference, we put together a list of all the positions outlined in the HSPPS with a brief description of the education requirements for each (for more detailed descriptions, see the HSPPS 45 CFR §1302.91). Keep in mind that these are the minimum requirements for each position. Grantees can always increase the requirements based on their needs.

Also note that when staff members hold several positions, say for example the Education Manager is also the Disabilities Coordinator, that person must meet the highest education requirement.

* Note: All positions within Head Start require a high school diploma or equivalency.

PositionSpecial CertificationAssociate’s DegreeBachelor’s DegreeEducational Requirements
Head Start Directors  XBachelor’s or advanced degree with experience in supervision of staff, fiscal management, and administration.
Fiscal Officers  XCertified Public Accountant or bachelor’s in accounting, business, fiscal management, or related field.
Family Services Managers  XBachelor’s or advanced degree, preferably related to one or more of the disciplines they oversee. 
Health Services Manager  XBachelor’s or advanced degree, preferably in health management.
Education Manager  XBachelor’s or advanced degree in early childhood education or a bachelor’s or advanced degree and equivalent coursework in early childhood education with early childhood teaching experience.
Disabilities Manager  XBachelor’s or advanced degree, preferably related to one or more of the disciplines they oversee.
Center-based infant and toddler teachersX  Child Development Associate (CDA) credential (or comparable) and have been trained specifically on infant and toddler development.
Center-based preschool teachers XXAssociate’s degree in child development or early childhood education. Bachelor’s degrees are required for 50% of teachers at the national level.
Center-based preschool assistant teachersX  Child Development Associate (CDA) credential (or comparable) or be currently enrolled in a program that will lead to CDA, Associate’s degree, or Bachelor’s degree within two years.
Family Care ProvidersX  Previous early child care experience and be enrolled in a Family Child Care CDA (or comparable) program to be completed within 18 months.
Home VisitorsX  Home-based Child Development Association (CDA) credential (or comparable) or equivalent coursework as part of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Family Services StaffX  Credential or certificate in social work, human services, family services, counseling or related field within 18 months of hire.
Health professionalX  Licensed or credentialed according to their specific health field, with experience required in serving young children and their families, if available in the community.
Coaches  XBachelor’s degree in early childhood education or related field.


  1. Shea says:

    If a person has a bachelor in Pyschology and a CDA, what positions can that person take in the headstart field. For example can they be program director?

  2. Shea. You can be a Head Start Director with a degree. It doesn’t have to be in in early childhood education. You should have knowledge of early childhood practice.

  3. I’ve often wondered about the phrase “related degree” & haven’t had success in finding a definition. Our service area is in excess of 20,000 square miles & one of our Center Mgrs., who is also responsible for family services for her center (20 families) originally worked for our program as a HS teacher . She has an AA in ECE but did leave our program for a period of time. She moved back into the community as a Center Mgr. II. but according to the 2016 Performance Standards, now needs to hold a family or human services credential or certificate. It’s pretty difficult finding a program & I’d like to know if the ECE AA will meet the requirement. I’m tasked w/finding an appropriate program & her community is 3 hours distant from the program we’re using locally. Any suggestions will be appreciated!! Thanks!

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