Career Ladder

South Carolina Early Care and Education Career Ladder

The South Carolina Early Care and Education Career Ladder is intended for early childhood educators who work directly with children and families. Each professional level is based on formal education, and the steps within each level allow for progression based on education, and additional early childhood credentials or certification. Click here to see the career ladder.

For guidance on how to apply, you can refer to our Apply for Career Ladder Placement Guide. For guidance on necessary documentation, please refer to our Acceptable Documentation Policy.

A Career Ladder Level is automatically calculated by completing your professional profile within the SC Endeavors Registry. Individuals can use the career ladder to track academic accomplishments and use as a tool to plan for professional growth in the early childhood field.

See below for a list of frequently asked questions for the career ladder process. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact our office by email scendeavors@dss.sc.gov or by phone at (864)250-8581.

What is the Career Ladder?

This career ladder is intended to acknowledge the accomplishments of professionals in the field of early care and education. It can also be used as a tool for planning professional goals. Each professional level is based on formal education, and the steps within each level allow for progression based on completed academic coursework, awarded degrees, and additional early childhood credentials or certifications.

How did you develop the Career Ladder?

The ladder is based on what national research shows about the importance of specialized content knowledge in ECE and the correlation between formal education and quality environments for children. The ladder views the field of Early Childhood Education as a distinct and separate body of knowledge and area of specialization.

What are the levels of the Career Ladder?

The Career Ladder is specific to the field of ECE and consists of 10 levels representing various combinations of formal education. 

Early Care and Education professionals work at all levels of the Career Ladder, from entry level to accomplished. ECE professionals are: Teachers, Caregivers, Child Care Providers, Family home providers, Group Home Providers, Educators, Administrators, Trainers, and Advocates. Anyone working directly or indirectly with young children (ages birth to 8) in a variety of settings can be a part of the SC Endeavors Registry. The career ladder is designed so that anyone in the field of ECE can be placed on it regardless of whether that person has just graduated from high school or whether the person is a college professor teaching ECE courses.

Why is the Career Ladder important to ECE?

  • A specialized Career Ladder provides you with a roadmap for achieving your educational and professional goals. The Career Ladder supports you as you increase your education to improve the quality of care for all children. By providing a clear picture of where you are now on your career path, you will know exactly what is needed to advance to the next level.
  • The Ladder can help you meet the ABC Quality education tiers.
  • The Ladder provides a formalized way to recognize the professional development of all ECE practitioners.
  • The Ladder helps to further professionalize the field of Early Care and Education. Professionalization requires active participation of the field and requires collaboration with family, community, government, workforce, and educational systems.
  • The Ladder provides a system that will help our state track the education data of our child care workforce.
  • The Ladder provides a structure that can eventually be linked to wage increases and wage supplement programs.
  • The Career Ladder can also be used as a tool for staff recruitment and as a reason to increase wages and benefits for early childhood practitioners based on the attainment of higher education/higher Career Ladder levels.

How does the Career Ladder apply to me?

Early Care and Education professionals work at all levels of the Career Ladder, from entry level to accomplished. The career ladder provides a way to recognize your academic accomplishments, as well as provides a way to plan for future academic endeavors. The information provided in your professional profile becomes our collective voice and serves as the basis for research, policy making and legislative action aimed at addressing the issues facing our field. 

How can Registry certificates and Career Ladder levels be used?

  • If you are an Early Care and Education provider, you can use your Registry certificate and Career Ladder level: When applying for new employment positions, when negotiating for a salary increase, when needing to document your level of professional development and areas of expertise, and as you define your future career goals and plan for your continued professional development.
  • If you are an Early Care and Education Administrator, you might use Registry certificates and Career Ladder levels to: Recruit staff, publicize the education, training and experience of your staff so parents know that children are being cared for and educated by trained and educated practitioners, and justify wage increases for your staff based on their level and movement along the Career Ladder.
  • If you are a parent of a young child, you might use Registry certificates and Career Ladder levels to: Make informed choices about your child care options, develop an understanding of the importance of ongoing training and education in the early childhood profession, and give you a basis for expecting high quality care from highly trained and educated practitioners.

How is my Career Ladder level determined?

Your Career Ladder level is determined by looking at your entire educational career in the field of Early Care and Education. You are placed at the highest level for which you have documented verification that you meet all of the criteria. Your level will be reassessed each year upon your annual renewal date.

How far back do I need to go?

The SC Endeavors Registry will verify your formal education as far back as possible. For this reason, we encourage you to upload all documentation of your education providing the most complete record of your educational background.

What about my years of experience?

Research continues to indicate that formal training is one of the major indicators of quality child care. As a result, our ladder recognizes the completion of specialized academic coursework in the field.

The Career Ladder levels are a measure of formal education gained by taking courses at the community college and/or university level and are awarded by the SC Endeavors Registry based on either accumulated credits or degrees earned. Although the levels of the ladder do not take into account an individual's years of service in the field, we do understand the value of long term dedication and commitment to children and families. 

Do I need to submit my high school diploma?

Proof of high school graduation is required for all education records, unless you have provided proof of an awarded academic degree. In these cases, copies of your degrees and college transcripts provide the necessary documentation and will be accepted in lieu of a High School Diploma/High School Transcripts. For more information about uploading documentation, please see our Acceptable Documentation Policy.

How can I get a copy of my high school diploma?

You can obtain a copy of your transcripts by contacting your high school or the school district where your high school is/was located. The Registry will also accept a signed statement on letterhead from the school or Board of Education/School District if a copy of your diploma/transcripts cannot be obtained. The letter must include the name of the graduate with the graduation date indicated.

What if my degree is in something other than ECE?

The SC Endeavors Registry Career Ladder is specific to Early Childhood Education. However, individuals with degrees in fields other than ECE may still be recognized on the career ladder. Please note that in order for a course to be considered ECE and/or ECE-related, there must be at least 50% correlation between the course content and Early Childhood (specifically ages 0-8). 

What if I earned my degree in another country?

The Registry is not able to translate or determine the equivalency of transcripts and/or degrees earned at colleges/universities outside the United States. In order for coursework/degrees from other countries to be considered for Career Ladder placement, educational documents must be translated and evaluated for U.S. equivalency by an organization approved by the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES).

Please note: Because it can be costly to have your foreign coursework/degrees translated and evaluated, you should only consider doing so if the coursework you have completed is in Early Childhood or a related field (Non-ECE coursework/degrees will not affect your Career Ladder level). Please also ensure that the evaluation report will include verification that your degree is equivalent to a degree as awarded by regionally accredited institutions of higher education in the United States.

Do I have to submit official transcripts?

No. SC Endeavors Registry accepts unofficial transcripts. (i.e. copies of original transcripts, etc.). Your documentation must include your name, school name, course titles, course codes, dates of completion, letter grades, and major/minor (if applicable). Editable forms of documentation will not be verified. For more information, please see our Acceptable Documentation Policy.

Which of my completed courses will be applied toward my Career Ladder placement?

ECE courses will be factored into your Career Ladder placement. In order for a course to be considered ECE and/or ECE-related, there must be at least 50% correlation between the course content and Early Childhood (specifically ages 0-8). This will be determined by the course number as well as the course title. Applicants can submit a course syllabus for courses that are not clearly related to ECE by course number or title alone.

Why weren't all of my courses/degrees accepted?

College transcripts help registry staff validate your formal education for the purposes of Career Ladder placement. However, in some cases, transcripts that you provide and/or the coursework/degrees listed on your transcripts, may not be accepted. These are the most common reasons why:

  • Your documentation did not meet our Acceptable Documentation Policy.
  • Some of the courses listed are not considered ECE. In order for a course to be considered ECE and/or ECE-related, there must be at least 50% correlation between the course content and Early Childhood (specifically ages 0-8). This will be determined by the course number as well as the course title.
  • ECE courses will apply toward Career Ladder placement only when a grade of “C” or better has been earned. Because courses with a grade of “D” or below are not counted toward degrees at colleges and universities, they also do not count toward Career Ladder placement.
  • Coursework and/or degree was completed at a non-accredited/non-regionally accredited school.

The Registry only accepts courses and degrees earned at regionally accredited* institutions of higher education. Schools must be accredited by one of the following regional accrediting agencies to be accepted (updated May 2019):

  1. Higher Learning Commission
  2. Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  3. New England Commission of Higher Education
  4. Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  5. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
  6. Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission
  7. Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

Click here to determine whether your school is regionally accredited.

Can my training be counted as college credit?

No. There currently is no formal way to articulate informal training hours into formal education. Therefore, the Registry will count education/training as college credit only when college courses have been taken/completed at an accredited institution of higher education (community college or university), appear on a college transcript, and when a grade of C or better has been awarded.

I’m applying for Career Ladder placement mid-semester. Can the courses I’m currently taking be counted?

The registry can include ECE courses in your Career Ladder level determination only when those classes have been completed and grades have been issued. Therefore, classes in progress and/or those pending a grade, such as at the end of a semester, will not be factored into your Career Ladder placement. Though not always possible, it is advised that you wait until those classes are complete and/or when the grade has been issued to apply to the registry. This is particularly important if the completion of those classes will affect your level on the Career Ladder (i.e., raise your level). If it is not possible to postpone your application, those completed courses will be factored into your level placement upon your next application.

Why didn't my Career Ladder level change with my renewal submission?

Career Ladder placement changes based on additional completed ECE academic coursework. If you have additional completed coursework, please make sure to update your registry profile at the time of your career ladder application to ensure accurate placement. If you have any further questions about your career ladder placement, please feel free to contact us at scendeavors@dss.sc.gov.