Program Director Credential

The Program Director credential  recognizes early childhood and afterschool professionals who have gained the Competencies for Program Directors of Early Childhood and Afterschool Programs. Achievement of this credential is a sign of quality and leadership in the field.

Who is the Credential for?

  • Current directors working in center-based or family child care settings in either childhood or afterschool programs
  • Experienced staff who want to gain the Program Director Competencies and become a director in an early childhood or afterschool program. Note that director experience is required to earn the Credential- Step 3.

How does the Credential relate to the Center Based Child Care and Preschool Program Licensing Regulations? (see section 7 of the regulations)

What are the Credential Requirements? All requirements must be met to earn the Credential

  1. Successfully complete the 7 college courses or equivalency (see below)
  2. Have experience working with children and also experience working as a program  director or have supervised administrative practice
  3. Professional membership in state, regional and national organizations or associations
  4. Approval of the Program Director Portfolio you create and submit


  • Courses may be taken at any time (you may have already taken some!)
  • There is funding from Northern Lights, the Child Development Division and others to help pay for the required courses. (see the list below)
  • You must submit a transcript (as issued by the college registrar) or have it in your BFIS Credential account, for Northern Lights to verify completed coursework.
  • Applicants can begin work on the final Program Director Portfolio right away, by collecting and organizing documents that are evidence of your knowledge and skills.  The Evidence of Competency guide provides examples.

You can attain the Credential in three steps:

STEP ONE: Review course work you have completed and take any missing coursework.  Apply and obtain Step 1.

Step 1 College Courses  (to earn a Step 1 Program Director certificate)
  • Child Development (or Infant Toddler Development , or Development of the Young Child  Ages 3-8, or Afterschool Education and Development of the Young Child)
  • Curriculum Development in Early Childhood Education or Introduction to Afterschool Education
  • Early Childhood Education and Afterschool Program Management

STEP TWO: Look at the list of upcoming college courses and contact Northern Lights  about scholarships and access to the listed courses. When you have completed all of these courses, apply and obtain Step 2.

Step 2 additional College Courses (to earn a Step 2 Program Director certificate)
  • Human Resources Management
  • Leadership, Mentoring and Supervision in Early Childhood and Afterschool Programs
  • Legal and Financial Issues in Early Childhood and Afterschool Programs (Offered through Union Institute and University.)

STEP THREE: Contact Northern Lights to register for the Culminating Seminar, where you develop your Program Director Portfolio.   When you complete the course finish your portfolio and submit it for review and approval.

Step Three and earning the Program Director Credential
  • Culminating Seminar in Early Childhood and Afterschool Programs (only offered by Northern Lights once a year) Go to this survey to start the enrollment process for winter 2018.
  • Completed and approved Program Director Portfolio (submit to Northern Lights when you are ready)

What is Course Equivalency?

If you believe you have completed coursework or training that covers similar learning objectives as the required coursework for Steps 1 and 2, submit with your application documentation for one of the options below. For assistance and detailed instructions for equivalency, please contact Amelia Struthers: (802)885-8374 or

Option A: Similar, approved 3-credit course with description and objectives, and a statement indicating how this course specifically meets the objectives of the course you are seeking equivalency for. OR

Option B: Combination of credit coursework and documented professional development related to course content totaling a minimum of 45 hours, and solid documented evidence of related Program Director Competencies.  Applicants should  use the Program Director Course Equivalency Index to help determine coursework/competency alignment. The Evidence of Competency Guide will help you organize your documented evidence. These documents are located in the side bar of this page.

* Note: Equivalency Option B is limited to specified coursework, and may be considered for up to 3 required courses at Steps 1 and 2 combined.

What are the Benefits of the Credential?

  • Recognition of your current knowledge and skills, while learning new skills you can apply; develop colleagueship with peers across the state.
  • There is no time limit to complete the required coursework; you can build from the coursework you have already completed.  You can complete it in stages.  There are financial supports available to cover the cost of much of the coursework.
  • The Child Development Division awards a Recognition Bonus for completing this credential, and it is recognized in the STARS (Step Ahead Recognition system) staff qualifications arena
  • For NAEYC Early Childhood Program Accreditation, Credential holders qualify for the maximum number of points for relevant training and credentials, one of three categories included in the alternative pathways to achieving educational qualifications of a program administrator.
  • Program Director Credential holders who attend the Springfield College Human Services program (St. Johnsbury, VT) may be awarded an additional 6-9 credits from Springfield college, in addition to transfer credits.

Contact the Northern Lights Career Development Center at 802-885-8374 as soon as you’ve decided to begin the credentialing process. We will provide resources and individual support along the way.