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How to Become a Pre-Kindergarten Teacher: Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a pre-kindergarten teacher. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in early childhood education.

Should I Become a Pre-Kindergarten Teacher?

Pre-kindergarten teachers instruct children using several methods, including play, art and storytelling. These teachers are usually trained in early childhood education and commonly work with students from ages 3-5. Working with small, active children can be challenging, patience and empathy are often called for when working with youngsters and their parents. Work is available on a full time basis and work schedule can vary from year around to 10-months school year.

In some states, certification is required for preschool teachers. The education requirements vary and range from a high school diploma with experience in care centers to an associate degree for Head Start programs to a bachelor's degree for teachers in public schools. The following table contains essential requirements needed to become a pre-kindergarten teacher:

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma along with early childhood education certification; associate's degree or bachelor's degree preferred in some settings
Degree Field Early childhood education; childcare
Experience Work experience with children is usually required to teach pre-kindergarten
Licensure/Certification Some states require certification or professional credentialing, such as the Child Development Associate title or the Child Care Professional title; public schools require a license; pass background check, receive mandatory immunizations
Key Skills Flexibility, creativity, nurturing demeanor, patience, strong verbal communication skills, strong organization skills, spreadsheet software, data entry software, educational software and equipment
Salary (2014) $32,040 (Mean annual salary for a preschool teacher)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET Online

Step 1: Obtain a High School Diploma

Pre-kindergarten teachers in childcare centers are generally required to have at least a high school diploma. While in high school, courses in English, psychology, and public speaking can provide valuable knowledge to aspiring preschool teachers. High school students interested in becoming preschool teachers should develop strong verbal communication skills and proficient reading comprehension skills since they will be writing many lesson plans when they are teachers.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

In order to work as a pre-kindergarten teacher or gain certification, some experience in a relevant field is typically required. Aspiring pre-kindergarten teachers might work in childcare facilities or they may work as teaching assistants in order to gain the experience that certification agencies and potential employers require.

Step 3: Obtain Certification

Some states and most employers require pre-kindergarten teachers to meet certification requirements in early childhood education. This can include credentials such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) or the Child Care Professional (CCP) certification. In order to earn these credentials, individuals must have a high school diploma, experience working with children, and meet other qualifications. This is different from state licensing, which public schools require pre-kindergarten teachers to have.

Success Tip:

  • Take continuing education courses. Teachers are often required to participate in ongoing professional development opportunities in order to keep their licenses current.

Step 4: Earn a College Degree

Public schools and Head Start programs require pre-kindergarten teachers to have either an associate degree or a bachelor's degree in early childhood education. Public schools require teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree. Prospective pre-kindergarten teachers who already hold a bachelor's degree in a field other than education may consider enrolling in alternative certification programs. In 2013, Head Start began requiring 50% of its teachers to have a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Success Tips:

  • Complete student teaching. A field experience component is required to complete education programs, and can provide aspiring teachers with valuable hands-on experience.
  • Get a background check. States require fingerprinting and background checks for individuals working within the public school system, including pre-kindergarten teachers.

Step 5: Earn Licensure

In order to teach pre-kindergarten in a public school, an individual in this field is required to have at least a bachelor's degree and needs to be licensed by the state. State licensure requirements vary for public school teachers, but a bachelor's degree and a student teaching experience are typically required. To advance your teaching career, you need to obtain licensure, which immediately opens up more employment offerings not only at private schools but public schools as well.

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