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Preschool Teacher Educational Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a preschool teacher. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about education, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Though education requirements for preschool teachers can vary from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree, licensure is required in order to work in the public school system. Certification is required in some states regardless of preschool setting.

Essential Information

Preschool teachers usually instruct young children ages 3-5. Using interactive teaching methodologies, preschool teachers provide young learners with basic learning foundations and social skills. Educational requirements vary by state, but most states require preschool teachers to complete postsecondary coursework related to early childhood development. Child Development Associate (CDA) certification may be necessary as well. Public schools teachers need a bachelor's degree and state licensure.

Required Education Requirements vary by state, though postsecondary coursework usually needed
Other Requirements State license for public school teachers; CDA certification may be required or preferred by employers
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7%, not including special education preschool teachers
Median Salary (2015)* $28,570 annually, not including special education preschool teachers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Preschool Teacher Educational Requirements

Currently, there is no standard educational requirement for preschool teachers, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that each state has different requirements for these professionals. For example, some states require preschool teachers to hold bachelor's degrees, whereas other states only require the equivalent of a high school diploma. Some states do not require a 4-year degree, but instead may require applicants to complete postsecondary early childhood development coursework.

In states that require bachelor's degrees for this profession, preschool teachers commonly earn degrees in child development or early childhood education. Coursework may include principles of childhood development, early learning technology and educational psychology. Most programs also cover methodologies focused on teaching young learners about science, mathematics, literature and history. Students may be required to complete practicums, in which they gain hands-on teaching experience in classroom settings.

Credential Programs

Instead of a formal degree, some states require preschool teachers to become certified through the CDA credential program. Offered by the Council for Professional Recognition, the CDA credential is awarded to professionals who have completed child development training coursework in categories such as social and emotional development, developing healthy learning environments, program management and intellectual competencies.

To earn the CDA credential for preschool teachers, applicants must first show proof that they've completed the recognized training programs. Next, applicants go through an interview process with a verification officer. After passing the oral interview and meeting all other requirements, applicants are awarded the CDA credential and must renew it every five years.

Preschool Teacher Job Description

Upon meeting state requirements, preschool teachers often go on to work in child day care services. Some also work in public and private educational services. Preschool teachers introduce children to mathematics, language, science and social studies by using games, music, artwork, books, computers and other teaching strategies. Many preschool teachers work with groups of children, but they occasionally work one-on-one with students. Teachers also work with parents to let them know what activities can be done outside of the classroom to help students improve.

Employment Outlook

Since preschool is not necessarily an educational requirement in every state, most preschool programs are an out-of-pocket expense for parents, which may discourage them from utilizing these early educational programs. Nevertheless, the BLS showed that more states are starting to support early childhood education and that many of these states are providing parents with programs that could potentially ease the monetary costs of preschool. Due to this increased support, the BLS predicted that, between 2014 and 2024, preschool teaching positions should increase by 7%.

While some states require preschool teachers only to hold a high school diploma, others require CDA certification and/or a postsecondary certificate or degree. Licensure is required for public school teachers, in which cases, a bachelor's degree is most often required as well. Employment opportunities for preschool teachers are expected to grow at about the same rate as the national average for all occupations.

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