Preschool teachers help young learners prepare for kindergarten through interactive play and games. Employment as a preschool teacher in a public school requires a bachelor's degree. However, some childcare centers employ qualified teachers with a high school diploma and certification or an associate's degree. Additionally, a state license and Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate, and CPR and first aid certification, are often required for employment. Some employers require prior experience as an assistant teacher.
What Does a Preschool Teacher Do?
Preschool teachers help their students learn mainly through play and interactive activities, capitalizing on children's play to further language and vocabulary development. A preschool teacher might use storytelling and rhyming and acting games to improve social skills or introduce scientific and mathematical concepts.
Most preschool settings employ a less structured approach, including small-group lessons, one-on-one instruction and learning through creative activities, such as music, art and dance. Lots of discussion and collaborative problem solving characterize the preschool classroom.
Educational Requirements for Preschool Teachers
Education requirements to become a preschool teacher vary. Public schools require at least a bachelor's degree; while an associate's degree or high school diploma is acceptable for some childcare centers.
Coursework in a preschool teacher degree program may include:
- Child development
- Classroom management and behavior
- Curriculum methods
- Instructional design
- Instructional resources and technology
- Parent-child relations
In many cases, preschool teachers start out as assistant teachers. With this experience, they may advance to being teachers and eventually to lead teacher status. A preschool teacher needs to be proficient in helping children learn how to cooperate, providing fun learning activities suitable for preschoolers, keeping children safe, working as a team member with other teachers and interacting with parents.
Preschool teachers need to be eager participants in children's growth and development, and in helping students understand how to use their natural curiosity to help make the appropriate developmental leaps in their skills and abilities. They are expected to create an atmosphere where risks can be taken and discoveries made while children remain safe. Most preschool teachers are required to earn certification in first aid procedures and infant and child CPR. They also need to undergo police background checks and fingerprinting.
Salary Information and Career Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), preschool teachers earned an average yearly wage of $32,500 in May 2015. The lowest-paid 10% of workers made $19,130 or less, while the top 10% of professionals made $51,990 or more.
The BLS projected that job openings for preschool teachers would grow 7% from 2014-2024, which was as fast as average. This growth will be driven by an increase in the number of children under five, as well as more demand for preschool education.