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Preschool Teacher Qualifications: Education and Career Roadmap

Preschool teachers can pursue several paths to become qualified in early education. No matter what form of training they receive, these teachers contribute to the well-being and learning of preschoolers. View article »

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  • 0:04 Preschool Teachers
  • 0:26 Career Skills & Info
  • 1:01 Step 1: Education Options
  • 1:34 Step 2: Early…
  • 2:01 Step 3: Teaching Credentials
  • 3:05 Step 4: Master's Degree

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Video Transcript

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers care for and instruct young children between three and five years of age. They teach their young students basic skills through the use of dramatic play, games, songs, and formal instruction. For example, preschoolers are taught the alphabet, numbers, colors, and social skills. They may also learn how to write their own names.

Career Skills & Info

Degree Level High school diploma or associate's degree; bachelor's degree required to teach in public school
Degree Field Early childhood education
Experience Experience working with young children
Licensure or Certification Must have nationally recognized certification, such as the CDA or CCP; preschool teachers in public schools must be licensed
Key Skills Strong communication, interpersonal, organizational, and problem-solving skills; an understanding of classroom management techniques and the use of general office and word processing software
Salary (2015) $31,420 (average annual salary for a preschool teacher)
Career Outlook 7%, or average, increase in job openings from 2014-2024

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Education Options

Education and training requirements for preschool teachers can vary depending on the environment and state. In childcare centers, preschool educators usually need at least a high school diploma and certification in early childhood education. Preschool teachers in Head Start programs must have a minimum of an associate's degree, such as an Associate in Arts in Teaching, designed for those who want to transfer to a four-year college. Public school preschool teachers almost always need a bachelor's degree and a teaching license.

Step 2: Early Childhood Education

Prospective preschool teachers can earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in early childhood education. Common courses include those in educational psychology, behavior assessment and management, teaching methods, and reading instruction. Education programs require teaching practicums, where students work directly in classroom settings. An associate's degree typically takes two years to complete, while a bachelor's degree takes four years.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Teacher Education, Multiple Levels
  • Teaching, Adults
  • Teaching, Elementary
  • Teaching, High School
  • Teaching, Junior High
  • Teaching, Kindergarten and Preschool
  • Teaching, Waldorf and Steiner Education
  • Teaching, Young Children

Step 3: Teaching Credentials

The Child Development Associate (CDA) designation is part of a national credentialing program administered by the Council for Professional Recognition. Some states recognize the Child Care Professional (CCP) designation administered by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. Requirements for the CDA include:

  • Coursework in early childhood education
  • Experience in early childhood education
  • Undergoing a professional observation while at work with preschoolers
  • A passing score on an exam

Entry-level educators can pursue a CDA credential while acquiring experience with preschool children in three settings, including a center-based preschool setting, family childcare setting, or home visitor setting. Requirements for the CCP are similar to those for the CDA. The CDA credential has to be renewed every three years, while the CCP must be renewed every two years.

Step 4: Master's Degree

A few states require public school teachers to earn a master's degree after obtaining their initial certifications. Certified teachers may also enroll in a master's degree program to further their careers. In addition, some master's degree programs are designed for those who've earned a bachelor's degree but aren't certified. At the graduate level, preschool teachers study curriculum development in early childhood education, child abuse prevention, and educational research.

Let's briefly go over what we've just discussed. Educational requirements for preschool teachers can vary from a high school diploma and professional certification, such as the Child Development Associate (CDA), to an associate's or a bachelor's degree in early childhood education. In May 2015, preschool teachers earned an average annual salary of $31,420.

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