Preschool Teacher Qualifications: Education and Career Roadmap

Preschool teachers can pursue several paths in order 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.

Should I Become a Preschool Teacher?

Preschool teachers spend their days teaching and caring for young children between three and five years of age. Using dramatic play, games, songs and formal instruction, they instruct their young students in basic skills. Preschoolers are taught the alphabet, numbers, colors and social skills. They may learn how to write their own names as well.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, every state has its own set of qualifications for individuals wishing to work as preschool teachers (www.bls.gov). While some preschool jobs may only require a high school diploma, other positions require a college degree or a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential.

Career Requirements

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 problem-solving, interpersonal and communication and organizational skills, word processing and other general office software; classroom management techniques
Salary $32,040 (Annual mean salary for a preschool teacher)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Choose Training Appropriate for your Goal

Depending on the type of preschool an individual applies to, education and training requirements may vary. In childcare centers, preschool educators are normally required to have a least a high school diploma and certification in early childhood education. Preschool teachers in Head Start programs need to have at least an associate's degree. The Associate in Arts in Teaching degree is intended for those who want to transfer to a 4-year college.

Step 2: Complete an Early Childhood Education Degree

Prospective preschool teachers who wish to further their education may choose to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in early childhood education. Common courses include educational psychology, behavior assessment and management, teaching methods and reading instruction methods. Education programs require teaching practicum experiences, where students work directly in classroom settings. Students may complete an associate's degree in two years or a bachelor's degree in four years.

Step 3: Earn Teaching Credentials

The CDA is part of a national credentialing program administered by the Council for Professional Recognition (www.cdacouncil.org). Most preschools require teachers to earn the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. To earn the CDA, individuals must have a high school diploma, experience in the early childhood education field, and specific coursework. Entry-level preschool educators can pursue a CDA credential while working with preschool children in three settings, including a center-based preschool setting, a family childcare setting or in a home visitor setting. The Child Care Professional (CCP) designation is recognized by some states. The CCP can be earned by teachers who do not have a college degree or teachers who have a degree in a field other than early childhood education. Experience, writing samples, and a credentialing exam are a few of the requirements for CCP.

Step 4: Complete a Master's Program for Career Advancement

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

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