Being a preschool teacher requires a joy for interacting with young children and a desire to foster creativity and engagement. Preschool teachers prepare children to enter kindergarten by providing support, guidance and learning activities. This career typically requires one to have some formal education or training and state licensure.
Preschool teachers educate children between the ages of 3 and 5. They provide preschool students with foundations for academic success and creative expression while preparing them for kindergarten. Requirements for becoming a preschool teacher rely heavily on the school's location, though all states require licensure and training in early education. A minimum of a high school diploma or associate's is often required, however most preschool teachers for public schools must earn a bachelor's degree. A Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate is a common credential that is required by many states. CPR and first aid certification may also be required.
|Required Education||High school diploma or associate's degree, bachelor's generally required by public schools|
|Other Requirements||State license or certification and training; CDA, first aid and CPR certification may also be required|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||7%|
|Mean Salary (2015)*||$32,500 annually|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Preschool Teacher Requirements
All states require preschool teachers to hold child care licensure; however, requirements differ in each state and often by employer. Some states call for preschool teachers to hold associate's degrees in applicable fields, while others require only high school diplomas and Child Development Associate (CDA) credentials. Some licensing boards may have their own preschool teacher training programs. Programs funded by states or the federal government have strict conditions and require teachers to hold undergraduate degrees.
Some employers prefer to hire preschool teachers with associate's degrees in early education or child development. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that preschool teachers employed by Head Start, a Federal program for preschool children, must hold at least associate's degrees. Associate's degree programs in early education are available at community colleges and technical schools and prepare students for entry-level positions in childhood education. Courses may include creativity in learning, child observation, health and nutrition education, early literacy and special needs children.
The Council for Professional Recognition offers CDA programs that are available to applicants with high school diplomas or equivalency degrees, as well as junior and senior high school students in vocational programs. Applicants must submit proof of 120 hours of formal training and 480 hours of early childhood education experience earned within the last five years. Eligible candidates may then earn their CDA by passing a 2-hour multiple-choice exam and sitting for an oral interview. CDA credentials must be renewed after the initial three years and subsequently every five years.
Preschool Teacher Career Information
Preschool teachers play an important role in developing children's interest in learning. Through various techniques and activities, such as games, group play, artwork and music, preschool teachers instruct in reading, writing and basic math concepts. Preschool teachers also encourage creativity and social interaction. Those in private schools generally have greater control over curricula and much smaller class sizes.
Most preschool teachers work part-time hours and do not work during summer vacation, though some may work side jobs or pursue advanced education during that time. Preschools employed by day care centers generally work year-round.
The BLS reported that preschool teacher employment is expected to increase 7% from 2014-2024. This predicted growth is an effect of an increasing demand for accessibility to early education programs and the rising population of preschool-age children.
In May 2015, the BLS reported that preschool teachers earned on average $32,500 annually, or $15.62 hourly. The highest paying positions were in elementary and secondary schools, which paid an average of $45,370 per year. Location also played a factor in observed earnings; metropolitan areas paid the greatest reported wages, with the New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division offering the highest mean wage at $42,400 per year.
There are many factors that affect the job duties, pay, and educational requirements for pre-school teachers. Consider all of your options, including where to work and what to study, in order to best prepare to be a preschool teacher.