According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more employers now prefer to hire preschool teachers who have completed certificate or associate's degree programs (www.bls.gov). Many community colleges offer 1-year certificate programs and 2-year associate's degree programs that prepare individuals to sit for state licensing examinations; however, professional associations also offer fast-track credentialing programs. In addition to certificate and associate degree programs, there are also 4-year bachelor's degree programs available, and there are opportunities to take online courses for any of these programs. Early childhood education programs emphasize the incorporation of play with learning in order to hone children's motor skills and emotional, social and language development.
Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential Program
The Council for Professional Recognition provides the official CDA credential. Upon completion, graduates may use the CDA professional designation and apply these credits towards future certificate or associate's degree programs. This program provides accelerated training for preschool and childcare professionals. Students gain this designation by completing several courses in early childhood education, including:
- Early childhood education foundations
- Infant toddler growth and development
Early Childhood Education Certificate Program
Certificate programs for preschool teachers offer courses in curriculum planning, childhood development and early childhood education principles. Students also learn about observation and assessment methods, daycare recordkeeping, preschool administration and health diseases. Some other course topics might include:
- Issues in education
- Child development
- Child, family and society
- Language development in young children
- Children's literature
Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education
These programs teach students how to use games, music, books and crafts to increase letter and number recognition and build phonemic awareness. Students are expected to complete foundational courses in English, history, mathematics, biology and psychology in addition to core classes. Early childhood education courses include:
- Children's literature
- Child care administration
- Observation and assessment
- Language development
- Special needs instruction
Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education
A bachelor's degree program not only prepares students to teach preschool, but also may provide the opportunity for graduates to pursue state licensure necessary to teach kindergarten through early primary grades. General education requirements are included in the curriculum. Bachelor's degree programs for preschool teachers include courses in:
- College writing
- Human growth and development
- Curriculum methods
- Childhood literacy
- Early childhood screening techniques
Popular Career Options
Certificate program graduates may find work as teaching aides and assistant preschool teachers for Head Start, daycare centers and nursery schools.
Associate's degree graduates find employment as teachers at daycare centers, preschools and Head Start programs. Many may also be qualified to serve as directors for daycare or preschool centers.
Bachelor's degree programs prepare students to work in public and private schools educating children from pre-school to elementary school age.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Preschool teachers, as of May 2015, make an average salary of $32,500 per year, according to the BLS. The BLS also states that from 2014 to 2024, the employment for these teachers is expected to grow 7%, which is as fast as the average.
Continuing Education Information
Each state has its own licensing requirements for early childhood educators. Some require preschool teachers to have high school diplomas and CDA credentials, while others demand completion of formal degree programs. Licensure is awarded through each state's education department. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education offers national certification. Individuals interested in becoming preschool teachers should verify their state's licensing guidelines when choosing an educational program.
Preschool teachers may also be required to seek first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certifications prior to employment. The BLS reports state laws require preschools to have at least one certified CPR and first aid instructor on staff at all times.
Those seeking a career as a preschool teacher can pursue programs ranging from the certificate level to the bachelor level. Students can also obtain state and national certification as part of their continuing education efforts.