Preschool Teacher Training and Career Education Programs

Early childhood education credential, certificate and degree programs prepare aspiring preschool teachers to create and foster learning environments full of age-appropriate art projects, children's literature, games and music. Traditional colleges offer bachelor's programs in early childhood education.

Essential Information

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. 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.

  • Program Levels: Credential programs, certificate programs, associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees.
  • Program Length: 1 year for certificate programs, 2 years for associate's degrees, 4 years for bachelor's degrees.
  • Online Availability: Online programs are available.

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
  • History
  • 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 2014, make an average salary of $32,040 per year, according to the BLS. The BLS also states that from 2012 to 2022, the employment for these teachers is expected to grow 17%, which is faster than 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.

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