Pre-K teaching positions may require prospective applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, but this is not always necessary. Additionally, a Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate and state certification may be required for Pre-K teachers working in preschools or family child care job settings.
Pre-K teachers work in classrooms and day care centers teaching and caring for children who are younger than kindergarten age. Education requirements for Pre-K teachers vary by state, but some education is usually necessary. A high school diploma or equivalent along with some training and certification is sometimes accepted by employers, while other employers require an associate's or bachelor's degree. A Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate and state certification is also usually necessary. Earning a CDA requires a combination of training and education and a passing grade on an exam. Pre-K teachers usually must be certified in CPR and first aid.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent; associate's degree or bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||CDA certification, state certification, first aid and CPR certification often required|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||7%*|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)||$28,570*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) has set national guidelines for Pre-K teacher education, but not all states and programs have adopted these standards. According to Pre-K Now, a public education organization that advocates for Pre-K programs for all children, 26 of the 48 states that have Pre-K programs require teachers to hold a bachelor's degree, and some of those states require teaching certificates as well. The Head Start Program requires teachers to hold at least a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential.
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) publishes a report that includes state-by-state Pre-K and preschool teacher standards and statistics.
Child Development Associate Credential
The Council for Professional Recognition (CPR) sets standards for the CDA credential, which is geared toward Pre-K teachers working in preschools or family child care settings or as home visitors. Pre-K teacher candidates enrolled in a CDA-focused program learn to create healthy learning environments, promote social development, encourage physical activity and work with parents to meet learning goals.
These programs typically involve three courses and a period of in-classroom training that prepares graduates to apply for the CDA credential. A representative of the CPR visits the Pre-K teacher candidate to observe his or her performance and conduct an interview before awarding the CDA credential.
Early Childhood Education Programs
Bachelor's degree programs in early childhood education prepare students to teach pre-K through third, fifth or sixth grade, depending on the program. These programs typically combine extensive field work with in-classroom discussions and lectures. Early childhood education programs cover subjects like science, math, English and arts. Students also learn about the development of children from Pre-K age through early childhood.
A bachelor's degree in early childhood education might offer Pre-K teachers the opportunity to advance to positions as lead teachers or childhood care center directors or to teaching positions at higher grade levels, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Those holding a bachelors degree could have better job prospects; however, applicants may be eligible for early childhood education positions with only a Child Development Associate credential and first aid and CPR certifications. Pre-K teaching careers are projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024.