How to Become a Certified Preschool Teacher

Jan 16, 2020

Research the requirements to become a certified preschool teacher. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in early childhood education.

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Should I Become a Certified Preschool Teacher?

Preschool teachers provide educational instruction, create engaging learning environments, and promote social growth for children who typically range from ages 3-5. Certified preschool teachers may work in childcare centers, Head Start programs, or public schools. Many positions are for the traditional 10-month school year, while others may be year-round or based on alternate school schedules. Working with small children can be demanding and tiring, requiring a great deal of patience.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean salary of preschool teachers was $32,500 in May 2015.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent, associate's, or bachelor's may be required depending on the position
Degree Field(s) Early childhood education or childcare
License/Certification Nationally-recognized certification required; public schools require licensure
Experience Hands-on experience working with young children typically required
Key Skills Flexibility and creativity; nurturing and patient personality; knowledgeable in spreadsheet software, data entry software, and educational software and equipment; strong classroom management techniques and instructional skills.
Mean Annual Salary (2018) $29,780 (for preschool teachers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Depending upon the school's setting, a high school diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree in early childhood education or childcare is required. Work experience with children is usually required. You will need to have nationally-recognized certification, and public schools require preschool teachers to be licensed in early childhood education.

The key skills you will want to cultivate include the ability to be flexible, creative, nurturing, and patient. You'll also want to be knowledgeable in spreadsheet software, data entry software, educational software and equipment, classroom management techniques, and have instructional skills.

Steps to Becoming a Certified Preschool Teacher

You can follow these five steps to become a certified preschool teacher.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

In childcare centers, preschool teachers are generally required to have at least a high school diploma and certification in early childhood education. While in high school, courses in English, health, sociology and psychology can provide valuable knowledge. You should also develop proficient reading and writing skills to create practical lesson plans.

Also, consider volunteering in childcare settings to gain awareness and experience in working with young children.

Step 2: Work with Children

Before taking control of an entire classroom of preschoolers, most employers require teachers to have experience working with children. This can be achieved in a variety of settings, although a common avenue is working as an assistant teacher. Assistant teachers work directly with children to help with academic, social, and behavioral issues. Assistant teachers must work under the supervision of licensed teachers.

Step 3: Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education

Public schools and Head Start programs require preschool teachers to have postsecondary early childhood education. Since 2013, Head Start programs have required at least 50% of teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree. Public schools in all states require preschool teachers to have a bachelor's degree. Students in bachelor's degree programs learn about early childhood development, health and safety, nutrition and child psychology.

You will likely also complete a student teaching assignment.

Step Four: Become Certified

Although each state has different requirements for teaching licensure, nationally recognized certification is required for childcare center teachers. Earning the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential requires a candidate to have a high school diploma, complete at least 480 hours of experience working with children, and complete 120 hours or more of formal childcare education. Certification for preschool teachers in public schools involves passing state certification exams after completing a bachelor's degree program.

Some states recognize the National Child Care Association's Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) credential. The CCP credential can be earned by those who do not hold a college degree and by those whose college degrees are in areas not directly related to childhood education.

Step Five: Maintain Certification

A CDA credential requires continuing education for renewal. Preschool teachers in childcare centers must be certified in first aid, show active teaching practice, and obtain membership in an approved organization for childcare professionals. Preschool teachers in public schools must participate in professional development programs in order to keep their licenses current. In addition, the new knowledge and skills may also help you to further your career.

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