How to Become a Nursery School Teacher: Career Roadmap

Jan 02, 2019

Research the requirements to become a nursery school 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 Nursery School Teacher?

Nursery school teachers, also called preschool teachers, provide academic instruction and promote social development for children who have not yet entered kindergarten. Preschool teachers also focus on meeting the basic nutritional and safety needs of young children. Working with energetic youngsters - and sometimes demanding parents - can be challenging for teachers, so patience is a must. On the other hand, the rewards of observing the accomplishments of students in their charge can be quite motivating.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; associate or bachelor's degree may be required
Degree Field Early childhood education or childcare
Licensure/Certification Nationally recognized certification such as the CDA or CCP; public schools require early childhood licensure
Experience Varies; work in a childcare setting usually required
Key Skills Instructional, classroom management, verbal and written communication skills; creativity; patience; use of Microsoft Excel, data entry, and educational software
Salary $28,570 (median for preschool teachers - not special education)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), ONET Online

The requirements for becoming a nursery school teacher vary depending on the school setting. A high school diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in early childhood education or childcare could be required. However, you must have a nationally recognized certification, such as the CDA or CCP. Public schools require nursery school teachers to be licensed in early childhood education. Additionally, a variable amount of work experience in a childcare setting is usually required.

The key skills for a nursery school teacher include:

  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Creativity
  • Patience
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Data entry software
  • Educational software
  • Instructional skills
  • Classroom management techniques

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages for preschool teachers - except special education - were $28,570 a year.

Career Steps

So now that we know the requirements, what steps have to be taken to get into this career? Let's find out.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

In childcare centers, preschool teachers are generally required to have a least a high school diploma and a certification in early childhood education. While in high school, courses in English, psychology, and health and safety can provide valuable knowledge to aspiring preschool teachers. Since writing and following lesson plans are key components of being a preschool teacher, high school students interested in becoming preschool teachers should develop strong reading and writing comprehension skills.

To improve your success at this stage, you can choose to become a volunteer in various childcare settings. To gain knowledge and hands-on experience in working with young children, volunteer at childcare centers or preschools. You may also want to gain work experience in the early childhood education field. Apply to work in after-school programs, summer camps, or other summer programs that serve preschool-aged children.

Step 2: Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education

Public schools and Head Start programs require preschool teachers to have postsecondary early childhood education. Head Start programs require at least an associate's degree; however, as of 2013, a bachelor's degree will be the minimum requirement in at least half of the programs. Associate's degree programs focus on the various factors that influence a child's development. Public schools require preschool teachers to have a bachelor's degree. Students in bachelor's degree programs learn about early health and safety, childhood development, nutrition and child psychology. Fieldwork experience is usually required to complete an associate's or bachelor's degree program in early childhood education.

To improve your chances of success at this step, you can become a tutor. In order to gain proficiency in academic subjects, organization and instructional skills, consider tutoring young children in areas such as math, reading, writing, science, art or other subjects.

Step 3: Obtain Certification

Nationally recognized certification, such as the Child Development Associate (CDA), is required by some states and employers. In order to earn the CDA, individuals must have a high school diploma, experience in the early childhood education field and specific coursework. Some states recognize the Child Care Professional (CCP) certification. Requirements to earn the CCP include a high school diploma, experience in the field and continuing education courses.

Step 4: Take Continuing Education Courses

Take additional courses to stay abreast of the latest educational research, instructional methods and classroom management techniques, and what you learn may even help further your career. Any new skills or personal references could also add up to a better pay check.


To recap, though it may vary by state, a nursery school teacher - which pays about $29,000 a year - typically requires a high school diploma and/or an associate's or bachelor's degree, as well as a CDA or CCP certification to provide academic instruction and promote social development in young children.

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