Nursery School Teacher Certification Information

Apr 28, 2021

Most states require that nursery school teachers earn professional certification, which requires some special training. It may be possible to begin a career as a nursery school teacher with a high school diploma and this training, but some states mandate that nursery school teachers hold a degree and a teaching license.

Essential Information

Nursery school teachers instruct students academically while being attentive to the development of social, language and motor skills. Requirements for preschool teachers vary from state to state. Though pre-kindergarten educators are not required to obtain teaching certification, some states require individuals to earn a college degree and a teaching certificate. Teachers typically need a state license in order to provide instruction and child care at the preschool level.

Required Education High school diploma required; Associate's or bachelor's degree usually needed
Other Requirements Varies by state, teaching certification, state license, CDA credential and/or experience may be required
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 2% for preschool teachers
Median Salary (2020)* $31,930 annually for preschool teachers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Certification and Licensure Requirements for Nursery School Teachers

Teaching certification is not mandatory for preschool educators. However, almost all states require teachers to earn the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential from the Council for Professional Recognition, demonstrating that they have met national standards of competency and can provide a safe learning environment for children. The CDA credential is usually a prerequisite for state licensure and indicates a professional commitment to continuing education. High school graduates with some formal child care education and experience working with children are eligible to apply for the credential.

State licensing regulations regarding educational qualifications differ. In some states, an individual may only need a high school diploma and student teaching experience in order to work as a preschool teacher. However, some states and federally funded programs may require teachers to have a minimum of an associate degree in early childhood education or child development. Since child safety is a primary concern, teachers may be required to obtain certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid.

Nursery School Teacher Education

Because pre-kindergarten programs are not always run by the state, employers' requirements may vary. Some preschools require potential employees to complete their own in-house training program. Teachers who wish to teach preschool-aged children in special education generally need an additional teaching certificate or endorsement.

Associate and bachelor's degree programs in early childhood education focus on theory and methods of learning and development between birth and third grade. Beyond coursework, early childhood education degree programs include a field experience requirement that is met by observing a classroom and supervised student teaching. Once an early childhood education program is completed, candidates are eligible to take an early childhood education exam and receive a teaching certificate. Some of the courses offered in early childhood education degree programs focus on the following:

  • Basic teaching principles
  • General pedagogical methods
  • Student assessment and research
  • Theories of play
  • Curriculum formation
  • Early childhood psychology

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, (, predicts that jobs for preschool teachers will increase slower than the average through 2029. In May 2020, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $58,230 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $21,900 or less per year.

Almost every state requires nursery school teachers to hold the CDA credential. High school graduates with some child care training can qualify for this credential. In addition to the CDA credential, some states require an associate's or bachelor's degree in early childhood education.

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