Pre-K Teacher: Job Description & Career Requirements

Pre-K teachers require some formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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You can become a pre-kindergarten teacher by earning a Child Development Associate credential and obtaining a license for the state in which you'd like to teach. Job growth for pre-kindergarten teachers is currently average. This career involves working with young children in public or private school environments.

Essential Information

Pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) teachers instruct children under the age of five in public and private schools. They use creative methods of learning, such as music, art and hands-on training, to educate students and prepare them for kindergarten. Depending upon employer and state, educational requirements range from high school diploma or equivalent to bachelor's degree. In addition, a state license and Child Development Associate (CDA) credential are often required.

Required Education Varies; high school diploma or equivalent, associate's or bachelor's degree
Other Requirements State license; CDA certificate required in some states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% for preschool teachers, not including special education
Median Salary (2015)* $28,570 annually for preschool teachers, not including special education

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

Pre-K Teacher Job Description

Pre-K teachers use an approved curriculum to develop both academic and social skills in their students in subjects like reading and social studies. This may include one-on-one and group instruction. Teachers may use activities like games and songs to help children develop skills in areas such as language and math.

Career Outlook for Pre-K Teaching

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), preschool teaching opportunities are anticipated to increase by 7% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). This expected growth is a result of the increasing importance being placed on early childhood education. Additionally, the BLS forecasts increased school enrollment for children between the ages of three and five years.

Salary Information

The BLS reports that pre-K teachers earned a median salary of $28,570 annually in May, 2015. Teachers working in New York earned the highest salary at $38,010.

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Pre-K Teacher Requirements

While all states mandate some form of licensure, specific requirements for pre-K teachers vary considerably from state to state. For example, in some states prospective candidates must finish high school and earn the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, while in other states they may need to complete an associate's or bachelor's degree program in early education or child development.

CDA Credential

The Council for Professional Recognition offers CDA credentials to candidates who are juniors or seniors in a vocational high school early education program, as well as to individuals who have earned a high school diploma or its equivalent (www.cdacouncil.org). Qualified individuals must show proof of 120 hours of formal early childhood training and 480 hours of professional experience within the past five years. Once complete, applicants must demonstrate their skills in front of a council representative.

CDA Renewal

CDA credentials must be renewed. The initial CDA lasts three years, but after the first renewal, the certification is good for five years. CDA renewal requirements include providing documentation of a pediatric first aid certification, completing 4.5 continuing education credits and accruing 80 hours of work experience. Individuals must also submit letters of recommendation and proof of membership in a childhood development professional organization.

Associate's Degrees

Early childhood education programs generally begin with courses that introduce students to topics in early childhood education, health and development. Additional courses teach students how to help children understand concepts in math and science.

Teacher Practicum

Associate's degree programs may include a teacher practicum in the curriculum. Sometimes referred to as 'internships', these experiences provide students with an opportunity to prepare daily lessons and increase their classroom management skills.

There are several different paths to becoming qualified as a pre-kindergarten teacher, including an associate's or bachelor's degree, or a Child Development Associate credential. When qualified, pre-kindergarten teachers can work in schools teaching children under the age of 5 using a variety of methods.

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