Becoming a Preschool Teacher: Step-by-Step Guide

Learn how to become a preschool teacher. Explore details about the job, its education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in early childhood education. View article »

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  • 0:02 Becoming a Preschool Teacher
  • 1:16 Step 1: Choose Your Training
  • 2:29 Step 2: Earn Teaching…
  • 3:20 Step 3: Earn an Early…

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Video Transcript

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Teacher Education, Multiple Levels
  • Teaching, Adults
  • Teaching, Elementary
  • Teaching, High School
  • Teaching, Junior High
  • Teaching, Kindergarten and Preschool
  • Teaching, Waldorf and Steiner Education
  • Teaching, Young Children

Becoming a Preschool Teacher

Degree Level High school diploma and early childhood education certification (minimum); associate's degree or bachelor's degree preferred in some settings
Degree Field Early childhood education
Licensure/Certification National certification, such as the CDA or CCP, is required
Experience Work experience with children is usually required to teach preschool
Key Skills Flexibility, creativity, nurturing demeanor, patience, and strong verbal communication skills; technical skills with spreadsheet software, data entry software, or educational software and equipment; instructional skills and classroom management techniques
Additional Requirements Pass background check, mandatory immunizations, meet minimum training requirements and continuing education credits
Salary $28,570 (median annual wage for preschool teachers - 2015)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONET Online

The primary responsibility of a preschool teacher is to care for and educate children before they enter kindergarten. Preschool teachers also help children develop language acquisition and social skills. Education requirements vary and range from a high school diploma to a college degree in early childhood education or a related field. Certification or licensure may be required. In addition, prospective preschool teachers may need previous experience working with children and also be able to pass a background check and meet mandatory immunizations requirements.

Preschool teachers work in public or private schools, day care centers, or other child development facilities. Working with this age group can be very tiring and stressful. At this young age, students tend to be quite active and may still have difficulty communicating effectively. Some of the most important skills and/or abilities a preschool teacher can have include:

  • Flexibility
  • Creativity
  • A nurturing demeanor
  • Patience
  • Strong verbal communication skills
  • Technical skills with database software
  • Classroom management

Step 1: Choose Your Training

Education and training requirements vary depending upon the type of preschool. In childcare centers, preschool teachers are generally required to have at least a high school diploma and certification in early childhood education. Preschool teachers in Head Start programs need to have at least an associate's degree. Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.), and Associate of Arts in Teaching (A.A.T.) programs in early childhood teaching are available. The A.A.T. degree is intended for those who want to transfer their credits to a 4-year degree. An associate's degree may suffice for employment with Head Start; however, at least 50% of teachers nationwide must have a bachelor's degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Preschool teachers in public schools typically need a bachelor's degree.

Success Tips:

It might also be a good idea to take advantage of opportunities to work with children outside of formal training. Summer or part-time jobs, hobbies, and volunteer roles that involve children can confirm your choice of careers and provide valuable experience.

In addition, try exploring different preschool teaching philosophies. There are a variety of preschool educational philosophies that approach early childhood education in various ways.

Step 2: Earn Teaching Credentials

Many preschools require teachers to earn the Child Development Associate (CDA). In order to earn the CDA, individuals must have a high school diploma, experience in the early childhood education field, and specific coursework. The Child Care Professional (CCP) designation is recognized by some states. The CCP can be earned by teachers who do not have a college degree or teachers who have a degree in a field other than early childhood education. Experience, writing samples, and a credentialing exam are a few of the requirements for the CCP.

Success Tips:

It is also worth noting that teachers should always make sure to keep their credentials current. Teachers have to complete ongoing professional development courses and meet other requirements in order to renew their certifications.

Step 3: Earn an Early Childhood Education Degree

A preschool teacher can gain broader employment options by earning a bachelor's degree in education. Common topics covered will include behavior assessment and management, math teaching methods, educational psychology, and reading instruction methods. Education programs require teaching practicum experiences, where students work directly in classroom settings.

Once employment has been obtained, according to the BLS, preschool teachers can expect to earn an annual median salary of $28,570 as of 2015, with a predicted job growth percentage of 7%. In summary, becoming a preschool teacher involves choosing educational training suited to your goals, earning experience and/or teaching credentials, and potentially completing a degree program in early childhood education.

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