Pre-k school teachers work with children younger than five. They can work for public or private schools or for day care centers. Education requirements vary depending on where a pre-k teacher wants to work, but a degree program in early childhood education is a safe start to this career.
Individuals with a high school diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree can become a pre-k teacher. Child Development Associate (CDA) certification is the credential that the majority of states require for pre-k teachers. To earn a CDA, teaching candidates must pass an exam and meet various coursework and field objectives. State certification, first aid and CPR certification are also often necessary.
|Required Education||High school diploma, associate's or bachelor's|
|Other Requirements||CDA certification, state certification, first aid and CPR certification often required|
|Projected Job Growth (2018- 2028)*||7% for preschool teachers, except special education|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$29,780 annually for preschool teachers, except special education|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pre-K Teacher Job Duties
Pre-kindergarten teachers, also called pre-k or preschool teachers, instruct children under the age of five using creative methods such as art, music and hands-on learning. Pre-k teachers work in public school districts, private schools and day care centers. Part-time work schedules are common. Though much of the learning centers around play, the primary purpose of the educational program is to prepare students for kindergarten.
Pre-k teachers create daily lesson plans that teach social skills and personal hygiene, as well as introducing colors, shapes and numbers. They also introduce reading and writing to their classes and help children develop language skills. Pre-k teachers must also attend to the basic needs of young children, such as serving them food and beverages, putting on and taking off coats and changing diapers or assisting kids on bathroom visits. It is also important for pre-k teachers to maintain communication with each child's parents, particularly when there is a problem.
The education required to become a preschool teacher varies widely, according to state and employer standards. Requirements can range from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or child development. Another factor is the source of funding for the preschool program. For example, all teachers in the federally funded Head Start program were required to earn at least an associate degree and meet other federal teaching requisites.
Some states require licensure for pre-k teachers who teach in public schools while others do not. For the states that require licensure, some require a minimum of an associate's degree in early childhood education, while others require a bachelor's degree. Private schools usually do not require licensure. The most common credential for pre-k teachers is the Child Development Associate (CDA), administered by the Council for Professional Recognition (www.cdacouncil.org). A CDA requires both early childhood education courses and experience working with children.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs for pre-k teachers should grow by 7% from 2018 through 2028, which is faster than the average when compared to all occupations (www.bls.org). Job prospects are excellent because of the significance of early childhood education for overall development.
A pre-k teacher may advance in his or her profession by becoming an assistant teacher first, a teacher next, then lead teacher and finally, director of the center. Preschool teachers with a bachelor's degree may also be qualified to teach kindergarten through third grade. Teaching higher grades often means an increase in pay.
The BLS reports that the median annual wages for preschool teachers in May of 2018 were $29,780. The bottom ten percent of that group earned less than $20,610, while the top ten percent made more than $55,350. Average annual earnings were $34,410 that year.
Pre-k teachers combine art, music and interactive activities to create a nurturing and fun learning environment for their young students. While a bachelor's degree is not necessarily required to begin teaching at this level, completing a degree program can prepare a teacher for promotions and teaching higher levels, which may mean an increase in salary. If a pre-k teacher wants to work for a public school district, they may need to earn a Child Development Associate credential.