Requirements for Teaching Preschool Classes

Preschool teaching requires some formal education. Learn about the schooling, job duties and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Educational requirements for preschool teachers vary by employer and state and may include completion of an early childhood education program or an associate's or bachelor's degree. Preschool teacher prospects may also be required by employers or the state to be certified or licensed.

Essential Information

Preschool teaching involves working with young children through the age of four, helping them move forward towards kindergarten. Education and certification requirements vary by employer and state, but typically include completion of educational and experiential credit-hours in early childhood development. Public schools require a bachelor's degree while private schools may hire certified teachers with a high school diploma or associate's degree. In addition, a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential is required in many states. Certification in first aid and CPR, a background check, physical requirements and various other standards may also be necessary.

Required Education High school diploma or GED; associate's sometimes required; bachelor's required by public schools
Other Requirements Background check
Licensure and Certification State license or certification; CDA, first aid and CPR certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7%
Median Salary (2015)* $28,570 annually

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

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Preschool Teaching - Requirements Overview

Prospective preschool teachers must meet a variety of educational and certification requirements as established by the state or private employers. They may work for publicly funded programs, private institutions or religious organizations. Typical skill sets include excellent communication skills, time management, an enjoyment of working with small children and the ability to coordinate group activities.

Educational Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a high school diploma and certificate of completion earned through an accredited early childhood education program is acceptable for many preschool teaching jobs. However, an associate degree may be preferred by some employers. In many states, teaching preschool in public schools requires a bachelor's degree in early childhood education (www.bls.gov).

While earning a certificate or degree, aspiring preschool teachers often take courses in health and safety, child behavior, language development, pre-literacy fundamentals, special needs assessment, family development and nutrition. Curriculum may also include such creative teaching methods as movement, dance, art and music. Degree programs typically include a practicum or period of field work, in which students gain hands-on experience working with preschoolers. A mandated amount of supervised field hours may be required for certification and employment.

Certification Requirements

Many states and employers require preschool teachers to earn the Child Development Associate (CDA) designation issued by the Council for Professional Recognition (www.cdacouncil.org). Earning CDA certification requires 480 hours of recent childcare experience, 120 hours of recent childcare education and a high school diploma or GED. Some states have additional licensing and permit requirements, such as obtaining state teacher certification. Details are available through each state's board of education and the pre-kindergarten database at the Education Commission of the States (www.ecs.org).

Skill Requirements

Teaching preschoolers requires patience, creativity and confidence. Preschool teachers must have excellent communication skills, whether working with a child one-on-one or addressing a group. In addition to motivating and encouraging children, preschool teachers must be able to interact with parents and collaborate with other teachers. They must be able to maintain order, promote social skills and create a safe environment. Preschool teachers are tasked with creating dynamic lesson plans which incorporate group learning activities, technology, storytelling and games.

Additional Requirements

In addition to passing background screening checks, preschool teachers must often submit fingerprints and test negative for tuberculosis. Many preschools also require teachers to obtain certification in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Some employers may also require a valid state driver's license. Others may require language skills. Physical requirements may include the ability to stand for long periods of time, hand dexterity and the ability to lift up to 50 pounds.

Preschool teachers must meet a number of requirements that may include formal education and degrees, certification, licensing and background checks that vary by employer and state. Job growth for preschool teachers from 2014-2024 is expected to be about average compared to all occupations.

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