How to Become a Preschool Teacher

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Updated November 18, 2020 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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4 Steps to Becoming a Preschool Teacher

Step Step 1
Earn an undergraduate degree
Preschool teachers are required to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in early childhood education. The education hopeful teachers need depends on where they work. For example, preschool teachers at Head Start programs can get a job after completing an associate's degree, while those who want to work at public schools are required to earn a bachelor's. During their degree programs, prospective preschool teachers take coursework in children's literature, early childhood education theory, children and families, issues in education, and the psychological and physical development of children.
Step Step 2
Get classroom experience
Experiential learning is an important part of becoming an educator, so preschool teachers are required to get experience in the classroom in order to get a job. To obtain this experience, students participate in internships where they work as assistant teachers under the supervision of a licensed educator. The number of hours of classroom experience teachers need depends on the state they work in.
Step Step 3
Earn a license
Early childhood education graduates who want to work for public schools must obtain a license in order to get a preschool teacher position. Each state has its own specific requirements for licensure, however, preschool teachers are typically required to complete a bachelor's degree and a competency examination.
Step Step 4
Earn a certification
Depending on where they live, preschool teachers may be required to obtain a Child Development Associate (CDA) certification issued by the Council for Professional Recognition. In order to receive this designation, people are required to complete a written examination and demonstrate education and experience. CDA credentials must be renewed every three years.

FAQ on Earning Your Preschool Teacher Degree

1. Are preschool teachers required to complete continuing education courses?

Preschool teachers who are required to obtain a state license in order to work may have to complete continuing education classes to keep their credentials current. State requirements differ, so professionals should verify the continuing education rules in their state.

2. Is it necessary to earn a graduate degree?

Although preschool teachers are not required to earn a graduate degree for their job, pursuing a master's or doctoral degree can help them advance into administrative education positions. Those who want to move up the career ladder may be required to have graduate degrees in order to achieve those goals.

3. Do preschool teachers need to renew their state license?

Yes. How often they have to renew their license depends on the state they work in.

Preschool Teacher Salary & Job Growth

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that as of May 2017, the median annual salary of preschool teachers is $28,990. The exact earnings of these educators depends on where they teach. For example, the agency reports that those who work for public and private elementary schools earn $46,600; preschool teachers who work at child day care services centers make $26,870; and those who work for religious schools can earn $30,320.


Mean wage annual: $25,939
Currently Employed:1,790
Change in Employment (2016-2026):7.40%


Mean wage annual: $35,660
Currently Employed:660
Change in Employment (2016-2026):4.90%


Mean wage annual: $30,500
Currently Employed:6,160
Change in Employment (2016-2026):27.80%


Mean wage annual: $32,290
Currently Employed:3,240
Change in Employment (2016-2026):15.50%


Mean wage annual: $36,760
Currently Employed:51,990
Change in Employment (2016-2026):9.70%


Mean wage annual: $31,070
Currently Employed:8,750
Change in Employment (2016-2026):33.40%


Mean wage annual: $40,150
Currently Employed:5,490
Change in Employment (2016-2026):3.50%


Mean wage annual: $28,670
Currently Employed:2,280
Change in Employment (2016-2026):5.90%


Mean wage annual: $27,340
Currently Employed:21,380
Change in Employment (2016-2026):13.90%


Mean wage annual: $29,600
Currently Employed:15,300
Change in Employment (2016-2026):13.60%


Mean wage annual: $39,180
Currently Employed:1,620
Change in Employment (2016-2026):5.50%


Mean wage annual: $24,540
Currently Employed:1,030
Change in Employment (2016-2026):8.80%


Mean wage annual: $31,750
Currently Employed:20,620
Change in Employment (2016-2026):10.20%


Mean wage annual: $26,840
Currently Employed:5,570
Change in Employment (2016-2026):8.60%


Mean wage annual: $25,880
Currently Employed:4,330
Change in Employment (2016-2026):11.40%


Mean wage annual: $29,990
Currently Employed:2,260
Change in Employment (2016-2026):9.70%


Mean wage annual: $35,360
Currently Employed:3,170
Change in Employment (2016-2026):11.20%


Mean wage annual: $36,180
Currently Employed:2,420
Change in Employment (2016-2026):6.40%


Mean wage annual: $33,590
Currently Employed:1,270
Change in Employment (2016-2026):-3.40%


Mean wage annual: $35,810
Currently Employed:10,000
Change in Employment (2016-2026):7.90%


Mean wage annual: $37,510
Currently Employed:16,390
Change in Employment (2016-2026):1.80%


Mean wage annual: $32,770
Currently Employed:9,340
Change in Employment (2016-2026):12.10%


Mean wage annual: $35,360
Currently Employed:7,610
Change in Employment (2016-2026):14.90%


Mean wage annual: $28,940
Currently Employed:2,500
Change in Employment (2016-2026):5.10%


Mean wage annual: $27,360
Currently Employed:5,050
Change in Employment (2016-2026):10.00%


Mean wage annual: $28,860
Currently Employed:1,100
Change in Employment (2016-2026):9.20%


Mean wage annual: $39,270
Currently Employed:1,090
Change in Employment (2016-2026):9.10%


Mean wage annual: $31,410
Currently Employed:1,330
Change in Employment (2016-2026):8.10%

New Hampshire

Mean wage annual: $30,990
Currently Employed:3,120
Change in Employment (2016-2026):8.70%

New Jersey

Mean wage annual: $40,110
Currently Employed:14,960
Change in Employment (2016-2026):12.90%

New Mexico

Mean wage annual: $33,450
Currently Employed:2,460
Change in Employment (2016-2026):7.30%

New York

Mean wage annual: $44,310
Currently Employed:34,110
Change in Employment (2016-2026):12.20%

North Carolina

Mean wage annual: $28,070
Currently Employed:15,990
Change in Employment (2016-2026):12.70%

North Dakota

Mean wage annual: $33,160
Currently Employed:850
Change in Employment (2016-2026):18.10%


Mean wage annual: $27,720
Currently Employed:13,670
Change in Employment (2016-2026):17.90%


Mean wage annual: $29,900
Currently Employed:5,530
Change in Employment (2016-2026):11.30%


Mean wage annual: $29,620
Currently Employed:7,120
Change in Employment (2016-2026):16.10%


Mean wage annual: $28,650
Currently Employed:14,110
Change in Employment (2016-2026):6.80%

Rhode Island

Mean wage annual: $32,570
Currently Employed:1,260
Change in Employment (2016-2026):-0.40%

South Carolina

Mean wage annual: $27,840
Currently Employed:5,040
Change in Employment (2016-2026):11.60%

South Dakota

Mean wage annual: $29,840
Currently Employed:1,310
Change in Employment (2016-2026):12.90%


Mean wage annual: $30,280
Currently Employed:6,860
Change in Employment (2016-2026):9.10%


Mean wage annual: $34,800
Currently Employed:34,950
Change in Employment (2016-2026):N/A


Mean wage annual: $27,820
Currently Employed:1,380
Change in Employment (2016-2026):38.70%


Mean wage annual: $33,620
Currently Employed:1,040
Change in Employment (2016-2026):1.30%


Mean wage annual: $39,180
Currently Employed:9,730
Change in Employment (2016-2026):8.10%


Mean wage annual: $32,120
Currently Employed:8,830
Change in Employment (2016-2026):17.20%

West Virginia

Mean wage annual: $31,460
Currently Employed:1,770
Change in Employment (2016-2026):5.90%


Mean wage annual: $26,440
Currently Employed:9,700
Change in Employment (2016-2026):2.00%


Mean wage annual: $32,530
Currently Employed:900
Change in Employment (2016-2026):-2.10%

Preschool teachers will see higher growth in job opportunities than many other professions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a 10 percent increase in jobs for preschool teachers between 2016 and 2026, which is attributed to the growing population driving the need for additional early childhood educators.

Finding a Preschool Teacher Program

Just as parents go through great pains to find the right school to educate their children, preschool teachers also need to find the best options to prepare them to become educators. This section can help future preschool teachers find the school that best suits their needs and goals.

There are several factors to consider when looking for early childhood education programs, including the way courses are delivered, how much the program costs, and how long it takes to complete a degree. In order to sort through the numerous options and make the right decision, use the search tool below.

Professional Preschool Teacher Associations & Groups

Those who teach should be lifelong learners who are frequently looking for ways to improve their skills in the classroom. One way preschool teachers can continue learning pedagogical techniques is to join trade associations like the ones listed below.

  • Division for Early Childhood - Council for Exceptional Children
    Organization that supports teachers who work with young children with disabilities up to eight years old. Members receive professional development, training programs, discussion groups and forums, and evidence-based research publications.
  • Association for Childhood Education International
    For over a century, this association has been committed to innovation in the classroom and the support of early childhood educators. The group provides information about education grants, professional development classes, and networking opportunities. In addition, the association publishes the Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Childhood Education: Innovations, and Childhood Explorer.
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children
    Provides services to the early childhood community, such as webinars, training, and professional development. The association also organizes an annual conference and publishes books and periodicals.
  • National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators
    This group provides a network of teachers so members can learn about the latest research and classroom practices, discuss the issues that affect their work, and network with each other. The association also promotes excellence in the field by providing grants and awards.
  • National Education Association
    Works to advance the profession for educators on all levels, from preschool to university graduate degree programs. The association provides classroom management tools, conferences and other events, and publications.
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
    Provides teacher preparation programs to help educators enhance their performance in the classroom. Members can participate in webinars, receive magazines and newsletters, and receive discounts on insurance.
  • HighScope
    Provides resources to help early educators succeed, including an article library and online videos.
  • Military Child Education Coalition
    Provides services for educators who teach military-connected children.
  • National Head Start Association
    This group has been dedicated to ensuring that at-risk children have access to Head Start education programs since 1974. To help guarantee that these students receive a quality education, early childhood teachers can receive news, advocacy services, and classroom resources.
  • Resources for Preschool Teachers

    There are many resources that can help preschool teachers to continue sharpening their skills and providing the best classroom experience for their students.

  • National Institute for Early Education Research
    Helps early childhood educators by conducting academic research. It provides journals articles, policy briefs, webinars, and newsletters.
  • NEA Today - National Education Association
    Provides news from the National Education Association, as well as blogs, a podcast, and webinars.
  • Early Learning - U.S. Department of Education
    This site from the U.S. Department of Education provides resources for early childhood educators, including learning programs, newsletters, fact sheets, assessment information, and policy statements.
  • K-2 Primary - Edutopia
    Preschool teachers can benefit from the teaching strategies and resources designed to help early childhood educators.
  • Education World - Education World, Inc
    Provides early childhood education resources, such as an activity bank, teaching themes, activities, and lesson plans. Also includes information on education technologies.
  • PreKinders -
    Provides teaching tips, assessments, and themes for preschool teachers.
  • The Preschool Podcast - HiMama
    Podcast for preschool educators.
  • The Early Childhood Research Podcast - Liz's Early Learning Spot
    In this podcast, teachers, authors, parents, and researchers discuss classroom strategies for early education teachers.
  • Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education - Taylor & Francis
    The official journal of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators.
  • NAEYC Radio - The National Association for The Education of Young Children
    Two early childhood professionals share insights about the field in this podcast.
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