How to Become a Preschool Teacher

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4 Steps to Becoming a Preschool Teacher

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 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 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 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

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.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $25,939
Currently Employed: 1,790
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7.40%
Alaska Mean wage annual: $35,660
Currently Employed: 660
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 4.90%
Arizona Mean wage annual: $30,500
Currently Employed: 6,160
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 27.80%
Arkansas Mean wage annual: $32,290
Currently Employed: 3,240
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15.50%
California Mean wage annual: $36,760
Currently Employed: 51,990
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.70%
Colorado Mean wage annual: $31,070
Currently Employed: 8,750
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 33.40%
Connecticut Mean wage annual: $40,150
Currently Employed: 5,490
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 3.50%
Delaware Mean wage annual: $28,670
Currently Employed: 2,280
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5.90%
Florida Mean wage annual: $27,340
Currently Employed: 21,380
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.90%
Georgia Mean wage annual: $29,600
Currently Employed: 15,300
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.60%
Hawaii Mean wage annual: $39,180
Currently Employed: 1,620
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5.50%
Idaho Mean wage annual: $24,540
Currently Employed: 1,030
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.80%
Illinois Mean wage annual: $31,750
Currently Employed: 20,620
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.20%
Indiana Mean wage annual: $26,840
Currently Employed: 5,570
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.60%
Iowa Mean wage annual: $25,880
Currently Employed: 4,330
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11.40%
Kansas Mean wage annual: $29,990
Currently Employed: 2,260
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.70%
Kentucky Mean wage annual: $35,360
Currently Employed: 3,170
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11.20%
Louisiana Mean wage annual: $36,180
Currently Employed: 2,420
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6.40%
Maine Mean wage annual: $33,590
Currently Employed: 1,270
Change in Employment (2016-2026): -3.40%
Maryland Mean wage annual: $35,810
Currently Employed: 10,000
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7.90%
Massachusetts Mean wage annual: $37,510
Currently Employed: 16,390
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 1.80%
Michigan Mean wage annual: $32,770
Currently Employed: 9,340
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12.10%
Minnesota Mean wage annual: $35,360
Currently Employed: 7,610
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14.90%
Mississippi Mean wage annual: $28,940
Currently Employed: 2,500
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5.10%
Missouri Mean wage annual: $27,360
Currently Employed: 5,050
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.00%
Montana Mean wage annual: $28,860
Currently Employed: 1,100
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.20%
Nebraska Mean wage annual: $39,270
Currently Employed: 1,090
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.10%
Nevada 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%
Ohio Mean wage annual: $27,720
Currently Employed: 13,670
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 17.90%
Oklahoma Mean wage annual: $29,900
Currently Employed: 5,530
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11.30%
Oregon Mean wage annual: $29,620
Currently Employed: 7,120
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16.10%
Pennsylvania 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%
Tennessee Mean wage annual: $30,280
Currently Employed: 6,860
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.10%
Texas Mean wage annual: $34,800
Currently Employed: 34,950
Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A
Utah Mean wage annual: $27,820
Currently Employed: 1,380
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 38.70%
Vermont Mean wage annual: $33,620
Currently Employed: 1,040
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 1.30%
Virginia Mean wage annual: $39,180
Currently Employed: 9,730
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.10%
Washington 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%
Wisconsin Mean wage annual: $26,440
Currently Employed: 9,700
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 2.00%
Wyoming Mean wage annual: $32,530
Currently Employed: 900
Change in Employment (2016-2026): -2.10%
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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.