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%
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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.

State
Degree Level
School Type
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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.