How Do I Become a Preschool Teacher?

Research what it takes to become a preschool teacher. Learn about education requirements,job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Early Childhood Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Preschool Teacher?

Preschool teachers are primarily responsible for the development of a child's language and social skills. Their job is to help ready the child for kindergarten and elementary school. Teachers instruct basic things like numbers, shapes and colors. They also ensure that children have enough playtime and rest throughout the day. Preschool teachers work with kids individually and in groups to monitor students' progress and watch for any emotional or developmental problems. They must communicate well with parents and inform them of progress and any issues that arise. These professionals work with diverse populations, and must be prepared to teach and communicate with students and families of different backgrounds and cultures. Find out more about the career of preschool teachers from the table below:

Degree RequiredH.S. diploma or equivalent for some positions, though an associate's or bachelor's degree is often required
Education Field of StudyEarly childhood education
Key ResponsibilitiesAssess children, provide feedback for parents, conduct classroom activities, prepare and implement curriculum
Licensure/Certification Required in some states
Job Growth (2014-2024)7%*
Median Salary (2015)$28,570*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Learn Your State Education Requirements

Minimum education requirements vary substantially by state, so you may want to research your state's specific requirements. State requirements may range from having a high school diploma and relevant certifications to possessing college-level degrees in childhood education or a relevant field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many states require a preschool teacher to have a relevant associate's degree, especially if he or she works with Head Start students (www.bls.gov). As a student in one of these associate's degree programs, you may take coursework in child development, nutrition, safety, child assessment and early language development.

Work with Children

You may help your chances of becoming a preschool teacher by gaining experience working with children. For example, you could work as a teacher's assistant or at a day care center. As a graduate of an early childhood education program, you may need to spend one or more years in these or similar positions before finding employment as a preschool teacher. You can also gain some experience by volunteering or working at summer camps for children.

Get Certified

State licensure requirements differ, but the child development associate (CDA) credential issued by the Council for Professional Recognition is nationally recognized. You need a high school diploma, 120 hours of formal training and 480 hours of work experience with children to be eligible for this certification. If you meet these requirements, you may meet with a council representative, who checks your documentation and administers a multiple-choice exam. Once you've received your CDA credential, you maintain it by meeting continuing education, work and membership requirements as well as being certified in first aid (www.cdacouncil.org).

Gain Work Experience

As a licensed professional, you can typically work your way up from assistant teacher to lead teacher. You may work with children between the ages of 3-5 on an individual basis or in a group setting. Your role is to provide a safe environment for your students' emotional and social development through play and interactive activities. Your creativity, patience and nurture may help prepare children for kindergarten and grade school.

Salary and Job Growth Data

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary earned by preschool teachers in 2015 was $28,570. The projected job growth between 2014 and 2024 is 7%, a rate of growth that is average, suggesting that this is a career with good job potential.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Child care workers are similar positions that require at least a high school diploma or equivalent. These workers care for children while their parents or families are at work or otherwise unavailable. Duties may include feeding, bathing or helping them with schoolwork. With a bachelor's degree, individuals can pursue work as preschool and childcare center directors and special education teachers. Preschool and childcare center directors perform administrative tasks and supervise the staff of their establishment. They will oversee activities and budgets, and may help teachers develop curriculum. Special education teachers work with students that have different kinds of disabilities. They will adapt lesson plans and help these students learn basic skills.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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