Lead Teacher: Career Definition, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Lead teachers are responsible for instructing children and overall classroom management in preschools. Learn about education and experience requirements to work as a preschool teacher. Schools offering Early Childhood Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Lead Teacher?

A lead teacher typically works in a preschool, often with an assistant teacher to share duties. These professionals instruct students in concepts like the alphabet, colors, and shapes, often through play or encouraging imaginative thinking. Preschool education involves language, motor, and social skills, so lead teachers often work those into their curriculum alongside the alphabet and other concepts.

Aside from instructing, lead teachers are also responsible for maintaining the state of the classroom, planning lessons around a curriculum, and keeping progress reports and other information for parents and the school. Lead teachers train assistant teachers, who may go on to be lead teachers themselves. Some schools will require a lead teacher to oversee multiple classrooms. Because teachers in a preschool setting spend so much time around children, many are also well versed in responding to children's needs and recognizing behavioral or emotional problems, which are reported to parents. Below, the table provides some details about this career:

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Early childhood education
Key Responsibilities Plan age-appropriate lessons, train assistant teachers, share progress reports with parents
Licensure Requirements Requirements vary by state
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% (for all preschool teachers)
Mean Salary (2015)* $32,500 (for all preschool teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is the Employment Outlook for this Career?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts job growth of 7% for preschool teachers from 2014 through 2024, which is about as fast as the average predicted growth rate for all jobs during that time (www.bls.gov). This could result in an additional 29,600 preschool teaching jobs. With previous experience working as an assistant preschool teacher and a degree in early childhood education, you have an advantage when competing for a lead teacher position. A constant flow of teachers leaving preschools due to other obligations should cause a steady stream of job openings.

The BLS reported average salaries of $32,500 annually for preschool teachers as of May 2015. Child care centers and elementary schools had the highest concentration of workers. New Jersey paid preschool teachers the best with an average of $40,730 per year. Other high-paying states for the profession included Washington, DC, and Alaska.

What Requirements Will I Need to Teach?

Requirements for lead teachers vary. Check to see if you state has any particular requirements for preschool teachers prior to enrolling in a college program. However, many employers prefer you to have a bachelor's degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. Such a program provides you with the necessary skills of lesson planning and classroom management, while also covering the topics of teaching theory and child development. For a lead teacher position, you're generally required to have some previous classroom experience in early childhood education, which can be earned during this program.

A few states require lead teachers to gain certification. The Council for Professional Recognition offers a Child Development Associate certification (www.cdacouncil.org). Public schools generally have more stringent requirements than private schools. Government sponsored centers may have additional requirements for teachers.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many suitable occupations for those looking for careers in early childhood education. Working in childcare requires a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent, and may work with students of many ages, including preschoolers. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for childcare workers was $20,320.

For those who don't yet hold a degree or certificate, becoming an assistant teacher is another option. These professionals help a classroom run smoothly and may teach at any grade level, including preschool. The BLS reported that assistant teachers earned a median annual salary of $24,900 in May 2015.

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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