How to Become a Preschool Teacher in 5 Steps

Learn what a preschool teacher does on a daily basis. Find out about the degree and licensure requirements for preschool teachers along with career options. Schools offering Early Childhood Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does A Preschool Teacher Do?

Preschool teachers create a curriculum that is appropriate for children ages three to five. They instruct the children and incorporate activities, such as music, art and physical exercise, that are meant to support age-appropriate development for their students. They focus on introducing their students to concepts they will need to know before moving on to kindergarten, and they may also meet with parents to discuss the progress of their children. You can learn some important details about this career below:

Degree Required Associate's degree;, Bachelor's degree may be required
Education Field of Study Early Childhood Education, Child Development
Key Responsibilities Introduce basic educational concepts to children; use props, games and music; communicate with parents; look after child's well-being
Licensure Licensure requirements vary by state
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7%
Mean Salary (2015)* $32,500

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Preschool Teacher?

Preschool teachers lead young children in activities that stimulate physical, social and intellectual growth. If you become a preschool teacher, you'll educate children primarily through stimulus and play, using props, games, stories, art and music. You'll work with students on social skills and vocabulary development as well as introduce basic concepts in math, science and physical education.

Step 1: Research Education Options

Your education requirements will vary by state and employer. You may need a high school diploma, some college courses or a college degree. An associate's degree is a common requirement to work at publicly funded preschools, while other employers have their own training programs. Although it is not always necessary, earning a degree can open up more employment opportunities for you and serve as helpful preparation in becoming a preschool teacher. Even if you don't plan to earn a degree, postsecondary courses in the areas of child development and early childhood education may be required by some states or employers.

Step 2: Earn a Degree

Many employers require at least an associate's degree, but a bachelor's degree may bring more opportunities for career advancement. You may want to consider earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in early childhood education or child development. Two resources that you might use to find an education program are The National Association for the Education of Young Children and The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Both of these organizations accredit programs in early childhood education and list accredited institutions on their websites. You'll likely take courses in child development, language development, curriculum planning, child assessment and children's literature.

Step 3: Earn a License

To work as a preschool teacher, your state may require that you earn a license. Each state has its own licensure requirements. Some require that you earn the Child Development Associate (CDA) designation from the Council for Professional Recognition (www.cdacouncil.org). To become a CDA, you must have a high school diploma, previous experience working with children and must have completed some formal early childhood education training. Consult your state licensing board to find out what educational and other requirements you'll need to fulfill to earn licensure.

Step 4: Get a Job Teaching In a Preschool

It is common to work a part-time schedule as a preschool teacher. You can expect to have summers off unless you plan to teach summer sessions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), because of increased emphasis on early childhood education, preschool teachers were expected to experience a 7% increase in employment over the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov). The BLS stated that in 2015, preschool teachers earned an average salary of $32,500.

Step 5: Consider Opportunities for Career Advancement

Many preschool teachers begin their careers as assistant teachers and work their way up to teacher and lead teacher positions. Some go on to direct private preschool programs. If you hold a bachelor's degree or higher, you may also qualify to teach at the elementary level, which generally provides a substantially higher level of pay.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The work that a preschool teacher performs is similar to the duties of kindergarten and elementary teachers. While kindergarten and elementary school teachers need to have bachelor's degrees and teaching licenses, preschool teachers may be able to find work with just an associate's degree. Preschool and childcare center directors are also required to have a bachelor's degree, and they oversee the preschool teachers and childcare staff they employ to ensure that they are fulfilling their duties. Childcare workers are not required to have a degree, although some postsecondary training may be required, depending on the state of employment. These individuals work with young children to provide supervision and care for them, and they may also implement a program and plan age-appropriate activities for the children in their care.

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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