Discover the academic requirements to become a kindergarten or preschool teacher. Find out about education programs, job growth and salaries in the field.
Becoming a kindergarten or preschool instructor typically involves completing an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree program in early childhood education and kindergarten education. Some of these programs have online and campus-based options. If you become a kindergarten or preschool teacher, you can be responsible for children's intellectual and social development. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), preschool teachers use fun activities, such as story time and crafts to help children too young for kindergarten to develop social skills, vocabulary and imagination (www.bls.gov). Kindergarten teachers introduce their students to music, math, language and science.
Early childhood education degree programs typically cover methods for teaching children under age five. Some of the classes teach you techniques for working with children who have special needs, while others address methods for observing children, assessing growth and keeping records. Other early childhood education classes discuss theories of child development, methods for using technology in the classroom and techniques for teaching young children math, science and literature. Most schools require that you complete a student teaching experience prior to graduation. In master's degree programs in early childhood education, you may be required to conduct original research regarding educational theories in addition to taking early childhood education courses.
The BLS projected that between 2012 and 2022 the demand for preschool teachers will increase by 17%, and kindergarten teachers could see an increase of 12%. Job prospects should be better in cities and rural areas, especially in the West and South. The BLS states that as of May 2013, the median annual salary for preschool teachers was $27,570, and for kindergarten teachers it was $50,230.
Becoming a preschool teacher may require as little as a high school diploma and the willingness to assist teachers. However, each state has individual requirements, such as an associate's or a bachelor's degree in early childhood education and a license or a certification. Most preschool teachers work only part time and some work their way up from a teacher assistant, to an assistant teacher and then to a lead teacher, according to the BLS. A national Child Development Associate credential can also improve your chances of becoming a preschool teacher. You could work at a traditional preschool or find employment at a childcare center.
The most common degree for kindergarten teachers is in early childhood education. According to the BLS, you need to have at least a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or elementary education and earn licensure from the state in which you plan to work as a kindergarten teacher. Bachelor's and master's degrees could help you head childcare programs as a director or financial manager of a preschool or a nursery school.