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Early Childhood Education Teacher: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become an early childhood education teacher. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is an Early Childhood Education Teacher?

Early childhood education teachers educate children from preschool through early elementary school levels. They can work in daycare settings, preschools and elementary schools. In addition to their duties as academic teachers, they also must provide general supervision and make sure that the students are safe and adjusting to school life. See the table below for more information about the different careers possible in early childhood education.

Daycare TeacherPreschool TeacherElementary School Teacher
Degree RequiredHigh school diploma and/or some postsecondary training Associate's degree is common Bachelor's degree
Education Field of StudyEarly Childhood EducationEarly Childhood EducationElementary Education
Key ResponsibilitiesSupervise children, develop schedules, communicate with parents Supervise children, develop and teach lessons, communicate with parents Supervise children, develop and teach lessons, communicate with parents
Licensure/CertificationCertification sometimes requiredCertification requiredCertification required
Job Growth (2018-2028)2% for all childcare workers*7%*3%*
Median Salary$28,594 (for daycare teachers in 2019)**$29,780 (2018)*$58,230 (2018)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Does an Early Childhood Education Teacher Do?

Early childhood education teachers educate children at the preschool through early elementary school levels. The National Association of Early Childhood Education Teachers reports early childhood education is for children ages 3 to 8 year old (www.naecte.org). This includes teaching in preschool up until the third grade. You introduce reading, math, science and other subjects in ways that are appealing and easily understood by young children. You must design curriculum and lesson plans based on the needs of young students.

What Education Do I Need?

The education necessary to obtain a job in early childhood education can vary, depending upon individual state requirements and whether the school is public or private, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov).

If you are interested in earning a college degree, there are associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs in early childhood education. Associate's degree programs typically take two years to complete and may prepare you for entry-level jobs in daycare centers and preschools. These programs usually include general education requirements along with coursework in growth and development, early childhood education techniques and healthy learning environments.

Bachelor's degree programs typically last four years and often include more coursework in early childhood education. Both associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs include internships or student teaching opportunities. Bachelor's degree programs sometimes have concentrations, such as special education or English as a Second Language.

If you already have a college degree and want to continue your education in early childhood education, you might consider pursuing a master's degree. A variety of programs exist to offer advanced training in such areas as cross cultural education and learning through play.

What Are the Licensing and Certification Requirements?

Licensing requirements for preschool teachers and daycare teachers vary widely depending on the state. The Council for Professional Recognition provides a voluntary credential program called the Child Development Associate (CDA), which involves an exam. Check with your state to get more information on licensing requirements.

For kindergarten and elementary school teachers, licensing may vary from state to state, but it typically involves having a bachelor's degree, completing successful student teaching and passing an exam. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offers certification in many different levels of teaching.

What Salary Could I Earn?

Daycare teachers earned a median salary of $28,594 in 2019, according to PayScale.com. Preschool teachers had a median salary of $29,780, as reported by the BLS in 2018, and elementary school teachers had a median salary of $58,230. The higher the level of education, the higher the salary.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

An alternative career could be as a teacher's assistant. Educators in this role will assist teachers with lesson material in the classroom by working with students either individually or in small groups. These positions typically require a 2-year degree or 2-years of college work, and can be found at the elementary level. Early childcare educators looking for a more administrative role can become preschool and childcare center directors. Along with caring for children, directors create lessons and activities as well as perform other administrative duties like hiring employees, overseeing staff and managing budgets. These positions typically require an associate's or bachelor's degree.