How Many Years Does IT Take to Become a Preschool Teacher?

If you dream of molding young lives as a preschool teacher, you may spend 600 hours or more studying and practicing teaching methods for very young children, especially if you want to be credentialed. Depending on the type of school you want to work for and in what part of the country, you will need anything from a high school diploma with a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential to a 4-year college degree to become a preschool teacher. Read on to learn more. Schools offering Early Childhood Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Preschool Teacher Educational Requirements

Each state differs in its required education level to become a licensed preschool teacher. Most states require a 2-year associate's degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some childcare centers only require a high school diploma and the CDA. To become more marketable to employers, however, you may want to follow the model of many preschool teachers and take classes in child development and early childhood education in college or upon completion of your bachelor's degree program.

The BLS reports that a growing number of teachers with Head Start programs, those designed to make sure children from low-income families are ready for school, have a bachelor's degree in early childhood education. Public preschools also typically require a bachelor's degree. Many community colleges and 4-year universities offer majors in these subjects. Preschool educators may work their way up from assistant teachers to lead teachers, an ascent that can take several years.

Important Facts About Preschool Teachers

Similar Occupations Childcare worker, teacher aide
Key Skills Creativity, patience, stamina, organization, communication, interpersonal skills,
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 17%
Median Salary (2015) $28,287

Source:, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earning Preschool Teacher Credentials

The Council for Professional Development issues the Child Development Associate credential, a requirement for preschool teachers in many states. To achieve this credential, you must have completed 120 hours of early education training for children ages 3-5 within the last five years. You must also have worked 480 hours in a group setting with children ages 3-5 within this same time frame. In the six months before completing your CDA application, you need to complete a formal observation with a CDA adviser, collect portfolio materials and have your students' parents complete reviews of your performance.

The BLS states the Child Care Professional (CCP) designation, which is offered by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation Commission, is also accepted in some areas. To quality for the CCP, you'll need a high school diploma, coupled with additional education courses in the field and field work experience.

Educational Requirements for Special Preschools

Many preschools use particular learning methodologies in their programs and require special training or certification before they will hire you. Below are three examples.

Montessori Schools

You can receive training in the Montessori method through the Association Montessori Internationale and the American Montessori Society. Training centers require that you hold a bachelor's degree before enrolling, and you need 200-600 hours of training before you can be hired at a Montessori school.

Waldorf Schools

Once you have obtained a bachelor's degree, you will do two years of full-time training or 3-4 years of training during the summer before being eligible for employment in one of these schools. Weekend training is also available, as well as degrees and state teaching certification. You can find Waldorf training institutions through the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America ( When seeking employment, the organization also lists where Waldorf schools are located.

HighScope Certification

HighScope-certified preschool teachers can find work at many different types of preschools throughout the country or work in a HighScope-accredited program. Interested teachers must complete a preschool curriculum course, implement course lessons in a classroom setting while being graded by a certified trainer, and then track two children for three months using the assessment method learned. Before starting your training, you must hold a teaching certificate or license from your home state.

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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