Nursery School Teacher Certification

Learn what education, training and certification in early childhood development you need to become a nursery school teacher, and how to expand your certification to teach up to third grade. Schools offering Early Childhood Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Nursery School Teacher Certification Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), every state has its own requirements for nursery school teachers, and some standards might even vary, depending on the facility offering the nursery school services ( At minimum, you'll need a high school diploma and the national Child Development Associate (CDA) credential offered by the Council for Professional Recognition (

Some states and many employers require associate's degrees in early childhood education or a related area, says the BLS. Head Start teachers need associate's degrees, too, and some states have higher educational standards for prekindergarten teachers. If you choose to earn a bachelor's degree, you could receive a teaching license or certificate and be qualified to teach up to third grade.

CertificationRequirements vary by state, though a high school diploma the CDA credential will be required; a degree in early childhood education may be required
Steps to CertificationMeet competency goals, demonstrate proficiency, complete education and work experience
Course TopicsChildhood development, cognitive development, healthy learning environment, physical development, working with families

How Do I Get My CDA?

According to the Council for Professional Recognition (CPR), you'll need to meet competency goals and demonstrate proficiency in 13 areas, complete 120 clock hours of formal education and 480 clock hours of work experience within the past five years and find an advisor to observe your classroom work. You'll then apply for direct assessment and go through a verification visit by an agency representative. Every three years, you'll need to renew your CDA.

Many community and technical colleges offer programs for nursery school teachers designed to fulfill the requirements of the CDA. Usually, you'll take three or four courses and work in a supervised nursery school setting. Some colleges have on-campus nursery schools where you'll spend much of your time, but others require you to be working or volunteering in a separate nursery or preschool. Often, you'll be able to transfer your CDA academic credits to early childhood education associate's degree programs, offered by many schools around the U.S.

What Are the Courses Like?

The courses in a nursery school teacher certification program typically focus on children aged 3-5, but some courses might cover birth through five years. You'll take early childhood education, childhood development and CDA prep courses. You might have the opportunity to take elective courses, and fieldwork is often necessary.

You'll explore how children grow and learn in their early years, and you'll discuss historical and current trends and practices in nursery school teaching. You'll learn about physical, social, emotional and cognitive development benchmarks in childhood development classes. You'll also learn how to create and maintain a safe and healthy learning environment, encourage emotional and social development and work with families.

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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