Preschool Teacher: Career Profile, Job Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements for preschool teachers. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Early Childhood Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Preschool Teacher?

Preschool teachers develop an age-appropriate curriculum and lead classes for children who are under five years of age. They plan age-appropriate and theme-related activities, and may use music, art and physical exercise as part of their curriculum. The primary focus of a preschool teacher is to ensure that their students are ready to enter kindergarten and have acquired the appropriate skills and knowledge needed for school. Preschool teachers may also monitor student progress and meet with parents to discuss any issues or concerns.

Education Required Varies by employer; bachelor's or associate's often required
Education Field of Study Early childhood education
Certification Required Some states require national certification
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% (for all preschool teachers, except special education)*
Median Salary (May 2015) $28,570 (for all preschool teachers, except special education)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Preschool Teacher Career Profile

Preschool teachers typically work for privately owned childcare centers, publicly funded daycare centers or religious organizations. As a preschool teacher, you might also be self-employed and run your own center. You'll be responsible for engaging young children in fun activities that build basic social skills while encouraging intellectual and emotional growth. These activities may include group play, singing, arts and crafts, sharing, nature lessons, word games, number recognition, dancing and storytelling. It's possible to work either full- or part-time hours, and unlike kindergarten through secondary school teachers, you'll most likely work throughout the entire calendar year.

Job Outlook for Preschool Teachers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for preschool teachers is projected to grow by 7% from 2014-2024, which is approximately as fast as the average growth for all occupations in this same time frame (www.bls.gov). This increase in jobs is to be spurred by growing preschool enrollment and the expansion of publicly funded preschool education programs in many states.

As of May 2015, the median annual salary for preschool teachers in the United States was $28,570, according to the BLS. Preschool teachers in the top 10% earned over $51,990, while those in the lower 10% earned under $19,130. A variety of factors affect what you can expect to make, including your experience in the field, level of education and where you work. For example, in Delaware, the annual mean wage for preschool teachers was $26,570 in 2015, while in New York it was $38,010.

Educational Requirements for Preschool Teachers

Requirements for becoming a preschool teacher vary by type of employer and by state. As a public preschool teacher, you may need to have an associate's or bachelor's degree in early childhood education. Some states may require you to hold national certification. The Council for Professional Recognition offers the Child Development Associate certification (www.cdacouncil.org). To apply for this certification, you must have 480 hours of work experience with children within the last five years and 120 hours of formal education in child development and child care.

However, as a private preschool teacher you may not need a degree or certification at all. It depends entirely upon the requirements of the employer for whom you wish to work. In most cases, however, you'll be expected to have prior experience working with young children to become preschool teacher.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Childcare workers also work with children who are not old enough to enter kindergarten, and may plan lessons and activities that are age-appropriate. Teacher assistants may work as a preschool teacher assistant and help prepare materials, monitor children and support the preschool teacher as needed. Special education teachers may be involved with children from preschool through high school and help students who have diagnosed needs with a modified curriculum or special resources needed for them to progress academically.

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