How to Become a Kindergarten Teacher

We didn't go into teaching to get rich, but to enrich the lives of others. Robert John Meehan

Kindergarten teachers have the rewarding task of instructing young children between the ages of 5 and 6 years old. Magic occurs in kindergarten classroom as these teachers are responsible for guiding children's' intellectual and interpersonal growth. This happens through play, educational tools, and instructional activities in the classroom.

Qualities of a Kindergarten Teacher

In order to be a kindergarten teacher, there are certain characteristics one must have. The love for children, patience, empathy, creativity, and a desire to mold and shape young minds. Kindergarten teachers must be able to have good classroom management skills. This requires being able to retain the attention span of multiple young children at once. They must also be able to develop and implement lesson plans and ensure each child in their room is receiving a quality education.

Benefits of Teaching Kindergarten

There are many benefits to becoming a Kindergarten teacher. Helping children learn how to read and become independent thinkers is one of the greatest benefits of teaching kindergarten. The skills and lessons learned in kindergarten are unparalleled. Teachers have other benefits that include retirement plans and medical insurance. If working in a traditional school, Kindergarten teachers also have summers off as well as personal days throughout the year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated an 18% job growth for kindergarten teachers in the years 2010-2020. In May of 2012 the average wage for a Kindergarten teacher was $50,120.

What are the Requirements for Teaching Kindergarten?

All certified Kindergarten teachers in the United States must hold at least a Bachelor's Degree in addition to a state-issued license or certificate. Since Kindergarten falls under the elementary school umbrella, the license or certificate should be specific to teaching elementary school students. This type of license allows teachers to teach multiple subjects. Keep in mind that each state has their own specific licensing requirements.

Education Requirements for Teaching Kindergarten

Bachelor's Degree

Kindergarten teachers ordinarily major in elementary or early childhood education in a Bachelor's Degree program. The exact route you take will depend on the institution you attend and the state licensing requirements. Elementary or early childhood education degree programs often include the study of basic math, reading and writing in addition to classes in children's literature and art. The courses also include teaching the prospective teacher ways to implement teaching these subjects to young students. Also, most Bachelor's Degree programs will include other types of education courses, such as teaching in multicultural classrooms, technology integration, and how to teach students with special needs.

Many prospective Kindergarten teachers get a degree in Child Development, Elementary Education, and Early Childhood Education. Click on the links to learn more about those degrees.

Teacher Preparation Program

Teachers must also go through a teacher preparation program. If you decide to become a teacher early on in your college career, you will most likely complete the necessary teacher preparation requirements as part of your Bachelor's Degree program. However, if you decide to become a teacher after already obtaining a degree in an unrelated field, you will be able to complete an alternate teacher preparation program.

Most teacher preparation programs feature one or two semesters of student teaching in classrooms. During this time, prospective kindergarten teachers are mentored by experienced educators in topics such as managing a classroom, writing effective lesson plans, how to evaluate their students, and communication between parents and teachers. They are also evaluated on their performance in the classroom. In order to qualify for licensure, the teacher education program must be accredited.

Tests to Pass for Teaching Kindergarten

In addition, those who wish to become kindergarten teachers must pass the necessary examinations for becoming a general elementary school teacher. Although the specific exams vary by state, they generally consist of a general skills exams as well as a subject matter competency exam. The subject matter competency exam must be specific to elementary school.

Apply for Certification to Teach Kindergarten

Once the prospective Kindergarten teacher has passed the required exams, completed the courses required for their Bachelor's Degree and teacher preparation program, and successfully completed their student teaching experience, they must apply for licensure with their state.

Anyone who intends to teach kindergarten must be certified in the state in which he or she plans to work, but the licensing requirements vary from state to state. Individuals can contact the Board of Education in his or her state for information on the requirements for kindergarten teachers. Typically, these requirements consist of graduating from a state-approved teacher education program in addition to passing the required exams. Some states may even expect their kindergarten teachers to obtain additional education, such as a Master's Degree.

Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State

Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.

Kindergarten Teacher by Degree Level

The tables and charts below break down the education level obtained as averaged across the U.S.

Degree LevelPercent (%)
Less Than High School Diploma2.0%
High School Diploma13.2%
Some College23.8%
Associate Degree13.7%
Bachelors Degree33.9%
Masters Degree12.7%
Doctorate Degree0.7%

Data taken from BLS Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2010-11 (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_111.htm)

Who Will My Students Be?

Kindergarten students are typically between the ages of 5 and 6 years old. Since Kindergarten is the first official year that student are required to attend school, these students may be very apprehensive and sensitive at first. At this age, students often do not come in knowing the basics of classroom rules and procedures. With that said, kindergarten teachers help establish the necessary foundation skills for lifelong learning.

What Does A Kindergarten Teacher Do?

Kindergarten teachers will often have their own classroom and be responsible for teaching their students a variety of fundamental subjects throughout the day. These subjects will include social studies, science, language arts (reading, writing, listening, and speaking), and math. During this highly developmental year, students will learn how to read and compose simple sentences. Since content can be very new and challenging for the young learners, Kindergarten teachers are expected to offer many hands on and engaging activities as part of the lessons. In addition, it is highly effective to integrate visual and performing arts as well as play into the curriculum. As with other grades, kindergarten teachers should adapt and modify lessons to meet the individual needs of their students.

Curriculum

Curriculum in kindergarten is typically planned around play and hands on learning. Kindergarten teachers are expected to teach developmentally appropriate material and understand the standards for their state. Typically, each school district will select curriculum guides and textbooks based on the state's objective learning standards. The kindergarten teacher will be expected to adapt and implement the curriculum for use in his/her classroom.

Kindergarten Teacher Jobs & Job Description

Kindergarten teachers are a key component of helping children experience a head start in school so that they can grow up to become successful individuals. The kindergarten classroom is a child-centered play-based class in which students are largely self-directed. While jobs do vary from district to district, the typical role of the kindergarten teacher looks like this:

  • Provide young children with a fully-integrated learning day
  • Invite parents to share information
  • Teach students skills of self-regulation and communication
  • Teach students through active engagement
  • Model investigative mindsets through play
  • Engage students in lines of inquiry to enhance their play and learning
  • Evaluate child's achievement of the overall kindergarten expectations
  • Make observations of students and parents to inform a child's learning style
  • Communicate with parents and students often
  • Help students develop imagination throughout various learning centers in the classroom
  • Help kindergartners develop better coordination through gross and fine motor activities
  • Help kindergartners develop a healthy body and body image
  • Teach students about nature through experiences with the world
  • Help kindergarteners master new motor skills through modeling and
  • Model emotional regulation for kindergartners
  • Teach appropriate behaviors in a particular school setting
  • Model understanding and response for behavior
  • Model clear rules in the classroom and for the outside world
  • Model consistent expectations for the classroom
  • Use positive discipline tactics that are developmentally appropriate
  • Help students develop positive relationships with each other and other people in their lives
  • Undergo pretend play with students to help them synthesize the world
  • Teach emotional intelligence in a way that is practical and relevant
  • Teach and model behavior of strong readers and listeners to encourage development
  • Show kindergarten students that reading is fun
  • Teach kindergartners how to make hypotheses about a story development
  • Teach kindergartners about cause and effect in a story
  • Model how kindergartners should listen and concentrate in a classroom
  • Teach kindergarteners how to use words to express increasingly sophisticated feelings
  • Teach students about routines and activities about the school day
  • Teach students the foundations of literacy and numeracy
  • Help families identify potential strengths and areas of need
  • Help families access resources and supports for child development and emergent academics
  • Undertake professional development whenever possible; share professional resources and observations
  • Advocate for appropriate freedom and autonomy for students at home and in the classroom
  • Praise students in order to acknowledge their development and achievements using appropriate words and body language
  • Conduct all work activities in a timely and professional manner reflecting best educational practices

There are several career paths open for kindergarten teachers - read on to discover more information about this field.

Where Can Certified Kindergarten Teachers Teach?

Kindergarten teachers often teach in elementary schools. The decision to teach in a public, private, or charter elementary school is up to the teaching candidate.

Public Schools

Public schools are supported by state and federal funds. They are free of charge and are governed by the U.S. Department of Education as well as the state's board of education and the local school district. With public schools, the local school district controls the curriculum (textbooks, etc.). Teachers who work in public schools will have students from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. If you would like to teach kindergarten in a public school, you should apply directly to the district.

Private Schools

Private schools do not receive public funding and are generally free of government control in regard to curriculum. They typically require a tuition for students and are governed by private organizations and school board. Most private schools require teacher licensure, but some do not. If a kindergarten teacher wanted to teach in a private school, they would need to check with the prospective school and ask about specific criteria for employment.

Charter School

Charter schools are independent public schools that do not require tuition. They have more flexibility than public schools, but are expected to perform better and have a greater accountability. Charter schools typically have their own specific "charter" which acts as the school's contract with the state or district. This charter details the school's mission, vision, curriculum, goals, objectives, and plans on how to reach those goals. Charter schools are typically smaller in size/population when compared to a traditional public school.

Kindergarten Teacher Organizations & Associations

What is the Salary of a Kindergarten Teacher?

Across the nation, kindergarten teachers on average make between $38,466 (Payscale.com) and $42,610 (Glassdoor.com) at the beginning stretch of their careers. With each tear taught and each unit of higher education completed, kindergarten teachers will earn more. Kindergarten teachers in the public school system earn an average salary of approximately $40,000. In private schools, this salary may be as low as $30,000 on average. While the salary difference is considerable, small class sizes and high family engagement may be benefits worth the financial difference of working in a private school. With 15+ years of experience, kindergarten teachers may earn up to $15,000 more per year. Finally, the more qualifications a teacher possesses, the more compensation he or she receives. Differences in degrees may translate to as much as a $13,000 difference in salary.

Kindergarten usually falls under the Elementary School umbrella. To find out more about an Elementary School teacher's salary, visit our What to Expect page.

Salary (2016) and Job Outlook (2012 to 2020) by State

According to the published BLS data from 2016, the national average salary for Kindergarten Teachers is $55,460, with an estimated 151,290 being employed nationwide. Also, the job outlook growth projection from 2012 to 2020 is expected to increase by 13%.

StateProjected Growth (%)Avg Salary
Alabama11.7%$47,990
Alaska9.6%$65,010
Arizona22.4%$42,130
Arkansas15.6%$44,520
California13.4%$63,940
Colorado21.6%$45,230
Connecticut14.8%$69,000
Delaware8.5%$58,050
Florida22.9%$46,010
Georgia32.6%$52,100
Hawaii11.0%$43,310
Idaho14.1%$42,050
Illinois6.5%$51,020
Indiana9.6%$49,440
Iowa13.1%$46,880
Kansas15.9%$45,800
Kentucky14.3%$51,630
Louisiana13.5%$48,740
Maine0.7%$46,570
Maryland8.5%$48,900
Massachusetts13.2%$63,690
Michigan-$53,350
Minnesota3.4%$56,350
Mississippi15.9%$41,490
Missouri10.2%$47,070
Montana8.9%$44,160
Nebraska10.2%$46,340
Nevada12.0%$52,560
New Hampshire13.2%$45,660
New Jersey6.5%$60,500
New Mexico26.4%$46,300
New York8.1%$65,510
North Carolina16.7%$41,510
North Dakota17.7%$44,500
Ohio13.4%$54,510
Oklahoma11.8%$40,710
Oregon14.0%$53,680
Pennsylvania5.7%$55,500
Rhode Island-$67,220
South Carolina14.7%$48,720
South Dakota9.0%$39,210
Tennessee20.8%$46,960
Texas28.2%$49,590
Utah27.5%$42,650
Vermont3.3%$52,330
Virginia18.8%$57,720
Washington18.6%$53,860
Washington, DC-$42,710
West Virginia-$47,330
Wisconsin7.6%$52,780
Wyoming14.6%$54,150

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for Kindergarten Teachers (SOC Code: 25-2012)

Salary (2016) By Largest Metropolitan Areas

AreaEmployedAvg Salary
Jacksonville910$53,260
Austin, Round Rock870$46,940
Las Vegas, Henderson, Paradise860$51,320
St. Louis860$51,470
West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach840$44,260
Tacoma, Lakewood820$60,330
Camden820$64,520
Charlotte, Concord, Gastonia820$45,540
Cincinnati820$56,310
Pittsburgh800$50,040
Richmond790$55,420
Montgomery County, Bucks County, Chester County790$59,960
San Diego, Carlsbad780$61,460
Oklahoma City780$41,620
Spokane, Spokane Valley750$59,910
Warren, Troy, Farmington Hills740$73,090
New Orleans, Metairie700$48,910
Dayton700$59,330
Kansas City680$58,300
Indianapolis, Carmel, Anderson630$48,190

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for Kindergarten Teachers (SOC Code: 25-2012)