How to Become a Preschool Teacher
Walden University – Online Programs for Teachers
Walden has long been a trusted name in teacher education, from initial training and certification to graduate programs for career advancement. Look to Walden for everything from undergraduate programs in ECE and Elementary Education to master’s, doctorates and post-degree certificates in teaching specialties and administration.
USC Rossier Master of Arts in Teaching Online — No GRE
The Master of Arts in Teaching online (MAT online) from the USC Rossier School of Education prepares aspiring teachers for diverse and high-needs educational settings and can be completed in 12 months.
- GRE scores not required
- Prepare for teaching credential
Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University offers more than 20 online master’s programs for educators, administrators and school counselors at all grade levels, including Early Childhood Education and Special Ed, Elementary, and Secondary concentrations in the sciences and humanities. Both initial licensure and non-licensure tracks are available.
University of Dayton School of Education
The University of Dayton’s top-ranked online MSE in Educational Leadership program prepares students to become effective leaders in grades pre-k to 12. No GRE scores are required to apply.
Fordham University’s online Master of Science in Teaching prepares aspiring teachers of children from birth through sixth grade for initial teaching certification or dual certification in general and special education. Complete in as few as two years.
The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book. Unknown
Preschool is one of the only environments in school where the focus is on play and creativity, rather than intense curricular standards. Preschool teachers use playtime and story time to teach problem-solving skills, encourage social development, and hone fine motor skills.
Qualities of a Preschool Teacher
Preschool teachers need to love children, be patient, and have a nurturing personality. Their main goal is to participate in a child's growth and development, learn to understand and help their students, and to use a child's natural curiosity to develop a learning plan that is developmentally appropriate. Preschool teachers need to create an atmosphere where risks can be taken and discoveries can be made all while maintaining a child safe environment.
Employment of preschool teachers has been expected to grow 17 percent between 2012 to 2022. This expected growth is due in part to the continued emphasis on the importance of early childhood education. In addition, there has been a increasing population of children between ages 3 to 5.
What are the Requirements for Teaching Preschool?
The education and training requirements for preschool teachers will vary from state to state. At the minimum, most preschool teachers will be required to earn certification in first aid and child CPR as well as be able to pass a background check.
Child Development Association (CDA)
Some states require certification through (Child Development Association), if the prospective teacher has not finished their college degree.
The Child Development Associate (CDA) requires prospective preschool teachers to complete specific coursework related to early childhood education as well as relevant experience in the field. Teachers who do not have a college degree or teachers who have a degree in a field other than early childhood education can consider going this route.
Degree Requirements for Preschool Teachers
Head Start preschool programs and public schools require their preschool teachers to have a minimum of an Associate's Degree. Head Start programs must have 50% of their teachers hold at minimum a Bachelor's Degree. As with public schools, preschool teachers should hold at least a Bachelor's Degree. However, requirements for private preschools may vary. Often times, as Associate's Degree or merely experience will suffice.
When completing a degree in Early Childhood Education, the prospective preschool teacher will take classes related to behavior assessment, classroom management, teaching methods, educational psychology, and methods on reading instruction. Most education programs will require teaching experiences where the students will work directly in a classroom.
Prospective preschool teachers will be required to take and pass all classes related to their preschool certification and Associate's Degree.
Preschool Teacher by Degree Level
The tables and charts below break down the education level obtained as averaged across the U.S.
|Degree Level||Percent (%)|
|Less Than High School Diploma||2.0%|
|High School Diploma||13.2%|
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?
Preschool teachers, or Pre-K teachers, educate and care for children between the ages of three and five years old. These are children who are not old enough to enter kindergarten. Working with children in this age group can be very tiring but tremendously rewarding. Typical preschool students tend to be quite active and some may have difficulty communicating their needs effectively.
What Does A Preschool Teacher Do?
Preschool teachers are responsible for the care and education of children between the ages of three and five.
Their curriculum is focused on a child's conceptual understanding of fundamental education through play and hands on experiences. Preschool teachers educate their students by utilizing a child's play time and helping them further their language and vocabulary development.
>Preschool classrooms will have varying levels of structure, but most will include small group lessons and one on one instruction throughout the day by using creative activities like music, art, and dance. Discussion and collaborative problem solving are normal characteristics of a preschool classroom. Many times a preschool classroom will have "centers" set up to give the children ample playtime and learning opportunities. These can include a science, art, music, dramatic play, and block areas.
Preschool Teacher Jobs & Job Description
Contrary to ‘child minding' preschool teachers have an important job shaping a child's relationship with others, himself, and the world. Preschool teachers help children build confidence, a sense of importance and inquiry about the world. While jobs do vary from state to state and between institutions, most preschool teachers have the following job traits:
- Help students use play as learning
- Help students develop their imagination with art, role play, and dolls
- Help preschoolers develop better coordination
- Help preschoolers have a healthy body weight
- Teach students about nature
- Help preschoolers master new motor skills
- Model emotional regulation for preschoolers
- Teach appropriate behaviors in a particular setting
- Model understanding and response for behavior
- Model clear rules
- Model consistent expectations
- Use positive discipline tactics
- Help preschoolers develop positive relationships with each other and other people in their lives
- Undergo pretend play with toddlers 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
- Show preschool students that reading is fun
- Teach preschoolers how to make inferences about a story line
- Teach preschoolers about cause and effect in a story
- Teach preschoolers how to act in a classroom environment
- Model how preschoolers should listen and concentrate in a classroom
- Teach preschoolers how to use words instead of behavior to share feelings
- Teach preschoolers about routines and activities that are linked to the school day
- Teach preschoolers the foundations of literacy and numeracy
- Advocate for preschoolers to get adequate amounts of rest
- Model healthy food and eating behaviors
- Help families identify potential developmental milestones
- Help families access resources and supports for child development, should they be required
- Assist families in completing developmental assessment at intervals for preschoolers
- Undertake professional development whenever possible
- Advocate for proper safety equipment - i.e. locks, latches, car seats - and safe behavior surrounding driving, bathing, and sleeping
- Praise students to acknowledge their achievements using appropriate words and body language
- Work in partnership with families to help preschoolers attain proficiency with life skills like getting dressed, using the toilet, and eating
- Conduct all work activities in a timely and professional manner reflecting best educational practices
There are several career paths open for preschool teachers - read on to discover more information about this field.
Where Can Certified Preschool Teachers Teach?
Preschool teachers work in public and private schools, childcare centers, and charitable organizations. Although many preschool teachers work the traditional school year consisting of 10 months, some work the full year depending on the school or the program.
Many public elementary schools have public preschools on the school's campus. Typically, these preschools will be free or reduced for students and will be supported by federal and state funds. Public preschool programs will be governed by the US Department of Education, the state's board of education and by the local school district.
Private schools will charge tuition for a child to attend. They are typically governed by a private school board or organization. Private preschools are allowed to set their own standards for teachers and students. If a prospective preschool teacher is interested in teaching at a private school, they should check with the school in which they wish to teach to find out specific criteria. Keep in mind that in order for a preschool to be accredited, they must be recognized by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children). NAEYC accredits preschools according to health, safety, and education standards.
Head Start Centers
The Head Start program originated from efforts to combat poverty in America by providing children ages three to five years old with a variety of services. Head Start focuses on the needs of the child and their family by providing health, education, social services, and parent-community involvement in one program. Funding for Head Start comes from the state.
Preschool Teacher Organizations & Associations
- NAEYC - National Association for the Education of Young Children
- NAECTE - National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Education
- AELL - Association for Early Learning Leaders
- ACEI - Association for Childhood Education International
- PACE - Professional Association for Childhood Education
What is the Salary of a Preschool Teacher?
Across the nation, beginning preschool teachers make between $27,455 (Payscale.com) and $32,000 (Glassdoor.com) a year. Preschool teachers generally do not require a Bachelor's Degree to work in public or private daycare environments. On average, preschool teachers who work in the private sector earn less than those who work in a public preschool. Many teachers enter the profession with starting qualifications and work to earn more education while gaining experience in the field of primary education, thus earning more money.
Read more about a Preschool Teacher's salary on our Salary page.
Salary (2016) and Job Outlook (2012 to 2020) by State
According to the published BLS data from 2016, the national average salary for Preschool Teachers is $33,300, with an estimated 385,550 being employed nationwide. Also, the job outlook growth projection from 2012 to 2020 is expected to increase by 17.4%.
|State||Projected Growth (%)||Avg Salary|
Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for Preschool Teachers (SOC Code: 25-2011)
Salary (2016) By Largest Metropolitan Areas
|Grand Rapids, Wyoming||970||$28,750|
|Greenville, Anderson, Mauldin||960||$25,640|
|New Orleans, Metairie||950||$38,990|
|Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton||950||$35,000|
|Dutchess County, Putnam County||930||$26,040|
|Durham, Chapel Hill||850||$30,540|
|Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Ventura||810||$33,350|
|Spokane, Spokane Valley||730||$24,590|
Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/) for Preschool Teachers (SOC Code: 25-2011)