Preschool Teacher: How to Become a Preschool Teacher

Preschool teacher positions sometimes require formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Preschool teachers help young learners prepare for kindergarten through interactive play and games. Employment as a preschool teacher in a public school requires a bachelor's degree. However, some child care centers employ qualified teachers with a high school diploma and certification or an associate's degree. Additionally, a state license and Child development Associate (CDA) certificate are often required for employment, as well as CPR and first aid certification. Some employers require prior experience as an assistant teacher.

Required Education High school diploma or associate's degree; bachelor's for employment with public schools
Other Requirements License or certification; CDA often required; first aid and CPR certification; assistant teacher experience
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 17%
Mean Salary (2013)* $31,420 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Does a Preschool Teacher Do?

Preschool teachers help their students learn mainly through play and interactive activities, capitalizing on children's play to further language and vocabulary development. A preschool teacher might use storytelling and rhyming and acting games to improve social skills or introduce scientific and mathematical concepts. Most preschool settings employ a less structured approach, including small-group lessons, one-on-one instruction and learning through creative activities, such as music, art and dance. Lots of discussion and collaborative problem solving characterize the preschool classroom.

Educational Requirements for Preschool Teachers

Education requirements to become a preschool teacher vary. Public schools require at least a bachelor's degree; while an associate's degree or high school diploma is acceptable for some child care centers. In many cases, preschool teachers start out as assistant teachers. With this experience, they may advance to being teachers and eventually to lead teacher status. A preschool teacher needs to be proficient in helping children learn how to cooperate, providing fun learning activities suitable for preschoolers, keeping children safe, working as a team member with other teachers and interacting with parents.

Other Requirements

Preschool teachers need to be eager participants in children's growth and development, as well as helping students understand how to use their natural curiosity to help make the appropriate developmental leaps in their skills and abilities. They are expected to create an atmosphere where risks can be taken and discoveries made while children remain safe. Most preschool teachers are required to earn certification in first aid procedures and infant and child CPR. They also need to undergo police background checks, as well as be fingerprinted.

Coursework

Coursework in a preschool teacher degree program may include:

  • Child development
  • Classroom management and behavior
  • Curriculum methods
  • Instructional design
  • Instructional resources and technology
  • Parent-child relations

Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), preschool teachers earned an average yearly wage of $31,420 in May 2013 (www.bls.gov). The lowest-paid 10% of workers made $18,420 or less, while the top 10% of professionals made $49,660 or more.

Career Outlook

The BLS projected that job openings for preschool teachers were expected to grow faster than most other careers (17%) from 2012-2022. This growth was driven by the fact that the number of children under five is rising and that more states are encouraging young children to attend preschool programs.

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