Pre-K Teachers: Job Duties, Requirements and Career Info
Pre-kindergarten teachers, also called pre-k or preschool teachers, instruct children under the age of five using creative methods such as art, music and hands-on learning. Though much of the learning centers around play, the primary purpose of the educational program is to prepare students for kindergarten. Pre-k teachers work in public school districts, private schools and day care centers. Part-time work schedules are common.
Pre-K Teacher Job Duties
Pre-k teachers create daily lesson plans that teach social skills and personal hygiene, as well as introducing colors, shapes and numbers. They also introduce reading and writing to their classes and help children develop language skills. Pre-k teachers must also attend to the basic needs of young children, such as serving them food and beverages, putting on and taking off coats and changing diapers or assisting kids on bathroom visits. It is also important for pre-k teachers to maintain communication with each child's parents, particularly when there is a problem.
The education required to become a preschool teacher varies widely, according to state and employer standards. Requirements can range from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or child development. Another factor is the source of funding for the preschool program. For example, by 2011 all teachers in the federally funded Head Start program must have at least an associate degree and meet other federal teaching requisites.
Some states require licensure for pre-k teachers who teach in public schools while others do not. For the states that require licensure, some require a minimum of an associate's degree in early childhood education, while others require a bachelor's degree. Private schools usually do not require licensure. The most common credential for pre-k teachers is the Child Development Associate (CDA), administered by the Council for Professional Recognition (www.cdacouncil.org). A CDA requires both early childhood education courses and experience working with children.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs for pre-k teachers should grow at a rate of 19% from 2008 through 2018, which is faster than most occupations (www.bls.org). Job prospects are excellent because of the high turnover rate due to teachers leaving the field for better-paying jobs or for other reasons.
A pre-k teacher may advance in his or her profession by becoming an assistant teacher first, a teacher next, then lead teacher and finally, director of the center. Preschool teachers with a bachelor's degree may also be qualified to teach kindergarten through third grade. Teaching higher grades often means an increase in pay.
The BLS reports that the median annual wages for preschool teachers in May of 2008 were $23,870. The bottom ten percent of that grouped earned less than $16,030, while the top tenth percentile made more than $41,660. Average annual earnings were $18,840 to $31,430.
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