Preschool Teacher Qualifications: Education and Career Roadmap
Future preschool teachers can pursue several educational paths in order to become qualified early education teachers. No matter what form of training they receive, these teachers contribute to the well-being and learning of preschoolers.
Responsibilities of a Preschool Teacher
Preschool teachers spend their days teaching and caring for small children. The children they teach are between the ages of three and five. Using dramatic play, games, songs and formal instruction, they instruct their young students in basic skills. Preschoolers are taught the alphabet, numbers, colors and social skills. They may learn how to write their own names as well.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, every state has its own set of qualifications for individuals wishing to work as preschool teachers (www.bls.gov). While some preschool jobs may only require a high school diploma, other positions require a college degree or a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential.
The CDA is part of a national credentialing program administered by the Council for Professional Recognition (www.cdacouncil.org). Teachers who wish to earn this credential must meet competency standards established by the Council, and have their performance with preschool-aged children evaluated by a Council representative. The CDA credential is part of the early childhood teacher licensing requirements in 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
CDA Credential Opportunities
Entry-level preschool teachers can pursue a CDA credential while working in several different settings with preschool children. These include center-based, family child care and home visitor settings.
A center-based preschool facility is licensed by the state. Preschool teachers in this setting who are seeking CDA credentials must be observed by a Council for Professional Recognition representative while working as lead teacher with a specific number of children, depending on the age group.
Family Childcare Settings
In a family childcare setting, the caregiver supervises children who have no blood or marriage ties to the caregiver. A preschool teacher in this setting who is working toward a CDA credential must be observed by a Council representative while caring for at least two children aged five or below.
Home Visitor Settings
Preschool teachers may also be evaluated for CDA eligibility within a home visitor setting. In a home visitor setting, teachers establish a program of in-home visits to help parents meet the educational and emotional needs of their preschool-aged children. In this particular environment, a teacher working with children under the age of five may qualify for a CDA credential following an assessment by a Council representative.
College Degree Opportunities
Future preschool teachers who wish to further their education may opt to obtain an associate's or bachelor's degree in early childhood education. A course program includes classes in teaching methods, childhood development, literacy and classroom management. Students may complete an associate's degree in two years or a bachelor's degree in four years. Some graduates may choose to pursue a master's degree in early childhood education.
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