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Preschool Teacher Requirements and Career Information

Preschool teachers educate children between the ages of 3 and 5. They provide preschool students with foundations for academic success and creative expression while preparing them for kindergarten. Requirements for becoming a preschool teacher rely heavily on the school's location, though all states require licensure and training in early education.

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Preschool Teacher Requirements

All states require preschool teachers to hold child care licensure; however, requirements differ in each state and often by employer. Some states call for preschool teachers to hold associate's degrees in applicable fields, while others require only high school diplomas and Child Development Associate (CDA) credentials. Some licensing boards may have their own preschool teacher training programs. Programs funded by states or the federal government have strict conditions and require teachers to hold undergraduate degrees.

Associate's Degrees

Some employers prefer to hire preschool teachers with associate's degrees in early education or child development. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that preschool teachers employed by Head Start, a Federal program for preschool children, must hold at least associate's degrees (www.bls.gov). Associate's degree programs in early education are available at community colleges and technical schools and prepare students for entry-level positions in childhood education. Courses may include creativity in learning, child observation, health and nutrition education, early literacy and special needs children.

CDA Credentials

The Council for Professional Recognition offers CDA programs that are available to applicants with high school diplomas or equivalency degrees, as well as junior and senior high school students in vocational programs (www. www.cdacouncil.org). Applicants must submit proof of 120 hours of formal training and 480 hours of early childhood education experience earned within the last five years. Eligible candidates may then earn the CDA credential by passing a 2-hour multiple-choice exam and sitting for an oral interview. CDA credentials must be renewed after the initial three years and subsequently every five years.

Preschool Teacher Career Information

Job Description

Preschool teachers play an important role in developing children's interest in learning. Through various techniques and activities, such as games, group play, artwork and music, preschool teachers instruct in reading, writing and basic math concepts. Preschool teachers also encourage creativity and social interaction. Those in private schools generally have greater control over curricula and much smaller class sizes.

Most preschool teachers work part-time hours and do not work during summer vacation, though some may work side jobs or pursue advanced education during that time. Preschools employed by day care centers generally work year-round.

Employment Outlook

The BLS reported that preschool teacher employment is expected to increase 25% from 2010-2020. This predicted growth would be an effect of an increasing demand for accessibility to early education programs and the rising population of preschool-age children.

Salary Information

In May 2012, the BLS reported that preschool teachers earned on average $30,750 annually or $14.79 hourly. The highest paying positions were in elementary and secondary schools, which offered on average $43,930 per year. Location also played a factor in earnings; metropolitan areas paid the greatest reported wages, with the Vineland, New Jersey, area offering the highest mean wage at $51,350 per year.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics