How to Become a Preschool Teacher
Preschool teachers must plan lessons that engage young students and must also adapt their lessons to suit different learning styles.
Education and training requirements vary based on settings and state regulations. They range from a high school diploma and certification to a college degree.
In childcare centers, preschool teachers generally are required to have a least a high school diploma and a certification in early childhood education. However, employers may prefer to hire workers with at least some postsecondary education in early childhood education.
Preschool teachers in Head Start programs must have at least an associate’s degree. However, by 2013, at least 50 percent of preschool teachers in Head Start programs nationwide must have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field. As a result, Head Start programs may prefer to hire workers with a bachelor’s degree. Those with a degree in a related field must have experience teaching preschool-age children.
In public schools, preschool teachers are generally required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field. Bachelor’s degree programs teach students about children’s development, strategies to teach young children, and how to observe and document children’s progress.
Some states and employers require preschool teachers to have a nationally recognized certification such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. Requirements to earn the CDA include a high school diploma, experience in the field, and coursework. For more information about the CDA, contact the Council for Professional Recognition.
Some states recognize the Child Care Professional (CCP) designation offered by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. Requirements to earn the CCP include a high school diploma, experience in the field, and continuing education courses. For more information about the CCP, contact the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation.
Some states require preschool teachers to have some work experience in a childcare setting. The amount of experience necessary varies by state. Preschool teachers often start out as childcare workers or teacher assistants. For more information, see the profiles on childcare workers or teacher assistants.
Many states require childcare centers to be licensed. To meet licensure requirements, their staff must pass a background check, have a record of immunizations, and meet a minimum training requirement.
In public schools, preschool teachers must be licensed to teach early childhood education, which covers preschool through third grade. Requirements vary by state, but they generally require a bachelor’s degree and passing an exam to demonstrate competency. Most states require teachers to complete continuing education credits to maintain their license.
Preschool teachers can work their way up from assistant teacher to teacher to lead teacher (who may be responsible for the instruction of several classes) to director of the preschool. For more information, see the profile on preschool and childcare center directors. Those with a bachelor's degree frequently are qualified to teach kindergarten through grade 3, in addition to preschool. Teaching positions at these higher grades typically pay more.
Communication skills. Preschool teachers need good communication skills to tell parents and colleagues about students’ progress. They need good writing and speaking skills to convey this information effectively.
Creativity. Preschool teachers must plan lessons that engage young students. In addition, they need to adapt their lessons to suit different learning styles.
Instructional skills. Preschool teachers need to be organized and able to explain difficult concepts in terms young children can understand.
Patience. Working with children can be frustrating, and preschool teachers should be able to respond calmly to overwhelming and difficult situations.
People skills. Preschool teachers must understand children’s emotional needs and be able to develop good relationships with parents, children, and colleagues.