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. Preschool teachers typically need at least an associate’s degree.
Preschool teachers typically need at least an associate’s degree.
Preschool teachers in center-based Head Start programs are required to have at least an associate’s degree. However, at least 50 percent of all preschool teachers in Head Start programs nationwide must have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field. Those with a degree in a related field, such as psychology, 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 include instruction on children’s development, teaching young children, and observing and documenting children’s progress.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Some states require preschool teachers to obtain the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. Obtaining the CDA credential requires coursework, experience in the field, a written exam, and observation of the candidate working with children. The CDA credential must be renewed every 3 years.
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 in order to maintain their license.
A few states require preschool teachers to have some work experience in a childcare setting. In these states, preschool teachers often start out as childcare workers or teacher assistants. The amount of experience needed varies by state.
Communication skills. Preschool teachers need good writing and speaking skills to talk to parents and colleagues about children’s progress. They must also be able to communicate well with small children.
Creativity. Preschool teachers must plan lessons that engage young children. In addition, they need to adapt their lessons to suit different learning styles.
Interpersonal skills. Preschool teachers must understand children’s emotional needs and be able to develop relationships with parents, children, and coworkers.
Organizational skills. Teachers need to be organized to plan lessons and keep records of the children.
Patience. Working with children may be stressful. Preschool teachers should be able to respond calmly to overwhelming and difficult situations.
Physical stamina. Preschool teachers should have a lot of energy, because working with children can be physically demanding.
Experienced preschool teachers may advance to become the director of a preschool or childcare center or a lead teacher. Those with a bachelor's degree in early childhood education frequently are qualified to teach kindergarten through grade 3, in addition to preschool. Teaching positions at these higher grades typically pay more. For more information, see the profiles on preschool and childcare center directors and kindergarten and elementary school teachers.