Bureau of Labor Statistics

Preschool Teachers

preschool teachers image
Preschool teachers educate and care for children, younger than the age of 5, who have not yet entered kindergarten.
Quick Facts: Preschool Teachers
2019 Median Pay $30,520 per year
$14.67 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2019 540,400
Job Outlook, 2019-29 2% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 13,500

Summary

What Preschool Teachers Do

Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5 who have not yet entered kindergarten.

Work Environment

Preschool teachers typically work in public and private schools or childcare centers. Many work the traditional 10-month school year, but some work year-round.

How to Become a Preschool Teacher

Education and training requirements vary based on settings and state regulations. Preschool teachers typically need at least an associate’s degree.

Pay

The median annual wage for preschool teachers was $30,520 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of preschool teachers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for preschool teachers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of preschool teachers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about preschool teachers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Preschool Teachers Do

preschool teachers image
Preschool teachers use play to teach children about the world.

Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5 who have not yet entered kindergarten. They teach language, motor, and social skills to young children.

Duties

Preschool teachers typically do the following:

  • Teach children basic skills such as identifying colors, shapes, numbers, and letters
  • Work with children in groups or one on one, depending on the needs of children and on the subject matter
  • Plan and carry out a curriculum that focuses on different areas of child development
  • Organize activities so children can learn about the world, explore interests, and develop skills
  • Develop schedules and routines to ensure children have enough physical activity and rest
  • Watch for signs of emotional or developmental problems in each child and bring them to the attention of the child’s parents
  • Keep records of the children’s progress, routines, and interests, and inform parents about their child’s development

Young children learn from playing, problem solving, and experimenting. Preschool teachers use play and other instructional techniques to teach children. For example, they use storytelling and rhyming games to teach language and vocabulary. They may help improve children’s social skills by having them work together to build a neighborhood in a sandbox or teach math by having children count when building with blocks.

Preschool teachers work with children from different ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. Teachers include topics in their lessons that teach children how to respect people of different backgrounds and cultures.

Work Environment

Preschool teachers
Preschool teachers usually work in public schools, private schools, and childcare centers that have preschool programs.

Preschool teachers held about 540,400 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of preschool teachers were as follows:

Child day care services 62%
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 16
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 14
Individual and family services 2

It may be rewarding to see children develop new skills and gain an appreciation of knowledge and learning. However, it can also be tiring to work with young, active children all day.

Work Schedules

Preschool teachers in public schools generally work during school hours. Many work the traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. Some preschool teachers may teach in summer programs.

Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 9 weeks in a row and then have a break for 3 weeks before starting a new school session.

Those working in daycare settings may work year-round with longer hours.

How to Become a Preschool Teacher

Preschool teachers
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.

Education

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 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.

Other Experience

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. 

Important Qualities

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.

Advancement

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.

Pay

Preschool Teachers

Median annual wages, May 2019

Preschool, elementary, middle, secondary, and special education teachers

$58,050

Total, all occupations

$39,810

Preschool teachers

$30,520

 

The median annual wage for preschool teachers was $30,520 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,140, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $55,050.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for preschool teachers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private $46,710
Individual and family services 32,510
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 31,660
Child day care services 28,700

Preschool teachers in public schools generally work during school hours. Many work the traditional 10-month school year and a 2-month break during the summer. Some preschool teachers may teach in summer programs.

Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row and then have a break for 1 week before starting a new school session. They also have a 5-week midwinter break.

Those working in daycare settings may work year-round and have longer hours.

Job Outlook

Preschool Teachers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Preschool, elementary, middle, secondary, and special education teachers

3%

Preschool teachers, except special education

2%

 

Employment of preschool teachers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.

Early childhood education is important for a child’s intellectual and social development. Preschool teachers should be needed to meet the slowly increasing demand for early childhood education.

Job Prospects

Teachers who have experience working with preschool-aged children may have better opportunities finding a job than those without experience.

Employment projections data for preschool teachers, 2019-29

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Preschool teachers, except special education

SOC Code25-2011
Employment, 2019540,400
Projected Employment, 2029553,900
Percent Change, 2019-292
Numeric Change, 2019-2913,500
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of preschool teachers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2019 MEDIAN PAY
Child care workers

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers attend to the basic needs of children, such as dressing, feeding, and overseeing play.

High school diploma or equivalent $24,230
High school teachers

High School Teachers

High school teachers teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor's degree $61,660
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects in order to prepare them for future schooling.

Bachelor's degree $59,420
Middle school teachers

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades.

Bachelor's degree $59,660
Preschool and childcare center directors

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

Preschool and childcare center directors supervise and lead their staffs, design program plans, oversee daily activities, and prepare budgets.

Bachelor's degree $48,210
Special education teachers

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.

Bachelor's degree $61,030
Teacher assistants

Teacher Assistants

Teacher assistants work with a licensed teacher to give students additional attention and instruction.

Some college, no degree $27,920

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Preschool Teachers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/preschool-teachers.htm (visited September 28, 2020).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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