Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5 who have not yet entered kindergarten.
What they do
Preschool teachers teach language, motor, and social skills to young children. They 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.
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
Education and training requirements vary based on settings and state regulations. Preschool teachers typically need at least an associate degree.
Preschool teachers typically need at least an associate degree.
Preschool teachers in center-based Head Start programs are required to have at least an associate 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.
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.
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.
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.
Similar Job Titles
Child Development Teacher, Early Childhood Teacher, Group Teacher, Infant Teacher, Montessori Preschool Teacher, Nursery Teacher, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher (Pre-K Teacher), Preschool Teacher, Teacher, Toddler Teacher
Social and Human Service Assistant, Kindergarten Teacher (except Special Education), Self-Enrichment Education Teacher, Teacher Assistant, Nannies
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Montessori Society
- Association for Childhood Education International
- Association Montessori Internationale
- Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education
- National Association for the Education of Young Children
- National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators
- National Association of Independent Schools
- National Education Association
- National Head Start Association
- North American Montessori Teachers' Association
Magazines and Publications
Preschoolers may do a lot of singing and finger painting, but teaching them takes more than fun and games. For most children, preschool is their vital first experience of structured learning and play… preschool teachers plan the lessons and create the environment that makes it all possible. Preschool teachers educate and care for children ages 2-4. They present reading, writing, science, and other subjects in ways their young students can understand. Preschool teachers organize activities and routines to balance playtime, rest, and physical activity throughout the day. They teach the basics of language, numbers, shapes and colors, as well as social skills. They also monitor children’s progress to share with parents, and flag any concerns for early intervention. Preschool teachers work in childcare centers, non-profit centers, and public and private schools. In public schools, preschool teachers generally work during school hours, and may have summers off or teach summer programs. In day care settings, hours may be longer and schedules are typically year-round. Education and training requirements range from a high school diploma and certification to a college degree. Childcare centers generally require a high school diploma and a certification. Head Start and other government programs may require a 2- or 4-year degree. Public school preschool teachers need a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field, and an early childhood education license.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org