Why Teach Preschool
Preschool education is not just daycare. In reality, Preschool teachers lay the groundwork, personally, socially, and academically for their students to progress to the public schools. Almost without fail, preschool will be the first chance for 2-4 year olds to experience structured work and play that plant the seeds for mathematical and scientific thinking, language, the arts, and social and emotional growth. And, it’s a great age to work with.
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.
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.
How to Become One
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 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.
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.
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.
Employment of preschool teachers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
Early childhood education is important for a child’s short- and long-term intellectual and social development. More preschool teachers should be needed as a result of the increasing demand for early childhood education.
In addition, the number of preschool-aged children is expected to increase; however, their share of the overall population should remain constant.
Teachers who have experience working with preschool-aged children may have better opportunities finding a job than those without experience.1
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.2
- U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook
- U.S. Department of Labor, Career One Stop
Links and Resources for Preschool Education and Teaching
National Association for the Education of Young Children--NAEYC promotes high-quality early learning for all children, birth through age 8, by connecting practice, policy, and research. NAEYC advances a diverse, dynamic early childhood profession and support all who care for, educate, and work on behalf of young children.
American Federation of Teachers—Early Childhood--The American Federation of Teachers is a union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for students, their families and communities.
National Child Care Association—The NCCA exists to promote the success of licensed providers in quality early care and education, including the provision of professional development, advocacy, and community engagement.