How to Become a Preschool Teacher: Your 4-Step Lesson Plan
Preschool teacher requirements
Preschool teachers need at least some level of college education and training in childhood development. Different states and schools also have different certification requirements.
Most preschool teachers need at least an associate’s degree. Some programs, such as public schools, require a bachelor’s degree. Common degrees include early childhood education, psychology, English or other subjects. If you get a degree in a field other than childhood education, you will need additional experience teaching young children.
States often regulate hiring based on a teacher’s level of child care experience. Aspiring preschool teachers can get training and experience as teacher’s assistants, teacher’s aides or day care assistants. Working alongside a certified teacher will help you gain an understanding of the different types of skills you’ll need to excel in this career. You can also learn about the various activities preschool teachers hold for their students and which ones are the most effective.
States also require preschool teachers to get certified. Certifications vary by state and type of school. For example, public schools often have stricter requirements. Some standard certifications for this career include:
Council for Professional Recognition’s Child Development Associate certificate
To earn this credential, preschool teachers must complete training in both the classroom and in a teaching setting during which a reviewer will observe them working with children. They must also pass an exam and renew their license every three years.
National Early Childhood Program Accreditation’s Child Care Professional certificate
This two-year course is particularly useful for preschool teachers without college degrees or degrees in early childhood education. After completing training, they must pass an exam to earn their certification.
Preschool teachers should be comfortable guiding and working with very young children, which requires a high level of calmness and understanding. They must also be able to work with children of different backgrounds and stages of development and determine each one’s learning level. Other critical preschool teacher skills include:
A preschool teacher should be able to communicate effectively with both children and children’s parents. They should provide clear written and verbal reports of children’s progress.
Step 1: Enroll in an early childhood education program
The BLS reports that preschool teachers usually need at least an Associate’s degree. 1 The federally organized Head Start programs (which account for a sizable chunk of preschools throughout the country) require half of their teachers to hold at least an Associate’s degree and the other half at least a Bachelor’s degree in early education or a related field. 1
Some employers might require preschool teachers to have some work experience in a childcare setting. In this case, new preschool teachers might break into the field as childcare workers or teacher assistants, according to the BLS.
But the primary requirement for public schools is a license. In every state, preschool teachers must be licensed to teach early childhood education, according to the BLS. Most often, a state’s licensing requirements involve a Bachelor’s degree and passing an exam to demonstrate competency. 2
Step 2: Become certified
Certification and licensing requirements for preschool teachers vary by state and school, though the BLS highlights two common certifications: the Childcare Development Associate (CDA) from the Council for Professional Recognition or the Child Care Professional (CCP) designation from the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation.
The CDA credential is required in several states, according to the BLS. Earning it involves verification of coursework, experience in the field, a written exam and observation of the candidate working with children.
Even if your state does not require the CDA for preschool teachers, employers are likely to appreciate it in their applicants. Learn more about the benefits professionals can receive from the CDA credential at: Is Earning a Child Development Associate Credential Worth It?