Teachers of preschool-age children, typically between the ages of three and five, play a crucial role in helping to develop their social-emotional, cognitive, language, and physical skills. Preschool teachers are responsible for writing curriculum, planning lessons and activities, tracking children’s progress, and providing a safe and positive learning environment that supports children’s growth and development.
The rewards of becoming a preschool teacher are immeasurable. Let’s delve deeper into how you can become a preschool teacher and the education, training, and skills needed to succeed in this field.
What do preschool teachers do?
Create a safe and nurturing environment for children
This includes providing a clean and well-organized classroom and supervising children at all times. Preschool teachers also handle any challenging behaviors that may arise. For example, if a child acts out, the teacher will de-escalate the situation and help the child calm down. Additionally, if a child is having difficulty following directions or seems disruptive, it’s the teacher’s role to intervene and help the child get back on track.
Plan and implement engaging activities
Preschool teachers plan lessons that promote the development of a child’s cognitive, social-emotional, language, and physical skills. They prepare young children for academic success by incorporating activities that provide a foundation in early literacy and math skills and also teach essential social-emotional skills, such as how to express and regulate emotions and cooperate with others.
Assess each child’s progress
Preschool teachers regularly observe and document children’s progress. They use assessments to track the development of each child’s cognitive, language, physical, and social-emotional skills. These assessments are used to inform instruction and adjust the curriculum as needed.
Preschool teacher requirements
The steps and requirements for becoming a preschool teacher vary by state. Generally, however, the following qualifications are necessary:
Meet education requirements
Some states require a high school diploma or GED, while many require a minimum of an associate's degree in early childhood education (ECE) or child development. A bachelor's degree in ECE is often preferred, as it provides more in-depth training in key areas such as curriculum development, teaching strategies, and child development.
Pass state/national competency exams
In most states, prospective teachers are also required to pass two standardized tests — Praxis I and Praxis II — which measure their knowledge and skills necessary for teaching. The Praxis I test, or Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST), assesses basic reading, writing, and math skills. The Praxis II tests measure subject-specific knowledge in early childhood education.
Depending on the state, other exams may be required as well. Check with your state's education board for more information on the specific requirements.
Earn a state teaching license/certification
A current state-issued license or certification is required to work as a preschool teacher in the public school system. Depending on your state, you may need to apply for a traditional teaching license or a specific early childhood education license. To get your state-issued teaching license, you’ll need to complete the following steps:
- Pass a background check
- Provide proof of completing all required coursework and tests (including the Praxis exams)
- Complete an in-classroom or student teaching experience with supervision by an experienced teacher
Once you have obtained your license or certification, you may need to renew it periodically. Check with your state's department of education for specific requirements.
Qualifications vary from state to state. Although some entry-level childcare center positions may only require a high school diploma, others might require a certificate or degree in early childhood education (ECE) or a related field with experience. To stand out, consider obtaining a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, and if necessary, complete a teaching internship, and take your state’s tests to get certified.
Advantages of being a preschool teacher
Fun and rewarding
Helping children develop essential skills and watching their progress towards major developmental milestones is an incredibly fulfilling experience.
Opportunities for career advancement
With the right education and training, preschool teachers can move into higher-paying positions within their organizations, such as lead teacher or program director.
Ability to be creative
Teaching involves a great deal of creativity in planning engaging and educational activities that help children develop a love for learning.
Preschool teaching is a highly sought-after profession, and there is always a demand for qualified teachers.
Preschool teacher career progression
To advance in your career, you’ll likely need to complete additional education in addition to your bachelor’s degree. You’ll need to pursue coursework or get a master’s degree to advance to higher positions.
Preschool teachers can specialize in administrative roles, such as childcare center directors, or other areas of early childhood education, such as working with special needs children or developing a new curriculum.
Online education is a viable option for those who wish to pursue further education while continuing to work. Other options for continuing education include night classes at a local college or university. Each option has advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to consider which option best fits your needs before making a decision.
Ongoing staff evaluations are opportunities to check in on your teachers' progress and partner together to achieve their career goals. Our free preschool staff evaluation and self evaluation forms will help you develop engaged and competent staff.
The current state of preschool teacher jobs
Preschool teachers can expect a positive job outlook in the coming years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for preschool teachers is expected to grow by 15% from 2021 to 2031, with an estimated 63,100 openings each year. This is faster than average growth for all occupations, meaning there will be plenty of opportunities for those interested in pursuing a career in early childhood education.
This growth is partly due to the increasing emphasis on early childhood education, as research has shown that the early years are crucial for a child's development. In addition, the growing preschool population is expected to spur demand for other types of childcare jobs, such as childcare center directors and family childcare providers.
If you have a passion for education and working with young children, becoming a preschool teacher can be a very rewarding career path. Even though exact requirements vary by state, the proper education, state certification, and national credentials will prepare you for success in the early education industry.
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