How to Become a Preschool Teacher

Janelle Cox
Janelle Cox
M.S. in Education
Preschool teacher with children plays with young children and their colorful, wooden didactic toys.

If you like making a difference and shaping the lives of young children, then looking into preschool teacher jobs and early childhood education may be the right path for you. Preschool teachers have a passion and drive to make a real impact on their students’ lives.

They are kind and caring, patient and empathetic. Most importantly, preschool teachers provide a safe and warm environment in which students can feel comfortable at such an early stage. If you’re an aspiring preschool teacher, you are undoubtedly entering a rewarding career. To land the job of your dreams, you will first need to qualify in your education, skills, and experience.

What Does a Preschool Teacher Do?

A qualified preschool teacher is responsible for the education of the young children in their care. The duties and responsibilities include the following.

  • Provide basic needs of all students
  • Establish and enforce rules
  • Teach early life skills
  • Work with children one-on-one or in groups
  • Develop schedules and routines
  • Watch for emotional and developmental delays
  • Keep records of children’s progress
  • Adapt teaching methods and materials to meet the needs of students
  • Develop and maintain relationships with children and parents
  • Provide tools and resources for children to learn and explore

Preschool Teacher Requirements: Skills

Preschool teachers work with children aged five and younger. The following attributes needed to be a preschool include:

Organization

Organization provides structure and creates a healthy environment. Preschool teachers organize activities to help students explore their interests and develop skills.

Patience

Working with young children can be stressful, but if you have patience and are always in control of your emotions, it will help you from burning out and teach students that patience is a virtue. Patience also encourages young students to partake in activities without fear of suddenly getting in trouble.

Energy

Children are full of energy, so a preschool teacher needs to keep up with students’ natural enthusiasm. To match the high levels of students’ energy, it is important to have the same vigor.

Kindness

Preschool teachers are kind and nurturing. They have a genuine love for children, and it shows in the classroom environment. They make children feel safe, secure, and provide joyful experiences for the kids.

Flexibility

Children can be unpredictable, so preschool teachers always need to be on high alert. They need to have the ability to roll with whatever comes their way and always be prepared for the unexpected.

Preschool Teacher Requirements: Education

Education and training requirements for a preschool teacher are based on state regulations, so when asking: “how long does it take to become a preschool teacher?” there are varied answers. However, you need at least an associate’s degree to become one.

Public school preschool teachers are required to at least have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field and experience working with preschool-age children. This degree focuses on childhood development, instructional techniques, and observing children’s progress. They also must obtain a license to teach early childhood education.

Preschool teachers who are in childcare or Head Start settings are required to at least have an associate’s degree. However, according to the BLS, at least 50% of preschool teachers in a Head Start program must have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field. Some states also require the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential to teach. This requires experience working with children, an exam, and coursework.

Many universities offer a master’s degree in early childhood education (ECE). This degree is for trained teachers who hold a bachelor’s degree and focuses on learning theory and child development for children from birth to age eight. It is not uncommon for districts to require advanced degrees from teachers after a certain number of years of service.

Why Should You Consider a Preschool Teaching Position?

Salary and Benefits

If you work in a public-school setting, most states will offer preschool teachers a comprehensive benefits package which usually includes health insurance, vision, and sick leave. The median preschool teacher salary is $32,000.

Career Opportunities

Experienced preschool teachers can have the opportunity to become the lead classroom teacher or move up to an administrator role such as an assistant director or the director if they are in a childcare setting.

Professional Learning

As new learning and instructional strategies are developed, educators can stay up to date on the latest trends and theories in education. This will give educators a way to provide students with the knowledge and skills that support the new research.

Shape Student Learning

Preschool teachers play an essential role in the success of their students. They provide structure and guidance. They help students grow in their reading and writing skills and use a variety of methods to help students grow cognitively and emotionally.

How to Become a Preschool Teacher

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a preschool teacher, then the first step is to get your degree and any other license and certificate that your state requires. You will also need work experience in a childcare setting. You can start as a childcare worker or teaching assistant. You can also look into working as a camp counselor, tutor, or nanny to gain even more experience.

Pursuit of a career in early childhood education takes passion and patience. If this piques your interest, check out our available early childhood education graduate programs to get started today.

graduate program favicon

Looking for a graduate program?