Preschool is an exciting time for young children aged three to five to meet several development milestones before transitioning to elementary school. Whether publicly or privately owned, preschools provide interactive classes for toddlers to achieve social, physical, and intellectual growth. The National Institute for Early Education Research reports that 93 percent of teachers agree that children who attend preschool are more prepared for kindergarten. Preschool teachers are the certified educators who develop simple, play-based curriculum for young children to achieve optimal growth. From story-telling to finger painting and recess, PreK teachers find imaginative ways for infusing basic skills into fun. It’s their duty to analyze each child’s developmental progress to watch for delays that would benefit from early intervention. Preschool teachers play a pivotal role in introducing learning and classroom behavior during the most formative years.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 370,190 preschool teachers employed in the United States bring home an average yearly salary of $32,500, or $15.62 per hour. Preschool teachers employed in daycare centers make less at $28,380, whereas those working in elementary and secondary schools earn significantly more at $45,370 on average.
Right after finishing teaching credentials, preschool teachers will likely land in the bottom quarter percentile of earnings with yearly income around $22,440. However, it’s important to mention that preschool teachers with years of classroom experience eventually make beyond $51,990 per year. Those moving into education administration receive $92,940 or more!
Preschool teachers are responsible for creating a structured learning environment where youth under age five can learn basic reading, writing, math, and social skills. They’ll coordinate interactive, colorful lessons teaching everything from letters of the alphabet to shapes. Condensing content into activities that young children can understand and target development areas is their mission. PreK teachers must manage a safe classroom where children have enough exercise, nutrition, rest, and playtime. Preschool teachers reinforce good social behaviors, including sharing toys, listening, and making eye contact. Outside the classroom, preschool teachers have added roles like attending parent conferences, meeting with specialists, buying teaching materials, and writing progress reports.
Success in preschool teaching will require strong communication skills for collaborating with parents, staff, psychologists, and administrators about children’s progress. Preschool teachers must have child development knowledge to understand toddlers’ learning needs and tailor curriculum effectively. Having creativity and artistic ability is important because preschoolers learn best through visuals. Organizational skills are a must for PreK teachers to maintain orderly lesson plans, progress reports, and budgets. Since toddlers are typically inquisitive and adventurous, preschool teachers need First Aid skills when boo-boos follow. Preschool teachers must have the physical stamina to chase around 4-year-olds and patience to deal with misbehaving. Problem-solving, team-building, and critical thinking skills are also essential.
Degree and Education Requirements
Becoming a preschool teacher will require passing your state’s requirements for the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. Generally, this requires earning at least a two-year associate degree from a regionally accredited community college or vocational school. Having an Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education or Child Development is considered necessary. However, around 50 percent of Head Start programs prefer hiring preschool teachers with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood teaching. Attaining a bachelor’s usually will qualify you for certified education jobs in public schools from PreK-3. Furthering your schooling with a Master of Education in Early Childhood may foster advancement to childcare administrator or family support specialist.
Pros and Cons of the Position
Choosing preschool teacher over similar jobs like nanny or child counselor will come with rewards and challenges. On the plus side, preschool teachers enjoy a positive job outlook with growth higher than most teaching professions. Certain PreK positions are available with only an associate degree for less college coursework and tuition. Preschool teachers typically have flexible schedules with holidays and summer vacations. Creating a positive, safe environment for young children to develop a love for learning is highly gratifying. Preschool teachers also can unleash their fun, goofy side when planning engaging activities youngsters love. However, income potential for preschool teachers is considerably below the already modest teacher’s salary. PreK teachers frequently work beyond 40-hour weeks to plan lessons and meet with parents or guardians. Keeping up with rambunctious toddlers can be tiring, even with assistants. Some preschool teachers may also feel pressured to make sure students reach benchmarks.
Gaining plenty of work experience with kids is the essential first step. During your high school and college years, find part-time or volunteer jobs working with young children. Aspiring preschool teachers could become babysitters, nannies, tutors, coaches, or camp counselors. Most accredited education programs will include field practicum for hands-on experience in PreK classrooms. While finishing your associate or bachelor’s degree, consider working as an assistant teacher. Earning CPR and first aid certification is highly encouraged. After graduation, fulfill your state’s licensing requirements. The CDA credential will require at least 120 clock hours of formal childcare experience. Although it’s optional, consider becoming a Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) through the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. Doing so will mandate 180 clock hours of training in NECPA-approved programs.
The NCES reports that 42 percent of 3-year-olds and 68 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolling in preprimary programs. Trends are expected to increase as research supports that effectiveness of attending preschool on fostering short-term and long-term development. Some parents are enrolling infants into preschool programs for the academic benefit. It’s projected that the number of children under age five will grow by 3 percent through 2020. Employment of preschool teachers will also grow faster than the education average by 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, creating around 29,600 new jobs. Preschool teachers with a bachelor’s degree and experience with young children have the best prospects. Teaching positions are offered at daycare centers, elementary schools, family services agencies, churches, Head Start programs, and charter schools.
Overall, preschool teachers organize one-on-one, small group, and classroom activities for children under five to advance their skills. Teaching the youngest children in a school building provides patient, caring educators with the reward of positively touching countless lives. The U.S. News and World Report recognized preschool teachers for having America’s #4 best education job with an unemployment rate of only 3.3 percent. Pursuing studies in early childhood education is the best way for preschool teachers to construct this career like building blocks.