How to Become a Preschool Teacher: Job Description, Education & Training

Are you cool with being a human tissue? How about being on a first name basis with the folks at the dollar store? Are you ok with forgetting that you are not at work when you tell the rude person in line behind you at the coffee shop to sit in time out? Well if all of these things sound like your cup of tea, then stick with us while we tell you everything you need to know to be a glitter wearing, paper mache making and finger painter extraordinaire. Or as most people refer to them – preschool teachers.

How to Become a Preschool Teacher

There are going to be different educational requirements that will be dependent upon each state’s regulations and also the preschool setting you will be employed in. You can definitely expect to need a high school diploma and may be required to have a certificate or a college degree.


In order to work in any preschool, you will definitely have to have a high school diploma and a certification in early childhood education. There will be some schools that will actually require you to have a college degree in early childhood education.

For those that are considering becoming a preschool teacher in a Head Start program, you will need to have at very least an associate’s degree.

Although, we would like to mention that 50% of all preschool teacher that are working in Head Start programs have bachelor’s degrees because their state requires it. In other words, make sure that you check with your state’s licensing board before you decide to stop your education at an associate’s degree.

Public preschools typically require their preschool teachers to have bachelor degrees in early childhood education or a similarly related field.

Bachelor’s degrees are super helpful because they help to teach potential preschool teachers about child development, helpful strategies for teaching youngsters and how to effectively observe and document children’s progress.

Check out a few sample schools:

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Licenses, Certifications and Registrations

Nearly every state requires that both preschools and preschool teachers have a state license. In order to obtain your license to teach preschool you will have to pass a background check, have all of your immunizations, as well as meet the minimum training and / or education requirements. You may also be required to have a certification in first aid and CPR. This is probably a pretty good thing to have under your hat anyhow. Think about how often little people put things in their mouths and eat too quickly. Kids are like choking accidents waiting to happen. Be prepared and run to the Red Cross to get certified. It will be killing two birds with one stone.

There are states as well as preschools that will require that you have a nationally recognized certification. The type of certification that you will need to get will likely be the Child Development Associate (CDA) certification. This certification is offered by the Council for Professional Recognition and requires a bit of course work, experience in a preschool setting, a written exam and lastly observation by a licensed professional while you are working with kiddos.

You may luck out and find a state and preschool that will allow you to teach with a Child Care Professional (CCP) designation that will be offered by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. In order to have a CCP you will have to be 18 years old, have a high school diploma, some actual experience working with booger factories (or kids if you prefer to refer to them as such), have the necessary early childhood education requirements conquered and of course you have to show the accreditation exam who is boss.

The requirements to teach in a public preschool are pretty similar to those of private preschools. You’ll need to be licensed to teach preschool, have a bachelor’s degree and you will of course have to pass another exam that will show that you can hang with the coolest of preschoolers.

We also want to throw in that some states and facilities will require you to complete a certain amount of continuing education to keep your license fresh. Keep up on that schooling to ensure that you are left out in the cold while everyone else has story time without you.

Important Skills

It takes certain skills to be able to work with kids on an everyday basis because unfortunately an endless supply of Sponge Bob jokes simply won’t do the job on its own. Let’s take a quick peak at some of the skills that will help you rock socks at story time, sing-a-longs and snack time!

  • Communication Skills: As a preschool teacher it will be very helpful to have pretty good communication skills. These skills will obviously come in handy with the little tots that you are going to be teaching on the daily, but also when you are interacting with colleagues and the parents of your students. These communication skills need to be on the upswing in both written and speaking mediums
  • Creativity: Creativity will be super important as a preschool teacher. You’ll need fun and exciting ways to interact with your students each day. This will also be helpful when you are trying to adapt to new lesson plans and learning styles
  • Interpersonal Skills: As a preschool teacher it will be very important to understand and try to relate to the emotional needs of the children you are teaching. You’ll want to be able to build positive relationships with your preschoolers, their parents and your colleagues
  • Organizational Skills: As a preschool teacher you will definitely want to be organized in order to keep your lesson plans on point as well as the records of all your students and their progress
  • Patience: We wish we could put this one in flashing lights to signify its importance. Kids can be wicked frustrating and no matter how cute they are, they can totally find a way to push your buttons. That’s where patience comes in. Lots and lots of patience. As a preschool teacher it’s pretty important to respond calming in what are bound to be overwhelming and difficult situation. Do whatever you have to do to get to your happy place. Counting to 10 in a different language is a good place to start…You think we are joking, but once you try it you’ll see what we mean
  • Physical Stamina: Yes! This is another big one for preschoolers. You will crouch down and stand up more times in one day than you can count. Believe when we say that you will get a work out in just wrangling your preschoolers. We are actually pretty convinced that wrangling cats is easier.  Get lots of sleep, eat properly and stay in decent shape so that you can keep up with all of your rug rats. No one wants to be that preschool teacher that ends up tied to their chair while their class runs wild

How Long Does it Take to Become a Preschool Teacher

Very good question! We can see that we have taught you well! We don’t want to scare you or anything, but it is very possible that you may spend 600 hours or more studying to become a preschool teacher. We’ll wait a second for you to take a chill pill…We’re givers like that.

So 600 hours sounds like way too much time when we say it like, so let’s break it down into years instead. You will spend anywhere from 2 years on an associate’s degree to 4 years on a bachelor’s degree. After you have those under your belt you will then have to lock in your preschool teacher training time, the required extra certification courses (CPR and first aid most likely) and then master the exam. with these added things you are looking at an additional few months to a year depending on how long it takes you to get your caboose in gear.

The grand total of time it will likely take you to become a preschool teacher will be somewhere around 4 to 5 years. You can totally do it in less if you’ve got some pep in your step though. Eat your Wheaties and bust a move to get this done. There are finger painting and paper mache projects waiting for you on the other side.

Schools for Preschool Teachers

We know that you will need to have an associate’s, bachelor’s or otherwise appropriate early childhood education certification. We are going to take a look at some of the schooling options now. Hopefully you can lock in a spot at one of the schools near you.

CUNY School of Professional Studies

CUNY has a program in early childhood development that gives students the opportunity to gain their Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate. This program is partnered with the NYC Early Childhood Professional Development Institute and together they have created a system that will help preschool teachers nail down all of the knowledge and skills that are needed to help little dudes and dudettes in a learning environment.

Nova Southeastern University

There is an Associate of Arts in Early Child Education degree available at Nova Southeastern University through their Fischler School of Education. This degree program integrates the important standards that are set forth by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The intent of the associate’s degree program at NSU is to prepare students to be successful preschool teachers in any setting.

Vanderbilt Peabody College

At the Vanderbilt Peabody College there is a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education that is brought to students by their Department of Teaching and Learning. This degree program hopes to help undergraduates prepare for a career as a preschool teacher. The Department of Teaching and Learning at Peabody is highly thought of in the teaching community and is very highly ranked on a national and international level.

How Much Do Preschool Teachers Make?

It’s too bad you can’t pay your bills in all of the bits of glitter that you are going to be covered in on a regular basis! Since glitter currency isn’t an option, let’s take find out what the Bureau of Labor Statistics has to say about the expected salary for preschool teachers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2013, preschool teachers are expected to earn a median yearly salary of $27,570 or $13.26 an hour if you’d like to slice it that way. There is a slight difference in salaries for those preschool teachers that are both less and more experienced. For those preschool teachers that are new to the world of finger painting and toddler meltdowns, you can expect to make an annual salary of $18,420. The preschool students that have taken stock in toilet paper rolls and that are on a first name basis with their dollar store, will likely earn $49,660 a year.

Do keep in mind that there will be things that may be responsible for an increase or decrease in your expected pay. For starters the type of preschool that you are employed at will likely have some impact on your pay. For example, public preschools vs. private preschools may have different rates of pay.


What Type of Preschool Can I Teach At?

This is a little thought of question among many preschool teachers, but there are different theories of preschool education and there may be some things that you like or dislike about each. It’s nice to have options and to be in an environment that jives with your theories in life and work as well as what your areas of education may be focused in. Let’s talk a bit about some of the different preschool theories now so that you can get an idea of what’s out there for you!


The Montessori preschool style was originally developed by doctor and teacher Maria Montessori. This preschool theory focuses on developmental approaches to teaching. The Montessori theory draws focus to the nature, creativity and desire for hands on learning that children are often innately drawn to. The main goals of the Montessori method is to allow a child’s senses, character, practical life skills as well as their true academic abilities to come through. There isn’t rigid scheduling or guided learning in Montessori classrooms, but instead free flowing learning that is led by each individual child. To become a preschool teacher at a Montessori school you will need to have an early childhood undergraduate degree or a graduate degree with a Montessori certification.


Austrian writer Rudolf Steiner developed the Waldorf teaching approach. Preschools that operate as Waldorf schools focus on the nature of a child and their spirit, soul and body. This focus allows children to express their interests and involve them in creative, hands on group learning. There is also an emphasis placed on repetition while supporting the promotion of a strong excitement for learning. Waldorf schools strive to bring out each child’s innate abilities, interests and talent. Each teacher at a Waldorf preschool is required to be Waldorf certified.

Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia schools were first formed

in the 1940’s in Italy and the teaching methods are embraced by many schools in the United States still. This style of teaching sets out of let little ones explore and develop a sense of self-expression and community. For the most part Reggio Emilia schools are open ended and child led, which means that kiddos learn through art, projects and other activities that are reflections of their interests. To teach in a Reggio Emilia preschool you will not have to have any specific teacher training or credentials. This isn’t a rigid method of teaching, but more of a theory and practice.


HighScope educational methods are a pretty meticulously designed learning approach that focuses on active participation learning. This style allows preschoolers to learn by having active hands on experiences with everything that they are surrounded by. This learning is then encouraged and supported by their daily routines and well organized classrooms. There is an academic note to the HighScope approach with some planned exercises in math, reading and science.

Bank Street

The Bank Street approach to preschool instruction is based off of the educational stylings of Jon Dewy. Bank Street preschools focus on the little one’s mental, social, emotional and physical growth. The child is allowed to become an active learner and is able to grasp onto knowledge bases upon the world they experience first-hand. Bank Street learning is most comparable to play centered learning as the style teaches through hands on learning activities like building block, puzzles, clay and dramatic play.

Get Ready for the Funny – Watch This Video!

We found a hilarious video on the old YouTube from veteran preschool teacher, Richard Cohen. He came up with a top 10 list of things that preschool teachers everywhere will be able to relate to. Richard definitely brings the LOL’s with his candid and spot on take on life as a preschool teacher. Reason number 4 still has us in stitches as a matter of fact. Definitely take the time to watch it and enjoy a giggle.

Take This Silly Quiz

While we know that a Buzzfeed quiz that tells you which color you are or which Harry Potter character you would be if you suddenly received a letter from Hogwarts, would be a bit more fun…But how about a super silly quiz that tells you whether or not you are cut out to be an oversized tissue. Err we mean a preschool teacher. To take the quiz you can click right here!

Final Grade

One of the many good things about be a preschool teacher is that you don’t have to give out grades, but before you get to that point we are going to drop a report card on you. Our final grades here are for the areas that we feel are pretty important when considering any job. With that in mind how about you out your colored pencils down and take a look. You can expect a pop quiz on this later, so pay attention!

  • Degree vs. Debt: B-

You certainly don’t become a preschool teacher for the money as your salary earnings are not likely to be all that high. You will have to spend a good chunk of change on a certificate program, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. Not to mention any fees that are to be paid out for licensing. The degree to debt ratio leaves a bit to be desired when you consider all of these things.

  • Difficulty of Degree: A

The degrees that you will be aiming for are not very hard nor do they require much (if any) technical experience. You’ll likely breeze through all of your courses without much of an issue except maybe being a little tired after pulling a few all night study sessions. There is mainly a lot of studying about concepts and principles of teaching preschool.

  • Happiness Quotient: B

Being a preschool teacher seems for the most part like it is a pretty fun and relatively rewarding job. You get to work one on one with little minions to help them grow into awesome big kids. The downside to being a preschool teacher is that the pay isn’t that great and you will have to have an abundance of patients because there will be kids that make you want to put yourself in time out just so you can have a moment of quiet.

  • Job Outlook: A

Where there are kids there is a need for preschool teachers. The job growth is projected to be around 17% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s quite a bit faster than other jobs right now. At least you know that if you spend all kinds of time in school to earn a degree or certificate that it won’t be for nothing. Thumbs up for job security!

Sources and Recommended Reading

Just as paste is to a preschooler, sources are to us here at Learn U. Take a look at what we have here for you today and you will find everything that we’ve already mentioned here and then some. Get click happy and get some extra information if you feel like you need it.

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