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Preschool Teacher Job Description & Career Outlook

A preschool teacher provides education, care and nurturing for children who are not yet old enough to enter kindergarten. They work with small groups and teach basic skills through combined play and structured learning. They also help their students learn to socialize, both with adults who are not their parents, and with one another. Necessary skills include effective communication, the ability to instruct a group of students, and an affinity for young children.

Preschool Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

Requirements vary from state to state. Some states and markets demand a high school diploma, while others call for a degree in early childhood education. A teacher may also be required to have a fingerprint clearance card. A teacher who has earned a bachelor’s degree will often be able to demand a higher salary and room for advancement. The emphasis on hiring teachers who have taken college coursework in early childhood education and development is increasing, and potential preschool teachers should consider pursuing a degree.

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Successful preschool teachers possess patience, kindness, and the ability to respond properly to students’ developing emotional and physical needs. Teachers should also be able to inspire trust and motivate learning, and develop age-appropriate lessons. Effective teachers realize how important play is for young children, and will be able to effectively incorporate learning into play. Good communication with parents, other teachers, administrators, and children is also important. Effective cooperation with co-teachers is important, since working with multiple adults in the same room is common.

Common tasks for preschool teachers include teaching shapes, colors, early reading skills, numbers and counting. Teachers will also teach social skills important to doing well in elementary school such as listening, sharing, cooperation, and working in groups. Supervising activities such as play, nap time, snack time, and field trips may also be required.

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Preschool Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

Prospects for preschool teachers are expected to grow faster than average, as emphasis on early childhood education is increasing. The job also has a high turnover rate, as many preschool teachers leave to pursue further education or care for their own families. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary range for preschool teachers was $23,800 in May 2008.

Early Childhood Education Degrees and Programs

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Programs:

  • B.S. in Education/Early Childhood Education
  • B.S. in Education / Elementary Education
  • M.A. in Education/Elementary Teacher Education
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Programs:

  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Curriculum & Instruction: Early Childhood Education
  • M.Ed: Special Education (Elementary)
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Teacher Leadership
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Programs:

  • MA in Education (Leadership in Early Childhood Education)
  • BA in Early Childhood Education
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Programs:

  • M.Ed. - Program Specialist in Early Childhood Specialist
  • M.Ed. Teaching and Learning - Elementary Education
  • MA in Teaching - Elementary Education
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Programs:

  • M.Ed. in Early Childhood (Leads to initial teacher licensure)
  • B.S. in Early Childhood
  • M.Ed. in Early Childhood (Does not lead to initial teacher licensure)
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Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an Preschool Teacher

Question: Do you need a degree to teach preschool?

Answer: Whether you need a degree to teach preschool depends on the state in which you hope to teach. Some states may only require a high school diploma, while others require a college degree plus specific certification through the state education department. Most commonly, a minimum of an associate’s degree or some college credits are required.

Question: How long does it take to become a preschool teacher?

Answer: Requirements for being a preschool teacher vary by state. Some require a high school diploma, while others require a college degree. The most common requirement is an associate’s degree. To earn this degree typically takes two years.

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