Preschool Teacher Career Guide

A preschool teacher, also called a pre-kindergarten (pre-K) teacher, provides education, care, and nurturing to children five years old and younger. This guide provides information on what preschool teachers do, how to become one, and salary and job outlook.

Table of Contents

How to Become
Job Description
Salary & Job Outlook
Additional Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
Related Pages

How to Become a Preschool Teacher

The educational requirements for becoming a preschool teacher vary by state and school or school district. Preschool teachers must obtain one of the following, depending on their state and school:

  • High school diploma: Some states and markets require a high school diploma.
  • Associate’s or bachelor’s degree: Some schools require preschool teachers to have a two- or four-year college degree. Head Start preschool teachers must have an associate’s degree at minimum, but at least 50% of all Head Start teachers have a bachelor’s degree in ECE or a closely-related field with some experience.1
  • Certificate: Some school systems require a certificate in early childhood education (ECE), which covers preschool through third grade.

To be competitive in the job market, most preschool teachers complete the following steps to qualify for this career:

  1. Earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.
  2. Get nationally certified with credentials such as Child Development Associate (CDA) or Child Care Professional (CCP), if desired.
  3. Take the state’s required tests for preschool teacher certification, if required.
  4. Apply for a teaching certificate or license if required in your state.
  5. Begin applying to open preschool teacher positions.

While a four-year degree is not required for preschool teachers in all states, a teacher who has earned a bachelor’s degree will often earn a higher salary and have more opportunities for advancement. Educators who earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education may also qualify for teacher certification across a wider age range, which increases the number of job opportunities available. Bachelor’s degrees in ECE typically cover early childhood development, teaching strategies for teaching young children, and basic courses in reading, math, and science.

Those who are planning to become state-certified teachers must complete a state-approved teacher preparation program along with a student teaching internship in a preschool classroom. Requirements for preschool teachers at private schools vary so check with individual schools of interest or job listings for more details.

Preschool Teacher Job Description

Teachers at preschools instruct children who are between the ages of three and five. They work at public or private schools, religious institutions, and programs like Head Start for under-served children. Preschool teachers teach children basic foundational skills like letters, numbers, colors, and shapes through combined play and structured learning. They also foster socialization and emotional development by teaching skills in listening, sharing, self-control, and collaborative learning. In addition, they introduce children to routines and schedules, providing a safe place for them to grow and learn, with enough time to play and rest.

Common Tasks

Preschool teachers plan lessons and activities, teaching children basic motor and language skills. Supervising activities such as play, nap time, snack time, and field trips may also be required. Teachers of preschoolers foster an environment in which children can explore their interests, ask questions, and learn about the world around them. They also monitor students’ progress and keep parents up-to-date on the development of their children.

Helpful Skills and Experience

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, as well as develop age-appropriate lessons. Effective preschool teachers can effectively incorporate learning into play. Good communication with parents, other teachers, administrators, and children is also important. Collaboration skills are also critical since most preschool classrooms have more than one teacher.

Preschool Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, the median salary for preschool teachers was $35,330 and $58,580 at the 90th percentile.2 Prospects for preschool teachers are expected to remain strong as the emphasis on early childhood education increases. The profession is projected to grow about 15% through 2031, which is over three times faster than the average for all occupations.1 The job also has a relatively high turnover rate, as many preschool teachers leave to pursue further education or for other reasons. Preschool teachers with bachelor’s degrees are typically more competitive in the job market. Similarly, potential teachers with CDA or CCP certification may have an advantage.1

Additional Resources

Preschool Teacher Career Interview

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Answer: Requirements for becoming a preschool teacher vary by state and school. Some require a high school diploma, while others require a college degree. The majority of preschool teachers hold at least an associate’s degree, which takes around two years to complete, or a bachelor’s degree, which takes around four years to complete.2

Question: How much do preschool teachers make an hour?

Answer: According to the BLS, preschool teachers earn a median salary of $35,330 per year or $16.99 per hour.2 Teacher pay varies, however, based on a variety of factors such as degree earned, years of experience, school type, and location.

Question: What are the requirements to be a preschool teacher?

Answer: Depending on the type of school you work in, the requirements for prospective preschool teachers vary. If you want to work in a public preschool, however, you will likely need a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field from a state-approved program as well as state certification.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Preschool Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/preschool-teachers.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2022 Occupational Employment and Wages, Preschool Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252011.htm
3. O*NET OnLine, Preschool Teachers: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2011.00