Becoming a Preschool Teacher: Job Description and Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a preschool teacher career? Get real job descriptions, career outlooks and salary info to see if becoming a preschool teacher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Preschool Teacher

Being a preschool teacher can be a difficult yet rewarding career in which you closely monitor young children and nurture them as they learn in the classroom for the first time. Check out these pros and cons to see if being a preschool teacher is a good fit for you.

Pros of Being a Preschool Teacher
Not a lot of schooling required (a high school degree and certification)*
Positive job outlook (17% employment growth projection from 2012 to 2022)*
Opportunity to create a positive environment for children*
Chance to give back and help future generations*
Flexible schedule with summers off*

Cons of Being a Preschool Teacher
Working with young children can be overwhelming*
Long days that go beyond the school day*
Pressure to make sure students are learning and developing properly*
Need for community outreach, especially with parents*
Relatively low pay (median annual salary of about $28,000 in May 2014)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Preschool teachers work at public or private preschools and child care centers. They spend a lot of the time in the classroom but might organize activities for the children that take place outdoors or on a playground. They mentor and teach kids between the ages of 3 and 5 and prepare them for kindergarten and elementary school. Preschool teachers are responsible for teaching the very basics of education, like shapes and colors as well as introductory mathematics and language skills. They organize lesson plans that follow school and state guidelines for education and design them in a way that is creative and engaging for the students. Many teachers use their lessons to teach basic motor and social skills, which also help them monitor students to make sure they are developing properly. Outside of the classroom, preschool teachers keep in touch with parents and can represent the school in the community at various events and programs.

Job Growth and Salary Info

The job outlook for preschool teachers looks very positive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that between 2012 and 2022 the employment of preschool teachers should grow by 17%. This is largely due to the increased popularity and demand for preschool programs. The BLS also expected the population of 3-year-olds to 5-year-olds to increase, which means more students across the country who need preschool teachers.

Preschool teachers make a modest salary, which might be considered low compared to other careers in education. The BLS reported that the median annual wage of preschool teachers was $28,000 in May 2014. Preschool teachers working within elementary and secondary schools made the most, earning a mean annual salary of over $45,000 in 2014, according to the BLS. For the most part, preschool teachers are employed during the school year, which lasts about 10 months. Since they follow the school schedule, they will likely also get school holidays and vacations off but might need to spend that time planning lessons, grading assignments or organizing the classroom.

Education Requirements

You can find work as a preschool teacher with a high school diploma and certification, though some preschool teachers choose to earn an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. Some employers might prefer to hire someone with an associate's degree, and public schools or specialized government programs might need you to hold a bachelor's degree to work as a preschool teacher.

There are colleges and universities that allow you to earn an associate's degree that focuses on elementary and early childhood education. These associate's degree programs teach you about child growth and development and provide some training for preschool teachers. Associate's degree programs last about two years, and there are schools that give you the option to pursue a bachelor's degree. An early childhood and family studies bachelor's degree program teaches you how to enhance student learning while engaging the entire family. Your degree program will likely require you to take part in field experience so that you can gain real-world opportunities.

Licensure and Certification

If you hold a high school diploma and want to become a preschool teacher, you might need to be certified. One example is the Child Development Associate (CDA) from the Council for Professional Recognition, which requires you to complete your high school diploma, earn education credits and take part in a field experience.

Your state might also require you to be licensed before you can work as a preschool teacher. For this, you'll need to have the proper immunizations, go through training and clear a background screening.

Skills

Preschool teachers need to have good communication skills to deal with students, parents and other teachers. You must also be well organized and creative in the ways you make education fun and appealing to young children. Patience is also required when dealing with the emotions and short attention spans of preschool children.

Job Postings from Real Employers

You can find work as a preschool teacher with a high school diploma, but there are a large number of employers that prefer some type of undergraduate degree, whether it's an associate's or bachelor's degree. Check out these job listings from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) posted in March 2012:

  • A private preschool in Illinois is looking for a preschool teacher who can work with children ages 3 to 5 years old. You'll need college-level coursework that relates to early childhood education as well as classroom experience to be considered for the position.
  • A private, nonprofit preschool in California seeks an infant/toddler preschool teacher who understands the child-centered and play-based style of teaching. The employer wants candidates to hold a bachelor's degree and have at least three years experience working with children.
  • A nonprofit child care provider in Maryland is looking for preschool teachers who can provide play-based education to young children. You'll need at least an associate's degree that relates to early childhood education and development.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Preschool teachers have many ways to get ahead in their field. Organizations like the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offer online workshops and training sessions for preschool teachers who want to learn about new trends in the field. You might also be able to register for conferences as a way to network and meet fellow preschool teachers or others working in the early education field. This association also offers various certificates of completion for members who finish training programs. Through experience and professional growth, preschool teachers may eventually become lead teachers on their campuses, which can help them further their careers to become directors or preschool administrators.

Alternative Career Paths

Childcare Worker

If being a preschool teacher isn't the right fit for you, think about being a childcare worker. You'll still be able to work with children, but you'll focus more on caring for children rather than teaching them. Working as a childcare worker might allow you to manage a more flexible schedule, and you'll be able to work at a home, school or private childcare center. Much like a preschool teacher, the minimum education requirement is a high school diploma, but you'll probably need some sort of certification, training and professional experience. Childcare workers make a modest salary, earning a median annual salary of over $19,000 in May 2011, according to the BLS.

Teacher Assistant

If you still want to be in the classroom, but don't necessarily want to be in charge of it, you might want to consider becoming a teacher assistant. You'll work at a school and provide classroom support to the teacher and students as they learn during the school day. You can become a teacher assistant with a high school diploma or associate's degree, along with training and some experience. The job outlook is good for teacher assistants, as the BLS stated that there should be a 15% growth between 2010 and 2020. The pay is a little better than childcare workers, but within the same range as preschool teachers. The BLS reports that teacher assistants earned a median annual salary of over $23,000 in May 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Early Childhood Administration
      • Undergraduate in Early Childhood
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
      • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
    Master's
      • M.Ed. in Early Childhood
      • M.Ed. in Elementary Education
      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Early Childhood
      • B.S. in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Christian Education
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    3. The George Washington University

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    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
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    4. American InterContinental University

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    Master's
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Master of Education - Elementary Education
      • Master of Education - Secondary Education
      • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Colorado Technical University

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    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices
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    6. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Literacy
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
      • Ph.D in Literacy: Literacy
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    7. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Secondary Education with Autism Specialization
      • MS in Education - Special Education and Wilson Reading System Certification
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    8. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Early Childhood Education, B.A. without Licensure
      • Elementary Education, B.A. without Licensure
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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
  • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
  • BS in Early Childhood Administration
  • Undergraduate in Early Childhood

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Grand Canyon University

  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
  • M.Ed. in Early Childhood
  • BS in Early Childhood

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The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

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American InterContinental University

  • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
  • Master of Education - Elementary Education
  • Master of Education - Secondary Education

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices

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Saint John's University

  • Ph.D. in Literacy
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Secondary Education with Autism Specialization
  • MS in Education - Special Education and Wilson Reading System Certification

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Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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