Becoming a Kindergarten Teacher: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a kindergarten teacher? Get real job descriptions and salary info to see if becoming a kindergarten teacher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Kindergarten Teacher

With the strong potential for job security and the intangible benefits derived from educating future minds, a career as a kindergarten teacher may seem particularly appealing. While kindergarten teaching is a very promising career, find out the pros and cons to decide if it's right for you.

Pros of a Career as a Kindergarten Teacher
Strong job security (tenure is granted after a period of satisfactory classroom performance)*
The diversity of job skills required and rich social interaction among students may be highly rewarding*
A two-month summer break to rest or pursue other activities*
Variety of opportunities for professional advancement or career diversification*

Cons of a Career as a Kindergarten Teacher
Complications such as a lack of resources and classroom overcrowding can make for a rather stressful work environment*
Sometimes unfairly held accountable for factors beyond realm of influence*
Unions, the institutions responsible for maintaining tenure and negotiating wage and benefit increases, are increasingly threatened**
High vulnerability to economic volatility, since cash-strapped states and municipalities may be reluctant to hire and/or generously compensate public school teachers during bad economy*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **The New York Times

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Kindergarten teachers are responsible for the nurturing and developing the learning and interpersonal skills of kindergartners. Their days are typically filled with activities such as reading exercises, artistic and recreational projects, social games and critical thinking exercises. Some of their extracurricular duties include meeting with parents and faculty, grading assignments, drafting classroom rules and monitoring children during lunch.

Kindergarten teachers typically spend their days in a single classroom. Some teach full-days and some teach half-days. They get a two-month summer break along with the other grade levels. The two-month break may be much-needed after enduring the strains of overcrowding, the pressures from administrations that students perform well on tests and the lack of resources, among other challenges that the profession may present.

Career Prospects and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national employment of kindergarten teachers is projected to grow by 12% during the 2012-2022 decade. The southern and western regions of the country are expected to grow fastest, due to their relatively high volume of student enrollment. Moreover, the demand for teachers in rural and urban areas is projected to outpace demand for teachers in suburban areas.

The BLS reports that in 2014, the mean annual salary for kindergarten teachers nationwide was $53,480. Individual salaries ranged from about $33,000 at the lowest end of the spectrum to about $78,000 at the highest end.

Career Paths and Specializations

In certain schools, there is a demand for teachers who are trained to instruct students who speak a different language, formally referred to as English language learners (ELLs). There are a variety of training programs available for teachers interested in catering to ELLs both in the United States and overseas. There are also certification and bachelor's degree programs available for individuals who desire to teach specific subjects, such as Spanish and music, at the kindergarten level.

With enough experience, kindergarten teachers may become lead teachers or mentors, responsible for guiding the professional development of new teachers. They may also consider obtaining more education and becoming administrators, such as principals and assistant principals.

Career Skills and Requirements

A bachelor's degree and a state license are the minimum requirements for public school kindergarten teachers in all states. Other requirements may vary by state. For instance, in some states, the minimum requirement is a master's degree and in others, prospective teachers are required to hold an undergraduate major in a subject such as math or science. The requirements for licensure typically include the successful completion of a certain amount of supervised teaching, a certifying examination and a preparatory program. Although private school teachers are exempt from state requirements, they also typically require prospective teachers to hold at least a bachelor's degree.

Most states require public school teachers to renew their license by taking frequent continuing education and professional development courses. Organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offer a wide array of continuing education resources, include training DVDs in early childhood human resources management, face-to-face training sessions in communication skills and annual conferences.

Useful Skills

You'll need to rely on a number of hard and soft skills to successfully complete your professional tasks. These may include:

  • The ability to listen carefully
  • The ability to create lesson plans
  • A deep understanding of childhood behavior
  • The ability to communicate effectively to parents, students, fellow teachers, administrators and staff
  • The ability to effectively coordinate student activities

Job Postings from Real Employers

All prospective public schools kindergarten teachers are required to obtain appropriate licensing by the state in which they practice. They're also required to hold at least a bachelor's degree and have accumulated a sufficient amount of professional experience. Although private schools are exempt from state licensing standards, they typically require applicants to at least hold bachelor's degrees. Below are the real results from an actual November 2012 job search for kindergarten teachers:

  • A charter school in New York City seeks a kindergarten teacher with a minimum of two years of full-time experience in the classroom and an ability to work with an ability to utilize a range of data, meet deadlines and effectively manage more than 20 children, among other qualities.
  • A nonprofit outreach center in Phoenix, Arizona is searching for a teacher with at least 3 months of relevant work experience and the ability to effectively communicate with staff members and students. The right candidate would report personal safety incidents, provide staff assistance and make individual diagnoses of individual student needs.
  • A Princeton, New Jersey early childhood education service provider seeks a candidate with at least 2 years of education, at least 3 years of professional experience in early childhood learning and certification in CPR and first aid. The selected candidate must participate in physical activities with the children, hold excellent communications skills and perform at a high level under pressure.

How to Stand Out

Obtaining a master's degree is an effective way to distinguish yourself from the field by opening up a wider array of career opportunities, particularly in administrative positions. You may also earn distinction through obtaining specialized early childhood training in areas such as music, Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL). This training is typically offered either through certification programs or through undergraduate majors.

Get Nationally Certified

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is a particularly effective route to career distinction, since its national certification credential is recognized by every state in the country. As a nationally certified teacher, you'll also be allowed to utilize your license in more states than one, instead of going through the process for each state in which you intend to practice. National certification also brings a myriad of other benefits, such as higher pay and continuing education/certification fee reimbursements. The organization offers early and middle childhood training in a range of certificate areas, such as music, English as a new language and early childhood generalist.

Other Careers to Consider

Childcare Worker

If you feel that the path to becoming a kindergarten teacher requires too much of an educational investment, you may consider a career as a childcare worker. A high school diploma is typically sufficient for becoming a childcare worker in most states. However, if you're looking to work in a Head Start program, you may need to be have either an associate's degree in early childhood education or a certificate in child development. This requirement takes effect in 2013.

Like kindergarten teachers, childcare workers supervise young children and manage developmental activities. However, less emphasis is placed on educational development and the children tend to be younger. In 2011, according to the BLS, the mean annual wage of childcare workers nationwide was about $21,000.

School Principal

If you'd like to work in education, but the salary of a kindergarten teacher may not be enough, you may want to think about a career in school administration as a principal. The BLS estimated that in 2011, the mean annual wage of elementary, middle and high school principals nationwide was about $90,000. Principals have a range of professional duties, such as supervising teachers and school staff members, overseeing the budget and lobbying various institutions for financial resources. Principals are typically required to hold at least a master's degree in education administration or a related field. Public school principals must obtain licenses in order to work.

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Walden University

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Full Sail University

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Herzing University

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Penn Foster High School

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Regent University

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Grand Canyon University

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Columbia Southern University

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