Preschool Teachers

Summary

preschool teachers image
Preschool teachers educate and care for children, usually ages 3 to 5, who have not yet entered kindergarten.
Quick Facts: Preschool Teachers
2012 Median Pay $27,130 per year
$13.04 per hour
Entry-Level Education Associate’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 438,200
Job Outlook, 2012-22 17% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 76,400

What Preschool Teachers Do

Preschool teachers educate and care for children, usually ages 3 to 5, who have not yet entered kindergarten. They teach reading, writing, science, and other subjects in a way that young children can understand.

Work Environment

Preschool teachers work in public and private schools, childcare centers, and charitable organizations. Many work the traditional 10-month school year, but some work the full year.

How to Become a Preschool Teacher

Education and training requirements vary based on settings and state regulations. They range from a high school diploma and certification to a college degree.

Pay

The median annual wage for preschool teachers was $27,130 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of preschool teachers is projected to grow 17 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected due to a continued focus on the importance of early childhood education and the growing population of children ages 3 to 5.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of preschool teachers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about preschool teachers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Preschool Teachers Do About this section

preschool teachers image
Preschool teachers use play to teach children about the world.

Preschool teachers educate and care for children, usually ages 3 to 5, who have not yet entered kindergarten. They teach reading, writing, science, and other subjects in a way that young children can understand.

Duties

Preschool teachers typically do the following:

  • Prepare children for kindergarten by introducing concepts they will explore further in kindergarten and elementary school
  • Work with children in groups or one on one, depending on the needs of children and the subject matter
  • Plan and carry out a curriculum that targets different areas of child development, such as language, motor, and social skills
  • Organize activities so children can learn about the world, explore interests, and develop talents
  • Develop schedules and routines to ensure children have enough physical activity, rest, and playtime
  • Watch for signs of emotional or developmental problems in children and bring problems to the attention of parents
  • Keep records of the students’ progress, routines, and interests, and keep parents informed about their child’s development

Young children learn from playing, problem solving, questioning, and experimenting. Preschool teachers use play and other instructional techniques to teach children about the world. For example, they use storytelling and rhyming games to teach language and vocabulary. They may help improve children’s social skills by having them work together to build a neighborhood in a sandbox or teach math by having children count when building with blocks.

Preschool teachers work with children from different ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. Teachers include topics in their lessons to teach children to respect people of different backgrounds and cultures.

Work Environment About this section

Preschool teachers
Preschool teachers usually work in public schools, private schools, and childcare centers that have preschool programs.

Preschool teachers held about 438,200 jobs in 2012.

Many preschool teachers work in public and private schools or in formal childcare centers that have preschool classrooms. Others work for charitable or religious organizations that have preschool programs or Head Start programs. Head Start programs receive federal funding for disadvantaged children between the ages of 3 and 5.

The industries that employed the most preschool teachers in 2012 were as follows:

Child day care services54%
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations21
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private16
Individual and family services3

Seeing children develop new skills and gain an appreciation of knowledge and learning can be very rewarding. However, it can also be tiring to work with young, active children all day.

Work Schedules

Preschool teachers in public schools generally work during school hours. Many work the traditional 10-month school year, which includes a 2-month break during the summer. Some preschool teachers may teach in summer programs. Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row then have a break for 1 week before starting a new school session. They also have a 5-week midwinter break. Those working in day care settings may work longer hours and often work the whole year.

How to Become a Preschool Teacher About this section

Preschool teachers
Preschool teachers must plan lessons that engage young students and must also adapt their lessons to suit different learning styles.

Education and training requirements vary based on settings and state regulations. They range from a high school diploma and certification to a college degree.

Education

In childcare centers, preschool teachers generally are required to have a least a high school diploma and a certification in early childhood education. However, employers may prefer to hire workers with at least some postsecondary education in early childhood education.

Preschool teachers in Head Start programs are required to have at least an associate’s degree. However, at least 50 percent of all preschool teachers in Head Start programs nationwide must have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field. Those with a degree in a related field must have experience teaching preschool-age children.

In public schools, preschool teachers are generally required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field. Bachelor’s degree programs teach students about children’s development, strategies to teach young children, and how to observe and document children’s progress.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many states require childcare centers, including those in private homes, to be licensed. To qualify for licensure, staff must pass a background check, have a complete record of immunizations, and meet a minimum training requirement. Some states require staff to have certifications in CPR and first aid.

Some states and employers require childcare workers to have a nationally recognized certification. Most often, states require the Child Development Associate (CDA) certification offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. Obtaining the CDA certification requires coursework, experience in the field, a written exam, and observation of the candidate working with children.

Some states recognize the Child Care Professional (CCP) designation offered by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. Candidates for the CCP must be 18 years old, have a high school diploma, experience in the field, take courses in early childhood education, and pass an exam.

In public schools, preschool teachers must be licensed to teach early childhood education, which covers preschool through third grade. Requirements vary by state, but they generally require a bachelor’s degree and passing an exam to demonstrate competency. Most states require teachers to complete continuing education credits to maintain their license.

Other Experience

A few states require preschool teachers to have some work experience in a childcare setting. The amount of experience necessary varies by state. In these cases, preschool teachers often start out as childcare workers or teacher assistants.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Preschool teachers need good communication skills to tell parents and colleagues about students’ progress. They need good writing and speaking skills to convey this information effectively. They must also be able to communicate well with small children.

Creativity. Preschool teachers must plan lessons that engage young students. In addition, they need to adapt their lessons to suit different learning styles.

Interpersonal skills. Preschool teachers must understand children’s emotional needs and be able to develop good relationships with parents, children, and colleagues.

Organizational skills. Teachers need to be organized to plan lessons and keep records of their students.

Patience. Working with children can be frustrating, and preschool teachers should be able to respond calmly to overwhelming and difficult situations.

Physical stamina. Working with children can be physically taxing, so preschool teachers should have a lot of energy.

Advancement

Experienced preschool teachers can advance to become the director of a preschool or childcare center or a lead teacher, who may be responsible for the instruction of several classes. Those with a bachelor's degree in early childhood education frequently are qualified to teach kindergarten through grade 3, in addition to preschool. Teaching positions at these higher grades typically pay more. For more information, see the profiles on preschool and childcare center directors and kindergarten and elementary school teachers.

Pay About this section

Preschool Teachers

Median annual wages, May 2012

Education, training, and library occupations

$46,020

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Preschool teachers

$27,130

 

The median annual wage for preschool teachers was $27,130 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,090, and the top 10 percent earned more than $48,660.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for preschool teachers in the top four industries in which these teachers worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and
private
$41,520
Individual and family services28,390
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar
organizations
27,390
Child day care services24,410

Preschool teachers in public schools generally work during school hours. Many work the traditional 10-month school year, which includes a 2-month break during the summer. Some preschool teachers may teach in summer programs. Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row then have a break for 1 week before starting a new school session. They also have a 5-week midwinter break. Those working in day care settings may work longer hours and often work the whole year.   

Job Outlook About this section

Preschool Teachers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Preschool teachers

17%

Education, training, and library occupations

11%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of preschool teachers is projected to grow 17 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Early childhood education is important for a child’s intellectual and social development. As a result, there has been increasing demand for preschool programs, which is expected to create demand for preschool teachers.

In addition, the population of children ages 3 to 5 is expected to increase. Because children between these ages are typically enrolled in preschool, the demand for preschool teachers increases when this population increases.

Job Prospects

Workers who have postsecondary education, particularly those with a bachelor’s degree, should have better job prospects than those with less education. In addition, workers with the Child Development Associate (CDA) or Child Care Professional (CCP) credential should have better prospects than those without these certifications.

Employment projections data for preschool teachers, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Preschool teachers, except special education

25-2011 438,200 514,600 17 76,400 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of preschool teachers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Child care workers

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers care for children when parents and other family members are unavailable. They care for children’s basic needs, such as bathing and feeding. In addition, some help children prepare for kindergarten or help older children with homework.

High school diploma or equivalent $19,510
High school teachers

High School Teachers

High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor’s degree $55,050
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers prepare younger students for future schooling by teaching them basic subjects such as math and reading.

Bachelor’s degree $53,090
Middle school teachers

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.

Bachelor’s degree $53,430
Preschool and childcare center directors

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

Preschool and childcare center directors direct and lead staffs, oversee daily activities, and prepare plans and budgets. They are responsible for all aspects of their center’s program.

Bachelor’s degree $43,950
Special education teachers

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Bachelor’s degree $55,060
Teacher assistants

Teacher Assistants

Teacher assistants work under a teacher’s supervision to give students additional attention and instruction.

Some college, no degree $23,640
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Preschool Teachers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/preschool-teachers.htm (visited April 25, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014