Preschool Teachers


Quick Facts: Preschool Teachers
2017 Median Pay $28,990 per year 
$13.94 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 478,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 10% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 50,100

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Preschool Teachers Career, Salary and Education Information

What Preschool Teachers Do

Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5 who have not yet entered kindergarten. They teach language, motor, and social skills to young children.

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preschool teachers

Duties of preschool teachers

Preschool teachers typically do the following:

  • Teach children basic skills such as color, shape, number, and letter recognition

  • 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

  • Organize activities so children can learn about the world, explore interests, and develop skills

  • 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 them to the attention of the parents

  • Keep records of the students’ progress, routines, and interests, and inform parents 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 that teach children how to respect people of different backgrounds and cultures.


Work Environment for preschool teachers

Preschool teachers held about 478,500 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of preschool teachers were as follows:

Child day care services: 57%

Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations: 18%

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private: 17%

Individual and family services: 3%

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 for preschool teachers

Preschool teachers in public schools generally work during school hours. Many work the traditional 10-month school year and have 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 9 weeks in a row then have a break for 3 weeks before starting a new school session.

Those working in daycare settings may work longer hours and often work year-round.


How to Become a preschool teacher

Education and training requirements vary based on settings and state regulations. They typically need at least an associate’s degree.

Education

Preschool teachers typically need at least an associate’s degree.

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, provide strategies to teach young children, and explain how to observe and document children’s progress.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require preschool teachers to obtain the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. Obtaining the CDA credential requires coursework, experience in the field, a written exam, and observation of the candidate working with children. The CDA credential must be renewed every 3 years.

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 in order 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 talk to 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 coworkers.

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

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

Physical stamina. Working with children can be physically demanding, 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.


salaries for preschool teachers

The median annual wage for preschool teachers was $28,990 in May 2017. 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 $19,970, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $54,780.

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for preschool teachers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private: $46,600

Individual and family services: $31,260

Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations: $30,320

Child day care services: $26,870

Preschool teachers in public schools generally work during school hours. Many work the traditional 10-month school year and 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 daycare settings may work longer hours and often work year-round.


Job Outlook for preschool teachers

Employment of preschool teachers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.

Early childhood education is important for a child’s short- and long-term intellectual and social development. More preschool teachers should be needed as a result of the increasing demand for early childhood education.

In addition, the number of preschool-aged children is expected to increase; however, their share of the overall population should remain constant.

Job Prospects for preschool teachers

Workers with previous experience working with preschool-aged children may have better opportunities finding a job.

Employment projections data for Preschool Teachers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 478,500

Projected Employment, 2026: 528,600

Change, 2016-2026: +10%, +50,100


Careers Related to preschool teachers

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers attend to the basic needs of children, such as dressing, bathing, feeding, and overseeing play. They may help younger children prepare for kindergarten or assist older children with homework.

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.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects, such as math and reading, in order to prepare them for future schooling.

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. They 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.

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

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

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.

Teacher Assistants

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

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Childcare WorkersHigh school diploma or equivalent$22,290
High School TeachersBachelor's degree$59,170
Kindergarten and Elementary School TeachersBachelor's degree$56,900
Middle School TeachersBachelor's degree$57,720
Preschool and Childcare Center DirectorsBachelor's degree$46,890
Special Education TeachersBachelor's degree$58,980
Teacher AssistantsSome college, no degree$26,260

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Preschool Teachers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/preschool-teachers.htm