What Does a Preschool Teacher Do?
Preschool teachers don’t just help young children learn their ABCs. They teach kids the fundamental skills for learning that can set them on a positive educational path.
Sounds impressive — and it is.
Good preschool teachers, also called a pre-K teachers, make a difference by providing a supportive learning environment for kids aged 3 to 5.
Through lesson plans and activities, preschool teachers teach shapes, colors, early reading skills, numbers and counting. Along the way, they teach sharing and cooperation. They help kids gain confidence and encourage them to learn everything and anything.
You’ve heard the phrase “kids are like sponges” — and for good reason. They are soaking up everything teachers, parents and authority figures share with them. All the while, they are honing social skills, language skills and basic motor skills.
Preschool teachers help their students learn through structure and play. That can include rhyming, storytelling, music, art, dance and acting games.
And preschool teachers are needed in many places. They work at child care centers, public and private schools, and for religious and civic organizations. Some preschool teachers in public schools have the summers off, while others work year-round.
If this description makes you curious, keep reading to learn more about what training is required, what it’s like to do this job and much more.
- Establish routines and discipline
- Make sure children are supervised at all times
- Build children’s self-esteem through positive guidance
- Communicate with parents about child’s development
- Create a curriculum and activities that promote literacy and math
- Teach children basic skills such as colors, shapes, numbers and letters
- Teach children to respect people who are different
- Ensure classroom is well-maintained and safe
How To Become a Preschool Teacher: FAQs
What steps do I take to earn this job?
There are several steps to getting this job, but earning your qualifications will be worthwhile. In fact, sheer opportunity is a reason preschool teacher is one of the top careers for community college graduates. In addition, some cities have increased demand. For example, Phoenix is a hub for public service jobs, including preschool teacher.
First, you’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent.
For most jobs, you’ll need an associate degree from a state-approved program.
Before you take any educational or training steps, realize that the requirements for preschool teachers vary by state and by school. (We have a helpful link for that below.)
For example, some federal Head Start programs require an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. Head Start is an early education program for underserved children. At least 50% of the teachers who teach at Head Start will need a bachelor’s degree.
To teach at a public school, you’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field. If you have a degree in another field, you’ll need to get experience teaching preschool children.
Programs may include courses on classroom management, teaching methods, educational psychology, reading instruction and behavior assessment. Most programs also include an internship in the classroom so you get hands-on experience with young children.
Next up is licensing and certification.
Depending on the state or school where you plan to teach, you may need to pass a certification exam, get your state teaching certificate, get your teaching license or all of the above. (A license is required for public school preschool teachers.)
Other certifications may be required or will open up new opportunities. The most common is the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. Another is the Child Care Professional (CCP) credential.
To understand the rules in your state, explore this PreSchoolTeacher.org list of preschool teacher education requirements by state.
How long does it take to become a preschool teacher?
An associate degree takes two years. A bachelor degree takes four years.
Continuing education is ongoing. For example, a licensed preschool teacher must maintain that license, and a CDA credential must be renewed every three years.
Is there a demand for preschool teachers?
Definitely! The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 63,100 job openings each year from 2021 to 2031. That’s about 15% employment growth, much faster than growth for most other careers.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Successful preschool teachers tend to share certain personal attributes. They are:
- Calm in a variety of situations
- Good communicators
- Good collaborators
- Physically able to keep up with energetic young children