What They Do: Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5 who have not yet entered kindergarten.
Work Environment: Preschool teachers typically work in public and private schools or childcare centers. Many work the traditional 10-month school year, but some work year-round.
How to Become One: Education and training requirements vary based on settings and state regulations. Preschool teachers typically need at least an associate’s degree.
Salary: The median annual wage for preschool teachers is $30,210.
Job Outlook: Employment of preschool teachers is projected to grow 18 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of preschool teachers with similar occupations.
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.
Preschool teachers typically do the following:
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.
Preschool teachers hold about 469,600 jobs. The largest employers of preschool teachers are as follows:
|Child day care services||58%|
|Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations||17%|
|Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private||16%|
|Individual and family services||3%|
It may be rewarding to see children develop new skills and gain an appreciation of knowledge and learning. However, it can also be tiring to work with young, active children all day.
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 and then have a break for 3 weeks before starting a new school session.
Those working in daycare settings may work year-round with longer hours.
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Education and training requirements vary based on settings and state regulations. They typically need at least an associate's degree.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The median annual wage for preschool teachers is $30,210. 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 $22,840, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,530.
The median annual wages for preschool teachers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private||$48,190|
|Individual and family services||$36,300|
|Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations||$36,060|
|Child day care services||$29,320|
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 and 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 year-round and have longer hours.
Employment of preschool teachers is projected to grow 18 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.
About 59,600 openings for preschool teachers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020.
Early childhood education is important for a child’s intellectual and social development. More preschool teachers should be needed to meet the demand for early childhood education.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2020||Projected Employment, 2030||Change, 2020-30|
|Preschool teachers, except special education||540,400||553,900||2||13,500|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.