How To Become A Preschool Teacher

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How Long Does It Take, What Degree Do You Need, and More

Preschool Teachers

Preschool Teachers instruct preschool-aged students, following curricula or lesson plans, in activities designed to promote social, physical, and intellectual growth.

Becoming One
Bachelor's degree
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Table of contents
  1. Summary
  2. Steps to become one
  3. Popular degree levels
  4. How long does it take


Degree Bachelor's degree
Degree field Early Childhood Education (ECE)
License or certification Some states require Preschool Teachers to obtain certificates in teaching, CPR, and first aid
Duration to become one 3 to 5 years
Difficulty to become one Medium

Preschool Teachers typically need at least a Bachelor’s Degree but some Head Start programs may only require an Associate’s Degree. Almost all preschools require Preschool Teachers to have a degree or certification in Early Childhood Education (ECE). Some states require Preschool Teachers to obtain certificates in teaching, CPR, and first aid.

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Preschool Teachers Requirements

Step 1: Take Art and Music Classes in High School

Aspiring Preschool Teachers should excel at all core subjects, including reading, writing, and arithmetic. However, creativity is also necessary for this profession. High school students should take classes in art and music. Art and music are often part of preschool classes because they encourage creativity, problem-solving skills, and self-confidence.

Spending more time around preschool-age children may also help aspiring Preschool Teachers. Volunteering at a childcare facility or babysitting can help students develop the patience needed for this job.

Step 2: Earn an Associate’s Degree

Most states require Preschool Teachers to hold Bachelor’s Degrees, but some only require an Associate’s Degree combined with additional training. Aspiring Preschool Teachers should review the requirements in their state to determine the right educational path.

California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington require a minimum of an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE), Child Development, or a related field. Some states may allow unrelated fields of study if the student completes specific early childhood education college courses.

Most programs include 60 hours of coursework, with a combination of general education courses and early childhood education courses. Some of the courses may be transferable to a four-year program for those who intend to go back to school.

Step 3: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Public schools often require Preschool Teachers to have a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE) or Child Development. Forty-two states also require a Bachelor’s Degree as part of the teaching certification process.

Keep in mind that private schools do not need to follow the state requirements. Private schools may hire candidates with Associate’s Degrees but are more likely to prefer teachers with Bachelor’s Degrees.

A four-year program provides additional training compared to two-year programs. A typical program includes about 50 hours of coursework on topics related to the major, including child assessment, toddler development, social development, and language development.

A Bachelor’s Degree also allows students to begin focusing on an area of specialization. Common areas of specialization include Early Childhood Curriculum, Language Development, Children’s Literature, and Administration.

Students may choose a specialization after completing most of their core coursework because the specialization may require specific courses.

Step 4: Take CPR and First Aid Training

Some schools require Preschool Teachers to hold CPR and first aid certification. The American Red Cross offers CPR and first aid training at facilities across the country. Pediatric first aid and CPR courses are also available online.

Even if an employer does not require CPR and first aid training, completing the training course looks good on a resume. It may help aspiring Preschool Teachers with their job search.

Step 5: Complete a Student Teaching Program

Preschool Teachers typically need to complete a student teaching program or internship before qualifying to teach. Student teaching programs place students in a classroom setting where they assist an experienced Preschool Teacher.

Some states require Preschool Teachers to obtain a specific number of hours of experience in an early childhood education setting, such as a preschool. Student teaching programs may last three to four months. Completing a student teaching program allows aspiring Preschool Teachers to meet state requirements.

Individuals who do not attend an Early Childhood Education college program may need to obtain work experience through alternative methods. For example, some Preschool Teachers work as Assistant Teachers or accept internships.

Step 6: Apply for a State-Issued Teaching License

Many states require Preschool Teachers to obtain a teaching license or certificate. The requirements vary but applicants typically need to meet the minimum education requirement in the state.

Some states also require experience in an early childhood education setting, such as through a student teaching program. After meeting the state requirements, candidates need to submit verifying documents, such as school transcripts, to the state and pass a background check.

Step 7: Consider Earning the Child Development Associate Credential

The Child Development Associate (CDA) credential is optional but helps aspiring Preschool Teachers with their professional development. The CDA requirements include 120 hours of formal training, which is obtained during college.

Applicants also need to complete 480 hours of work experience, which is the equivalent of about 12 weeks of full-time work. Students may gain enough experience through a student teaching program, internship, or job as an Assistant Teacher.

Obtaining the credential also requires the completion of several online courses, including Foundations of Teaching, Observing and Assessing Children, Team Teaching, and the Dynamics of Diversity. These topics are also covered during Early Childhood Education college programs, which means that most graduates should have no problem obtaining the CDA credential.

Step 8: Obtain Additional Certifications

Aspiring Preschool Teachers with college degrees in areas not related to Early Childhood Education may need the Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) credential. The CCP certificate is offered by the National Child Care Association and is recognized by many states.

Step 9: Apply for Preschool Teacher Jobs

After meeting the state requirements, Preschool Teachers can start searching for jobs. Preschool Teachers often work for public or private schools, childcare centers, and religious or nonprofit organizations.

Step 10: Continue Your Education

Preschool Teachers need to complete continuing education (CE) courses before renewing their credentials, such as the CDA and CCP credentials. Most certification programs require renewal every two to three years. The CE courses often cover the latest developments and techniques in Early Childhood Development.

What degree do most Preschool Teachers have

Bachelor’s degree

We did a survey to ask other Preschool Teachers what degree they had when they first became one. Here are the results.

Bachelor’s degree

Associate’s degree


How long does it take

3 to 5 years

Depending on the state, Preschool Teachers may need an Associate’s Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree, which may require two to four years of education. After finishing college, Preschool Teachers often need to complete a student teaching program and obtain a teaching certificate, which may take a year or less.

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