How to Become a
Preschool Teacher

There is a lot to consider when choosing a career. And if you’re thinking about becoming a Preschool Teacher, you’ve come to the right place. This guide contains helpful information about what it takes to become a Preschool Teacher, including education requirements, important skills and more.

What Does a Preschool Teacher Do?

A Preschool Teacher educates and looks after children who are between the ages of three and five years old and before they enter kindergarten. He or she is adept at explaining and teaching social skills and behavior-management, as well as helping children develop their vocabulary.  A Preschool Teacher also strengthens children’s reading and mathematical skills and prepares them for success in higher grades.

Preschool teachers are employed in both private and public schools, day care centers or other facilities where child development takes place.

Being a Preschool Teacher requires previous experience working with children and often candidates need to pass background checks.

Some common Preschool Teacher duties and responsibilities include:

  • Learning how to manage a classroom

  • Making the classroom an enriching and educational environment.

  • Being a role model

  • Planning activities that are educational and interesting for very young children.

  • Helping students with their knowledge through one-on-one and group activities.

Preschool Teacher Skills

Being a Preschool Teacher means working with very young children. A Preschool Teacher can expect rowdy children who won’t listen to rules. The position requires a high level of patience and the ability to be empathetic, friendly, and nurturing. The ability to manage stress and the ability to stick to a teacher’s daily plans is crucial. The Preschool Teacher should also be warm and pleasant. In addition, he or she should be good at explaining things, as it’s a major part of the job. Lastly, since working with children can be physically taxing, preschool teachers should have a lot of energy.

Other key Preschool Teacher skills include:

  • Being comfortable working with very young children

  • Ability to play with children in order to introduce them to social engagement.

  • Besides education, helping children with rudimentary tasks such as zipping up outerwear or tying shoe laces.

  • Strong Organizational skills: Preschool Teachers need to be organized to plan lessons.

How Do You Become a Preschool Teacher?

Education and Training

Employers looking for Preschool Teachers require, at minimum, a high school diploma. In addition, most job postings we looked at required a prospective Preschool Teacher to have experience working with children and have successfully completed a nationally-recognized certificate in early child education. This involves passing a written exam and gaining relevant experience in the field, which serves as a measurement of a prospective Preschool Teacher’s level of competence for teaching childhood education. Even in states that do not have specific certification requirements, employers often give preference to candidates who have completed a training program.

In all cases, a Preschool Teacher candidate must have advanced reading and writing skills in order to create practical lesson plans.

In some cases, the Preschool Teacher candidate must pass a background check, as well as CPR and first aid training. Preschool teachers in the public school system must be licensed. (state requirements vary) in early childhood education.

Employers are more likely to hire those who possess some postsecondary education in early childhood education, such as an associate’s degree for entry-level early education positions or a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, Child Development, or a related field for public school teaching opportunities such as in classrooms or Head Start programs.

For those with college degrees and for those who specialize in early-childhood training tend to have more job opportunities and have more positive interactions with children. They are allowed to teach kindergarten through grade 3. Preschool teachers who move up in their career can qualify for being a director of a preschool or childcare center.

Finding a job

Demand for Preschool Teacher is increasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 7 percent growth for the position through 2024, amounting to a total of 15,870 openings for Preschool Teachers during that period. Given this projected growth, aspiring Preschool Teachers are likely to find many job opportunities at schools, both private and public.

Any successful Preschool Teacher job search begins with crafting a high-quality resume that highlights your skills and experience. For guidance on creating a resume, take a look at our library of Preschool Teacher resume samples.

Once your resume is in order, search online for Preschool Teacher job opportunities. As you look for openings, be sure to leverage your professional network, including people you met through school, as well as past teachers.

When applying for Preschool Teacher jobs, write a cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights your qualifications and what you will bring to the role. Need some cover letter inspiration? Check out our collection of cover letter samples for help.

Insights from a Preschool Teacher

In order to get an inside look at how to become an English Professor, we talked to Katherine Firestone, founder of the Fireborn Institute. The group’s mission is to provide parents, caregivers, and educators with strategies to improve the academic lives of their learners. Here’s what she had to tell us.

What is a common career path for a Preschool Teacher?

It is more common to have an educational background in elementary education. A typical career path might be starting as a co-teacher in preschool and then becoming a head teacher.

What should someone consider before becoming a Preschool Teacher?

Your energy level –  they require a lot of it. Your patience –  they require a lot of that too. Your need to stick to a plan. In Preschool, it can be difficult to stick to plans. If you absolutely have to finish the letter “A” before going to recess or eating lunch, preschool may not be for you. You really have to be flexible. Sometimes even though you planned to do math at 9 am, your kids are just too excitable and need an outlet, so you have to take them out to recess first.

What type of person excels at this job?

A calm person. Sometimes children need to be able to cry it out because they are sad that their parents left. You have to be able to handle that crying child and not get angry that the child has been crying for 30 minutes. A creative person - kids say the most interesting things and you have to be prepared to respond to them appropriately. That can often require some creative thinking so that you can get across what you are thinking in a way that makes sense to a four-year-old. 

What are some of the most important skills for Preschool Teachers to have?

Classroom management is the most important skill. You need to provide structure and loving support to preschoolers. It is very difficult. You are teaching them how to behave as students. They have not had a lot of training yet, so your classroom management skills are essential. 

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Preschool Teacher?

The pure relationships you develop with your students is the best reward. 

How Much Do Preschool Teachers Get Paid?

Preschool Teachers are typically paid on an hourly basis. The median hourly wage in the United States is $13.74. The lowest-paid Preschool Teacher makes about $9.20 per hour, while the highest-paid can earn more than $25.00.

 Top 10 States for Preschool Teacher Salary

Preschool Teachers in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.

    Louisiana

    $19.21

    Washington DC

    $19.20

    Kentucky

    $18.10

    Alaska

    $17.51

    North Dakota

    $17.02

    New Jersey

    $16.90

    Hawaii

    $16.20

    Rhode Island

    $15.82

    Virginia

    $15.62

    Minnesota

    $15.45

    Preschool Teacher Resources

    Looking for more information on a career as a Preschool teacher? We put together this list of additional resources to help you as you continue to explore a career as a Preschool Teacher.

    On the Web

    Teach Preschool
    This blog provides inspiration for preschool classroom planning and activities.

    Pre-Kinders
    This blog has tons of teaching advice for the pre-k crowd.

    Hands on as we Grow
    This site is packed with ideas for preschool activities.

    Preschool Teacher Industry Groups

    The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
    Works to promote high-quality early learning for all young children, birth through age 8, by connecting early childhood practice, policy, and research.

    Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI)
    The group shares burgeoning approaches to the education of young children, ensuring that these approaches are delivered in ways that enhance children's individual skills and abilities and provide opportunities for success.

    Child Care Aware of America
    Advocates for child care policies that improve the lives of children and provides professional development for child care providers. ACEI is the only national nonprofit organization that focuses exclusively on child care.

    Preschool Teacher Books

    Preschool Classroom Management: 150 Teacher-Tested Techniques
    Offers solutions and suggestions to help you tackle behavior issues in the classroom.

    The Giant Encyclopedia of Lesson Plans for Children 3 to 6
    Contains more than 250 complete lesson plans.

    Everything for Early Learning, Grade Preschool
    Presented here are activities that are fun enough to keep young children engaged and entertained.

    The information in this article comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings and other online sources.