Where Education Begins: Your Guide to Becoming a Preschool Teacher

In 2011, there were 24.2 million children under five years old in the U.S., and 48 percent of them were enrolled in some type of preschool.

Those kids need preschool teachers who can lead them and show them that learning is fun, setting them up to be lifelong learners. Of course, parents can do those things, too. But these days, in this economy, many parents need to have their own careers or they simply recognize the benefits of attending preschool. If you have kids you can likely relate to the fact that they want to make sure their children’s education is off to a good start with someone who cares and can help their child learn important life skills.

That’s where you come in. But how can you become a preschool teacher? Here’s what it takes to set children up for a lifetime of success.

Becoming a preschool teacher: Education & certification

Let’s cut to the chase. Do you need some fancy degree to be a preschool teacher? Not necessarily. A high school diploma and some type of early childhood education (ECE) certificate would serve you well, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says. But are you satisfied with only meeting the minimum requirement for a career?

Although it may be tempting to bypass earning your degree to get into the field faster and accelerate your career, consider this: You won’t be the only job applicant applying for jobs. If you want to stand out in a field of aspiring preschool teachers, you’ll need to help your resume stand out with a solid education.

Part of the solid education you need is an ECE degree. In addition the knowledge and skills you’ll gain, it can put you on the path to a certificate or license.

Certification and licensing requirements vary by state and school, though the BLS identifies two common certifications: the Child Development Associate (CDA) from the Council for Professional Recognition or the Child Care Professional (CCP) designation from the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. Which one you earn will depend on the college you choose and what requirements their program satisfies.

Skills needed to be a preschool teacher

If you’re certain you want to be a preschool teacher, chances are you’ve worked with kids in the past or have some of your own. Experience with kids is essential, but it takes more than a love of kids to make it in the ECE industry.

We analyzed 111,334 job postings* to show you what employers are looking for out of potential preschool teacher candidates. These are the top 15 skills requested by employers:

Preschool skills

In addition to some skills you’d expect, like child care and first aid, there are some equally important administrative skills in which you need to excel, too. As a preschool teacher you’ll have to make lesson plans for each day and keep records on your pupils. It’s crucial that you learn to schedule your time–and the children’s–wisely.

Daily duties of a preschool teacher

Now you know the child-related and administrative skills you’ll need as a preschool teacher, but how will you put those skills to use?

As we’ve established already, it’s more than just interacting with children all day. Some of your job duties will include:

  • Maintain order in the classroom
  • Evaluate children’s performance on educational tasks
  • Make lesson plans
  • Attend professional meetings and conferences
  • Lead children in educational activities
  • Identify children with special needs and adapt lesson plans accordingly
  • Buy proper classroom materials at the start of the year and replenish as necessary
  • Discuss children’s development with parents

Preschool teacher job outlook

There’s no shortage of ECE career opportunities for those with the right training and passion for working with kids. Preschool teachers have an especially bright outlook, the BLS says. By 2020, preschool teacher jobs are expected to grow 17 percent, which is faster than average. The BLS attributes this increase to a growing 3-to-5-year-old population.

You should realize that although preschool teacher jobs are available, one’s not likely to simply fall into your lap. Be proactive about finding your own opportunities by networking, volunteering or joining professional ECE associations so you can finally get the career you want. And of course, don’t take your college support team for granted—career services advisors can help job seekers in myriad ways, from resume help to finding jobs that might be a good fit for you.

Is being a preschool teacher right for you?

So, have you decided that you’d like to work with young children and have a fulfilling career giving them the foundations for success? Hopefully by now you have a pretty clear idea of what it takes to become a preschool teacher, from the educational requirements to the job duties and skills you’ll need.

If you’ve decided this is the path you want to take, explore your options in Rasmussen College’s School of Education. If you still need more information, take a look at The Best Early Childhood Education Jobs for All Degree Holders to discover other jobs you could have with an ECE degree.


*Source: BurningGlass.com (analysis of 111,334 job postings, Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2013)

External links provided on Rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Elizabeth is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She enjoys writing engaging content to help former, current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.

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