How to Become a Preschool Teacher:
The Definitive Guide

Every parent knows that education is important for their little ones.

Some parents decide to send their little ones to school in order to gain independence, knowledge, and self-discovery.

What parents may not realize, is that their child’s Preschool Teacher is just as important.

A good Preschool Teacher will help students thrive and become better and better every day.

While this may be a fun career, it’s important to be good with kids and have a sense of wonder if you want to succeed as a Preschool Teacher.

What is a Preschool Teacher?

A Preschool Teacher’s main goal is to educate and encourage their students.

As a Preschool Teacher, you will get the pleasure of working with children, as young as 3 or 4 years old in some areas.

In this career, you will teach children how to spell their names, learn their ABCs and numbers, as well as play fun games, and encourage sharing.

These special teachers are tasked with providing emotional support to children, as well as teaching them fine motor and communication skills.


It’s important to have a solid understanding of a child’s developing brain in this career.

That is because you will spend a lot of time with kids who need to learn all types of new things.

As a Preschool teacher, you should expect to spend the day doing tasks like:

  • Teaching shapes and colors
  • Teaching early skills
  • Helping students learn about listening and sharing
  • Supervising activities and play
  • Monitor student progress
  • Keeping parents up to date on their child’s progress


Working as a Preschool Teacher can be a rewarding career, with a salary of $34,000 annually.

Those with more experience and education can make up to $55,000 in some areas.

New Preschool Teachers can expect to make a little less, closer to $21,000 to begin.

Working in larger schools and areas with higher socioeconomic statuses can lead to a higher salary.

States that have the highest-paid Preschool Teachers are New York and Hawaii, at around $42,000 a year.

The states that pay their Preschools Teachers the least include Alabama and Iowa.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $36,460


Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$55,960
New Hampshire$33,210
New Jersey$44,810
New Mexico$31,930
New York$43,880
North Carolina$29,530
North Dakota$34,640
Rhode Island$35,150
South Carolina$29,900
South Dakota$32,040
West Virginia$32,050
Puerto Rico$25,420
Virgin Islands$38,620

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $55,960.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $55,960
New Jersey - $44,810
New York - $43,880
Massachusetts - $43,710
California - $42,210
*Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Preschool Teacher

Step 1Earn a Degree

Preschool Teachers have the important job of teaching young people, which means they need to have an education themselves.

Most Preschool Teachers earn either an Associate’s degree or a Bachelor’s degree before joining the workforce.

An Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education takes about two years to complete.

Some schools will not hire Preschool Teachers with only an Associate’s degree.

These types of degrees can be used to gain entry-level positions at places like Head Start.

If you want to work in a public school, it is required that you have a Bachelor’s degree at least.

This can take about four years to finish for full-time students.

Some of the typical courses that an Early Childhood Education Bachelors degree offer are:

  • Children’s Literature
  • Children and Families
  • Early Childhood Education Theory
  • Psychological and Physical Development of Children
  • Issues in Education

Along with classroom time learning about how to become a Preschool Teacher, most programs require an internship or experience in a real preschool classroom.

Step 2Gain Experience

Whether you are still in school or fresh from earning an Associates or Bachelor’s degree, you will need some classroom time as a Preschool Teacher.

There are many ways to become acquainted with a preschool classroom.

When working toward a degree, you can become an intern at a preschool or elementary school.

It’s also possible to work as an assistant teacher under the supervision of a licensed educator.

Depending on which state you work in, the hours of teaching experience needed to gain employment may vary.

For example, in many states, a Preschool Teacher needs at least 150 hours of teaching time in order to gain employment.

Another way to gain experience that can help toward employment is working in childcare centers or even daycares.

Step 3Become Licensed

After gaining experience working as a Preschool Teacher under the supervision of a licensed educator, you can become a licensed educator yourself.

Each state has its own requirements for licensure, but typically Preschool Teachers who want to work in public schools must gain a license.

Most states require at least a Bachelor’s degree in order to gain licensure, and it’s also likely that you will need to take an exam.

The exam to become a licensed Preschool Teacher is typically between 120 and 150 multiple-choice questions.

Some of the topics that are covered on the Preschool Teacher exam include:

  • Math
  • Social Studies
  • Language and Literacy
  • Health and Physical Education
  • Creative and Performing Arts
  • Variations in Development
  • Teaching and Learning

Licensing is good for about three years in most states, and then you will need to become licensed again.

Often, relicensing requires taking on an education program or learning a new skill as well.

Step 4Obtain Certification

Another thing that may be necessary, depending on where you work, is whether you need to become certified as a Preschool Teacher.

Those who are required to become certified typically go through the Council for Professional Recognition and earn the Child Development Associate credential.

In order to be eligible for the Child Development Associate certification, it’s important to have earned a degree and have at least 480 hours of experience in the field.

This credential costs around $75 to obtain, and those interested must pass an exam as well.

Most exams are 65 questions and take about 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete.

Exams are given at testing centers throughout the United States, and times vary by state.

This certification must be renewed every three years.


When it comes to your dreams of becoming a Preschool Teacher, it’s necessary to gain the proper education.

This way, you have the most knowledge to teach the littlest minds of the world.

Whether you choose to earn your education online or in-person is up to you.

Most employers and school systems require that a Preschool Teacher has at least a Bachelor’s degree, typically in Early Childhood Education.

There are some Head Start programs and other facilities that may allow a Preschool Teacher to earn an Associate’s degree.

Along with the typical general courses that an Associates degree offers, Preschool Teachers in the Early Childhood Education program will also have courses like:

  • Child Development
  • Classroom Management
  • Children’s Play and Learning
  • Education Psychology
  • Special Education
  • Administration and Leadership

However, with a four-year degree, it’s possible to find a wide variety of career opportunities.

In the Early Childhood Education Bachelors degree program, an aspiring Preschool Teacher will typically take classes that include the following:

  • Social and Behavioral Science
  • Lifespan Development
  • Literacy Instruction
  • Creative Arts
  • Inclusive Curriculum
  • English Composition
  • Student Teaching
  • Professional Development

Along with classroom time, a Preschool Teacher needs to have experience in lecturing.

That is why many Bachelor’s degree programs require that aspiring Preschool Teachers either work an internship or as a student teacher in order to gain on-the-job experience.

There are many different ways to earn some experience in this field.

If you are comfortable working in front of an entire classroom yet, try:

  • Babysitting
  • Working at a daycare center
  • Volunteering at church playgroups
  • Shadowing an educator

Most degrees require at least 120 hours of teaching experience before graduation.

This can help lead to job opportunities after you graduate as well, and the experience looks great on a resume.

Regardless of how you gain your education to become a Preschool Teacher, having an open mind and a big heart will go a long way in your success.

Video About The Career


Having licensure as a Preschool Teacher is extremely important if you want to work in a public school.

Private School Preschool Teachers or Head Start Preschool Teachers don’t have to get licensed in many states, however, more and more employers are requesting it nowadays.

The license that is required for Preschool Teachers varies depending on which state you work in.

The first license that you obtain as a Preschool Teacher is a provisional license for the first six years of your career.

The provision is not taken off of your license until you have completed all of the education requirements, work hour requirements, and other specific state requirements.

In order to gain this provisional license, you must take an exam.

The exam is anywhere from 65-150 questions, depending on the facility and state you live in, and is typically multiple-choice.

Exams take anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour to complete, and there are testing centers across the country.

Once you renew your license, you will need to prove further education such as completing a Master’s degree.

After some experience in the field, you will be eligible to earn a certificate as a Preschool Teacher.

The requirements necessary to gain certification include:

  • Six semester hours of education
  • 150 professional development hours
  • 150 work experience hours
  • Masters degree or higher

After you have completed all of the above requirements, you will need to pass an exam to show your competency in the field.

Exams vary by state as well, but most have multiple choice and written questions in order to determine your knowledge of being a Preschool Teacher.

States may have a variety of other types of certifications that work well for Preschool Teachers.

Some of the areas to consider becoming certified are:

  • Language Arts
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Special Education

The most popular associations to find Preschool Teacher certification opportunities:

  • The Council for Professional Recognition
  • The National Early Childhood Program

Most certifications require renewal after three years.

Average Training Program Duration: 2-4 Years

A certificate in Early Childhood Education can be found online and can take about 6 weeks to complete.

This is the shortest way to become a Preschool Teacher, but many people choose to gain more education.

Those with an Associate’s degree take about two years to become a Preschool Teacher.

There are Preschool Teachers with Bachelor’s degrees.

This takes about four years to finish for full-time students.

A Bachelor’s degree provides more career opportunities as you will be knowledgeable in many areas and have years of experience.

Popular Programs

Job Outlook

Even though there won’t be a large growth in this career field, Preschool Teachers can expect about a 2 percent rise in job opportunities.

The reason for the slow gain is due to homeschooling and the use of “unschooling” to provide education to Preschoolers.

Preschool is important, and many parents are sending their children to school in order to go back to work.

Besides that, there will always be new children becoming preschool age, and they will always need to learn and grow as well.

Those who have experience as Preschool Teachers or any other kind of teacher can expect to find the most job opportunities in this field.

Employment Growth Projection: 18%


That's a higher than average projected growth of 86,400 jobs.

Preschool Teacher: Interest Over Time

Should You Become a Preschool Teacher?

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

Overall Satisfaction

It seems that most Preschool Teachers find their careers enjoyable, however, they wish that they made more money.

This is because the average salary for a Preschool Teacher is only $34,000.

For the amount of work put into this career, it is not as much as would be expected for most Preschool Teachers.

With that being said, most Preschool Teachers have found that their professions make them happy and teaching children is a wonderful experience.

Two other things that factor into the satisfaction of Preschool Teachers are the amount of flexibility within the schedule, and how hard it is to gain promotions.

Average Salary: Low

Average Salary

There are ways to make a decent salary when working as a Preschool Teacher.

On average, a Preschool Teacher makes about $34,000 a year.

However, with more education, certifications, and other specialties, a Preschool Teacher can make close to $50,000 a year in some areas of the United States.

States like California and Washington DC pay their Preschool Teachers about $40,000 on average due to the high population and cost of living.

When just starting your career as a Preschool Teacher, it is likely that you will make about $24,000 annually to begin.

Gaining experience and learning new techniques will allow for promotions and raises in this career.

Job Growth Outlook: Low

Job Growth Outlook

You should expect to see this career grow at around 2 percent over the next decade.

That is because there will always be a need for Preschool Teachers, however, many new parents are starting to teach their children from home.

Those who want a more formal education or who want to go back to work choose to send their children to preschool.

Having experience in education or as a Preschool Teacher can lead to many more career opportunities over the next ten years.

Education Duration: 2-4 Years

Education Duration

There are two ways to become a Preschool Teacher.

First, you could earn an Associate’s degree, which would take you about two years to finish.

Or, you could earn a Bachelor’s degree.

This type of degree takes about four years to finish for full-time students.

Both degrees are great for this career, however, a Bachelor’s degree will provide more in-depth education and often requires an internship or experience in the field.

All in all, it can take anywhere from 2 years to 4 years to become a Preschool Teacher.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

As a Preschool Teacher, you will be working closely with young, impressionable minds.

This means that you need to have an open heart, an open mind, and be accepting of new and interesting situations.

Children have a knack for making seemingly normal experiences into ones you will never forget.

Other personal skills that a Preschool Teacher should have in order to be a success in this career are:

  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Perseverance
  • Organizational skills
  • Patience
  • First aid knowledge
  • Physical stamina
  • Creativity
  • Compassion for others
  • Flexibility
  • Dedication to the field
  • Sense of humor

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much does a Preschool Teacher make?

In the United States, the average Preschool Teacher makes about $34,000 a year.

With experience, licensure, and various certifications, a Preschool Teacher can make well over $50,000 a year.

When you are just starting your career as a Preschool Teacher, the typical salary is about $24,000 annually.

Some factors that can affect a Preschool Teachers’ yearly salary are the location of the school, and what type of school.

Private schools, Charter schools, and other private facilities may pay more than public schools.

Q. How long does it take to become a Preschool Teacher?

The average Preschool Teacher spends about four years in college.

Earning a Bachelor’s degree is very important for teachers, especially when you plan to teach young people.

A Bachelor’s degree can be earned within four years for full-time students.

There are places that may accept an Associate’s degree, which takes about two years to finish.

All in all, it takes anywhere from 2 years to 4 years to become a Preschool Teacher.

Q. Is there a demand for Preschool Teachers?

The population is continuing to grow each year, which means there will likely always be a demand for Preschool Teachers.

Parents all over the country find it pertinent that their child attends preschool.

With a career growth of around 2 percent, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but there will likely be a steady stream of career opportunities in the future.

Preschool Teachers with higher education and experience will be in demand far more often than teachers with no education.

Q. What does a Preschool Teacher do?

A Preschool Teacher has one of the most important jobs in the world.

Not only do they have to teach young children on a daily basis, but they have to care for them and love them as their own.

Preschool Teachers are very special and spend their days doing things like:

  • Teaching children how to write
  • Shapes and numbers
  • Playtime
  • Reading stories
  • Giving personal attention to students
  • Conversing with parents

Q. How much does it cost to become a Preschool Teacher?

There are many different programs to gain the education to become a Preschool Teacher.

Some programs can take a few months to complete, and cost several thousand dollars.

An Associate’s degree can be earned at a university or community college and can cost about $10,000 to $15,000 to finish.

Those who want to earn a Bachelor’s degree will likely pay close to $40,000 to attend a university in the United States.

It costs anywhere from $2,000 to $40,000 to become a Preschool Teacher.

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