How to Become a Preschool Teacher: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


Preschool teachers educate very young kids—usually between ages three and five. Preschool education is mandatory in some states, but not in others. It’s a time to develop vital social skills and a love of learning, and many preschool kids are away from home for the first time. A great preschool teacher not only teaches well, he or she is good at getting kids involved in exercise, rest, and play, is compassionate and loves children, and communicates well with parents.


Annual salaries for preschool teachers will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2012, the average annual salary for preschool teachers working in the U.S. was $31,420 per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for preschool teachers, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work in Preschool Teaching

California leads the nation in employment for preschool teachers, with 48,540 earning an average annual salary of $34,240. New York State is second, where 27,930 preschool teachers are making an average of $43,650.

The metro areas employing the most preschool teachers are:

  • New York-White Plains (18,880)
  • Chicago-Joliet (12,300)
  • Atlanta (12,120)

The metro areas employing the highest concentration of preschool teachers are:

  • Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, MA-NH (8.07 jobs per thousand)
  • Hinesville-Fort Stewart, GA (6.45 jobs per thousand)

The metro areas employing the best-paid preschool teachers are:

  • New York-White Plains (average annual salary $50,320)
  • Lebanon, PA (average annual salary $47,430)

Employment and Salary Information for Preschool Teachers

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as a preschool teacher. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Employment and Information Data for Preschool Education Teaching

Why Become A Preschool Teacher?

Everyone says that few jobs are more rewarding than teaching, but it’s worth spelling out just what the benefits of teaching are—for you and the kids.

  • Work with young kids. It’s not for everyone. But if it is for you, then preschool teaching will let you work with young children and shape their development.
  • The demand is there. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there were just over 438,000 preschool teachers in the U.S. in 2012.
  • Growing profession. Governments are placing more importance on early childhood development and preschool education, and that’s driving growth. Between 2012 and 2022, job growth for preschool teachers is projected to be 17%—faster than the average job.
  • Accessible route into education. Many positions are open to those without a bachelor’s degree—unlike schoolteaching, where bachelor’s degrees are usual. So if you want to make a difference to a child’s education quickly, preschool teaching is an option.
  • Set students up for life. Preschool education helps you reach kids in their formative years, when they’re learning vital skills that will shape the rest of their lives. That’s a big responsibility, but also very rewarding.

Preschool Teaching: What You Need To Know

Preschool teachers have to work with kids that are very young: they can’t concentrate for long periods, and can’t always regulate their emotions. That makes how preschool teachers teach as important as what they teach. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Understanding of Child Development
  • Class Management
  • Lesson / Activity Structuring and Planning
  • Public Speaking and Communication
  • Working with Children

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about preschool teaching careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Preschool Teaching Careers

Certification in early childhood education

In many private childcare centers, preschool teachers often need only a certification in early childhood education. Some employers do prefer candidates with some college education in the field.

Since many states require private childcare centers to be licensed, their preschool teaching staff must undergo a background check, show proof of immunizations, and exhibit fundamental skills in working with children. In addition, some states may require staff to be certified in CPR and first aid.

Associate’s degree

State and federally funded programs generally require preschool teachers to have an Associate’s degree in early childhood education.

Bachelor’s degree

Public schools and some Head Start programs will ask preschool teaching candidates to have a Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, as well as some experience instructing preschool-age children.