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How To Become An Early Childhood Teacher in the USA

Early childhood teachers work with young children and focus on their social and cognitive development. It is a highly specialized field that requires a lot of dedication and patience. So if you are patient and enjoy working with children this might be the right career choice for you.

What Does an Early Childhood Teacher Do?

The most important question to answer before pursuing a career in early childhood education is whether you enjoy working with children. If you do not have a clear answer to the question, it may not be the best choice for you. Keeping up with children can be trying and exhausting. Because the needs of every child are unique, coping with all of them can also be a daunting task.

Your day-to-day roles as an early childhood teacher may include the following:

  • Receive children when they arrive in school
  • Develop schedules for the day
  • Enforce strict routines such as washing hands, eating, playing and sleeping
  • Supervise children activities such as drawing
  • Maintaining a safe and comfortable environment for kids
  • Plan and implement learning lessons
  • Providing material that children find engaging
  • Help children communicate with each other
  • Instill age-appropriate disciplinary measures
  • Address special needs  


Entry Level

$17,844 - $37,388


$18,376 - $38,060


$19,065 - $40,418

Late Career

$18,722 - $41,704


Source: PayScale


Aspiring early childhood teachers must, first and foremost, have the right temperament. However, as an aspiring teacher, your employer will expect you to have the proper academic background and credentials. Because each state has their standards on what they expect from an early childhood teacher, check the requirements for your state before you embark on this career path.

A Degree: The most basic requirement for teachers across the United States is a Degree. Most states will require a major or minor in education. Being a highly-specialized profession, some schools require a degree in early childhood development or education. While most employers set their minimum requirement at an associate’s degree, some like the Montessori schools require a bachelor’s degree.

Certification:After completing your degree program, consult with the department of education in your state to confirm their requirements and earn your official teaching credentials. Apply to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education for national certification. Upon meeting the necessary qualifications, register with the Council for Professional Recognition to earn the Childhood Development Associate credentials (CDA) in your area of early childhood education.

Special Programs: Some schools will require you to complete specific teaching programs before working for them. For example, to teach at a Montessori School, you will need to a complete a Montessori teacher education program.

Career Development

Consider enrolling for an advanced degree such as a master’s program in child development or other courses to improve your job prospects, abilities and opportunities. Earning additional qualifications such as a degree in management and research can help you branch to other positions in early childhood education such as administration and research.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that job opportunities in the profession will go up by 17 percent between 2012 and 2022.

If you are up to the task, becoming an early childhood teacher can be a fulfilling and rewarding career path. Early childhood teachers work in preschools, kindergartens and Montessori schools. Because the U.S. government does not mandate preschool education, early childhood education institutions are private.


Image: istock

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