Preschool teachers held about 483,100 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of preschool teachers were as follows:
|Child day care services||62%|
|Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private||16|
|Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations||12|
|Individual and family services||3|
It may be rewarding to see children develop new skills and gain an appreciation of knowledge and learning. However, it can also be tiring to work with young, active children all day.
Preschool teachers in public schools generally work during school hours. Many work the traditional 10-month school year and have a 2-month break during the summer. Some preschool teachers may teach in summer programs.
Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 9 weeks in a row and then have a break for 3 weeks before starting a new school session.
Those working in daycare settings may work year-round with longer hours.
Education and training requirements vary based on settings and state regulations. Preschool teachers typically need at least an associate’s degree.
Preschool teachers typically need at least an associate’s degree.
Preschool teachers in center-based Head Start programs are required to have at least an associate’s degree. However, at least 50 percent of all preschool teachers in Head Start programs nationwide must have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field. Those with a degree in a related field, such as psychology, must have experience teaching preschool-age children.
In public schools, preschool teachers are generally required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field. Bachelor’s degree programs include instruction on children’s development, teaching young children, and observing and documenting children’s progress.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Some states require preschool teachers to obtain the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. Obtaining the CDA credential requires coursework, experience in the field, a written exam, and observation of the candidate working with children. The CDA credential must be renewed every 3 years.
In public schools, preschool teachers must be licensed to teach early childhood education, which covers preschool through third grade. Requirements vary by state, but they generally require a bachelor’s degree and passing an exam to demonstrate competency. Most states require teachers to complete continuing education credits in order to maintain their license.
A few states require preschool teachers to have some work experience in a childcare setting. In these states, preschool teachers often start out as childcare workers or teacher assistants. The amount of experience needed varies by state.
Experienced preschool teachers may advance to become the director of a preschool or childcare center or a lead teacher. Those with a bachelor's degree in early childhood education frequently are qualified to teach kindergarten through grade 3, in addition to preschool. Teaching positions at these higher grades typically pay more. For more information, see the profiles on preschool and childcare center directors and kindergarten and elementary school teachers.
Preschool teachers typically have an interest in the Creating and Helping interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.
If you are not sure whether you have a Creating or Helping interest which might fit with a career as a preschool teacher, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Preschool teachers should also possess the following specific qualities:
Communication skills. Preschool teachers need good communication skills to tell parents and colleagues about students’ progress. They need good writing and speaking skills to convey this information effectively. They must also be able to communicate well with small children.
Creativity. Preschool teachers must plan lessons that engage young students. In addition, they need to adapt their lessons to suit different learning styles.
Interpersonal skills. Preschool teachers must understand children’s emotional needs and be able to develop good relationships with parents, children, and colleagues.
Organizational skills. Teachers need to be organized to plan lessons and keep records of their students.
Patience. Working with children can be frustrating, and preschool teachers should be able to respond calmly to overwhelming and difficult situations.
Physical stamina. Working with children can be physically taxing, so preschool teachers should have a lot of energy.
The median annual wage for preschool teachers was $30,210 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,840, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,530.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for preschool teachers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private||$48,190|
|Individual and family services||36,300|
|Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations||36,060|
|Child day care services||29,320|
Preschool teachers in public schools generally work during school hours. Many work the traditional 10-month school year and a 2-month break during the summer. Some preschool teachers may teach in summer programs.
Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks in a row and then have a break for 1 week before starting a new school session. They also have a 5-week midwinter break.
Those working in daycare settings may work year-round and have longer hours.
Employment of preschool teachers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
About 63,100 openings for preschool teachers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession of 2020.
Early childhood education is important for a child’s intellectual and social development. More preschool teachers should be needed to meet the demand for early childhood education.
For more information about early childhood education, visit
For more information about professional credentials, visit