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How Many Years Do You Need to Attend College to Be a Preschool Teacher?

by Erica Loop, studioD

Preschool teaching jobs are projected to increase by 25 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unlike primary and secondary educators, preschool teachers don't necessarily need a four-year college education, but the National Association for the Education of Young Children notes that current research shows a connection between specialized training and better child outcomes. If you're considering working in this field, you need to take at least some post-secondary courses.

Varying Degrees

Depending on the state where you live and the type of preschool you plan on teaching in, you'll need a varying degree of education. Some child care centers don't require preschool teachers to have any college education at all, according to the U.S. BLS. Teachers who work in public preschools, Head Start centers or programs that have specific licensing requirements typically require early childhood educators to have at least some post-secondary classes under their belt, including a Child Development Associate credential, two-year associate degree or an undergraduate degree from a four-year institution, along with a state teacher license certification.

Child Development Associate Basics

If the school that you work for requires preschool teachers to have a CDA credential, you'll need at least 120 hours of formal training in the field. Although earning a CDA includes a combination of educational and professional practice experience with preschool-aged children, taking some college classes is key. This includes post-secondary classes that cover a variety of topics in child growth and development, such as social and emotional needs, observing child behavior, recording behaviors, the principles of early childhood learning, planning a safe setting for learning, physical development and increasing the young child's intellectual skills. The CDA is a basic credential, not an actual degree or teaching license.

Getting Ahead

Head Start services educate over one million preschool-aged children annually in the U.S., according to the Office of the Administration for Children and Families Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center. The ECLKC notes that the Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 calls for at least half of all Head Start teachers to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree from a four-year college by the fall of 2013 in early education or a related field.

Certified Child Care Givers

Early childhood educators who work in public, and some private, programs may need a preschool teacher certification. Although state requirements vary, getting a teaching license means attending at least four full years of college. For example, the Northern Kentucky university offers a Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education that includes a certification track. Students can complete this combination of classroom-based courses and hands-on student teaching in four years of full-time study. A program such as this prepares students to sit for their state's early childhood educator certification exam.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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