It will take you four years to earn a bachelor’s degree to teach kindergarten. In addition to your degree in early childhood or a closely related subject, you’ll need to complete your student teaching requirements and certification tests, which vary from one state to another, to realize your goal of becoming a full-fledged kindergarten teacher. Exactly how long it takes you to end up actually teaching young children will depend on key factors like:
- The type of college degree you pursue.
- How much work you want to do to “accelerate” your education.
- Which state you want to teach in.
- Whether you get your kindergarten teaching degree through a school in a same state you want to teach in.
- What kind of public, private or charter school you’d like to get a job at.
Here’s a look at the all the requirements you’ll need to fulfill beyond your kindergarten teaching degree, and how many years it will take you to reach the point where you are running your own class as a paid professional.
Key Skills For A Kindergarten Teacher Job
Almost everyone who succeeds as an instructor at this level has an abiding love of working with young children. Without a doubt, one of the unique joys of kindergarten teaching is the fact that it allows you to fulfill a goal most educators hold dear: to teach not just a subject, but to develop a whole person. Being able to focus the emotional development, social skills and basic thinking skills of young children can give you an opportunity to have a lifelong impact on your students that teachers don’t necessarily get at higher grade levels. Although most schools ask the teacher to apply some type of curriculum to kindergarten, they also tend to place a high value on creative teaching approaches involving games, props and play acting, which can make it satisfying and fun work for the teacher. At this level, the teacher also tends to get a good deal of time to work with each student on a one-to-one basis.
These are the steps you must take to become a kindergarten teacher and how long each one will take.
Confirm that you’ll like teaching kindergarten early.
Time investment: very little.
Time investment: very little.
Before jumping into a degree program for early childhood learning, you can make some smart moves to confirm it’s the right investment for you. You should begin with an awareness that along with the rewards of kindergarten teaching, there are stresses. More than any other job skill, you’ll need patience to deal with a class of 5 and 6 year olds five days a week. Children’s moods can vary wildly from day to day at this age, and the first year in school is a time when some kids just begin to show evidence of learning disabilities and delays that may require special attention. Nowadays, there’s also rising pressure to get kids reading and learning at a higher level – to make kindergarten more “academic.” This can put the teacher in a position of having to push some children to learn in ways they may not be truly ready for.
How Do I Know If I’ll Be A Good Kindergarten Teacher?
Before you start your college education in teaching, do some some real world research. Test yourself by volunteering to be a teacher’s assistant at a school or day care facility in your town. Alternatively, you might ask an experienced kindergarten teacher if you can sit in on his or her classroom to see what the work is like. Trying out the classroom environment can help you save yourself a lot of wasted effort, particularly if you realize that you’re not cut out for this kind of work. But if you find you’re comfortable in the kindergarten environment, you’ll feel very confident as you work your way through the degree and certification requirements needed to get a real job teaching kindergarten.
Another good tip is to give some thought to where you might want to live and work geographically for the long term. This can be tough to decide if you’re just coming out of high school, but if you’re an adult making a career change into teaching, you may have a better sense of where you’d like to live. It’s not critical that you get a kindergarten teaching degree in the state where you want to work – in fact, online teaching degrees that are national in scope are extremely popular — but you can, in some cases, get through the teaching certification process a bit faster if you go to a school in the state where hope to work. It’s also true that many elementary schools have a tendency to hire graduates of schools in their area.
What Degrees Do You Need To Become A Kindergarten Teacher?
It’s possible to get hired to work in nursery schools and other Pre-K settings with an associate’s degree or, in some limited cases, just a high school diploma and a teaching certificate. But if you want to work as kindergarten teacher in a full-fledged elementary school, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree.
Kindergarten teacher education.
Time investment: 4 years.
You can teach kindergarten with an early childhood education degree, but other types of education degrees can help you reach this goal. Virtually all these programs, which can be either BA (Bachelor of Arts) or BS (Bachelor of Science), will generally require you to earn 120 credits and will take four years to complete if you work at a normal pace. Don’t be frightened off, however if you see a credit requirement that’s more than 120. Because the way colleges define the term “credit,” there can be huge variations. Purdue University Global, for instance, requires 180 “quarter credit hours” for completion of it’s online BS in Early Childhood Development, but it’s generally completed in four years like just about all the 120 credit teaching programs out there. How long it ultimately takes you to get an early childhood teaching degree will, of course, depend on how much time you can dedicate to your schoolwork. Though it typically takes four years, it can take more if you attend school on a part-time basis.
Can You Teach Kindergarten With An Elementary Education Degree?
Generally, you can teach any grades from kindergarten right up to 8th grade with your degree in elementary ed. You do not necessarily have to take a degree that’s called “early childhood education.”
Tip: Spend some time researching the requirements you’ll have to get a teaching certification in your state before signing up for a degree program. Some states work closely with teaching colleges and impose unique requirements that can make it take longer to finish your degree.
Tip: A kindergarten teacher degree online can offer you options to get through your education faster. Because online schools have many adult students who are in a hurry to complete a career change, they tend to offer more options for accelerated degrees than traditional universities.
Alternative Path To Teaching If You Already Have a Bachelor’s Degree
Time Investment: 2 years.
If you’ve already completed a bachelor’s degree in a non-teaching specialty and have decided on a new direction or a career change, you can look at master’s programs that can get you trained and certified as a teacher. These Master of Education or M.Ed. programs generally take two years to complete. But if you are currently working you may have to pursue school on a full-time basis, which can mean it will take 3 – 4 years to complete your degree. The good news is that many of these programs, particularly those given by online schools that focus on adult learners, will move you through the process of certification, including background checks, student teaching and other requirements. Key subjects you’ll study in an online master of education program include: instruction for young learners, strategies for unique learners, evaluating students, teaching many different content areas, how to develop curriculum and English as a second language teaching.
Although you may need to complete some certification requirements in the state you wish to teach in, many online or classroom-based M.Ed. programs will give you the pedagogy, content and Praxis exams you need towards your teacher certification.
Time investment: One to three semesters, within your college degree program.
Virtually all teaching bachelor degree programs require you to take a practicum, a student teaching requirement or both. These are two slightly different things. A practicum is a classroom experience where the teacher in training works as a partner with a classroom teacher, and it’s a part of one of your teaching courses. You will receive feedback but not necessarily a grade for your practicum – you’ll get a grade for the course that the practicum was part of. Student teaching (sometimes called “demonstration teaching”) means taking more full control of a classroom, and possibly even meeting with parents and the PTA. You’ll almost certainly be expected to create and present good quality lesson plans. Student teaching is considered a free-standing course unto itself, and you will receive a grade based on observation of your work. While classroom training work can be hard, student teaching and practicums are tremendously beneficial, as they can increase your confidence about becoming a kindergarten teacher. Remember that when it comes to student teaching, different states have different minimum requirements. They can have an influence on how much time you’ll have to spend doing this type of work before graduating from your school.
Tip: Online teaching degree schools also require student teaching. They generally have specialists who can set you up to do your in-classroom work under an authorized observer in your local area.
Is education an easy major?
Some have written that it is one of the easiest courses of study you can take in college, since so much of it is based on common sense. But different people respond to the curriculum in different ways. Here’s a post by one teacher who took an alternative career path because of difficulties she saw in a standard teaching degree program.
Time investment: Varies from state to state, but generally one or two years at most.
To teach in any state in the U.S., you will need to take and pass a certification test. Keep in mind that it may be possible to do this while you are still in college working on your bachelor degree program – obviously a desirable approach to get you out into a teaching job faster. But many teaching college grads begin working toward their certification after they’ve finished their degree.
You’ll need to take an approved teacher prep program. These types of programs are approved by state organizations with names ranging from “education professional standards board” to a basic state board of education. But there will only be one credible approval board for each state, which you can quickly locate through internet research. Some schools will actually hire you and allow you to work on getting certified while you teach. But they may only give you up to one year to complete this process.
What Tests Do You Take To Be Certified As A Kindergarten Teacher?
In virtually every state, you’ll need to take an appropriate course and test for your particular area of teaching specialty, sometimes called a “content specialty” test or “Praxis” test for professional subject areas. For kindergarten teachers, most states offer a certificate for “birth through kindergarten.” Many states also require unique courses for certification that are not focused on academics, but which might loosely be referred to as “sensitivity training.” New York State, for example, requires all prospective teachers to take a course called “Dignity of All Students.”
Be area that several steps in the teaching certification process can involve fees. A background check, for example, is required for teacher certification in most states. That can cost you $100. or more. There may be a fee of $100 to $150 for simply submitting your teacher certification application.
Your state educator preparation program is likely to include an in-classroom teaching element and a test or series of tests. The testing varies tremendously from one state to the next. Many states have created several of their own tests to certify teachers. Again, some quick internet research will show you which organization you need to apply to for prep courses and certification tests in your own state.
Teaching In A Different State Than You Went To College In
If you have gone through the preparation process or even taken and passed the certification test in one state and then decided you would rather work in a different state, you may be in luck. Many states have “reciprocity” agreements under which they accept credentials teachers have earned from each other.
Tip: As you work through your student teaching, prepare a “teaching portfolio” with your evaluations, a list of the classes you’ve taught and a statement of your philosophy of teaching. When it’s time to go job hunting, it will help employers to see you as a polished, professional educator.
Tip: Get a specialty teaching certification. Either within your bachelor degree program or right afterward, you might consider getting certified in an in-demand specialty like English as second language or special education. Some of these certifications can be done through online colleges.
How Long To Find A Kindergarten Teaching Job And What Salary Can You Expect?
Time investment: Should take less than one year, though there’s no guarantee.
What’s the employment picture for kindergarten teachers? According to the,
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS), kindergarten and elementary school teachers across the U.S. had a median salary of about $58,000. per year. Payscale.com estimates that
kindergarten teachers earn an average of $40,128. But that number can be pushed higher by bonuses, and at public schools in particular, kindergarten teachers may receive significant benefits packages. Payscale.com pegs the full range of kindergarten teacher salaries at $27,000. to $57,000.
How Many Jobs Are There For Kindergarten Teachers?
According to USBS, there were over 1.5 million jobs in this specialty. The immediate job grown outlook, for 2018 to 2019, was estimated at 3%. That’s a bit lower than the average, but the agency notes that the picture varies significantly from one region to the next.
What kind of school to you want to teach kindergarten in?
What’s The Best Kind Of School To Teach Kindergarten In?
Before starting the hard work of a job search, try to make a considered choice about what kind of school you want to work in. The first question you’ll want to think over is “do I want to teach in a public, private or charter school.”
Public schools, which are supported by taxpayer dollars, tend to be the gold standard in terms of offering good salaries and job benefits, although there is tremendous variation from state to state. Virtually all kindergarten teaching jobs will give you the summer months off, But in a public school system, that time off will likely be paid. Chances for advancement, health benefits and strong retirement packages are still widely offered to public school teachers. The downside is that even local public schools are pretty big institutions where class size is large, job politics can result in unpleasant work relationships, educational styles such as Common Core can be forced on teachers one year an then disappear the next, and parents who pay school taxes can be demanding of both teachers and administrators.
Private schools, which are supported purely by tuition, are often the most open to hiring freshly minted teachers right out of college. In most cases they pay significantly less than public schools. But in many cases they offer more freedom to teachers, smaller classes and a less political work environment. Private schools in upscale areas in particular may place less pressure on teachers to rush young children along academically, and have classes with fewer disciplinary problems than public schools. It can be a great place to “cut your teeth” as a teacher. Many young teachers work in a private school for several years before moving on to a teaching position in a public school kindergarten.
Charter schools, which are independent schools supported by public funds in most cases, have grown considerably in the past 10 years. Most of them choose students either by lottery or admission requirements, and many are designed to achieve higher learning goals and a better rate of college admissions at the end of high school than other schools. But charter schools have come under considerable criticism for pushing kids too hard and taking a factory approach to education. Pay scales for teachers in them vary widely, with some actually paying more than public schools. But many charter schools expect teachers to work more days each year to earn their base salaries.
Where to look for a kindergarten teaching job
There’s no hard and fast rule as to where you should seek employment as a teacher. It’s good to keep in mind though, that demographics in each area will affect the number of students coming in each year and, naturally, the number of teaching jobs that will be offered. Rural districts across the U.S. are generally facing a decline in student populations as more young parents migrate to cities. That affects how many teaching jobs exist in a typical rural area school today. Many suburban districts near the major cities have more stable or even growing student populations, but you’re likely to find that the more upscale schools with few discipline problems and more engaged parents have a lot more people applying for teaching jobs.
Kindergarten teacher hiring process
Once you have identified a school you would like to work, you can generally expect to go through a process of three interviews. The first, which may involve you filling out a written application, will be a relatively brief talk that may take place at a job fair. If that goes well, the next interview will be with a more formalized and lengthy talk with the school’s human resources representative. The final step is generally either a one-on-one meeting with a school principle or with a group of teachers and administrators on the school’s hiring committee.
Tip: When you start your search for a kindergarten teacher job, get as many interviews as possible. Even if you spend time talking with schools you’re not excited about working in, getting a lot of live interviews under your belt will quickly increase your comfort level with answering even the toughest interview questions.
So how long exactly does it take to become a kindergarten teacher? If you are starting from the very beginning of your college education, you can realistically hope to be working in a school within 5 – 6 years.