If you want to become a kindergarten teacher, it can be hard to decide which bachelor’s degree to earn to get you there. A bachelor’s in early childhood education or a degree in elementary education can qualify you to teach kindergarten. But each may lead you into different teaching environments, with different potential salaries and different opportunities for advancement. Here’s an overview that can help you decide which of these two teaching degrees will help you meet your needs as you work on your kindergarten teacher qualifications.
Early Childhood Education Degree
Most bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education qualify you to teach and care for children from infancy or toddlerhood through kindergarten, and, in some cases, as high as third grade. Many states offer early childhood licensure, although it is not required to teach in most preschools. Licensure is, however, essential to teach in a public school setting, and some states may require elementary education licensure on top of that. This degree has a more narrow focus than an elementary ed. degree, in that it’s specifically tailored to learn about the educational and developmental needs of preschool-aged children.
If you earn this degree, you’ll learn about developing children’s minds through art, music, storytelling and the basic building blocks of academia: numbers, letters, colors and shapes. This degree is great for teachers who love the preschool setting and want to specifically focus their energies on the kindergarten classroom and curriculum. Instead of teaching the more rigid academics of older elementary grades, teaching kindergarten in many ways bridges the gap between preschool and elementary school and provides an important foundation for each student’s future learning attitudes and experiences.
Elementary Education Degree
Earning an elementary education bachelor’s degree can qualify you to teach grades kindergarten through sixth grade, and in some cases, through eighth grade. In order to teach in most schools, especially public schools, elementary education licensure is also required. This degree has a much broader scope than a degree in early childhood education, since teaching methods and techniques vary greatly among the grades you can teach with it. So in addition to learning how to teach younger children like kindergarteners, you’ll also be learning how to teach a variety of subjects to older grades (up through middle school, in some cases) as well.
If you choose an elementary education degree, you’ll have to learn how to teach subjects like science, math, history and English in addition to methods of teaching younger children. While this makes you more versatile, you won’t be focusing only on the preschool/kindergarten-specific pedagogy, even though it may be your top interest. Instead of just learning about methods of teaching preschool children, your training will include teaching five-year-olds through twelve-year-olds, in most cases. You may also have to accept that you may not get a student teaching placement within kindergarten, and your first job could be teaching another grade as well. However, this degree could make finding a job easier, as it covers twice as many grades as an early childhood education degree.
Kindergarten Teacher’s Work Environment
Many early childhood education majors teach kindergarten in a preschool setting that includes a preschool and a kindergarten, but no higher grades. It is possible to teach kindergarten in a public elementary school with an early childhood degree (with licensure). But in today’s climate of budget cutbacks in the educational system, this is becoming less of a reality, since teachers are frequently moved around from grade to grade to accommodate a shrinking workforce. So if you love the specific environment of a preschool, a degree in early childhood education is best. If, however, you like the idea of being in an elementary school setting and don’t mind the possibility of teaching grades other than kindergarten, then a degree in elementary education would be a better choice.
Kindergarten Teaching Salary and Benefits
According to recent labor statistics, preschool teachers make, on average, two- to four-thousand dollars less per year than public school kindergarten teachers. Beyond that, preschool teachers’ benefits vary greatly, since many preschools are private. Teaching at a very prestigious private preschool could earn you a good salary and benefits, but these positions are not as numerous as public teaching positions. Public school teachers tend to have much more solid benefit packages. From healthcare to an attractive retirement package, becoming a public school kindergarten teacher has many “perks” which are worth considering as you choose a career path.
Your Advancement Potential
Teaching within a preschool can be a wonderful, rewarding career, but for most kindergarten teachers within a preschool setting, there is little room for job advancement. Unless you move up to the director or head of the preschool, most teachers there simply remain teachers for the duration of their careers. If you choose to earn a master’s in education, you can transition to a higher position in an elementary school as a specialist or administrator. But just having a bachelor’s in early childhood education does limit your job advancement potential a bit more.
By contrast, when teaching in an elementary school, your varied experience, along with getting a master’s degree, can qualify you to become a specialist or administrator within the elementary grades. And since you’re already familiar with your school and district, it may be easier for you to find a new job, since you know the people who work there and are usually aware of job openings before they become public knowledge. Because your degree covers more grades and subjects, you are many times qualified to move into other positions, such as a reading teacher or learning support person within the elementary grades. (Find out how long it takes to become a kindergarten teacher)
Can You Become A Kindergarten Teacher Online?
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. It is definitely possible to get this qualification online, but you need to complete several work and certification requirements to make the transition into actually teaching in class.
Online teacher colleges can offer you options to get through your education faster in many cases than traditional schools, because they tend to have many adult students who are in a hurry to complete a career change, and tend to offer more options for accelerated degrees.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Kindergarten Teacher?
It will normally 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. Here’s a look at all the key steps involved.
The time investment to get your degree to become a teacher is generally four years. You may be able to get into kindergarten teaching with an early childhood education degree or some other type of education degrees. But virtually all such programs, be they either nBA (Bachelor of Arts) or BS (Bachelor of Science), will usually 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 its online BS in Early Childhood Development, but its 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.
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.
Teaching Requirements In Your Bachelor’s Program
As part of your bachelor’s program, you’ll generally be required to do student teaching. Student teaching, known as a “practicum” or “student teaching.” These are actually 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 will be a part of one of your teaching courses. You will receive feedback but not necessarily a grade for your practicum – you’ll only 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.
Getting A Real World Job As Kindergarten Teacher After You Finish A Degree
When you finish your teaching bachelor’s, it’s time to pursue your teaching certification. The length of this process 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 finish 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 aware 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.
Early Childhood Education Salary With A Masters
Does post grad degree increase your earning potential if you’re teaching kindergarten or in another early childhood environment? There isn’t a simple answer to this question. One of the most widely quoted sources for data on this is salary.com, which pegs the typical salary for a kindergarten teacher who has either a master’s or an MBA at $55,345. To $61,299. per year. But it’s an odd choice to lump teaching master’s and MBAs into one category, since very, very few teachers at an early childhood level have a business degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says kindergarten teachers who have only a bachelor’s degree earn $59,420. on average, almost in the same range.
The key to benefiting from a master’s degree in terms of salary no matter what grade level you’re teaching tends to come down to what kind of school you work in. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics here are interesting. They show that the typical salary for all those teaching in elementary and secondary schools is about $63,980. while those teaching in religious schools make about $10,000. less and teachers in child care environments make only about $34,950. on average. The key here is that public school systems not only pay more than most private schools, they also usually have more standardized systems in place for boosting salaries based on a teacher’s educational attainment, which means it’s more likely your salary might benefit from having a master’s.
Bachelor’s Degrees Online In Early Childhood Ed
Accredited school with over 13,000 students in it’s online program and multiple campuses.
Early Childhood Education Leadership Bachelor’s Completion Program
California-based school with over 39,000 students and 50 online degree programs.
BA in Early Childhood Education
BA in Early Childhood Education Administration
BA in Child Development
Master’s Degrees In Early Childhood Education
Grand Canyon University
Large private school offering online degrees at a relatively moderate price for a school with strong name recognition across the country.
M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education (leads to initial teacher licensure)
M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education (does not lead to initial teacher licensure)
MS Education, Elementary Reading and Literacy, Grades Pre-k to 6
Other Types of Kindergarten Teacher degrees
As you search for the right qualification to teach in kindergarten, you’re likely to run into a dizzying array of other degree titles. Typical examples at the undergrad level will include BS in Behavioral Health with Emphasis on Infancy or Early Childhood studies. Some BS programs in this area focus on a sub specialty like teaching STEM or Christian studies to young children. There are also early childhood ed degrees in administration, which can be a good idea if you’re strongly focused on becoming the head of a kindergarten or other preschool.
Having a master’s degree can improve your career prospects in almost any area of education. Degrees you may benefit from as a kindergarden teacher include an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Ed or a Masters in Curriculum or Instruction specialized in K-12 grades. But even more general grad degrees in secondary education can, in some school districts, qualify you for a higher salary grade.