Child care and preschool teacher qualifications can greatly determine the quality of education for the children and ultimately the success of your child care center. Time and time again, child care directors say that their biggest struggle they have is finding teachers with the right qualifications. It gets even more complex when you look at the differences between the lead teachers and assistants. As a Director or Owner how do you know what qualifications are more important than others? As an aspiring early childhood teacher how do you know what qualifications you’ll need to progress in your career?

Requirements of Early Childhood Teachers

Preschool teachers work with children between the ages of 3 and 5. When teaching basic skills there are many different methodologies used to create a successful learning environment. It isn’t just reading, writing, math, fine motor and language skills – though all of those are important when preparing young children for future education. Additionally, social and emotional learning will form a stable foundation for how children will interact with and build relationships throughout their life. Preschool lesson plans and curriculum are incredibly important in establishing a safe and constructive routine for children to explore, discover, and learn at their own pace. Within this context, preschool teacher qualifications are much different than educators of older children. It not only takes a deep understanding of the nuances of child psychology and early childhood development but also requires extraordinary patience, consistency, and mental and physical stamina to handle the stress that comes with teaching young children.

As we look at the qualifications to become a daycare or preschool teacher, there are four primary areas we can focus on:

  • Mandatory Qualifications
  • Specialized or Advanced Education
  • Valuable Past Experience
  • Personality traits

When considering each of these areas it will help you when creating a daycare or preschool teacher job description and when creating interview questions for child care workers.

Mandatory Qualifications for Preschool Teachers

There are certain qualifications that a teacher must have in order to work in a daycare or preschool. While regulations vary from state to state, some you should keep an eye out for are:

  • A high school diploma or equivalent
  • A valid state driver’s license
  • CPR certification (if not offered during orientation/training at your center)
  • A background check with no cases of child abuse or neglect, fraud, or substance charges

Here is some additional information regarding child care background checks that you’ll want to consider.

For these mandatory qualifications, it is often easy to assume that everyone meets these criteria but this isn’t always the case and you need to make sure any potential job candidates meet these requirements, and have proof of doing so.

Education Qualifications for Preschool Teachers

Having an understanding of early childhood development does not only show a caregiver’s passion for their work, it helps them better understand the physical, emotional, and psychological growth that children go through. More knowledge in early childhood education generally means better teachers, and any form of higher education involving early childhood development is a valuable qualification that leads to empathetic, intelligent workers.

In some states a certification or degree in early childhood education will cover early childhood development and teaching methodologies for pre-k children. As teachers look to be competitive when applying for preschool teacher jobs it is not uncommon for teachers to have additional education.

Advanced Preschool Accreditation

As a director or owner of a preschool or daycare there are also education-based qualifications that national and state-level organizations look for higher levels of accreditation. Some may require a certain number of teachers to hold a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or an associate’s degree (AA) in early
childhood education, child development, elementary education, or early childhood special education. Occasionally, teachers with more advanced degrees such as a baccalaureate degree (BA) or masters degree (MA) are required to reach the highest accreditation status.

Salary Considerations

As a preschool director you’ll need to consider the economics of your center as well. While four-year degrees in early childhood education are not required in most states, teachers who have earned a bachelor’s degree will likely command a higher salary. If your child care facility is in a competitive market where parents have many choices, the teacher qualifications you set will allow you to stand out and possibly position your preschool as a premium option for parents.

Valuable Past Experience

When you are flooded with resumes they can all begin to blend together. At first glance many can look impressive. Make sure to review the previous experience and double checking job references. Yes, it is a hassle but it is important when you are trying to find the right teachers for your center. If something ever goes wrong the excuse of “well she seemed honest and trustworthy” doesn’t often work. Likewise, the best candidates will typically WANT you to check their references and consider their job experience because they’ve worked hard to make themselves stand out in the job market. If they’ve worked for many years and developed their skills, it is something that they should be proud of so dismissing that experience and years of dedication can be discouraging.

Relevant experience can range from working as a nanny, working in a daycare, or having been a preschool teacher or assistant. Early childhood educators need to be able to plan daily activities that are appropriately stimulating and fun for children, so coming with in with ideas and experience of conducting exercises is useful. Being able to successfully and independently plan and carry out their day-to-day work is a qualification that saves you time and stress, and provides better care for children leading to happier parents.

Character Trait Qualifications

Not all preschool teachers or child care workers share the same qualities and personality traits but there general commonalities that great teachers share. It probably seems ridiculous to say but it would help if they love children and enjoy teaching. Additional traits that are common among great teachers include understanding their role in a child’s life, having a willingness to change and improve, a strong work ethic, and great organization and communication skills.

While these might often be overlooked you could also consider teachers that have:

  • A warm, loving, and empathetic demeanor:  This can greatly impact how children respond to the teacher and the curriculum. This is not to mean that a teacher is passive but rather that they understand the emotional and psychological needs of the child.
  • Confidence and is self-assured: There are days that make you question yourself. A teacher that can stay confident will provide the consistency needed to succeed.
  • Selflessness & humility: Sometimes it can seem like a war but great teachers know it is about the children and can navigate those emotions.
  • The ability to reflect: When things don’t work out, a teacher that can take the time to evaluate the outcome and learn from the situation will always be improving.
  • Patience and a soothing disposition: Children know when an authority figure is agitated, angry, or frustrated. Great teachers have patience that allows children to feel safe in the way they learn.

You typically don’t know all of the nuances of a teacher’s personality but through a carefully crafted job description and well thought-out interview questions you can begin to uncover the early childhood educator qualifications that will help in hiring the best teachers for your child care center or preschool.

Role Model

Children are impressionable, so characteristics should reflect great qualities you want to see in the children. For example, children may struggle to develop a strong work-ethic, fortitude, perseverance, and self-confidence if their teacher is quick to give up and move on to something else.

Early Childhood Teacher Qualifications

No two teachers are the same, but most great child educators share qualities that make them exceptional at developing and shaping young minds. When searching for and evaluating the teachers that will represent your school and determine the quality of education and care you provide, it is worth the time it takes to really think about the qualifications that mean the most to you.

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