If you're lucky, you remember your kindergarten teacher as a paragon of creativity and patience who sneaked education into the fun and games. If you've developed similar virtues, you could become that special teacher for recently hatched five-year-olds. Kindergarten teachers must meet state education and licensing requirements for most jobs. However, you won't have to master nuclear fission to begin a rewarding career as a kindergarten teacher.
Some preschools come with kindergartens attached, but most kindergarten teachers work in public and private elementary schools. They usually have a traditional school year, with a glorious two months off in the summer. In the past, they usually worked a half-day gig, but i the 2000s many programs run a full day, especially in big cities. Whatever the schedule, teachers must carve out time before and after hours to meet with parents and students. No wonder they need summer off, because they also prepare lessons and grade papers on the weekends and at night.
Kindergarten specialists have to jump the same hurdles as other teachers to get public school jobs. State laws vary, but in general elementary teachers need a bachelor's degree in elementary ed, and sometimes they also need a content area specialty, such as math. Typical requirements in a bachelor's program include classes in history, language studies, education and pedagogy plus supervised student teaching. Private schools set their own standards, but they often require kindergarten teachers to have an elementary education degree.
Except in private schools, kindergarten teachers must meet state requirements for teacher certification. Each state has different requirements, but in general you must complete an education degree, perform student teaching and pass exams on education topics and subject matter. Many states require continuing education to stay certified, and some require you to complete a master's degree. Don't worry if you think you might get tired of kindergarten; your license normally includes other grades -- preschool through third grade or kindergarten through eighth grade, for example.
Kindergarten teachers are gentle lawmakers, making and enforcing rules to keep chaos at bay. Also creative geniuses, they make learning fun, using the arts, games, books and technology, whether teaching students in groups or one-on-one. Part parent, they teach little ones how to sit still, work together without hitting and cover a cough. They introduce numbers, writing, phonics and science, all the while feeding the kids' self-confidence. With an eagle eye on students' needs, they evaluate and grade their progress and report to parents.
Wages and Outlook
The lion's share of kindergarten teachers work in elementary schools, where they averaged $53,520 per year in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those in day-care programs settled for a modest $32,880 per year on average. Jobs for kindergarten and elementary school teachers will increase by 17 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the BLS, similar to most jobs. Teachers with training in English as a second language or special ed will have the inside track for finding work.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Kindergarten or Elementary School Teacher
- California State University, Long Beach: College of Education: Integrated Teacher Education Program
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers - Work Environment
- Education.com: Full-Day vs. Half-Day Kindergarten
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers Do
- Job Profiles: Elementary School - Kindergarten Teacher
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011: Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers - Job Outlook
- Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images