According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 7,130 preschool teachers in Arizona, as of May 2013. Although the Arizona Department of Education encourages early childhood programs to follow a professionally developed curriculum that incorporates concepts focused on child-centered and developmentally appropriate academic standards.
The Arizona Department of Education publishes the Arizona Early Learning Standards, however, as a resource for preschool programs and preschool educators who are planning a framework for quality learning experiences for children from three to five years of age. These standards are intended for all preschool teachers working with young children in urban, rural, and tribal early care educational settings.
If you want to become a preschool teacher in Arizona, you should be prepared to complete a number of steps:
Step 1. Complete an Approved Teacher Preparation Program in Early Childhood Education
As a teacher in Arizona that works with children, birth through kindergarten, you must either possess an early childhood education certificate or an early childhood endorsement.
To become a preschool teacher in Arizona, one of the most direct routes is through the completion of a teacher preparation program approved by the Arizona State Board of Education. Teacher preparation programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate level.
However, you may also achieve early educator certification in Arizona if you complete a bachelor’s degree or higher from a regionally accredited university or college and can show proof that you have completed at least 37 semester hours of early childhood education courses and at least 8 practicum semester hours.
Your practicum must include at least one of the following:
- At least 4 semester hours in supervised field experience, student teaching, internship, or practicum settings serving children birth through preschool; OR
- One year of full-time teaching experience (birth through preschool) and a minimum of 4 semester hours in a supervised student teaching setting for children in K through grade 3; OR
- One year of full-time teaching experience in K through grade 3
Early childhood education courses in an approved program must include the following:
- Assessing, monitoring, and reporting of young children
- Characteristics and quality practices for typical and atypical behaviors of young children
- Child growth and development
- Child guidance and classroom management
- Family, child, cultural, and community relationships
- Developmentally appropriate methodologies for teaching math, science, language, social studies, and the arts
- Early language and literacy development
- Foundations of early childhood education
You may also pursue one of the Alternative Pathways to Teacher Certification Programs designed for candidates with existing degrees and career experience to earn a teaching intern certificate.
If you want to qualify for a teaching intern certificate in Arizona, you must possess, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in a subject related to early childhood education. You must complete an Arizona State Board Approved Alternative Path to Certification program or an Arizona State Board approved teacher preparation program. Upon completion of the program, you must apply for a provisional teaching certificate.
Arizona Department of Health Services Childcare Programs
The Arizona Department of Education has oversight of all state and federally funded school-based preschool programs within districts and charters. The Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS), however, regulates private preschools and other childcare programs.
Preschool programs offered in private homes must follow the regulations set forth by the Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) Office of Childcare Licensure. You can learn more about DHS regulations here.
Although the Arizona Department of Education does not provide oversight of private preschool programs, there are a number of resources for individuals working in this field through the Department of Education’s Early Childhood Education website.
Step 2. Complete the Required Examinations for Certification
To qualify to become a licensed preschool teacher in Arizona, you must achieve a passing score on the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessment’s (AEPA) Professional Knowledge Early Childhood exam.
Note: You may not need to take this professional knowledge examination if you can show proof that you completed at least three years of full-time teaching early childhood education, birth to grade 3.
You must then take and pass the AEPA’s Subject Knowledge Early Childhood Education exam.
Finally, you must also show verification of Structured English Immersion (SEI) training to qualify for the Provisional SEI endorsement. Requirements for SEI training include the completion of at least 3 semester hours or 45 clock hours of state-approved training.
Step 3. Apply for an Initial Provisional Certification as a Preschool Teacher in Arizona
You must apply for the Initial Provisional Application, which is valid for a period of 3 years. Your provisional certification will be in Early Childhood, Birth-Grade 3/Birth-Age 8.
You must also submit an Arizona Identity fingerprint card (available from the DPS at 602-223-2279).
Step 4. Convert Your Provisional Certification to a Standard Certification
To convert your initial provisional certification to a standard certification, you must complete a Conversion form and provide the Board with proof that you have completed at least two years of full-time teaching experience under your provisional certificate and have completed an additional 3 semester hours of approved SEI training.
The Standard certificate in Arizona is valid for a period for 6 years and may be renewed upon completion of a Renewal of Certificate form. You must also show proof of the completion of at least 180 clock hours of professional development activities; at least 12 semester hours of education; or a combination of the two to renew your Standard certificate.
Many educators in Arizona choose to pursue a master’s degree as to satisfy the professional development requirements to maintain their Standard certificate and to enjoy broader employment opportunities in Arizona.
A number of early childhood professional development activities, courses, and programs can be found here.
Arizona Preschool Teacher Salaries
The demand for preschool teachers is increasing throughout the country. The rate of increase in Arizona is predicted to be 1.8 times higher than the national rate according to the Arizona Office of Employment & Population Statistics.
It projects 30.6% percent growth in the ten-year period ending in 2022. The rate of increase in the Phoenix area is predicted to be even higher at 31.7%, while Tucson’s preschool teacher employment increase is projected to be 25.6%.
The 2013 average preschool teacher salary in Arizona was $25,362. Teachers in the 10th percentile salary bracket made $17,429, while those in the upper 10 percent made $37,398. The average salary was particularly high in Yuma as shown below:
According to Arizona’s employment statistics, 7,130 preschool teachers were employed in the state in 2013. 5,450 of them were located in Phoenix. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the Phoenix area had the seventh highest level of preschool teacher employment of U.S. metropolitan areas. An additional 15% of Arizona’s preschool teachers were in Tucson.
Along with having the greatest number of preschool teachers in 2013, Phoenix is predicted to have the largest increase in preschool teacher jobs in the ten year period ending in 2022. 78% of these new jobs are predicted to be in this city.
More than half of the available jobs in Phoenix and throughout Arizona are predicted to be new ones created by an increase in the population of children that need to be educated. The rest of the positions are expected to come from the replacement of teachers who will leave the workforce.
2013 Pre-K teacher salary data for Arizona cities are also available from the BLS: