Pennsylvania law requires there to be at least one teacher present in the preschool classroom for every 12 three-year-olds. Population statistics reveal that throughout the state there are currently 711,333 children who are preschool age – five and under. There is a current shortage of qualified pre-K teachers in the state. This demand means the number of jobs for preschool teachers in Pennsylvania is expected to increase 19 percent in the current decade ending 2018.
Preschool teachers nurture Pennsylvania’s most precious assets. To ensure children receive the care and attention they deserve, the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Academic Schools closely regulates preschool teacher licensure in the state.
To become a preschool teacher in Pennsylvania you will need to complete the following steps:
Step 1. Earn at Least a Bachelor’s Degree
Pennsylvania law states that all preschool teachers under the authority of the State Board of Private Academic Schools must have at least a bachelor’s degree.
While some paths to preschool certification allow for a bachelor’s degree in any subject, completing your studies in early childhood education or a related field will ensure you have the most options going forward and a strong foundation in the skills needed for being an effective preschool teacher.
You can find relevant academic programs at locations across Pennsylvania as well as through online schools.
Throughout an early childhood education academic program, you can expect to take courses like:
- Child service program development and administration
- Developmental theories and their relation to instruction in early childhood development
- Play as an educative process
- Involvement of parents in the home and classroom
- Language development in early childhood learners
- Curriculum development in early childhood education
- Observation and evaluation of young children’s behavior
- Social institutions and children
- Emergent language and literacy development
- Early childhood developmental psychology
These education programs will also include a segment where you will experience hands-on learning in the classroom setting. This can be a valuable opportunity where your theoretical knowledge is applied to real-life, allowing you to see the fruits of your labor manifested in the growth of your students.
Step 2. Choose Your Route to Preschool Certification Eligibility
Once you have earned at least a bachelor’s degree there are three routes to becoming eligible for licensure as a preschool teacher:
- Earn a teaching certification through the Pennsylvania Department of Education in the subject of early childhood education
- Complete at least 24 semester credits that relate to any of the following:
- Theory of childhood development
- Early childhood education
- Elementary education
- Have at least two years of successful experience as a teacher in:
- Public school
- Private or non-licensed school
- Nursery or preschool
Teaching Certification Through the Pennsylvania Department of Education
The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) offers two certifications in the subject of early childhood education:
- Certification and Staffing Policy Guidelines (CSPG) #39 for pre-k to the third grade
- CSPG #41 for elementary education and grades K-6
To be eligible for either of these certifications you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in a field that is related to education.
The next level above preschool teacher is the position of preschool director. To be eligible to become a preschool director you must gain teaching certification by the State Board of Education. You can do this by earning a bachelor’s degree in education and completing a state-approved teacher preparation program in early childhood education.
Step 3. Consider an Assistant Teacher Pathway to Becoming a Preschool Teacher
If you decide to become eligible for a preschool teaching certificate by combining a bachelor’s degree with two years of successful teaching experience, you may want to consider starting out as an assistant preschool teacher. By doing this you can complete your bachelor’s degree at the same time you earn two years of teaching experience. You can qualify for an assistant preschool teacher certification through one of the following pathways:
- Earn a two-year degree or two years of college credit in the field of early childhood education or elementary childhood education
- Complete at least 24 semester credits or a two-year college degree in any of the following:
- Theory of childhood development
- Early childhood education
- Elementary education
It is also possible to upgrade your assistant teaching certificate to a full teaching certificate if you have at least two years of experience at the assistant teaching level and have completed at least 24 semester credits in coursework such as the theory of childhood development, early childhood, and elementary education.
Preschool Teacher Aide
Many preschools also hire for an aide position. An aide assists teachers and assistant teachers in classroom management, and works under the direct supervision of a teacher. Aides are not allowed to have independent responsibilities with children. The requirements to become a preschool teacher’s aide are:
- Have graduated from high school
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have good physical and mental health
- Be of good moral character
- Have qualifications to work with children
- Participate in in-service training at your preschool of hire
Step 4. Apply for Your Preschool Teaching License
Before you fill out an application for certification, make sure you can meet the following additional minimum requirements:
- Are at least 18 years old
- Have a good moral character as evidenced by no convictions for felonies or misdemeanor crimes of moral turpitude; you will also need to submit the results of a criminal background check with your application
- Pass a tuberculosis test
- Have a health certificate from a physician that confirms you are mentally and physically fit to perform the duties of a preschool teacher or assistant preschool teacher
At this point you will have met all the preschool teacher certification requirements in Pennsylvania. The State Board of Private Academic Schools is responsible for issuing your preschool license, and applications for both teaching certification and assistant teaching certification must be made through the the Department of Education’s online application portal, the Teacher Information Management System (TIMS).
When you have received your certification you will be ready to apply for preschool teacher jobs in Pennsylvania. You can find information about these positions in your local community’s schools, municipality centers, and through organizations such as the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC).
Step 5. Develop Your Career as a Pennsylvania Preschool Teacher
As you advance in your career as a Pennsylvania preschool teacher you may wish to consider adding to your academic qualifications. Pursuing graduate-level courses in early childhood development or early childhood education can provide you with an improved foundation in your field of expertise and offer new problem-solving approaches that will make you a more effective nursery school teacher.
Many professionals also choose to earn a master’s degree in these subjects or others related to education. Having a relevant master’s degree can also give you more flexibility to pursue advanced employment opportunities or take your own initiatives in your field of expertise.
Teaching Preschool in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law specifically defines the director/teacher-student ratios that are permitted in the preschool classroom. You can use this guide to help determine the demand for teachers and assistant teachers at local schools in your radius of potential employment:
- 12 three-year-olds, 17 four-year-olds, 22 five-year-olds, 15 three/four-year olds, or 20 three/four/five-year-olds: 1 teacher
- 17 three-year-olds, 21 four-year-olds, 27 five-year-olds, 19 three/four-year olds, or 26 three/four/five-year-olds: 1 teacher and 1 aide
- 22 three-year-olds, 25 four-year-olds, 30 five-year-olds, 23 three/four-year olds, or 28 three/four/five-year-olds: 1 teacher and either 1 assistant teacher or 2 aides
- A minimum of two adults must be present in any preschool setting
To enter a preschool, children must be at least two years and seven months of age. Preschools must be in session at least two hours per day. As a preschool teacher, you will need to keep a record of your teaching curriculum and ensure that certain subjects are covered as part of daily and weekly activities and instruction:
- Language arts activities
- Outdoor free play if the weather allows for this
- Fine and gross motor skill development
- Perceptual activities
- Math and science activities
- Music, art, drama, and other expressive arts
- Nutrition, health, and safety
Pennsylvania Preschool Teacher Salaries
The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) certifies preschool teachers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The stated purpose of the OCDEL is to create opportunities for the Commonwealth’s youngest children to learn and develop to their fullest potential by developing an effective early education system.
A CSPG-39 (Certification and Staffing Policy Guidelines) entitles the holder to teach preschool through third grade.
According to a 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics report there were 13,580 actively employed preschool teachers (except special education) in Pennsylvania earning an annual mean salary of $27,800 or an hourly mean wage of $13.36. Those earning in the top 10 percent made $38,480.
The most important variables affecting salary differentials are level of education and experience as well as location.
Preschool teachers in Lebanon, a city of 25,437 people in Southeastern Pennsylvania, earn an annual mean salary that is over $14,000 more than the next highest in Pennsylvania (Williamsport-$44,450) and over $20,000 more than the national average. According to the BLS, Lebanon has the fifth highest early education teacher salaries in the nation.
Salary information for early childhood educators in Pennsylvania’s largest cities and non-metro areas is shown below (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013):