Alabama’s state-funded Pre-K program has been blowing away the competition for more than a decade, topping national rankings regularly since 2005. An ever-expanding budget has been a big part of that, growing from $4.3 million in 2005 to nearly $100 million by 2018.
That kind of support has enabled the state to boost the availability and quality of Pre-K programs, adding 164 classrooms and capacity for around 21,000 kids in 2019 alone.
It’s all part of the work being done by the Office of School Readiness of the Department of Early Childhood Education, a dedicated agency that focuses on delivering a cohesive, comprehensive system of high-quality early childhood education.
To become a preschool teacher in Alabama, follow these steps:
|Meet the Minimum Requirements to Become a Pre-K Teacher in Alabama|
|Complete the Appropriate Background Checks|
|Pursue a State License to Teach Pre-K in Alabama, if Required|
|Complete Professional Development Requirements|
The First Class program may be administered in public schools, private childcare centers and private schools, head Start programs, community-based programs, faith-based programs and even programs specifically for military families.
Regardless of what type of program you may be interested in, all of them are in the market for caring, competent, and dedicated education professionals with the dedication and energy to manage engage a classroom of four-year-olds!
Step 1. Meet the Minimum Requirements to Become a Pre-K Teacher in Alabama
There are both lead teachers and auxiliary teachers working in Alabama’s Pre-K programs, both of which must meet specific OSR requirements:
Lead Teachers: Lead teachers must, at a minimum, be at least 21 years old, possess specialized training in the early childhood development field, and at least one of the following:
- A human environmental science degree with a concentration in early childhood development or child development
- A special education degree in early childhood with a minimum of 18 credit hours in early childhood/child development coursework
- Early childhood education degree (BS, BA, MA, or MS)
Lead teachers in Alabama must receive their degree from an institution that has received regional accreditation, and all official transcripts must be sent directly from the institution to the OSR.
Lead teachers working in a public school setting must also possess a P-3 teacher certification (see Step 3).
Auxiliary Teachers: Auxiliary teachers must, at a minimum, possess the following requirements:
- Must be at least 19 years old
- Must possess a high school diploma or GED
- Must possess a Child Development Associate Credential (CDA) or at least 9 credit hours of college coursework in early childhood education or child development from a regionally accredited institution
- Must possess at least 12 months of experience working in early childhood settings or in other OSR-approved settings
All auxiliary teachers must send ensure their official transcripts are sent directly from the institution to the OSR.
Step 2. Complete the Appropriate Background Checks
The OSR requires that all pre-K providers complete and submit the following:
- Criminal background check
- Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) background check
Your Pre-K provider must provide you with the information needed to complete these requirements. It is the responsibility of the provider to ensure that the OSR receives the results of these background checks at least 30 days after you are hired.
Step 3. Pursue a State License to Teach Pre-K in Alabama, if Required
If you plan to teach Pre-K as a lead teacher in a public school setting in Alabama, you must be licensed through the Alabama Department of Education. To become a Pre-K teacher in Alabama in a public school, you must therefore complete either an approved educator preparation program in Alabama. The completion of a blended undergraduate/graduate degree program and educator preparation program is the most streamlined approach to achieving state licensure.
In Alabama, there are a number of ways to work toward licensure through an educator preparation program:
- Class B Bachelor’s Degree Program: Class B programs are designed for individuals who do not already possess a bachelor’s degree, as it combines both the undergraduate degree and the approved educator preparation program.
- Class A Master’s Degree Program: Class A programs are designed for individuals who already possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution but have not completed an Alabama-approved educator preparation program, as it combines the educator preparation program component, along with the completion of a master’s degree.
- Alternative Class A Program: Class A programs are designed for individuals who already possess both undergraduate and graduate degrees from regionally accredited institutions. However, this program applies only to candidates who meet very specific degree, GPA, and coursework requirements.
Upon completion of an approved educator preparation program, the Alabama Board of Education requires that you complete the appropriate PRAXIS examinations which, for Pre-K educators, include:
Your test results will be sent directly to the Alabama Department of Education. You can read more about the testing process, including registration and test preparation, through ETS, the administrator of all Praxis examinations. You can take the PRAXIS examinations at any of the ETS testing centers throughout the U.S. In Alabama, there are testing centers located in:
Upon completion of all licensure requirements, including an approved educator preparation program and the appropriate PRAXIS examinations, you may apply for an Alabama Pre-K teaching license by completing an application for initial certification.
Step 4. Complete Professional Development Requirements
The OSR requires all Pre-K lead teachers in Alabama’s First Class programs to complete at least 30 hours of in-service professional development and training on an annual basis. Of the 30 hours of required training, 15 must be OSR-sponsored and 15 must be through local or regional training programs.
Auxiliary preschool teachers must complete at least 20 hours of professional development and training on an annual basis. Of the 20 hours of required training, 10 hours must be OSR-sponsored and 10 hours must be offered through local or regional programs.
The OSR requires all Pre-K providers to make training opportunities “accessible to staff by paying for training, travel, and substitutes from OSR funds.”
Additional information on professional development can be found through the Alabama Department of Children’s Affairs.
Public School Pre-K Lead Teachers Certification Renewal
In addition to meeting OSR professional development requirements, if you hold an Alabama educator certificate you must renew your license every 5 years upon successfully meeting the following renewal requirements;
- Show evidence of the completion of at least 3 years of full-time teaching experience and the completion of at least 3 semester credit hours; OR
- Show evidence of the completion of at least 50 clock hours of professional development and at least 3 semester credit hours
If you are renewing a Class B certificate, acceptable credit hours must be at the junior, senior, or graduate level, and you must earn a C or better in each course. If you are renewing a Class A certificate, acceptable credit hours must be at the graduate level, and you must earn a B or better in each course.
Due to the professional development requirements for renewal, many educators in Alabama choose to purse a graduate degree as a way to meet these requirements and earn a master’s degree, which leads to higher salaries and broader employment opportunities.
Alabama Preschool Teacher Salaries
The expansion in the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education funding has also expanded job opportunities for preschool teachers. The Hoover City Schools, for example, are staffing up their first five classrooms in 2019, joining 38 other counties in expanding pre-K services.
That makes a bright future for all professionals involved with Alabama ECE according to the state Department of Labor. Preschool teachers can expect a 7.5 percent increase in openings by 2026, while administrators are looking at a 5.6 percent bump. ECE special education teachers get the real benefit, though, with a whopping 20 percent increase forecast.
Not only do they enjoy the greatest job growth, but their median and 75th percentile salary rates are also the best of the bunch. For the median, top 25, and top 10 percent of each role, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found the following salary ranges for preschool teachers, administrators and special education specialists as of 2018:
Preschool Administrators: $35,060 – $46,640 – $64,110
Preschool Teacher: $21,460 – $27,140 – $38,980
Preschool Special Educator: $46,590 – $55,800 – $60,960
Below are some of the biggest employers of ECE staff in the state, divided by metro area and listed with the most current BLS salary data available for the positions.
- Harris Early Learning Center
- Birmingham City Schools
- Arrington JCCEO OSR Head Start
- Bush Hills Academy
- Hoover City Schools
- UAB Child Development Center
- YMCA of Greater Birmingham
At these organizations and schools, preschool teachers can expect salaries within this range:
- Median – $21,310/yr
- 75th Percentile – $26,470/yr
- 90th Percentile – $49,670/yr
- Mobile County Public Schools
- Fonevielle Head Start Center
- Early Head Start Mobile Community Partnership Project
- South Brookley Head Start Center
- West Mobile Head Start
- Leona B. Warren Head Start
- Westlawn Head Start Center
At schools and Head Start programs in Mobile, preschool teachers and administrators can expect to earn salaries within these ranges:
Preschool and Childcare Administrators
- Median – $34,320/yr
- 75th Percentile – $44,540/yr
- 90th Percentile – $49,320/yr
- Median – $23,680/yr
- 75th Percentile – $29,440/yr
- 90th Percentile – $40,020/yr
- Montgomery Public Schools
- Gunter Child Development Center
- Successful Living Center
- Common Ground Montgomery
- S. Morris MCAC OSR Head Start
- Resurrection Catholic School
At schools and Head Start programs in Montgomery, preschool teachers and administrators can expect to earn salaries within these ranges:
Preschool and Childcare Administrators
- Median – $39,770/yr
- 75th Percentile – $58,470/yr
- 90th Percentile – $64,100/yr
- Median – $22,980/yr
- 75th Percentile – $25,620/yr
- 90th Percentile – $37,770/yr
- Village of Promise Preschool
- UAH Early Learning Center
- Huntsville City Schools
- YMCA Northwest Childhood Education
- Premier Preschool of Madison
- Madison City Public Schools
At preschools in Montgomery, teachers and administrators can expect to earn salaries within these ranges:
Preschool and Childcare Administrators
- Median – $35,540/yr
- 75th Percentile – $65,680/yr
- 90th Percentile – $74,320/yr
- Median – $19,850/yr
- 75th Percentile – $26,060/yr
- 90th Percentile – $53,270/yr
Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2018 for preschool teachers, preschool special education teachers and preschool administrators – https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_al.htm#11-9111. The BLS salary data shown here represents median – 90th percentile salary ranges for the state and its MSAs (Metropolitan Statistical Areas) and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.
Job growth projections sourced from the Alabama Department of Labor and published in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026) database – https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
All salary and job growth data accessed in September 2019.