There are now more than 300 pre-K programs throughout the State of Alabama that are supported by the Alabama Office of School Readiness.
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|
Alabama is home to a state-funded and voluntary pre-K program known as First Class, which is managed by the Alabama Office of School Readiness (OSR) and part of the Alabama Department of Children’s Affairs.
First Class has been recognized by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)—one of only 5 states to receive this distinction. NIEER quality benchmarks include comprehensive early learning standards and a requirement that all pre-K teachers have a bachelor’s degree with specialized early childhood training. Alabama has consistently received a perfect score for meeting and/or exceeding all NIEER benchmarks.
The First Class program may be administered in a variety of settings; therefore Pre-K teachers in Alabama may work in:
- Public schools
- Private childcare
- Private schools
- Head Start programs
- Community-based programs
- Faith-based programs
- Military programs
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 Alabama Department of Labor designated preschool teaching to be one of Alabama’s Top 40 High Demand Occupations in 2012.
The Department expects the demand for preschool teachers in Alabama to continue for years to come, projecting a job growth rate of 2.26% for the current ten-year period ending 2020. Of these new positions, 48.7% are expected to come from the creation of new jobs, while the remaining will result from teachers leaving the workforce and needing to be replaced.
According to the Alabama Department of Labor, the average salary for preschool teachers in Alabama was $28,210 a year in 2013. Entry-level preschool teachers averaged $19,268, while those with experience earned $32,681 on average.
Earnings also differed by location, with preschool teachers in Decatur earning particularly high salaries:
The average preschool teacher salary in the Anniston-Oxford and Florence-Muscle Shoals areas were $24,849 and $25,929, respectively.
Additional salary information from 2012 is available for other Alabama cities and is shown below:
The Alabama Department of Labor also provides employment levels for preschool teachers in various Alabama cities as of the 2012-13 school year:
- Birmingham – 710
- Columbus – 360
- Decatur – 20
- Mobile – 130
- Montgomery – 300
- Tuscaloosa – 70
The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides additional detail on 2013 Alabama preschool teacher salaries in selected regions of the state: