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, but leaves the door open for local school to adopt flexible approaches to meeting those goals.
The department does publish the Arizona Early Learning Standards, currently in their 4th edition, 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. In fact, the department puts out a complete preschool toolkit to help both teachers and schools launch successful early childhood education programs. These standards are intended for all preschool teachers working with young children in urban, rural, and tribal early care educational settings.
But standards are just a start; the kind of mindset and energy required to manage a buzzing classroom of four-year-olds is something you have to bring to the table yourself to be a great preschool teacher or administrator!
If you want to become a preschool teacher in Arizona, you should be prepared to complete these 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 Assessments (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
Arizona has been experiencing a big influx of residents for a long time now… the census consistently ranked it as the second-fastest growing state in the nation from 1990 to 2000, increasing its population by nearly 40 percent, and it has slowed only slightly in recent years, dropping to the seventh-fastest growing state between 2010 and 2015.
Although it’s known as a retirement haven, many of those new residents have been younger, and the average age remains below the national average. That has put a lot of young families with preschool-age kids into the mix, and with babies that in the next few years will be creating even more demand for preschool services throughout the state. The state Office of Economic Opportunity forecasts that preschool administrator, teacher, and special educator roles will boom in Arizona between 2016 and 2026, all of which are slated for faster job growth than is expected in almost any other part of the country.
For administrators and preschool teachers, that means a nearly 30 percent increase in the number of jobs that will be opening up, with 130 openings annually for administrators and nearly 900 for teachers. Special educators will see an almost 13 percent increase, representing 30 openings annually.
Salaries for these ECE professionals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, will fall within these ranges (median, top 25%, and top 10%):
Preschool Administrators: $37,420 – $46,570 – $60,420
Preschool Teacher: $27,810 – $35,950 – $44,330
Preschool Special Educator: $42,930 – $51,260 – $65,020
Some of the biggest preschool employers in the state and the specific salary data for their respective metropolitan areas are listed below.
The booming expanse of the Salt River Valley is spread out and offers early childhood education centers in almost every neighborhood:
- Phoenix Children’s Academy
- Natural Choice Academy
- Phoenix Elementary School District
- Raising Arizona
- Sunrise Preschools
- Mesa Public Schools
- Valley Child Care and Learning Centers
- Scottsdale Unified School District
At preschools and learning centers in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area, teachers, special education specialists and administrators can expect to earn salaries within these ranges:
- Median – $36,610
- 75th Percentile – $45,950
- 90th Percentile – $60,730
- Median – $27,550
- 75th Percentile – $36,360
- 90th Percentile – $45,590
Special Education Preschool Teachers
- Median – $46,880
- 75th Percentile – $55,530
- 90th Percentile – $67,610
Tucson offers a number of early childhood education opportunities at programs run by these organizations:
- Tucson Community School
- Happy Trails Christian Preschool
- Tucson Baptist Preschool
- Strauss ECE and Kindergarten
- Tucson Unified School District
- Small Marvels
At preschools in Tucson, teachers and administrators can expect to earn salaries within these ranges:
- Median – $37,930
- 75th Percentile – $43,570
- 90th Percentile – $48,510
- Median – $28,210
- 75th Percentile – $34,360
- 90th Percentile – $38,840
The unique Flagstaff cooperative preschool operates under the aegis of the Flagstaff Unified School District, but is run by parents. It’s only one of several preschools in the area:
- Flagstaff Cooperative Preschool (Flagstaff Unified School District)
- Flagstaff Christian Preschool
- Head Heart Hands Preschool
- Foresight Learning Center
- Montessori School of Flagstaff
At Flagstaff’s preschools, early childhood educators can expect to earn salaries within these ranges:
- Median – $34,860
- 75th Percentile – $41,430
- 90th Percentile – $49,650
Lake Havasu City-Kingman
The Kingman area is unusual in that it ranks first in the nation for the highest concentration of special education preschool positions, but that the salaries for ordinary preschool teachers tend to be higher than those of special educators.
- New Day School
- Little Knights Preschool
- Head Start – Western Arizona Council of Government
- Kingman Unified School District
At preschools in the Lake Havasu area, teachers and administrators can expect to earn salaries within these ranges:
- Median – $24,570
- 75th Percentile – $30,630
- 90th Percentile – $37,350
Special Education Preschool Teachers
- Median – $21,850
- 75th Percentile – $21,860
- 90th Percentile – $24,470
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_az.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 Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity 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.