Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in Montana

In Montana, the job growth rate for early childhood educators is expected to rise by 7 percent during the current ten-year period ending 2022. Statewide, the mean annual salary for early childhood educators in Montana is $24,400. In the Missoula area, the average early childhood educaor salary is $28,950, the highest in the state.

As of 2014, the state had drafted new standards for teachers in early childhood education programs, but they had not yet been approved for funding. Early childhood educator requirements in Montana may be different after the 2015 state legislative session.

Here you will find the steps to become a preschool teacher in one of Montana’s private preschools, day care centers, family homes or Head Start programs:

Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education
Register for the Montana Early Childhood Project
Consider Advanced Credentials in Early Childhood Education



Step 1. Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education

Montana’s Department of Education doesn’t license Pre-K teachers and imposes no direct educational requirements, though the state does regulate childcare centers.

Requirements for state-regulated facilities vary according to the type and size of the facility. For example, teachers or primary caregivers at a Montana childcare facility (defined as a facility that cares for and educates 13 or more children) must have:

  • Two years experience in a licensed or registered child care facility, Head Start or another recognized preschool program


  • The CDA credential


  • An Associate or Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field


Preschool teachers must also have 8 hours of annual approved early childhood training, plus CPR and First Aid training.

Many day care centers and preschool programs, including Head Start, require teachers to hold at least an associate’s degree in early childhood education or a comparable area, although a bachelor’s degree is often preferred. A bachelor’s will also help you qualify if you want to apply for a job as the director of a childcare center.

This area of study will prepare you to work with children ranging in age from birth to eight years old. You will have both classroom classes in general education, core and elective courses, plus hands-on lab instruction. Generally speaking, you will have to maintain an average of C or above in core courses, and an average of B- or above in specialty courses, to stay in the program.

Sample courses might include:

  • Early Childhood Curriculum
  • Meeting Needs of Families
  • Communication
  • Computer Literacy

You may also choose to earn a nationally-recognized credential, such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. The CDA may also help you qualify for childcare center director jobs, and is recognized by the state as an alternative to the bachelor’s degree credential.



Step 2. Register for the Montana Early Childhood Project

Montana does not have a traditional path to certification for Pre-K teachers; however, the Montana Early Childhood Project has established standardized levels of expertise and a voluntary certification program for Pre-K teachers who become part of the registry. This voluntary certification can help you qualify for Professional Development Incentive awards that the group offers. It may also help you achieve career advancement, since the certification will establish that you have a well-defined, standardized level of expertise.

The Montana Early Childhood Project identifies 10 levels of teacher expertise, each representing specific kinds of training and work experience. Levels 4 through 8 require college credits or degrees for further advancement. The Early Childhood-relevant credits or degrees must be from regionally accredited colleges or universities, and you must have passed or graduated with a grade of “C” or better. The Montana Early Childhood Project recognizes the CDA credential, as well as National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) accreditation, when determining levels of teacher expertise.

When you apply to the Montana Early Childhood Project registry, your training and work experience will be assessed, and you will be assigned a relevant level of expertise on the 10-level scale. To move up to the next level, you will have to complete the additional educational and/or work experience requirements for the new level.

Upon completion, you will submit all required documentation, such as employment verification and school transcripts, to the Montana Early Childhood Project for voluntary certification. Certification is valid for one year; there is an initial application fee of $25, and a yearly renewal fee of $10.

The organization requires 23 hours of approved ongoing training for annual renewal, except at the entry level, which requires 8 hours of annual training.



Step 3. Consider Advanced Credentials in Early Childhood Education

You may choose to pursue a master’s degree in early childhood education at one of Montana’s accredited schools. A master’s degree or its equivalent meets all requirements for the higher levels of certification with the Montana Early Childhood Project, and is often required for more advanced employment positions in childcare facility administration.

A Permissive Special Competency is also available for Elementary Education students who wish to acquire Pre-K teaching skills, and for teachers who already have an Elementary Education teaching license in Montana. For students, the path to Permissive Special Competency starts by embarking on a four-year bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, with a 20-credit focus on Early Education courses.

Licensed Elementary-level teachers take only the Early Education course of study to earn the Permissive Special Competency. Licensed teachers can satisfy continuing education requirements for license renewal with this special competency, and both students and teachers can use it to display special teaching qualifications at the Pre-K level.

Montana Preschool Teacher Salaries

The state of Montana is home to a number of early education programs, all of which present an excellent opportunity for teachers looking to begin their teaching careers. Montana’s most recent public school enrollment data, published after the 2011-12 school year, shows an increase of 9% in the number of enrolled prekindergarten students throughout the state. This increase resulted in about 1,475 total students enrolled in prekindergarten programs. These statistics are consistent with the overall trend in Montana where there has been a 192% increase in prekindergarten enrollment since the 2001-02 school year.

As of 2013, there were 1,050 prekindergarten level teachers employed throughout the state of Montana. According to the National Education Association, the average salary for all teachers in Montana hovers around $26,734. The average annual salary for prekindergarten teachers in the state is a bit lower than that, at about $25,158.57.

Preschool teachers are expected to help nurture and develop young children, while also fulfilling their obligations as a teacher. Prekindergarten programs are designed to lay the foundation of learning and impart an understanding of basic subjects. Successful preschool teachers must be able to understand the necessity of helping children develop social and cognitive abilities while being mindful of the need for children of that age to play and process the knowledge they have been given.

More detailed salary information for prekindergarten teachers can be found on this table, published in 2013 by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Billings MT
Great Falls MT
Missoula MT
Eastern Montana nonmetropolitan area
Central Montana nonmetropolitan area
Southwestern Montana nonmetropolitan area
Western Montana nonmetropolitan area

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