Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in North Carolina

According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, there were 15,110 preschool teachers licensed in the state in 2012. It is projected that there will be 16,660 preschool teachers in the State by 2020. This equates to about 160 new early childhood education jobs being available annually in North Carolina.

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If you want to become a licensed preschool teacher in North Carolina, you must be prepared to successfully complete the following:

Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education
Apply for a Standard Professional 1 (SP1) Professional Educator’s License
Apply for a Standard Professional 2 (SP2) Professional Educator’s License
Maintain your Standard Professional 2 License

North Carolina’s Pre-K Program operates under the Division of Child Development and Early Education, within the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. It is designed to provide high-quality educational experiences that enhance school readiness for eligible four-year-olds. The Pre-K Program was built on the following five developmental domains, as outlined by the National Education Goals Panel:

  • Approaches to Learning
  • Emotional and Social Development
  • Health and Physical Development
  • Language Development and Communication
  • Cognitive Development

The Pre-K Program is designed for all providers of pre-kindergarten services, including local school boards and districts, private child care providers, and other entities.

To teach preschool in a public school setting, you must possess a birth-kindergarten (B-K) teacher license from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Further, if a Head Start or an infant/toddler program employs you, you may also be required to have a B-K license in North Carolina.

The B-K license in North Carolina is an inclusive teacher license with a focus on children with developmental delays, as well as children who are developing without delays.



Step 1. Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (Public Schools)

The first step to becoming a licensed preschool teacher in North Carolina’s public schools is completing a teacher preparation program. There are currently 31 B-K preparation programs in North Carolina, 24 at the bachelor’s degree level and 9 at the master’s degree level.

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Although the minimum degree requirement for becoming a teacher in North Carolina is a bachelor’s degree, you may choose to complete a master’s degree program if you already possess a bachelor’s degree but have not yet completed a teacher preparation program or achieved licensure to teach preschool.

In North Carolina, a B-K teacher preparation program prepares you to teach infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners, with and without developmental disabilities. Upon the completion of all required coursework, you must complete a full-time student teaching experience.

To qualify for initial licensure in North Carolina from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, you must receive a recommendation from the college or university where you completed your teacher preparation program.

Department of Health and Human Services (Non-Public Schools)

If you want to teach preschool in a non-public school setting (e.g., private child care or pre-K private schools), you must possess:

  • A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in early childhood, child development, or a related field, such as:
    • Human development and family studies
    • Elementary education
    • Psychology

You must also be “working toward” a B-K license or be eligible for a North Carolina Initial Provisional Lateral Entry B-K license. Progress toward a B-K or preschool add-on license will be considered if you complete at least 6 semester hours per year. Further, you must achieve the B-K license within 3 years.

You may also qualify if you currently possess a North Carolina K-6 license and a provisional Preschool Add-On License.

Educators teaching preschool in non-public settings must be enrolled with the Early Educator Support, Licensure, and Professional Development Unit of the Division of Child Development and Early Education.



Step 2. Apply for a Standard Professional 1 (SP1) Professional Educator’s License

After receiving a recommendation from the institution where you obtained your preparation program, you must apply for a Standard Professional 1 (SP1) Professional Educator’s license.

Your SP1 license is valid for a period of 3 years, during which time you must complete at least 3 years of professional experience. There is no content test required to achieve a B-K license; however, you may be designated “highly qualified” to teach kindergarten if you take and pass the PRAXIS Early Childhood: Content Knowledge (5025) examination with a score of at least 155.

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You can find information on scheduling and taking this examination through the ETS website, the administrator of PRAXIS examinations.



Step 3. Apply for a Standard Professional 2 (SP2) Professional Educator’s License

You may apply for an SP2 license to teach preschool in North Carolina once you have completed at least 3 years of professional experience. If you are seeking a highly qualified status to teach kindergarten, you must provide the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction with your PRAXIS test scores (will be sent directly to the Department) and a completed Verification of Highly Qualified Status form.

Ready to start your preschool teaching career with a bachelor’s degree in ECE or advance your career with a Master’s degree in ECE? Check out our comprehensive list of ECE degrees by State at various levels to determine what program is right for you.


Step 4. Maintain your Standard Professional 2 License

To renew your Standard Professional 2 license to teach preschool in North Carolina, you must complete at least 7.5 renewal credits, which must include:

  • At least 1 renewal credit in literacy
  • At least 1 renewal credit in early childhood education
  • At least 5.5 general credits (as determined by your employer)

Note: A unit of renewal credit is equivalent to one quarter hour or one in-service credit from a North Carolina public school system. A unit reflects 10 contact hours.

Activities accepted for renewal credit include:

  • College or university courses
  • Local in-service courses or workshops
  • Classes and workshops approved by an LEA

North Carolina Preschool Teacher Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, preschool teacher salaries (2012) in the state of North Carolina were as follows:

Number of preschool teachers statewide – $11,300
Annual mean salary – $25,530
Annual median salary – $23,760
Hourly mean wage – $12.27
Hourly median wage – $11.43
Average annual salary of top 10% – $36,820
Salaries vary considerably according to location. Rocky Mount, the city with the highest salaries, is an artistic community in the coastal area. It is noted that Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city, and Raleigh, the state capital, are both in the middle range of preschool teacher salaries.

Early childhood education is one of the most promising career fields in the U.S. today. The National Association for the Education of Young People reports that research has clearly demonstrated that quality preschool programs have a significant impact on a child’s cognitive and social development.

Preschool quality depends on teacher quality. Teacher quality depends on both the individual’s ability to communicate with young children and their level of education.

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A spokesperson for the North Carolina Institute for Child Development Professionals said, “Research has shown that teacher education levels impact child outcomes.” North Carolina has 64 schools that have accredited early childhood education programs. Degrees are offered at the associate, bachelor, master’s and doctoral levels.

The U.S. Department of Labor shows salaries for early childhood educators in North Carolina’s major cities as of 2013:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Asheville NC
Burlington NC
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill NC-SC
Durham-Chapel Hill NC
Fayetteville NC
Goldsboro NC
Greensboro-High Point NC
Greenville NC
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton NC
Jacksonville NC
Raleigh-Cary NC
Rocky Mount NC
Estimate not released
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC
Wilmington NC
Winston-Salem NC
Northeastern North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Other North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Western Central North Carolina nonmetropolitan area
Western North Carolina nonmetropolitan area

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