Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s preschool system is robust and sound. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, there were 21,280 preschool teachers, special education preschool teachers, and preschool administrators in the Keystone State as of 2016. By 2026, this number is expected to grow to nearly 23,000 thanks, in part, to programs like Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, which provides half-day and full-day pre-K programs to more than 19,000 three- and four-year-olds throughout the state who meet specific federal income guidelines.

The Office of Child Development and Early Learning oversees a number of other outstanding educational and support programs focused on Pennsylvania’s youngest learners and their families. Among these programs is the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, which provides early learning services to the state’s at-risk children and their families…Early Childhood Mental Health (a child-specific consultative model that addresses the development of young children within ECE programs)…Early Intervention, which serves young children with disabilities and developmental delays…and Keystone STARS, a rating system designed to increase the quality of preschool education throughout the state.

Becoming a Pennsylvania early childhood educator and working within one of the many successful programs available in the state requires meeting specific education and certification requirements. Here’s what you’ll need to do to become a preschool teacher in Pennsylvania:

Earn at Least a Bachelor’s Degree
Choose Your Route to Preschool Certification Eligibility
Consider an Assistant Teacher Pathway to Becoming a Preschool Teacher
Apply for Your Preschool Teaching License
Develop Your Career as a Pennsylvania Preschool Teacher

 


 

Step 1. Earn at Least a Bachelor’s Degree

Pennsylvania law states that all preschool teachers under the authority of the State Board of Private Academic Schools must have at least a bachelor’s degree.

While some paths to preschool certification allow for a bachelor’s degree in any subject, completing your studies in early childhood education or a related field will ensure you have the most options going forward and a strong foundation in the skills needed for being an effective preschool teacher.

You can find relevant academic programs at locations across Pennsylvania as well as through online schools.

Throughout an early childhood education academic program, you can expect to take courses like:

  • Child service program development and administration
  • Developmental theories and their relation to instruction in early childhood development
  • Play as an educative process
  • Involvement of parents in the home and classroom
  • Language development in early childhood learners
  • Curriculum development in early childhood education
  • Observation and evaluation of young children’s behavior
  • Social institutions and children
  • Emergent language and literacy development
  • Early childhood developmental psychology

These education programs will also include a segment where you will experience hands-on learning in the classroom setting. This can be a valuable opportunity where your theoretical knowledge is applied to real-life, allowing you to see the fruits of your labor manifested in the growth of your students.

 


 

Step 2. Choose Your Route to Preschool Certification Eligibility

Once you have earned at least a bachelor’s degree there are three routes to becoming eligible for licensure as a preschool teacher:

  • Earn a teaching certification through the Pennsylvania Department of Education in the subject of early childhood education

 

  • Complete at least 24 semester credits that relate to any of the following:
    • Theory of childhood development
    • Early childhood education
    • Elementary education

 

  • Have at least two years of successful experience as a teacher in:
    • Public school
    • Kindergarten
    • Private or non-licensed school
    • Nursery or preschool

Teaching Certification Through the Pennsylvania Department of Education

The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) offers two certifications in the subject of early childhood education:

  • Certification and Staffing Policy Guidelines (CSPG) #39 for pre-k to the third grade
  • CSPG #41 for elementary education and grades K-6

To be eligible for either of these certifications you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in a field that is related to education.

The next level above preschool teacher is the position of preschool director. To be eligible to become a preschool director you must gain teaching certification by the State Board of Education. You can do this by earning a bachelor’s degree in education and completing a state-approved teacher preparation program in early childhood education.

 


 

Step 3. Consider an Assistant Teacher Pathway to Becoming a Preschool Teacher

If you decide to become eligible for a preschool teaching certificate by combining a bachelor’s degree with two years of successful teaching experience, you may want to consider starting out as an assistant preschool teacher. By doing this you can complete your bachelor’s degree at the same time you earn two years of teaching experience. You can qualify for an assistant preschool teacher certification through one of the following pathways:

  • Earn a two-year degree or two years of college credit in the field of early childhood education or elementary childhood education
  • Complete at least 24 semester credits or a two-year college degree in any of the following:
    • Theory of childhood development
    • Early childhood education
    • Elementary education

It is also possible to upgrade your assistant teaching certificate to a full teaching certificate if you have at least two years of experience at the assistant teaching level and have completed at least 24 semester credits in coursework such as the theory of childhood development, early childhood, and elementary education.

Preschool Teacher Aide

Many preschools also hire for an aide position. An aide assists teachers and assistant teachers in classroom management, and works under the direct supervision of a teacher. Aides are not allowed to have independent responsibilities with children. The requirements to become a preschool teacher’s aide are:

  • Have graduated from high school
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have good physical and mental health
  • Be of good moral character
  • Have qualifications to work with children
  • Participate in in-service training at your preschool of hire

 


 

Step 4. Apply for Your Preschool Teaching License

Before you fill out an application for certification, make sure you can meet the following additional minimum requirements:

  • Are at least 18 years old
  • Have a good moral character as evidenced by no convictions for felonies or misdemeanor crimes of moral turpitude; you will also need to submit the results of a criminal background check with your application
  • Pass a tuberculosis test
  • Have a health certificate from a physician that confirms you are mentally and physically fit to perform the duties of a preschool teacher or assistant preschool teacher

At this point you will have met all the preschool teacher certification requirements in Pennsylvania. The State Board of Private Academic Schools is responsible for issuing your preschool license, and applications for both teaching certification and assistant teaching certification must be made through the the Department of Education’s online application portal, the Teacher Information Management System (TIMS).

When you have received your certification you will be ready to apply for preschool teacher jobs in Pennsylvania. You can find information about these positions in your local community’s schools, municipality centers, and through organizations such as the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PennAEYC).

 


 

Step 5. Develop Your Career as a Pennsylvania Preschool Teacher

As you advance in your career as a Pennsylvania preschool teacher you may wish to consider adding to your academic qualifications. Pursuing graduate-level courses in early childhood development or early childhood education can provide you with an improved foundation in your field of expertise and offer new problem-solving approaches that will make you a more effective nursery school teacher.

Many professionals also choose to earn a master’s degree in these subjects or others related to education. Having a relevant master’s degree can also give you more flexibility to pursue advanced employment opportunities or take your own initiatives in your field of expertise.

Teaching Preschool in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law specifically defines the director/teacher-student ratios that are permitted in the preschool classroom. You can use this guide to help determine the demand for teachers and assistant teachers at local schools in your radius of potential employment:

  • 12 three-year-olds, 17 four-year-olds, 22 five-year-olds, 15 three/four-year olds, or 20 three/four/five-year-olds: 1 teacher
  • 17 three-year-olds, 21 four-year-olds, 27 five-year-olds, 19 three/four-year olds, or 26 three/four/five-year-olds: 1 teacher and 1 aide
  • 22 three-year-olds, 25 four-year-olds, 30 five-year-olds, 23 three/four-year olds, or 28 three/four/five-year-olds: 1 teacher and either 1 assistant teacher or 2 aides
  • A minimum of two adults must be present in any preschool setting

To enter a preschool, children must be at least two years and seven months of age. Preschools must be in session at least two hours per day. As a preschool teacher, you will need to keep a record of your teaching curriculum and ensure that certain subjects are covered as part of daily and weekly activities and instruction:

  • Language arts activities
  • Outdoor free play if the weather allows for this
  • Fine and gross motor skill development
  • Perceptual activities
  • Math and science activities
  • Music, art, drama, and other expressive arts
  • Nutrition, health, and safety


Pennsylvania Preschool Teacher Salaries

Preschool teachers, special education preschool teachers, and preschool administrators in Pennsylvania earn salaries that fall within these ranges (median, top 25%, and top 10%):

  • Preschool Teachers: $27,450 – $32,220 – $40,420
  • Preschool Special Education Teachers: $51,960 – $61,870 – $78,050
  • Preschool Administrators: $44,410 – $56,990 – $76,040

The following information reveals salary ranges for early childhood education professionals working in Pennsylvania’s largest metro areas, along with a list of preschool programs in each area:

Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD

Philadelphia’s earliest learners have access to PHLpreK, the city’s free pre-K program. PHLpreK is available to all three- and four-year-olds who live in the City of Philadelphia. There are no income or employment requirements to qualify.

Additional preschool programs in the Philadelphia metro area include:

  • Summit Children’s Program
  • Saint Mary’s Nursery School
  • Chesterbrook Academy Preschool
  • Montgomery Early Learning Centers
  • The Children’s Place
  • Arch Street Preschool

Preschool teachers in Philadelphia earn more than the national average in Pennsylvania, with salaries that fall within these ranges:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $28,100
  • 75th percentile: $34,090
  • 90th percentile: $48,730

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $48,840
  • 75th percentile: $63,380
  • 90th percentile: $80,550

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $49,610
  • 75th percentile: $68,000
  • 90th percentile: $88,720

Pittsburgh

Preschool programs in Pittsburgh are available through the Pittsburgh Public Schools Early Childhood Education Department’s Early Childhood Education Program, which provides preschool programs for children ages 3-5. Those families unable to pay the annual fee may qualify for Head Start or state-funded scholarship.

A sampling of other preschool programs in Pittsburgh available through private providers include:

  • Brightside Academy
  • Tender Care Learning Centers
  • The Goddard School
  • The Children’s Center of Pittsburgh
  • KinderCare
  • The Children’s School at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Ellis School

Pittsburgh’s preschool teachers, special education preschool teachers, and preschool administrators in all settings earn within these ranges:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $26,690
  • 75th percentile: $30,280
  • 90th percentile: $35,700

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $61,040
  • 75th percentile: $80,540
  • 90th percentile: $103,100

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $39,600
  • 75th percentile: $47,190
  • 90th percentile: $56,130

Harrisburg-Carlisle

State and federally funded and private preschool programs are abundant in Harrisburg. Just a few of these programs include:

  • Keystone Early Learning Center
  • Capital Area Head Start
  • Strawberry Garden Preschool
  • Londonderry School
  • Tender Hearts Christian Preschool
  • The Goddard School of Harrisburg
  • Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School

Salary ranges for preschool teachers, special education preschool teachers, and preschool administrators in Harrisburg include:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $27,230
  • 75th percentile: $31,250
  • 90th percentile: $35,970

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $58,670
  • 75th percentile: $71,030
  • 90th percentile: $79,010

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $46,320
  • 75th percentile: $53,470
  • 90th percentile: $60,520

 

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_pa.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 Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry 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.

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