Preschool teachers in South Carolina hold the important responsibility of preparing young children for success in primary school, and beyond. As of the most recent census, there are more than 282,000 children under the age of five in the state, a number that helps to explain why the demand for preschool teachers is expected to increase over the coming decade.
In the not-too-distant past, South Carolina’s primary school students were demonstrating signs of being alarmingly unprepared for academic excellence. There was a stark achievement gap between many, and statewide public school performance was lacking. That is why in 1999 South Carolina created its First Steps to School Readiness program. This is a public-private partnership between preschool providers and the state, with the primary goal of preparing young children for school through early intervention.
The preschool programs eligible to participate in the First Steps program are those regulated by the South Carolina Department of Social Services’ Division of Child Care Services, including:
- Private for-profit and non-profit preschools
- Community preschools
- Faith-based preschools
- Head Start preschool programs
Since the creation of the First Steps program, students across South Carolina have been improving their academic performance. First Steps has expanded to every county in the state and has improved the quality of education for hundreds of thousands of South Carolina preschoolers.
Because of the program’s achievements, First Steps teaching standards are now accepted as benchmark qualifications at preschools throughout the state. Meeting these preschool certification requirements in South Carolina means navigating the following steps:
|Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education|
|Consider the Types of Preschool Teacher Certification Available|
|Pass Required Tests for Your Area of Certification|
|Maintain and Improve Your Preschool Teaching Qualifications|
Step 1. Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education
Preschools in South Carolina either hire teachers with formal teacher certification or other similar credentials. Although preschools have some discretion in setting hiring standards, According to South Carolina law, they must give preference to hiring preschool teachers who have at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.
At minimum, preschool teachers must have earned an associate’s degree in early childhood education or a closely related field, and demonstrate enrollment, as well as progress, towards the completion of a teacher education program.
Education options in early childhood education appropriate for preschool teachers include:
- Graduate degree in early childhood education (no teacher education program required)
- Bachelor’s or master’s degree in education with at least six credits in early childhood education or early childhood development (no teacher education program required)
- Bachelor’s degree in any field with at least six credits in early childhood education or early childhood development, plus enrollment in a teacher education program in early childhood education
- Associate of Public Service (APS) degree in early care and education, or an out-of-state equivalent, and current enrollment in a teacher education program in early childhood education
- Associate’s degree in any subject and current enrollment in a teacher education program in early childhood education, plus one of the following:
- Child Development Associate (CDA) credential issued by the Council for Professional Recognition
- 27-hour Early Childhood Development Certificate
- Montessori diploma
Degrees in early childhood education are available at colleges and universities across South Carolina, as well as through online schools. Teacher preparation programs in early childhood education are usually offered through the education department of institutions of higher education. Completing one of these programs and earning a bachelor’s degree will also qualify you for State Department of Education teaching certification in early childhood education.
As you complete a degree in early childhood education you can expect to take courses such as the following:
- Teaching exceptional children
- Learners and the diversity of learning
- Play and early childhood learning
- Teaching core academic subjects to early childhood learners
- Parent, family, and community dynamics as they relate to early childhood education
- Supporting linguistic pluralism throughout different subject areas
- Early childhood education classroom management
- Child development, education, and care from birth to three years of age
- Child development, education, and care from three years to eight years of age
Completing a teacher preparation program that focuses on early childhood development will also include these subjects, with an added emphasis on pedagogy that includes placement as a student teacher in an early childhood education environment.
Step 2. Consider other Types of Preschool Teacher Certification Available
The minimum preschool classroom size in South Carolina is 10 students, which requires employing at least one preschool teacher. If there are more than 10 students, a preschool must also employ an instructional assistant.
According to South Carolina law, prospective instructional assistants who possess at least an associate’s degree with experience and training in early childhood education will receive preferential consideration for hire. To qualify to become an instructional assistant in a preschool classroom, you will need to meet the following minimum qualifications:
- Have completed, or complete within one year of hire, the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Credential 101
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Have at least two years of experience working with children under the age of five
Child Development Education Program (CDEP)
The Child Development Education Program (CDEP) is a recent addition to the South Carolina preschool scene that started out as a pilot project in 2006 and was recently accepted statewide through legislation passed in June 2014. The goal of the CDEP is to allow impoverished four-year-olds the opportunity to attend a full-day preschool education program. The CDEP is a joint program administered by the state’s First Steps for School Readiness and the state’s Department of Education.
Existing preschools can elect to participate in this if they abide by the CDEP guidelines. The requirements for being a preschool teacher in a school that participates in the CDEP program are:
- Hold a teaching certification issued by the Department of Education in the area of early childhood education
- Have experience teaching young children
In addition to completing at least a bachelor’s degree and teacher preparation program in early childhood education, to earn a teaching certification in this area you must also submit an application for certification with the Department of Education and pass the following two tests:
- Principles of Learning and Teaching: Early Childhood
- Education of Young Children
To be an instructional assistant in a CDEP program you must meet the same minimum requirements as those specified for being an instructional assistant in a First Steps preschool specified above.
Step 3. Pass Required Tests for Your Area of Certification
All of the following tests are administered by Education Testing Services (ETS), and may be taken at testing locations throughout the state:
- Charleston at 1954 Ashley River Road, Suite G
- Columbia at 121 Executive Center Drive, Suite 144
- Conway at 301 Allied Drive, Coastal Science Center room 106
- Florence at two locations:
- 2141 C Hoffmeyer Road
- 301 South Dargan Street – for Praxis tests only
- Greenville at two locations:
- 37 Villa Road, Suite 309
- 1430 Wade Hampton Boulevard, Suite 211A – for Praxis tests only
- Rock Hill at 452 Lakeshore Parkway
If you are applying for a preschool position that requires you to be certified by the Department of Education in early childhood education, you will need to pass the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators test for entrance into your education preparation program. This test will evaluate your basic abilities in three key subject areas:
If you are applying for a preschool position that requires you to be certified by the Department of Education in early childhood education, you will need to pass the following two exams:
- Principles of Learning and Teaching: Early Childhood
- Two hours allowed for completion
- 70 select-response and 4 constructed response questions covering the topics of:
- Students as learners
- Instructional process
- Professional development, leadership, and the community
- Instructional scenario analysis
- Education of Young Children
- 150 minutes allowed for completion
- 120 select-response and 3 constructed-response questions covering the topics of:
- Childhood development and learning
- Observation, assessment, and documentation
- Practices appropriate for different developmental levels
- Family, professionalism, and community
- Pedagogical principles and knowledge of teaching
Once you have completed the appropriate education and passed the required tests for your type of certification you will be ready to start applying to preschools throughout South Carolina. You can find links to specific county First Steps schools and local information about preschool teacher jobs in South Carolina through the program’s County Partnership webpage.
Step 4. Maintain and Improve Your Preschool Teaching Qualifications
As a preschool teacher or instructional assistant in a participating First Steps preschool, you will need to participate in at least 15 hours of professional development every year. These training hours must be approved by the South Carolina CCCCD (Center for Child Care Career Development) and include coverage of the following topics:
- Assessments that are embedded in curricula
- Teaching children from impoverished backgrounds
- Emergent literacy:
- Knowledge of letters and print
- Phonological and phonetic awareness
- Comprehension and vocabulary development
- Oral communication
In addition to maintaining your professional development, you will also be assessed on your teaching performance according to South Carolina’s Work Sampling System. This system requires you to develop three elements that will be used in your evaluation:
- Developmental checklists and guidelines
- Summary reports
You will be rated according to your students documented progress, as evidenced in these three areas.
If your preschool job description requires you to remain certified by the Department of Education you will also need to participate in a teaching assessment program. You can eventually think about upgrading your teaching certificate to the highest level by obtaining a master’s degree such as an MATL, M.A.T., or M.Ed.
Besides fulfilling the upgrade requirements for a teaching license, many preschool teachers in South Carolina choose to earn an advanced graduate degree for several additional reasons:
- Improved teaching capabilities and job performance
- More flexibility in the job market and to take individual initiatives
- Greater level of professional qualifications
You can find additional information about statewide employment, professional development activities, and preschool news through organizations like the South Carolina Association of Early Care and Education (SCAECE).
South Carolina Preschool Teacher Salaries
The number of early educator jobs in South Carolina is projected to increase by 16.66% in the ten-year period leading up to 2022 according to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce.
The 2013 median preschool teacher salary in South Carolina was $21,740. Experienced preschool teachers made $31,830 on average while entry-level teachers earned an average of $16,920 a year.
The highest median salary was in the Charleston area, while experienced early childhood education teachers earned the most in the Columbia area:
South Carolina preschool teacher salaries were more than three quarters higher for those who worked in educational services versus those employed in the social assistance field. They earned a median salary of $34,870 in 2009 as compared to $19,520.
Nearly one quarter of the 4,320 preschool teachers employed in South Carolina in 2013 were located in the Charleston area. This was a much higher employment level than other South Carolina metropolitan areas:
Myrtle Beach 8%
Most of the preschool teacher jobs advertised online as of September of 2014 were located in Greenville County. 39% of the 59 jobs were advertised in that county. The counties with the second and third greatest number of jobs were Charleston and Richmond, with 15% and 13.6% respectively.
For comparison, the Bureaus of Labor Statistics provides a detailed analysis of 2013 South Carolina Pre-K teacher salaries by location: