Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in South Carolina

According to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, there were 5,840 preschool teachers, special education preschool teachers, and preschool administrators working in the state in 2016. By 2026, this number is projected to increase to 6,520, revealing a steady and rising demand for these early education professionals in the Palmetto State.

Preschool teachers in South Carolina hold the important responsibility of preparing young children for success in primary school, and beyond. 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 initiative. 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.

This partnership allows state-funded preschool for four-year-olds to be provided through programs like Free 4K, Even Start, Head Start, and a number of state-funded literacy programs providing early learning for children identified as at-risk. Free 4K is available in 64 school districts throughout South Carolina, with early learning provided by private, faith-based, and nonprofit childcare centers.

If you’re ready to begin a fulfilling career in early childhood education, you’ll need the proper education and certification. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to achieve this goal:

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:

Child Development Education Program (CDEP)

The Child Development Education Program (CDEP) was a pilot project started in 2006 and was 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
  • Columbia
  • Conway
  • Florence
  • Greenville
  • Rock Hill

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
      • Assessments
      • 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
  • Portfolios
  • 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

Statewide, salaries for preschool teachers, special education preschool teachers, and preschool administrators in South Carolina fall within these ranges (median, 75th and 90th percentile):

  • Preschool Teachers: $23,130 – $30,420 – $54,780
  • Preschool Special Education Teachers: $48,060 – $56,000 – $63,030
  • Preschool Administrators: $38,900 – $61,270 – $79,270

The following salary stats provide a closer look at the earning potential for preschool teachers, special ed preschool teachers, and preschool administrators in the state’s largest metro areas:

Charleston-North Charleston

Charleston’s preschool teachers earn the highest salaries among the state’s largest metro areas and beat out the state average by about $2,000 at the median level. Preschool administrators also enjoy salaries that top both the other major metro areas in South Carolina and the state average.

Some of the preschools located here include:

  • Cadence Academy
  • La Petite Academy of Charleston
  • Chesterbrook Academy
  • Acorn School of Charleston
  • Smart Cookies Early Childhood Center
  • Loving & Learning Educational

Whether they’re working in the area’s Head Start programs, private programs, or faith-based programs, Charleston’s preschool teachers, special ed preschool teachers, and preschool administrators earn salaries that fall within these ranges:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $25,480
  • 75th percentile: $30,460
  • 90th percentile: $39,850

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $46,940
  • 75th percentile: $54,920
  • 90th percentile: $64,140

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $59,130
  • 75th percentile: $72,280
  • 90th percentile: $108,720

Columbia

Free preschool in Columbia is available through Head Start and Free 4K and is provided at centers such as:

  • Pineview Head Start
  • Benedict Head Start
  • Andrews Head Start
  • Children’s Garden
  • Arthurtown Child Development Center

Nonprofit and private preschool programs are also abundant in Columbia at centers like:

  • The Learning Center
  • Montessori Early Learning Center
  • Riverbanks Nature Preschool
  • Shandon United Methodist Preschool
  • Cadence Academy

At these and other locations in Columbia, ECE professionals can expect to earn salaries within these ranges:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $21,920
  • 75th percentile: $29,030
  • 90th percentile: $61,470

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $48,820
  • 75th percentile: $56,730
  • 90th percentile: $62,760

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $68,520
  • 75th percentile: $76,310
  • 90th percentile: $81,130

Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin

Greenville County School District, the largest public school system in South Carolina and the 44th largest in the nation, offers the 4K program for at-risk children residing in the county. This free preschool program is offered at a number of elementary schools throughout the district, as well as at six child development centers.

A sampling of other preschool programs in the Greenville metro area include:

  • Primrose School of Greenville
  • Christ Episcopal Church Greenville
  • Haynsworth Private School
  • Overbrook Child Development
  • Sonshine Learning Center

The BLS provides average salaries for preschool teachers, special education preschool teachers, and preschool administrators in the Greenville metro area:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $20,330
  • 75th percentile: $24,090
  • 90th percentile: $30,030

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $47,200
  • 75th percentile: $58,780
  • 90th percentile: $72,620

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $30,510
  • 75th percentile: $37,760
  • 90th percentile: $57,480

 

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_sc.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 South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce 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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