Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in South Dakota

Preschool teachers in South Dakota can work in a variety of settings that range from day cares to state-sponsored preschools. Recognizing that preschoolers are the state’s delicate future citizens and leaders, preschool teachers in South Dakota are closely regulated through the state’s Department of Education and Division of Childcare Services.

Currently there are just over 1,000 preschool teachers throughout the state that serve South Dakota’s more than 57,800 preschool aged students. This disparate ratio clearly illustrates the current and projected demand for professionals in this field.

To become a qualified preschool teacher in South Dakota you will need to complete the following steps:

Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education
Consider Your Teaching Options
Maintain Your Preschool Teaching Qualifications



Step 1. Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education

To have the most flexibility and employment options, prospective preschool teachers should start preparing for their career with a degree in early childhood education or a closely related area of study.

While earning an associate’s degree in early childhood education or a closely related field is advantageous, to maximize your options you will need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in this subject area. This will give you the option of pursuing several advanced options:

  • Certification as a teacher in early childhood education, issued by the South Dakota Department of Education
  • Employment at one of the state’s Head Start preschool programs
  • Employment at the higher quality preschools in South Dakota that only hire preschool teachers with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a closely related subject

Whether you complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, you can expect to take courses such as:

  • Developmentally appropriate practices for infants and toddlers
  • Preschool to middle childhood development
  • Early childhood education methods and materials
  • Nutrition, health, and safety for young children
  • Family and parent-child relationships
  • Emergent numeracy and literacy
  • Supervision and administration of early childhood learners

If you are earning a bachelor’s degree in this field that is combined with a teacher preparation program – a requirement for prospective preschool teachers seeking certification from the Department of Education – you will also take courses that place a strong emphasis on pedagogical development and include a student teaching segment. During your student teaching you will be placed directly in a preschool classroom to use the skills you have been developing while under the supervision of an experienced preschool teacher.

To earn teaching certification you will also need to take an approved course on Native American studies and human relations, as required by South Dakota law.



Step 2. Consider Your Teaching Options

There are different types of preschool teaching positions throughout South Dakota, ranging from childcare centers to high quality preschools with a long waiting list. Naturally these facilities also set different preschool teacher qualifications that can range from teaching certification and a bachelor’s degree, to Department of Social Services-issued certification.

The different types of preschool jobs in South Dakota that are explained in detail here are:

  • Department of Education Certification
  • Head Start Programs
  • Day Care and Child Care Programs

Department of Education Certification

Earning teaching certification in early childhood education from the Department of Education will allow you to:

  • Teach preschoolers in a public school setting
  • Teach in Head Start programs
  • Teach in any private preschool that requires Department of Education certification as a qualification for hire

The preschool teacher certification requirements to earn this are:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a closely related field that includes a state-approved teacher preparation program in early childhood education
  • Pass the required Educational Service Testing (ETS) exams
  • Submit an online application for certification to become a preschool teacher in South Dakota

You will need to take two ETS exams to become certified in early childhood education:

  • Principles of Learning and Teaching: Early Childhood
    • Two hours to complete 70 select-response and 4 constructed-response questions on the topics of:
      • Instructional scenario analysis
      • Early childhood assessments
      • Professional development, leadership, and community involvement
      • Students as learners
      • Instructional processes


  • Education of Young Children
    • Two hours to complete 90 multiple-choice and 3 constructed-response questions on the topics of:
      • Supporting and teaching diverse children
      • Learning and teaching in the areas of instructional processes, content knowledge, and assessments
      • Early childhood development
      • Creating developmentally-appropriate learning environments
      • Family, community, and professionalism
      • Early childhood teaching knowledge

You can take these exams at ETS- affiliated testing centers located throughout South Dakota:

  • Aberdeen at 1200 South Jay Street in the Student Center Building
  • Sioux Falls at 4700 South Technopolis Drive, Suite 4
  • Rapid City at two locations:
    • 1301 West Omaha Street
    • 829 Qunicy Street at KT Connections

Head Start Programs

Head Start is a federal program under the management of the US Department of Health and Human Services. Its goal is to provide comprehensive early childhood education to children from low-income households across the nation. The South Dakota Head Start program offers funding grants to local preschools if they meet certain conditions.

Head Start has undergone several legislative revisions since its inception in 1965, including the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007, which requires half of all Head Start teachers in the country to have one of the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher in early childhood education
  • A bachelor’s degree or higher in any subject with a major that closely relates to early childhood education

Currently there are around 300 Head Start teachers working across South Dakota. The preschool teacher job description for these positions will often require a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, with one recent announcement stating the following:

  • Preferred – bachelor’s degree in early childhood education
  • Required – either:
    • Current South Dakota teaching certification with a minor or endorsement in early childhood education
    • Bachelor’s degree with coursework that is equivalent to a major relating to early childhood education, plus experience teaching preschool-age children

Day Care and Child Care Programs

These types of programs offer preschool services to children throughout the state. The following types of programs are regulated by the South Dakota Department of Social Services, Division of Child Care Services (DCCS):

  • Group family child care home
  • Child care center
  • Before and after school programs

The Division of Child Care Services (DCCS) requires every operator and staff member at these types of facilities to have training in the following DCCS Topic Areas

  • First aid and CPR
  • Age-appropriate activities
  • Program regulation and management
  • Inclusion of all children
  • Creating and maintaining a positive learning environment
  • Professionalism
  • Cultural diversity
  • Behavior management and guidance
  • Reporting and detecting child abuse and neglect
  • Children nutrition, health, and safety
  • Staff relations and communications
  • Prevention and identification of communicable diseases
  • Food handling techniques
  • Child development and growth

Earning a degree in early childhood education or a closely related area can fulfill most DCCS Topic Area training requirements. This is one of the reasons staff at these types of preschool facilities choose to obtain appropriate education credentials.

Having a relevant associate’s or bachelor’s degree will also make you a more competitive applicant, especially for preschool programs in this category that state a preference for degree holders.



Step 3. Maintain Your Preschool Teaching Qualifications

You will have different maintenance obligations for your preschool teaching qualification depending on what your employer requires.

If you must maintain an early childhood education teaching license through the state’s Department of Education, you will need to complete six credits of professional education every five years. If the highest education you have is a bachelor’s degree, half of your professional education must be from a college or university. Professional education credit is awarded at the rate of one credit for every 15 hours of classroom contact.

Maintaining your teaching certification with the Department of Education is required if you are going to be a preschool teacher in a public state-sponsored school, and is one of the ways of maintaining the minimum qualifications to work in a Head Start program.

Other programs have their own individual requirements. The Department of Social Services’ Division of Child Care Services (DCCS) requires staff employed at the following types of facilities to maintain a specific amount of continuing training in DCCS Topic Areas:

  • Group Family Child Care facilities – 10 annual hours of training in at least 3 DCCS areas
  • Child Care Centers – 20 annual hours of training in any DCCS area
  • Before and After School programs – 10 annual hours of training in any DCCS area

Resources in South Dakota

Whether it is to fulfill a training requirement or to earn professional education credit, many preschool teachers in South Dakota choose to earn an advanced degree in education, such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL, with a concentration in a field closely related to early childhood education. Colleges, universities, and online programs offer many options for South Dakota residents who would like to further develop their educational credentials.

Besides helping you to maintain your preschool teaching certification, a master’s degree can also improve your future career options as well as present employment prospects. Ultimately earning more education can translate into an improved learning experience for the young preschool students you are teaching.

You can find additional preschool teaching and early childhood education resources in South Dakota through organizations such as the South Dakota Head Start Association (SDHSA).

South Dakota Preschool Teacher Salaries

The 2014 average preschool teacher salary in South Dakota was $29,874 according to the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation. Experienced teachers in the 90th percentile averaged $38,384 a year while entry-level professionals in the 10th percentile earned $22,356 on average.

The average South Dakota preschool teacher salaries were fairly consistent throughout the state according to the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation:

South Dakota City
10th Percentile Salary
90th Percentile Salary
Rapid City
Sioux Falls

The demand for preschool teachers in South Dakota is higher than that of most other occupations. Job growth in this field is projected to increase 15.2% in the ten-year period leading up to 2022. In South Dakota, 48 jobs a year are expected to become available in the field of early childhood education during this timeframe.

Given the critical importance of helping young children develop the skills they need to succeed in their K-12 education, the South Dakota Department of Education developed Early Learning Guidelines to help preschool teachers design their curricula. These guidelines outline the goals that children need to achieve to be successful in school.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides an additional analysis of South Dakota Pre-K teacher salaries for 2013 according to location:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Rapid City, SD
Sioux City IA-NE-SD
Sioux Falls SD
Central South Dakota nonmetropolitan area
Eastern South Dakota nonmetropolitan area
Western South Dakota nonmetropolitan area

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