Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in South Dakota

Parents in South Dakota have a variety of options when it comes to early learning for their young children even though South Dakota is one of just a few states without state-funded early learning programs. Preschools here are operated mainly by faith-based nonprofits, private learning academies, and federally funded Head Start programs.

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South Dakota’s preschool system continues to improve, with a number of initiatives aimed at ensuring program quality remains high. For example, the School Administrators of South Dakota has created the Levels of Excellence program, a rating system that allows parents to identify quality programs. This system examines preschools in all areas, from teaching quality to the learning environment, encouraging preschool providers to maintain high standards with an eye toward improvements. At the same time, the system provides parents with valuable data when searching for a program that best meets their child’s needs.

These high standards are creating a growing demand for outstanding early childhood educators who bring passion, enthusiasm, and a specific set of credentials to the early learning environment. If you’re up to the task, now is the time to attain the education and certifications necessary to become part of the state’s growing preschool system.

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.

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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 long waiting lists. 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 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:

  • Huron
  • Aberdeen
  • Rapid City
  • Madison
  • Brookings

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 childcare home
  • Childcare 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.

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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)

Ready to get started? Check out our comprehensive list of ECE degrees by State at various levels to determine what program is right for you.


South Dakota Preschool Teacher Salaries

Salaries for South Dakota’s early childhood education professionals tend to vary quite a bit when compared to their counterparts around the country, though administrators here earn salaries well above the national average ($55,360 vs. $47,940).

Statewide, preschool teachers, preschool special education teachers, and preschool administrators in South Dakota earning salaries at the median, 75th percentile, and 90th percentiles can expect salaries within these ranges:

  • Preschool Teachers: $29,580 – $34,730 – $39,600
  • Preschool Special Education Teachers: $37,570 – $46,580 – $56,580
  • Preschool Administrators: $55,360 – $61,490 – $71,930

The following information includes additional salary data for South Dakota’s largest metro areas, along with a selection of preschool programs found there:

Rapid City

Federally funded preschools in Rapid City provide earning learning to the state’s at-risk children. Some of these programs include:

  • Rapid City Head Start
  • Rural America Initiatives Dakota Transitional Head Start
  • Tokahe Waonspe Early Head Start

Rapid City is also home to a large number of faith-based preschools, private preschools, and early childhood learning centers, such as:

  • Little Nest Preschool
  • Cinnamon Hill Preschool
  • Children’s House Montessori
  • Peace Lutheran Church & Preschool
  • YMCA of Rapid City

The BLS provides salary averages for preschool teachers, preschool special education teachers, and preschool administrators working in any type of setting in Rapid City:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $27,900
  • 75th percentile: $33,490
  • 90th percentile: $38,140

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $43,810
  • 75th percentile: $50,010
  • 90th percentile: $59,130

Preschool administrators:

  • Salary info unavailable

Sioux Falls

There is a number of preschool options for Sioux Falls’ earliest learners and their families. For example, the Sioux Falls School District offers a free Early Childhood Program for qualified families that is funded by Head Start. They also offer a tuition-based, district-run program called Learning Adventures for four-year-olds in the district.

Additional preschool programs available in the Sioux Falls metro area include:

  • United Childcare & Preschool
  • Sioux Falls First Learning Center
  • Discovery Learning Center
  • Bright Eyes Daycare Center
  • First Adventure Learning Center
  • KIDZ Academy

Salaries at these and other schools and learning centers in Sioux Falls look like this:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $29,990
  • 75th percentile: $34,870
  • 90th percentile: $38,950

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $47,710
  • 75th percentile: $55,710
  • 90th percentile: $60,840

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $53,220
  • 75th percentile: $59,780
  • 90th percentile: $63,810
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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 – 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. 

All salary and job growth data accessed in September 2019.

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