There are literally tens of thousands of early childhood education programs across Texas that employ qualified teachers and special educators, ranging from daycare centers and private preschools, to religious schools and Head Start programs.Even with private programs providing a tremendous number of options for early childhood education, all school districts in Texas that identify at least 15 children from economically and educationally disadvantaged households are required to offer a public pre-K option.
As long as districts are meeting this requirement by making public programs available to eligible families, they’re largely left to decide for themselves exactly how to structure and fund early childhood education. Some districts, like Fort Worth for example, offer free pre-K for all families, whether or not they meet typical eligibility standards for no-cost access, while other districts, like Tarrant-area public schools, have a tuition-based model in place.
No surprise here: Texas ranks among the top states in the nation in terms of employment numbers for both preschool teachers and administrators. In total, there were some 37,100 ECE teachers, special educators and administrators working in Texas in 2016, and according to the Texas Workforce Commission, by 2026 this number is expected to increase by more than 7,000.
From daycare centers and private preschools to district-funded preschools and Head Start programs, Texas’ early childhood educators have no shortage of access to professional opportunities. If you want to become part of the thriving early childhood education system in Texas, you’ll need to come armed with the right education, the appropriate credentials, and a real commitment to making a difference in the lives of the state’s earliest learners.
Here are the steps you’ll take to become a preschool teacher in Texas:
|Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education|
|Consider Different Standards of Preschool Qualifications|
|Manage and Improve Your Texas Preschool Teaching Credentials|
Step 1. Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education
The qualifications to become a preschool teacher in Texas differ based on the organization that sponsors and manages the preschool program (see specific requirements for each in Step. 2):
- Head Start – Texas
- Texas Early Learning Council
- Texas Education Agency
Earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education will provide you with a solid grounding in the field of early childhood development and fulfill certification requirements to become licensed by the Texas Education Agency.
As you complete a degree in early childhood education, you can expect to take courses that focus on the following subject areas:
- Social and cultural contexts of early childhood education
- Program and curriculum development for early childhood education
- Early childhood development and play
- Involving parents in the education process
- Theories of curriculum development for kindergarten and preschool
- Critical perspectives in early childhood education
- Comparative global early childhood education
- Different types of early childhood education programs
- Major theorists in the field of early childhood education
To earn certification through the Texas Education Agency, you will also need to complete an approved teacher preparation program that focuses on early childhood education as part of your degree. This will include a student teaching portion where you will develop hands-on experience in a preschool classroom.
In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in this field, many prospective and current preschool teachers choose to earn a master’s degree such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL with an emphasis in early childhood education.
Step 2. Consider Different Standards of Preschool Qualifications
There is a number of state organizations in Texas that share the goal of improving early childhood education, each with a unique set of preschool teacher requirements:
- Head Start preschool teacher standards
- Texas Early Learning Council’s Early Childhood Career Lattice
- State preschool teaching certification from the Texas Education Agency
Head Start Preschool Teachers Standards
The Head Start program in Texas strives to provide quality preschool access to kids from impoverished backgrounds. Head Start teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or early childhood development and a valid Texas teaching certificate.
Also accepted as fulfilling the minimum Head Start program employment qualifications are:
- Teaching certification from the Texas Education Agency
- Bachelor’s degree with at least 18 credits in early childhood education or early childhood development
Texas Early Learning Council’s Early Childhood Career Lattice
Created by the governor of Texas, the Texas Early Learning Council’s purpose was and is to develop strategies to improve early childhood education across the state. The Council defines teaching excellence standards through its Early Childhood Career Lattice, which lays out a course of professional development for the state’s preschool teachers.
Educators can choose to abide by these benchmarks to demonstrate concrete skills and abilities, which are attractive to both preschool employers and the parents or guardians of preschoolers:
- Entry Level Beginner early childhood educator – high school diploma or equivalent
- Level 1 – High school diploma or equivalent and 3 education credits related to early childhood education
- Level 2 – Current and valid Child Development Associate credential
- Level 3 – Early childhood technical certificate with a one-year certificate
- Level 4 Intermediate early childhood educator – Associate’s degree in early childhood education or a related field
- Level 5 – Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field
- Level 6 Advanced early childhood educator – Master’s degree in early childhood education or a related field
- Level 7 – Doctoral degree in early childhood education or a related field
Texas Education Agency Teaching Certification
Some preschools may also require you to earn an official Texas state teaching certification. This is conferred by the Texas Education Agency as a Generalist teacher certificate for early childhood (EC) through grade six.
This type of certification is known as a Core Subjects EC-6th grade certification. To gain certification as a Generalist EC-6th grade teacher you will need to complete a corresponding teacher preparation program and tests, in addition to earning at least a bachelor’s degree.
Your specific testing requirements are as follows:
- Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities (PPR) Exam – this exam tests your knowledge of pedagogy for EC-6th You will receive more information about the exam’s content and registration in your teacher preparation program.
- Generalist Core Subjects EC-6th grade TExES #291 exam
- Offered in both paper and computer-based formats
- 5 hours to complete 267 multiple-choice questions divided among five main subject areas:
- English Language Arts, Reading, and the Science of Teaching Reading
- Social Studies
- Fine Arts, Health, and Physical Education
TExES refers to the Texas Examination of Educator Standards, the state’s assessment service administered by the Texas Education Agency in association with Educational Testing Services (ETS). You can register online to take your TExES exam, which is offered at testing locations throughout the state, including in:
- San Antonio
- Fort Worth
- El Paso
- Corpus Christi
Once you have completed at least a bachelor’s degree, a teacher preparation program for a General EC-6th grade teacher, and you have passed your required tests, you will be ready to submit an online application through the state’s Educator Certification Online System (ECOS). Once you have been certified by the Texas Education Agency you will be qualified for preschool teacher jobs that require you to be a state-certified teacher.
Step 3. Manage and Improve Your Texas Preschool Teaching Credentials
If you have a Texas Education Agency preschool teaching certification, you will need to earn 150 hours of approved continuing professional education by attending workshops, earning college credits, or completing online classes that relate to the subject of early childhood education.
If you are a Texas Head Start teacher who does not yet have a teaching certification or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, you can complete your studies towards this goal.
If you are developing your credentials according to the Early Childhood Career Lattice, you can continue to level-up by improving your education and experience.
Whatever preschool teaching qualification you choose to pursue, the common denominator for improving any of these is education. Preschools across the state recognize that teachers who have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL in early childhood education have a solid foundation in their field of expertise and are committed to providing the best preschool education possible. In some of the state’s more competitive markets, having a degree in this subject is an entry-level requirement.
To learn more about news regarding preschool teachers, professional events, and educational opportunities, you can consider looking into any of the following Texas organizations:
- Texas Head Start
- Texas Early Childhood Professional Development System (TECPDS)
- Texas Association for the Education of Young Children (TAEYC)
- Texans Care for Children
- Children’s Defense Fund – Texas
Texas Preschool Teacher Salaries
ECE teachers, special educators, and administrators in Texas earn salaries on par with national averages. But when it comes to salaries for the highest paid ECE teachers (75th percentile and above), Texas comes out ahead, beating the national average by between $7,000-$9,000.
Statewide, salaries for ECE professionals typically fall within these ranges (median, 75th, and 90th percentile):
- Preschool Teachers: $28,230 – $48,480 – $61,500
- Preschool Special Education Teachers: $52,960 – $60,510 – $66,090
- Preschool Administrators: $44,230 – $52,620 – $79,090
The following information provides a closer look at earning potential for early childhood educators in Texas’ largest metropolitan areas, along with a sampling of some of the employers found there:
The Dallas Independent School District offers pre-K programs throughout its many schools. Dallas Pre-K is free to eligible students, and tuition-based for all other students in the district. The Dallas ISD offers three-year-old, four-year-old, and Head Start collaborative preschool programs at select schools throughout the district.
There is also a wide array of other types of preschool programs in this massive metro area, including private programs, learning center-based programs, and faith-based programs, such as:
- Ridgewood Park Preschool
- Northaven Cooperative Preschool
- Little Saints Preschool
- Fair Oaks Day School
- Rosewood Academy
Whether it’s in a private preschool program, district-based program, or a Head Start program, ECE professionals in Dallas can expect to earn respectable salaries:
- Median: $28,230
- 75th percentile: $49,920
- 90th percentile: $59,920
Preschool special education teachers:
- Median: $58,090
- 75th percentile: $62,740
- 90th percentile: $67,250
- Median: $46,300
- 75th percentile: $54,910
- 90th percentile: $77,310
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land
The Houston Independent School District is home to a comprehensive pre-K program that offers free early learning for the district’s at-risk or economically disadvantaged children. If room is available, students who don’t meet eligibility requirements may also attend through the district’s tuition-based preschool program. Currently, there are 155 campuses throughout the metro Houston area that offer pre-K.
Head Start programs are also widely available here, as are faith-based and other private programs. Just some of the Head Start locations include:
- Harris Head Start
- Advance Head Start
- Sheffield Head Start
- Garden Villa Head Start
- Klein Early Head Start/Head Start
ECE teachers, preschool special education teachers, and preschool administrators working in Houston can expect to earn salaries within these ranges:
- Median: $26,750
- 75th percentile: $51,630
- 90th percentile: $62,990
Preschool special education teachers:
- Median: $58,900
- 75th percentile: $63,410
- 90th percentile: $76,200
- Median: $42,970
- 75th percentile: $50,320
- 90th percentile: $85,590
San Antonio-New Braunfels
San Antonio’s commitment to its youngest learners is evident through its Pre-K 4 SA, a comprehensive pre-K program for all eligible students living in the district. Pre-K 4 SA is free to eligible children, and all other children can attend through its sliding-scale tuition program.
Head Start programs are abundant here, as are private and learning center-based preschools. A sampling of just some of the preschool programs in the San Antonio metro area include:
- Discovery School
- Pre-K 4 SA Education Center
- Cadence Academy
- The Serendipity School
- Giant Steps Early Learning School
- San Antonio Head Start
Whether working in one of the area Head Start programs, Pre-K 4 SA education centers, or in private preschool programs, preschool teachers, special education teachers, and preschool administrators can expect to earn the following in San Antonio:
- Median: $30,250
- 75th percentile: $55,620
- 90th percentile: $61,690
Preschool special education teachers:
- Median: $45,750
- 75th percentile: $53,340
- 90th percentile: $61,970
- Median: $43,960
- 75th percentile: $51,190
- 90th percentile: $63,970
The Austin Independent School District offers a Pre-K program for three- and four-year olds in the district. Pre-K for three-year-olds is offered at a select number of elementary schools in the Austin ISD, while pre-K for four-year-olds is offered at most Austin elementary schools. Children who meet specific eligibility requirements can attend these programs free of charge; all other children can attend through the district’s tuition-based Pre-K program.
In addition to district-based preschool programs and the federally funded Head Start programs, the earliest learners in Austin can attend one of the many unique, private programs found here, such as:
- Academia Preescolar Spanish Immersion
- Austin STEM Academy
- Children’s Network Early Learning Center
- Good Earth Farm School
- Eco Kids Preschool
- Highland Montessori School
Preschool teachers, special education preschool teachers, and preschool administrators in the Austin area earn the following salaries:
- Median: $28,650
- 75th percentile: $37,020
- 90th percentile: $67,580
Preschool special education teachers:
- Median: $37,260
- 75th percentile: $48,340
- 90th percentile: $58,820
- Median: $46,010
- 75th percentile: $56,390
- 90th percentile: $80,200
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_tx.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 Texas Workforce Commission 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.