Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in Utah

The Utah State Board of Education is seriously committed to providing positive and beneficial learning experiences to the state’s earliest learners. Early childhood education options here are abundant, thanks to the many district-led programs, federally funded Head Start programs, and private schools.

And the future just keeps looking brighter for Utah’s aspiring early childhood educators. According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, there were some 1,260 preschool teachers in the state in 2016; by 2026, this number is projected to jump to 1,720, representing an increase of about 460 teachers.

Your passion for teaching and commitment to creating a better future for Utah have brought you here, but now it’s time to complete the education and earn the credentials you’ll need to begin making a difference in the lives of Utah’s youngest learners.

To become a preschool teacher in Utah, complete the following steps:

Earn a Degree in the Early Childhood Education Field
Consider the Preschool Qualification Standards in Utah
Maintain and Upgrade Your Preschool Teaching Qualifications

 


 

Step 1. Earn a Degree in the Early Childhood Education Field

The Utah Department of Health’s Child Care Licensing Program requires early education teachers to hold an associate’s degree in early childhood education at minimum. Specific education requirements for preschool teachers are detailed in Step 2.

While earning an associate’s degree in the field of early childhood education satisfies the education requirements for licensure, many of Utah’s best private preschools specify a bachelor’s degree as the minimum requirement for employment.

Earning a more advanced degree such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL with a concentration in early childhood education will further add to your qualifications.

While studying early childhood education, expect courses in:

  • Orientation to preschool and elementary education
  • Educational psychology for early childhood teachers
  • Education of exceptional children and children with special needs
  • Early childhood education and science, language arts, mathematics, and reading
  • Storytelling as education
  • Inter-cultural communications with preschoolers and their parents or guardians
  • Student teaching in the preschool classroom

 


 

Step 2. Consider the Preschool Qualification Standards in Utah

There are different types of preschools in Utah, the most common of which are:

  • Head Start preschool programs
  • Private preschools and childcare centers

Head Start Preschool Programs

Head start is a publicly-funded preschool program that focuses on providing quality education for Utah’s underprivileged youths to prepare them for early success in grade school. In 2017, this program served more than 6,700 three and four-year-olds at 117 locations throughout the state.

To become a preschool teacher in Utah’s Head Start program, the official minimum requirement is having an associate’s degree. However as part of a nationwide initiative aimed at improving teacher qualifications, many Head Start programs require higher credentials, especially from their lead teachers.

A recent preschool teacher job description for a Head Start position in Salt Lake City specified the following minimum applicant qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in any one of the following subjects:
    • Early childhood education
    • Family and consumer studies
    • Other related fields with an emphasis on early childhood essential topics

The job announcement also stated a preference for applicants with one year of prior experience teaching in Head Start or a related program, and specified that salary would increase depending on the applicant’s level of education.

Preschools and parents often consider the preschool teacher qualifications for Head Start programs to be the benchmark standard that ensures a desired level of educator quality.

Private Preschools and Child Care Centers

Private preschools and childcare centers in Utah teach tens of thousands of preschoolers every year. The state’s Child Care Licensing Program, an agency under the direction of the Utah Department of Health, regulates these types of facilities.

The Child Care Licensing Program maintains specific requirements for the preschools and child care centers under its jurisdiction as well as the preschool teachers and staff who work at these facilities. The lead preschool teacher or director at these facilities must fulfill the following preschool teacher certification requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Be able to pass a criminal background check
  • Meet one of the following education requirements:
    • A college degree (associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate) that includes successful completion of at least 12 semester credits in early childhood development courses
    • Utah Early Childhood Career Ladder Certification at levels 8,9, or 10
    • Hold a current and valid national certification such as:
      • The National Child Care Association’s Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) credential
      • The Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition’s Child Development Associate (CDA) credential
      • Any other national credential recognized by the Utah Department of Health
      • The National Child Care Association’s National Administrator Credential (NAC) plus either:
        • Completion of 12 semester credits from a college or university in the subject of early childhood development
            • Child Development Ages and Stages
            • Learning in the Early Years
            • A Great Place for Kids
            • Strong and Smart
            • Learning to Get Along
            • Advanced Child Development Completion of six specific courses offered through the one of Utah’s Child Care Resource and Referral agencies:

 

Utah Early Childhood Career Ladder Certification

The Utah Early Childhood Career Ladder Certification was developed by the Utah Office of Child Care with the goal of increasing the quality of early childhood education throughout the state. Many preschools will require prospective preschool teachers to have a certification at a specified minimum level on the ladder. To fulfill the requirements to become a lead preschool teacher and obtain a Utah Early Childhood Career Ladder Certification at level 8 requires meeting one of the following requirements:

  • Fulfilling the education requirements for the previous levels of certification and taking at least 40 hours of specialized classes for your specific area of endorsement, such as:
    • Infant and toddler
    • Special needs
    • Guidance and emotional wellness
    • Family childcare
    • Theories and best practices
  • Completing continuing education courses in your specific area of endorsement
  • Earning three college credits in early childhood education or early childhood development

Earning Utah Early Childhood Career Ladder Certification at level higher levels requires:

  • Level 9 – one of the following two options:
    • Earn an associate’s degree that includes at least 15 semester credits in early childhood education
    • Hold a Level 8 Certification and an associate’s degree in any field
  • Level 10 – one of the following two options:
    • Earn a bachelor’s degree that includes at least 15 semester credits in early childhood education
    • Hold a Level 8 Certification and a bachelor’s degree in any field

To reward competent preschool teachers, Utah also offers pay bonuses to educators who participate in the Early Childhood Career Ladder Certification program, with 2019 bonuses being awarded on the following scale according to education level:

  • Level 1 – $100
  • Level 2-3 – $200
  • Level 4 – $300
  • Level 5-8 – $400
  • Level 9 – $500 associate’s degree
  • Level 10 – $1,000 bachelor’s degree
  • Level 11 – $1,500 master’s degree
  • Level 12 – $2,000 doctorate degree

 


 

Step 3. Maintain and Upgrade Your Preschool Teaching Qualifications

In order for a facility to maintain its operating license, all preschool teachers/directors, assistants, and caregivers who work in preschools and child care centers overseen by the Child Care Licensing Program must complete at least 20 hours of child care training on an annual basis. This must include:

  • Signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect
  • Principles of child growth and development
  • Positive early childhood guidance
  • Your specific employer’s emergency and disaster plans
  • Current child care laws and regulations

To be eligible for a Utah Early Childhood Career Ladder Certification pay bonus, you must earn at least 10 hours of approved training each year.

Earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field of early childhood education can satisfy annual training requirements. In addition to fulfilling training requirements, having a four-year or advanced degree can qualify you for:

  • The highest levels of certification on the Utah Early Childhood Career Ladder
  • Advanced career opportunities, especially in Utah’s most competitive markets
  • Higher salary bonuses and additional promotional opportunities
  • Flexibility to start your own preschool programs and initiatives

You can find additional resources regarding news, professional development opportunities, and employment in the field of early childhood education through organizations such as:


Utah Preschool Teacher Salaries

Statewide, Utah’s ECE teachers, preschool special education teachers, and administrators earn salaries that fall within these ranges (median, 75th and 90th percentile):

  • Preschool Teachers: $28,200 – $33,100 – $39,410
  • Preschool Special Education Teachers: $35,730 – $64,960 – $97,560
  • Preschool Administrators: $35,830 – $46,270 – $76,280

The following information provides a closer look at what members of the early childhood education team can expect to earn in Utah’s largest metro areas, along with some of the employers found in each of these areas:

Salt Lake City

The Salt Lake City School District offers preschool programs for three- and four-year-olds. The program here is largely tuition-based, although some children may qualify for reduced or free tuition through Title I. In addition to the many district-based programs in the metro area, Salt Lake City is home to many Head Start and private programs, such as:

  • The Waterford School
  • Challenger School
  • La Petite Academy of Salt Lake City
  • Children’s Choice
  • U of U Head Start
  • Slcap Headstart Central East

Salary ranges for preschool teachers, preschool special education teachers, and preschool administrators in Salt Lake City are as follows:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $28,710
  • 75th percentile: $31,830
  • 90th percentile: $39,470

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $28,370
  • 75th percentile: $31,420
  • 90th percentile: $37,800

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $37,450
  • 75th percentile: $54,780
  • 90th percentile: $82,770

Provo-Orem

Preschoolers in Provo who qualify may attend the city’s Mountainland Head Start or one of the area’s many center-based and private preschools, such as:

  • Sunrise Preschool
  • Adventure Time
  • Alphabet Adventures Preschool
  • Orem KinderCare
  • The Kids Connection

ECE professionals in Provo can expect to earn the following:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $26,740
  • 75th percentile: $30,330
  • 90th percentile: $35,230

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $43,340
  • 75th percentile: $57,480
  • 90th percentile: $72,660

 

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_ut.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 Utah Department of Workforce Services 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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