Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in Virginia

Virginia has a number of efforts in place to ensure that the state’s at-risk and economically disadvantaged children have access to early learning. While there is a large number of Head Start programs throughout Virginia, the state is still working hard to identify at-risk children who are not being served by these programs, providing solutions that ensure no child in the state goes without a quality early childhood education. The Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) and the Virginia Preschool Initiative Plus (VPI+) programs have been developed to bridge the gap ensure no child slips through the cracks.

Both state-funded programs distribute money to schools and community-based organizations to provide high-quality preschool programs for children who are not served by Head Start. This is good news for the future of Virginia, just as much as it is for the state’s neediest children and the early childhood education professionals who provide them with a safe and structured environment in which to learn and grow.

If you want to become part of Virginia’s efforts to provide the state’s youngest learners with outstanding pre-K programs, you’ll need the right education and credentials.

To become a preschool teacher in Virginia, following these steps:

Earn a Degree in the Early Childhood Education Field
Consider Your Qualification Options
Maintain and Improve Your Teaching Qualifications



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

Individual preschools in Virginia can set their own job requirements for teachers based on the standards maintained by the agency through which the school is accredited. These accreditation agencies include:

The requirements set by these accreditation agencies can include any of the following:

  • Associate’s degree in early childhood education or related field
  • Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field
  • Master’s degree such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL and a concentration in early childhood education or related field
  • Virginia Department of Education teaching license in early/primary education for preschool through grade three


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Whichever of these programs you choose to complete, you can expect to take courses that focus on early childhood education. Universities, colleges, and online schools throughout the state offer an early childhood education curriculum that includes:

  • Early childhood learning, cognition, and perception
  • Child psychology
  • Psychology of language development and psycholinguistics
  • Infancy and early childhood development
  • Readying development and psychology
  • Multicultural education, race, and ethnicity
  • Teaching young children with disabilities
  • Linguistic and cognitive development
  • Student teaching and student practicum

If you are earning a Department of Education teaching license, you must earn at least a bachelor’s degree in the early childhood education field and complete an educator preparation program. This preparation program will focus on pedagogy and will include a student teaching segment where you will be assigned to work in a preschool classroom.



Step 2. Consider Your Qualification Options

As a starting point to determine the minimum preschool teacher certification requirements you will need to meet, it is helpful to begin by being aware of the laws that govern preschools.

According to Virginia law, private preschools need to be accredited by a state-approved accreditation agency:

Upon earning this accreditation, a preschool may apply for certification with the Virginia Department of Social Services. This process results in two sets of qualifications that preschool teachers must meet – those imposed by the accrediting agency and those imposed by the Department of Social Services.

While the Department of Social Services mainly regulates requirements such as passing a background check and being at least 18 years of age for independent work, your main concern will be to check with the accrediting agency of your prospective preschool employer to specifically see what qualifications it demands of you as a preschool teacher.

Earning a degree in a field related to early childhood education is one of the best methods for meeting many of these agencies’ qualifying preschool teacher guidelines.

Head Start Preschools

The Virginia Head Start Program provides preschools across the state with grants to offer economically disadvantaged students a high-quality education in preparation for grade school success.

One of the ways these programs ensure a quality education is by hiring preschool teachers with a degree in early childhood education or another closely related field. Prospective Head Start preschool teachers that have a bachelor’s degree are always shown preference; and in many instances it is considered a job requirement.

Preschool teachers licensed by the Department of Education can also receive preferential consideration for hire into Virginia Head Start programs.

Virginia Department of Education Licensure

Some preschools in Virginia may prefer or require that you be licensed by the Department of Education as an early/primary education teacher for grade levels preschool through third grade. In addition to earning at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to early childhood education and completing an educator preparation program, you will also need to pass two tests that are administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS):


  • Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects – this test is comprised of four subject areas for which you will have 3.5 hours to complete:
    • Test version required beginning July 1, 2015
    • Testing subject areas:
      • Language arts and reading – approximately 65 questions
      • Social studies – approximately 55 questions
      • Science – approximately 50 questions
      • Mathematics – approximately 40 questions

You can take these two exams at the following testing locations throughout Virginia:

  • Abingdon
  • Alexandria
  • Bristol
  • Chesapeake
  • Fairfax
  • Falls Church
  • Glen Allen
  • Lynchburg
  • Roanoke

Once you have completed your education and testing requirements, you will be able to submit an application packet to the Department of Education for licensure as a preschool teacher in Virginia.

Early Childhood Education Certificate

If you are just starting out on your academic pathway, you may also wish to consider earning a certification in the field of early childhood development. These types of credentials are offered online and at community colleges with programs available to all residents of Virginia, and can be viewed as a first step towards a degree.

One such credential is the Preschool Career Studies Certificate. This requires completion of 18 college credits in courses such as:

  • Introduction to early childhood development
  • Teaching art, music, and dance to children
  • Child health and nutrition



Step 3. Maintain and Improve Your Teaching Qualifications

Each accrediting agency for preschools in Virginia will have its own continuing education and training requirements, and these often include a specified number of hours that must be spent completing activities like:

  • College courses in the field of early childhood education
  • State-sponsored or agency training programs concerning subjects such as:
    • Child welfare and abuse
    • Nutrition and proper food handling
    • Preschool emergency procedures
    • First aid and emergency medical care
    • Child development and learning


  • In-service training programs
  • Online continuing education programs

If you are required to maintain a Virginia Department of Education teaching license, you will need to earn 180 professional development points within five years. You can earn these by attending early childhood education conferences, professional activities, and by taking relevant college courses. If you have not earned a master’s degree, at least half of your professional development points need to be earned through college courses. Over time preschool teachers licensed by the Department of Education can earn a master’s degree by fulfilling their license renewal requirements.

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Ultimately, many preschool teachers in Virginia choose to further their skills and credentials by earning a master’s degree with a specialization in a field that is related to early childhood education. In addition to fulfilling continuing education and training requirements, a master’s degree has benefits for both the preschool teacher and his or her students:

  • Improved foundation and expertise in the field of early childhood education
  • Increased employment opportunities, especially at some of the state’s highest-quality preschools
  • Increased job security and mobility
  • Increased potential for student learning, development, and advancement

Both prospective preschool teachers just starting out on their path to potentially lifelong and fulfilling careers as well as more experienced preschool teachers can benefit from becoming affiliated with a locally-based professional organization. These offer information regarding legislative developments in the field of early childhood education, continuing education and training opportunities, and employment resources for preschools across the state. Virginia’s professional early childhood education organizations include:

Ready to start your preschool teaching career with a bachelor’s degree in ECE or advance your career with a Master’s degree in ECE? Check out our comprehensive list of ECE degrees by State at various levels to determine what program is right for you.

Virginia Preschool Teacher Salaries

There’s plenty to get excited about when it comes to early childhood education jobs in Virginia.

First, according to the Virginia Workforce Connection, there were 11,290 preschool teachers, special educators and administrators working as part of the ECE community in the Commonwealth in 2016. By 2026 this number is expected to increase by more than 1,000.

Second, Virginia’s early childhood education professionals consistently earn more than the national average. For example, the average salary for the top 25% percent of preschool teachers in Virginia is about $5,000 more than the national average in the same salary range.

The following BLS data breaks down average salaries for Virginia’s preschool teachers, preschool special education teachers, and ECE administrators (median, top 25%, and top 10%):

  • Preschool Teachers: $30,680 – $43,960 – $67,040
  • Preschool Special Education Teachers: $62,230 – $79,320 – $101,180
  • Preschool Administrators: $53,860 – $62,860 – $82,330

Additional salary information for early childhood education professionals in Virginia’s largest metro areas is provided below, along with a sampling of employers in those areas:

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC

The earliest learners in the Virginia Beach metro area have access to a wide array of preschool and pre-K options, including the Pre-K program in Virginia Beach City Public Schools, which is funded by the VPI program. Just some of the preschool options available here include:

  • Primrose of Virginia Beach South
  • The Goddard School of Lynnhaven
  • Kiddy Academy of Virginia Beach
  • Sunnybrook Day School
  • Virginia Beach School of the Arts
  • Bayside Presbyterian Preschool

In the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News area, members of the ECE team earn salaries that exceed the state average, in many cases. For example, the top 25% of preschool teachers in this metro area earn an average salary of $51,360 – that’s more than $7,000 above the state average for the same salary range.

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $27,290
  • 75th percentile: $51,360
  • 90th percentile: $77,330

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $69,660
  • 75th percentile: $78,330
  • 90th percentile: $88,370

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $56,700
  • 75th percentile: $69,800
  • 90th percentile: $88,680


Preschool teachers, special educators, and administrators working in the Richmond Public Schools are found in one of two locations: VPI classrooms, which are general education classrooms that have one teacher and one instructional assistant per class; and VPI-I classrooms, which are inclusion classrooms that allow students with disabilities to learn alongside their non-disabled peers in general education classrooms.

In addition to district-based and Head Start programs, there is a variety of private and learning center-based programs in Richmond, such as:

  • Chesterbrook Academy
  • Stephens Preschool
  • Hilltop Preschool
  • La Petite Academy
  • First Baptist Preschool
  • Mary Scott School
  • Tiny Tykes Preschool

At these and other locations in Richmond, ECE professionals earn salaries that fall within these ranges:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $29,120
  • 75th percentile: $44,350
  • 90th percentile: $63,030

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $48,860
  • 75th percentile: $59,300
  • 90th percentile: $68,480

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $42,010
  • 75th percentile: $59,550
  • 90th percentile: $79,400
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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. 

 Job growth projections sourced from the Virginia Workforce Connection and published in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026) database – Employment conditions in your area may vary.

All salary and job growth data accessed in September 2019.

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