Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in Virginia

Statewide, there are more than 10,000 preschool teachers in Virginia. This number that may seem large, but it actually works out to less than one preschool teacher for every 50 children under the age of five.

Preschool teachers are an important resource as they are one of the most influential factors in determining the success of young children as they enter primary school. Virginia has recognized this, and that is why the state tasks the Virginia Department of Social Services with regulating and certifying child care, day care, and preschool facilities.

To become a preschool teacher in Virginia who is both competitive and qualified, you will need to work your way through the following 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


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. Last year 17,410 students participated in Virginia Head Start programs.

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):

    • Reading for Virginia Educators: Elementary and Special Education
      • 150 minutes to complete 100 select-response and three constructed-response questions on the topics of:
        • Assessment and diagnostic teaching
        • Oral communication and oral language
        • Writing and research
        • Reading development
        • Analysis and application of these subjects


  • 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 through June 30, 2015
    • 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 at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, located on One Partnership Drive
  • Alexandria at 4401 Ford Avenue, Suite 200
  • Bristol at 2426 Lee Highway, Suite 100
  • Chesapeake at 660 Independence Parkway in the Battlefield Corporate Park, Suite 300
  • Fairfax at 7630 Little River Turnpike in the ACT Testing Center, room 3 fifth floor
  • Falls Church at 800 West Broad Street, Suite 450
  • Glen Allen at 11547 Nuckols Road, Suite B
  • Lynchburg at 8116 Timberlake Road, Suite 200
  • Roanoke at 2149 Electric Road

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 amount 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.

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:

Virginia Preschool Teacher Salaries

According to the Virginia Employment Commission, the 2012 median preschool teacher salary in Virginia was $28,407 a year. Entry-level preschool teachers averaged $18,649 a year while those with experience earned $39,888 a year on average.

Some 8,700 preschool teachers were employed in Virginia in 2012.The demand for preschool teachers in Virginia is expected to grow 1.8% a year in the ten year period leading up to 2020 according to the Virginia Employment Commission. This increase is 38.5% greater than that projected for occupations as a whole in Virginia.

Virginia’s early childhood education teacher salaries varied substantially across the state. They were highest in all categories in the Lynchburg area:

Virginia City
Entry-level Salary
Experienced Salary
Virginia Beach*

*These salaries are for the Virginia portions of these multi-state metropolitan areas.

The Virginia Department of Education places a high priority on creating a high quality environment for preschool education. It has developed Foundational Blocks for Early Learning designed to help teachers and parents provide four year olds with the skills to succeed in kindergarten.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a detailed breakdown of 2013 Virginia pre-K teacher salaries throughout the state:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford VA
Charlottesville VA
Danville VA
Estimate not released
Harrisonburg VA
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol TN-VA
Lynchburg VA
Richmond VA
Roanoke VA
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division
Winchester VA-WV
Southwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Southside Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Northeastern Virginia nonmetropolitan area
Northwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area

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