Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in Wisconsin

By all accounts, Wisconsin’s efforts to provide all of the state’s earliest learners with quality pre-K learning are on point, earning it a fifth-place spot among all states in the nation for providing access to free preschool programs for four-year-olds. Wisconsin’s rank was determined by the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) which, as of the 2017-18 school year, reported that 98% of all Wisconsin school districts offered universal pre-K programs (called 4K programs here). Nearly 49,000 four-year-olds throughout the state were served by the state’s universal pre-K program during this time.

To become part of the outstanding preschool system in Wisconsin, you’ll need a commitment to creating a positive and nurturing environment for the state’s youngest learners and the appropriate education and credentials.

Here are the steps you’ll take to become a preschool teacher in Wisconsin:

Earn a College Degree in Early Childhood Education
Pass the Exams Required to Become a Licensed Teacher
Maintain Your Wisconsin Preschool Teaching Qualifications

 


 

Step 1. Earn a College Degree

As you prepare yourself to become a preschool teacher it is helpful to be aware of the exact minimum requirements you will need to meet to work in Wisconsin. According to state law, you must meet the following:

  • Be at least 18 years of age with a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Have experience of at least 80 full days working with preschool-aged children
  • Complete at least ONE of the following:

 

    • Bachelor’s degree in education
    • Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction teaching license

While there are many paths to becoming eligible to teach as a preschool educator, you will be well served with a bachelor’s degree in the early childhood education field and a Department of Public Instruction teaching license.

 

Wisconsin Head Start Program

Wisconsin’s Head Start program is part of a nationwide effort to promote quality preschool education for kids living below the poverty line. As of 2019, there was a total of 15,441 preschoolers in the Wisconsin Head Start program.

To ensure the best quality of instruction, this program hires preschool teachers who meet a certain level of professionalism. A recent preschool teacher job description from the state’s Head Start program stated the following minimum requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education
  • Department of Public Instruction teaching license in Early Childhood (EC) Regular Education or EC Special Education

These Head Start preschool teacher qualifications are often viewed as a basic benchmark for many preschool programs throughout Wisconsin.

Assistant Preschool Teacher Positions

Before you become a preschool teacher you may also wish to explore a lesser skilled position in this field to gain experience, such as that of an Assistant Preschool Teacher. To qualify for this position you will need meet the following conditions:

  • Be at least 18 years of age and meet one of the following requirements:
    • Complete a non-credit course in early childhood education before or within six months of hire
    • Complete a college course in early childhood education before or within six months of hire
    • Complete an assistant preschool teacher training course that is approved by Wisconsin

 


 

Step 2. Pass the Exams Required to Become a Licensed Teacher

If you are becoming a preschool teacher through Department of Public Instruction licensure, you will also need to complete the following testing requirements, in addition to earning at least a bachelor’s degree and completing a teacher preparation program:

 

  • Elementary Education: Content Knowledge – this will evaluate your understanding of the content and pedagogy that must go into teaching core academic subjects. You will be allotted 120 minutes to complete this exam, which is comprised of 120 questions divided evenly among four subjects:
    • Language arts and reading
    • Social studies
    • Science
    • Mathematics

These exams are both administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). You can take these tests at ETS testing locations in:

  • Green Bay at 601 South Military Avenue
  • Pewaukee near Milwaukee at 2108 Silvernail Road

Once you have completed your education and testing requirements you will be ready to make an application with the Department of Public Instruction for a preschool teaching license. You can do this through the Educator Licensing Online System.

 


 

Step 3. Maintain Your Wisconsin Preschool Teaching Qualifications

If you are a preschool teacher or assistant preschool teacher who works more than 20 hours a week you will need to participate in at least 25 hours of continuing professional education annually. If you work 20 or fewer hours you will need to earn at least 15 hours of annual continuing professional education. This education can be in any of the following subject areas:

  • Early childhood education
  • Child development or guidance
  • Health, nutrition, and first aid as they pertain to children
  • Caring for children with special needs

Activities that earn continuing education credits include:

  • College and university courses
  • Workshops, lectures, and conferences
  • In-service preschool trainings
  • Observation at other early childhood programs

If you need to maintain a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction teaching license you will need to create a Professional Development Plan that outlines specific ways you can improve yourself as a preschool teacher. This will be scrutinized by a review team who will offer you feedback and suggestions on how you can improve and succeed at the goals you set for yourself as part of your plan. Early childhood educators often elect to include college courses as concrete steps they can take to improve their teaching, and this can lead to a master’s degree.

One of the ways to fulfill requirements of both your continuing professional education and a teaching license is to earn a master’s degree such as an M.A.T., M.Ed. or MATL combined with a specialization in early childhood education. Preschool teachers who have earned a master’s degree have made a demonstrable commitment to providing high quality early childhood education and doing what is best for their students.

As you continue researching preschool teacher jobs in Wisconsin, you may also find it helpful to look into professional early childhood education associations located throughout the state. These include:


Wisconsin Preschool Teacher Salaries

According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, there were 14,080 preschool teachers, preschool special education teachers, and preschool administrators working in Wisconsin as of 2016, and steady and consistent job growth is expected for each of these roles for years to come.

As part of the ECE team in Wisconsin you can expect to earn a salary that falls within these ranges (median, top 25%, and top 10%):

  • Preschool Teacher: $24,250 – $29,320 – $36,530
  • Preschool Special Education Teachers: $43,520 – $57,350 – $70,810
  • Preschool Administrators: $42,060 – $52,950 – $70,530

The following information shows some of employers found in Wisconsin’s largest metro areas, along with salary averages for ECE professionals there:

Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis

The Milwaukee metropolitan area is home to a number of options for early learning, including district-based programs, private programs, and Head Start programs. In fact, there are 35 locations for Head Start throughout the area, some of which include:

  • ALBA
  • Allen-Field School
  • Browning School
  • Carson Academy
  • Franklin School
  • Hayes Bilingual School

Work as a preschool teacher, preschool administrator, or preschool special education teacher in Milwaukee and you can expect to earn a salary that falls within these ranges:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $24,410
  • 75th percentile: $28,910
  • 90th percentile: $33,930

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $58,380
  • 75th percentile: $68,660
  • 90th percentile: $78,420

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $46,420
  • 75th percentile: $58,480
  • 90th percentile: $70,000

Green Bay

The Green Bay Area Public School District provides the state-funded 4K program, which is offered at 20 of the district’s elementary schools, through four Head Start programs, and through partnerships with eight community preschools, including:

  • Bellin Encompass
  • Carol Bush Encompass
  • Cornerstone Encompass
  • Oak Learning Center
  • Peace Nursery Center
  • Rosebush Encompass
  • Ruth Helf Encompass
  • YWCA

ECE professionals in the Green Bay metro area earn the following:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $24,150
  • 75th percentile: $38,820
  • 90th percentile: $54,520

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $49,770
  • 75th percentile: $68,400
  • 90th percentile: $76,220

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $36,370
  • 75th percentile: $40,800
  • 90th percentile: $49,780

Madison

Madison’s 4K program is available through the Madison Metropolitan School District at 13 elementary program sites (two of which are bilingual sites) and through 22 early childhood/educational sites throughout the area, such as:

  • Animal Crackers
  • Bernie’s Place
  • Goodman Community Center
  • New Morning Nursery School Program
  • University Houses Preschool
  • YCMA- East/West

As part of the ECE community in the Madison metro area, you can expect to earn a salary within these ranges:

Preschool teachers:

  • Median: $27,500
  • 75th percentile: $31,490
  • 90th percentile: $37,100

Preschool special education teachers:

  • Median: $67,090
  • 75th percentile: $82,040
  • 90th percentile: $95,050

Preschool administrators:

  • Median: $42,150
  • 75th percentile: $61,450
  • 90th percentile: $96,960

 

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_wi.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 Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development 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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