Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in Wisconsin

Wisconsin invests heavily in its future by requiring its preschool teachers to be well-qualified through a comprehensive education. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families is responsible for the regulation of preschools and early childhood educators throughout the state.

Dedicated individuals who are committed to creating a positive and nurturing environment for the state’s youngest learners can competitively qualify for preschool teacher jobs in Wisconsin by completing the following steps:

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
    • Certificate as a Child Development Specialist from the Wisconsin Bureau of Apprenticeship

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. By the most recent count, there were 42 Head Start preschool programs operating across Wisconsin, with a total enrollment of 14,377 preschoolers.

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 hours or fewer 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, the 2012 average preschool teacher salary in Wisconsin was $27,067 a year. The average salaries ranged from $19,344 for those in the 25th percentile to $31,325 for more experienced preschool teachers in the 75th percentile.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the state’s early childhood education salaries in the average and 75th percentile categories were highest in the La Crosse and Appleton areas.

Preschool teachers in the 25th percentile earned the highest average salary in the Madison area:

Wisconsin City
25th Percentile Salary
75th Percentile Salary
Eau Claire
Fond du Lac
Green Bay
La Crosse

The field of preschool teaching is growing throughout the country as policy makers and educators place an increasing emphasis on early childhood education. The number of preschool teachers in Wisconsin is expected to increase by 7% in the ten year period ending in 2020 according to the state’s Department of Workforce Development.

This Department expects that 3,150 preschool teacher jobs will become available during this time frame. 78.7% of them are expected to come from the need to replace teachers who will leave the work force.

5,280 preschool teachers were employed in Wisconsin in 2012. More than one third of them were located in the Milwaukee area. Janesville had the sixth highest concentration of preschool jobs in the country in 2013 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS provides a detailed breakdown of 2013 Wisconsin pre-K teacher salaries throughout the state:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Appleton WI
Estimate not released
Duluth MN-WI
Eau Claire WI
Fond du Lac WI
Green Bay WI
Janesville WI
La Crosse WI-MN
Lake County-Kenosha County IL-WI Metropolitan Division
Madison WI
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis WI
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI
Oshkosh-Neenah WI
Racine WI
Sheboygan WI
Wausau WI
Eastern Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area
West Central Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area
Estimate not released
South Central Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area
Southwestern Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area
Northern Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area

Back to Top