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What is Early Childhood Education?

Being an educator is a very important position in any state and in Arizona. Choosing to follow a career working with young children will give you an opportunity to play a major role in the development of those children's feelings and outlook on education. Someone seeking a teacher's position in early childhood education would be involved with children that range from infancy through about 9 years old.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), "employment of preschool teachers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected due to a continued focus on the importance of early childhood education."

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Steps to Become an Early Childhood Education Teacher in Arizona

When very young children enter school for the first time, it will play a critical role in their development and socialization with others as well as the development of their love of education. The job will be rewarding while also being challenging. It requires a person to be adaptable, dependable, and it demands integrity. There are many opportunities for someone considering this career path to earn their degree, which could include earning one online at your own pace.

Here we will look at some steps you can follow to become a preschool or early childhood educator in Arizona.

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Step 1. Get a Degree

Becoming a preschool teacher will require obtaining a high school diploma or its equivalent; you can then choose to go to a community college where you will earn your associate’s degree in early childhood education, then transfer to a four-year college, or you can go directly to a four-year university to earn your early childhood bachelor's degree. You will want to pursue a degree in early childhood education.

It is recommended that you look for opportunities to gain some experience. There may be chances while you are a high school student or while you are attending college to work as a teacher's assistant. If this opportunity is available, you should take advantage of it. Getting hands-on experience in real-world situations will greatly enhance your opportunities after completing your degree.

Step 2. Complete an Early Childhood Education Program with State Approval

The Arizona State Board of Education offers an approved teacher preparation program, and this is considered the most direct route to becoming an early educator or preschool teacher in Arizona. This program is offered to undergraduate and graduate level participants. Although this is the most direct route it is not the only one. It is also possible to earn the certification from a regionally accredited university. It will typically require that you have at least 37 semester hours in childhood education and another eight practicum semester hours. Additionally, you will need 4 semester hours of supervised field experience.

For all practical purposes, if someone is genuinely seeking a career as a preschool teacher in Arizona it will be necessary to obtain a four-year bachelor's degree. There are some jobs available at Childcare centers that would allow someone with a high school diploma or an associate's degree to work those positions, but they would be more basic jobs and lower pay. The jobs that would be available without a bachelor's degree will have fewer benefits and less long-term job stability.

If you would eventually want to move into higher positions as your career progresses, then you may even want to consider earning a master's degree. Postgraduate degrees are not an absolute requirement for this career path and are only necessary for certain higher positions such as administration.

Common coursework that you will want to take when earning your degree as a preschool teacher in early childhood development includes classroom management and behavior, instructional design, parent-child relations, instructional resources and technology, and child development. You’ll also often need to complete a student-teaching assignment to graduate. Working with an experienced teacher will give you valuable insights on how to help children learn to cooperate, areas to be concerned about with child safety, and how to best interact with parents.

Step 3. Complete the Arizona Educator Proficiency Assessment (AEPA)

The AEPA is required and you must achieve a passing score. There is a possible exception to this when you can demonstrate that you have at least three years of full-time teaching in early education with infants up to grade 3. You can then take an exam which will test your knowledge on early education and you must get a passing score. You will also need to show proof that you're qualified with Structured English Immersion (SEI).

Step 4. Obtain Your Provisional Certification

This certification will need to be applied for and once obtained it will be good for three years. It is specifically for birth to grade 3 or birth to age 8. You will be required to submit to fingerprinting.

Step 5. Complete Necessary Qualifications to Convert Provisional Certification to Standard and Beyond

This will require you to have at least two years of full-time teaching experience as well as approved SEI training. You will have to apply to have the provisional certification upgraded to a standard one. Once you are approved for a standard certificate it's good for 6 years in the state of Arizona. When it is time to renew that certification, you will have to show that you have 180 hours of professional development and 12 semester hours of additional education. It is common for teachers in Arizona to go for their master's degree to meet their requirements for professional development.

An online bachelor's degree in education is usually enough to work as an early education or preschool teacher. You may, however, want to work in senior teacher positions or as a principle or in another administrative position. These elevated responsibilities very often require a postgraduate degree in order to be considered a serious candidate for those positions. There are traditional opportunities for earning a postgraduate degree and there are also online degree programs available when pursuing a master's degree.

Some universities may require you to be a teacher in order to be accepted into a postgraduate program. This would usually mean that you've earned your bachelor's degree and have met other qualifications to be a teacher and that you have worked in some setting with children as an educator. Meeting these qualifications increase the likelihood that you can successfully complete your postgraduate degree.

Popular Career Choices

  • Preschool Teacher
  • Kindergarten Teacher
  • Elementary School Teacher
  • Special Education Teacher

Online Early Childhood Education in Arizona

Some key skills that you will need in this profession include the ability to help children learn to cooperate in social settings. You will also need to gain the skills of supervising and teaching very young children. Being able to communicate with parents is another skill that is of paramount importance if you're going to pursue this career.

When working with the youngest children a preschool teacher will help students learn through interactive activities and through play. These activities help children to develop their potential and improve language skills. Preschool teachers will engage children through various games that help them grow their social skills and some of these games can also begin to introduce mathematical concepts and even some ideas on science.

Storytelling is something that the children will enjoy, and it can often introduce ideas that help the children grow. As a preschool teacher, you will work with the children in small groups as well as one-on-one situations. Activities such as dance, music, art, and other creative activities will all be a part of daily lessons. The teacher will work with the children and engage them in discussions as well as collaborative problem-solving.

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Online Accredited Teaching Preparation Programs

When looking for an online accredited program in Arizona, you will have over 20 schools with education programs to choose from. Some of these focus on associates and bachelors, while others offer higher level degrees such as masters and doctoral programs. Depending on what you plan to teach, you will need to carefully select your program and make sure that it provides you with an education acceptable to Arizona’s Board of Education, who will be granting you your licensure.

Top Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Programs in Arizona

Here are some of the best colleges and universities in Arizona that offer accreditation from a US Department of Education-backed agency:

  • Arizona State University - Tempe

    Degrees Offered:

    • School Counseling and Guidance, M.S.
    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching, B.S.
    • Education, Other, B.S.
    • Elementary Education and Teaching, B.S. & M.S.
    • Music Teacher Education, B.S. & M.S.
    • Special Education and Teaching, B.S. &M.S.
    • ESL Teaching, M.S.

    Accreditation By: General Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission

  • Arizona State University -West

    Degrees Offered:

    • Education, Other, B.S.
    • Educational Leadership and Administration, M.S.
    • Elementary Education and Teaching, B.S. & M.S.
    • Special Education and Teaching,B.S. &M.S.

    Accreditation By: General Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission

  • Cochise College

    Degrees Offered:

    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching, A.S.
    • Elementary Education and Teaching, A.S.

    Accreditation By: General Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission

  • University of Phoenix

    Degrees Offered:

    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching, B.S. & M.S.
    • Educational Leadership & Administration, M.S. & EdD
    • Elementary Education and Teaching, B.S. & M.S.
    • Health Teacher Education, M.S.
    • Special Education and Teaching, M.S.
    • Teacher Assistant/Aide, A.S.
    • ESL Teaching, Post-grad Certificate

    Accreditation By: General Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission

  • North Arizona University

    Degrees Offered:

    • Art Teacher Education, B.S.
    • Bilingual and Multilingual Education, M.S.
    • School Counseling and Guidance Services, M.S.
    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching, B.S. & M.S.
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals Who are Developmentally Delayed, Post-grad Certification
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Autism, Post-grad Certification
    • Educational Leadership and Administration, M.S., EdD, Post-grad Certification
    • Elementary and Middle School Administration/Post Principalship, Post-grad Certification
    • Elementary Education and Teaching, B.S., M.S., & Under-grad Certificate
    • ESL Teaching, M.S. & Post-grad Certification

    Accreditation By: General Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission

  • University of Arizona

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bilingual and Multilingual Education, M.S.
    • School Counseling and Guidance Services, M.S. & EdD
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Speech or Language Impairments, Post-grad Certification
    • Educational Administration 7 Supervision, Post-grad Certification
    • Elementary Education & Teaching, B.S., M.S., & EdD
    • Kindergarten/Preschool Education and Teaching, B.S.
    • Physical Education Teaching and Coaching, B.S.
    • Reading Teacher Education, B.S., M.S., EdD, & Post-grad Certification
    • Special Education & Teaching, B.S., M.S., & EdD
    • ESL Teaching, M.S., EdD, & Post-grad Certification

    Accreditation By: General Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission

Potential Careers and Salaries for Graduates

Throughout the state, the starting average salary of preschool teachers will vary but on average they earn just under $28,000 a year. The bottom 10% can earn under $20,000 a year and the top 10% can earn over $40,000 a year. The state currently employs over 7,000 early education and preschool teachers and it is projecting a 30% growth over the next 10 years. This is a higher growth rate than expected in other areas of the country.

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Some parts of Arizona are projected to have even higher rates of growth. Cities such as Phoenix are expected to have as much as 32% growth over the next decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some areas of Arizona have some of the country's highest levels of employment of preschool teachers.

Anyone who loves children and wants to play a major role in their development may want to consider this profession. Because the State of Arizona is projected to have such significant growth in the coming years, it is a great choice for those wanting to be Preschool teachers in the state. Some statistics show that as many as half of the new jobs that will be available in the state will be connected to the increase in the population of children that need to be educated.

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Pre-school Teacher $23,500 $26,000 $45,600
Elementary School Teacher $35,900 $37,800 $50,000
Professor of Education $60,200 $81,300 $90,200
Elementary School Principle $73,500 $80,600 $86,500
Special Education, Early Childhood Teacher $31,000 $40,000 $54,000
ESL Teacher $37,800 $46,800 $51,200
School Psychologist $76,800 $90,400 $73,400

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