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What is a Kindergarten Teacher?

Teaching young, eager kindergarteners can be equal parts rewarding and frustrating, but when you see them leave your classroom at the end of the school year, you’re likely to feel satisfied. Kindergarten teachers help their students learn the basics of cooperating with others, listening, numbers, colors, letters, reading, and shapes.

Patience is one of the main skills you need to work with children who are learning about the bigger world outside their homes and communities. When Sammy hits Jimmy, trying to get the fire truck away, it’s up to you to defuse the situation and discipline Sammy, comfort Jimmy and help both of them learn how to interact with others better in the future. In between these social interactions, you’ll teach them to recognize and associate letters with sounds and even how to read.

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Steps to Become a Kindergarten Teacher:

As long as you hold an accredited bachelor’s degree, you are able to become a kindergarten teacher. This degree doesn’t necessarily have to be in education depending on the requirements of your state—entering a program that culminates in you earning your teaching license and working in a kindergarten classroom can be one way of reaching your goal.

As to what a kindergarten teacher is, they teach a very specific level or age of student. These students will usually be between 4 and 6 years of age, though this can vary slightly due to state rules on when students can or must enter the kindergarten and elementary school. Unlike later grades, you’ll have the students throughout the day, and you will teach them an integrated program that covers all subjects.

  • Step 1: Your Degree Program

  • Step 2: Begin and Complete Your Student Teaching

  • Step 3: After Graduation, Find a Teaching Position

  • Step 4: Earn Your Required Teaching License or Credentials


Step 1: Your Degree Program

Once you have decided on your career goals, it’s time to explore different universities and education degree programs. The college or university you choose should have a comprehensive degree program that gets you ready to work as a teacher.

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In your degree program, you’ll learn not only how to teach, you’ll also learn how to find the strengths and weaknesses of each of your students. You’ll also learn how to create lesson plans and tailor what you teach to your students to what they need and how to teach to their strengths and help them work on their educational needs. Kindergarten teachers also must learn how to motivate each of their students and establish and communicate classroom rules.

Your goal is to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. This gives you the tools you need to enter the classroom and work successfully with your students. Also, anything less than a bachelor’s degree will not allow you to earn a license and teach in your own classroom.

Step 2: Begin and Complete Your Student Teaching

Every education student is required to spend a few months in a mentor-teacher’s classroom, working on developing their teaching skills. You’ll be one of thousands of student teachers who enter classrooms, familiarize themselves with the teacher’s lesson plans and students and take over a small part of the curriculum, grading, lesson plan development and monitoring students in the cafeteria and on the playground every year.

Your mentor teacher will let you know what their expectations are of you and what the core curriculum is - you will need to know this information no matter what level or grade of school you are teaching. You’ll complete your student teaching in your assigned kindergarten and elementary school with guidance from your mentor teacher and they will report back to your education program on your performance.

Step 3: After Graduation, Find a Teaching Position

Whether you are still getting ready to graduate or you have already done so, it may be time to look for a teaching position. You know you’re going to be teaching children, but where will you do so, a public or private kindergarten and elementary school, in this state or another? One of your best options might be to find a student teaching position at an kindergarten and elementary school that has opening for kindergarten teachers at your level. This would give you the opportunity to show them that you are capable before you even apply for the position. Whether or not this is possible, you will want to start creating a network you can lean on for recommendations as you work under your mentor-teacher so that you can more easily find opportunities in your area.

Step 4: Earn Your Required Teaching License or Credentials

You’ve graduated and received a job offer, so what’s next? In all 50 states and territories, teachers like you are required to take licensing tests, which may include the PRAXIS exam. You need to pass these tests with a minimum score, which is decided by your state board of education. Once you have done this and completed all other requirements, you are legally allowed to enter the classroom as a teacher.

A teaching license is an official recognition from your state that you possess the skills to teach. Depending on the grade level for which you prepared while in college, and for which you tested in order to gain your license, you will be licensed to teach within that area. This includes grade levels (kindergarten, early childhood, elementary) and subjects (social studies, English, math).

What Does a Kindergarten Teacher Do?

As a kindergarten teacher, you spend your days in your classroom teaching kindergarten students the basics of these skills: counting, adding and subtracting; reading and writing; interpersonal skills so that they can get along with each other; assessing each one of your students’ progress in the classroom, and deciding how you’re going to get them to the point where they are ready for first grade.

You’ll supervise students during recesses and lunch to make sure they are safe and you will communicate with their parents or guardians about how their children are doing. Kindergarten teachers also file reports to the administrators of your school about how your class is going overall.

After school and at home, you’ll spend time preparing and developing lesson plans and educational activities and well as grading any assignments. You may also need to supply your classroom with the materials they require to participate in and complete the class activities you plan.

If you realize one of your students is struggling with some aspect of the material you teach them, you’ll discuss your concerns with the child’s parents and the elementary school principal. If you need to, you can make a referral to the district’s psychologist so the appropriate testing can be done.

Needed Skills to Acquire

As a kindergarten teacher, you need to have a unique set of skills. These skills include actively listen to your kindergarteners. This means giving them your full attention, repeating their words back to them with your own phrasing and understanding what they are saying. You need to be aware of how your students are reacting and why they are reacting the way they are.

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You need to understand how some of your students will learn differently. This will allow you to select the materials, procedures and methods of teaching that will help your students the most - every school teacher does similar preparation. You’ll monitor each student’s performance so you can make improvements to your teaching or take corrective action for students who need it.

You’ll need to be able to easily coordinate with others so that you can adjust your actions. This may mean having discussions with your student’s parents or guardians so that you can figure out what they are having the most trouble with, or you might need to coordinate with other kindergarten teachers.

You will have to think critically and use both reasoning and logic to spot weaknesses and strengths of different solutions, approaches, or conclusions. You’ll have to manage your time and that of your students effectively. You’ll need to speak effectively so you can provide information in an easy-to-understand way that every student will understand.

Alternative Education and Career Paths

Find a school with a teaching preparation program. Look at the rules for certification in your state or the state in which you want to work as a in elementary education. You need to apply for and earn the correct certificate, so be sure you have the right information. You must have a bachelor’s degree, though it might not need to be in education, but it must be a degree that opens the door to a teaching certification.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-teaching field, consider returning to school for a master’s in education. Most states allow this, though you might need to complete some prerequisite courses you would otherwise have completed in a bachelor’s teaching program. Many undergraduate degrees offer a natural progression to enter a master’s in teaching.

The third pathway is to demonstrate that you have the basic necessary skills. In California, you can take the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), which measure math, writing, and reading skills. You need to hold at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and take and complete a credentialing program that has been accredited. This requires you to complete a student teaching assignment, be tested for tuberculosis, and complete any other courses recommended for your career path. Other states may have similar alternative paths, but you’ll have to check for your state individually in order to find the best path to a teaching career for you.

While each of these require significant effort, once you have your teaching certification, it will be worth it.

Kindergarten Teacher Career & Salary

Where Might You Work?


You may work in a variety of environments once you earn your license in teaching. This could be a public school, private school, a childcare organization, a remote teaching opportunity, or even in a private homeschooling situation. Wherever you work, your job duties will be similar to those of kindergarten teachers in different types of schools or childcare centers. You’ll teach children, monitor their learning and development, and communicate with them and their parents. You’ll cover recess and lunchroom duty in most public and private schools.

As an education professional your annual wage may be about $55,000, depending on where you live. If you have more teaching experience, you may earn more. And those with a master’s degree are the top earners at every level of teaching. No matter where you teach, your skills and experience are expected to be high enough that your students will learn and be able to pass to the first grade in the spring.

Your work environment will likely include both the indoors and outdoors. When your students, along with other students, go out for recess or go out to let off steam after lunch, you’ll spend some time outside, watching what each student is doing and ensuring they aren’t doing something that will get them or another student hurt.

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Career Outlook

Between 2019 and 2029, the overall employment of elementary school teachers is predicted to grow by 4%. This is about the same rate as for all other occupations.

One factor affecting the employment of kindergarten and elementary school teachers is the increase in student enrollment. This pushes the demand for these teachers up—but one caveat is that this depends on your location and whether students are increasing in your area.

The near-future enrollment of students into public schools is expected to rise throughout the next decade and this means that more classrooms will be needed for these students. These factors also mean that more prospective kindergarten teachers will need to be hired to teach these students. Depending on the growth in a school district, the employment of kindergarten teachers may fall or rise. Another factor impacting the employment of elementary and kindergarten teachers are local and state budgets - if budgets fall, elementary school teachers and other employees may be laid off and classroom sizes increased to deal with the budget shortfall. Smaller state and local budgets also affect childhood education, so this is something you will need to be aware of wherever you choose to teach.

Advancing From Here

Once you’ve been teaching for a while, an opportunity for promotion may become available. As long as you have the education, experience, and licensure or certification required, there will be plenty of options available to you.

Earning a master’s and certification is certainly an option if you wish to advance out of your teacher role, or even into a new teacher role, perhaps at the college level. Once you earn the appropriate education, you could find yourself teaching at a different level (high school, college, etc.), in an administrative position (instructional coordinator or school principal), or in a new specialty (school counselor). Schools across the country are also in need of literacy specialists and math, technology, and STEM specialists. As long as you are willing to obtain the certification or education necessary, this career can take you anywhere within the education world.


  • Public School or Private School Kindergarten Teacher:
    You’ll support your students in an achievement-oriented classroom, helping them to stay excited about learning new things. You’ll also ensure they want to do their best, even in a fun environment. You’ll create and carry out lessons and assessments, as well as character education for your students.
  • Substitute Teacher:
    This position requires you to hold a teaching certificate, though the rules will vary depending on your state/location. You’ll likely need to have teaching experience and hold a bachelor’s degree no matter where you live. You are responsible for the safety and health of the children in your classroom and you’ll offer a curriculum that meets the needs of each child in your classroom.
  • School Administrator:
    If you already have some experience teaching, you may be interested in moving into a school administrator position. With a master’s focused on educational leadership, you can become a vice-principal or principal at the school where you once taught kindergarten. This will allow you to move your career forward while still supporting the students you are most interested in.
  • Childcare Worker
  • Teacher Assistant
  • Preschool Teacher
  • Elementary School Teacher
  • Special Education Teacher

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Frequently Asked Questions

How much do elementary school teachers make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, elementary school teachers typically make around $61,000 annually. 

How long does it take to become a kindergarten teacher?

To become a kindergarten teacher, prospective kindergarten teachers will want to begin by earning a master's degree in an approved teacher education program. Most teacher preparation programs require prospective kindergarten teachers complete a student teaching internship. New methods for teaching kindergarten and elementary school students are being discovered every day. Elementary school teachers typically need to continue education throughout their kindergarten teacher career. 

What do early childhood education teachers do?

The early childhood education teacher and the kindergarten teacher job description are very similar. Early childhood education teachers teach students subjects and help students understand abstract concepts. Early childhood education teachers help young children lean how to behave in a classroom setting. Early childhood education teachers help students develop motor, social, and adaptive skills.

Where do kindergarten teachers work?

Kindergarten teachers work in public and private schools. Kindergarten teachers generally work during normal school hours with some take home work. 

What's the job outlook for kindergarten teachers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten teacher jobs will grow by 7% by 2030. 

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