How to become a kindergarten teacher

Written by Kate Lopaze

As far as teaching careers go, the idea of being a kindergarten teacher seems very appealing. The students are young, not yet subject to the social pressures of middle and high school, and eager to learn about the world. Maybe you see yourself singing songs and helping kids take those tentative first steps on their educational road. But while the job does include those things, the idealized vision of singing about ABCs isn’t the whole picture. Kindergarten teachers are educators first and foremost, and have the daunting task of making sure that many students’ first formal classroom helps set them up for a good education later on.

What does a kindergarten teacher do?

Because of the basic nature of what early elementary school educators teach, there can be misconceptions about how “easy” it is to be a kindergarten teacher. Sure, they typically don’t teach advanced calculus, but they do need to be able to teach in a variety of subject areas, while balancing young students’ complex needs for social and interpersonal development. A kindergarten teacher’s duties may include:

  • Teaching lessons and basic academic skills across different disciplines (reading, writing, math, science, etc.)
  • Managing classroom behavior
  • Planning lessons and curriculum
  • Developing educational play activities

Kindergarten teachers can be found in any elementary-level school, including public schools, private schools, or magnet schools. The school week is typically a straightforward number of daytime hours, but the job may also require additional time spent in the mornings, evenings, and off-hours to prepare for school, participate in professional development, or oversee extracurricular activities/school programs. Depending on how the school is structured, kindergarten teachers may have one main class per year, or two (morning and afternoon sessions).

What skills do kindergarten teachers need?

First and foremost, kindergarten teachers need to have a balance between educational skills and people skills, given that their students may have yet to master a number of life skills and may have a broad variety of needs and skill levels. Here are some of the core skills you’ll need as a kindergarten teacher:

Teaching Skills: For many students, the kindergarten classroom may be the first place they’ll encounter formal lessons on reading, writing, etc. A kindergarten teacher needs to be able to teach the basic building blocks for students with different skills and abilities.

Kid-Friendliness: If you don’t like kids, then spending all day, every day handling the needs of 5–7 year olds just may not be the right teaching career for you. The job definitely requires a good measure of patience and enthusiasm for working with young kids—and all their quirks.

Creativity: Kindergarten is special because it mixes in play and hands-on activities before students start to move on to more formal classes in later grades. A kindergarten teacher should have a flair for coming up with fun, creative ways to use educational concepts in the classroom.

Organizational Skills: Kids can bring chaos, especially in large groups. The adult in the room should not also bring chaos. Organizational skills are a cornerstone of any teaching profession, and being able to organize and efficiently manage a classroom full of little kids is an immensely useful skill unto itself.

What do you need to become a kindergarten teacher?

Unlike preschool teachers, who may not need a four-year degree, becoming a kindergarten teacher typically requires a four-year degree in early childhood education. Many teachers also go on to receive a master’s degree as well. Public school kindergarten teachers are required to be licensed, but this step is not necessarily required for private school teachers. You should consult with your state’s licensing policies, as well as those of your target school/district to see what the specific requirements are.

How much do kindergarten teachers get paid?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for kindergarten teachers is $55,490. This can vary depending on the teacher’s experience and the type of school.

What’s the outlook for kindergarten teachers?

This is a field that will continue to grow (or at least maintain) given that kids are a continually replenishing natural resource and will always need quality teachers to guide them through those early educational steps. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that the demand for kindergarten teachers will grow by about 6% through 2024.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.