There are few jobs as rewarding as watching young children thrive in a learning environment. The same way we love to watch seeds sprout, it’s fulfilling to watch children read their first page, become socially intelligent, learn new words, and begin their education.
Most of us remember some parts of our early childhood; all of us recognize that we wouldn’t be who we are now if it wasn’t for our first teachers and our education in general. If it weren’t for the precise theories that command our early development, our lives may look very different today.
It’s not surprising, then, that many of us aspire to become one of the teachers whom we consider so influential. But what does it take to become an early childhood educator? Most of us know about the school component: a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education is the first suggested step for any aspiring preschool teacher.
Note here, though, that an associate degree or even a high school diploma may suffice as a requirement. But if you want the best preparation for becoming a preschool teacher, you should obtain a bachelor’s degree. But a degree or diploma won’t be the last step for most people on their quest to teach preschool.
Do You Have to Be Certified to Teach Preschool?
As you may have read, an increasing number of states are requiring preschool teachers to hold a certification. The most popular certificate is the Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential, which we will tell you more about soon. However, in most states, a certification or teaching credential serves as an optional requirement.
It is common for states to require applying teachers to submit proof of some credential, whether that’s a certification, bachelor’s degree, experience as a teacher, associate degree, at least some finished courses in an early childhood education program, or more than one of the above.
Some states are more strict than others; some schools are more stringent than others, too. For example, an elite preschool may ask you to have a bachelor’s degree, Child Development Associate Credential, and experience as a preschool teacher. On the other hand, a public preschool may simply ask for one of the above, and they may clarify that an associate degree or high school diploma suffices.
Let’s talk about certifications.
How Long Does it Take to Get a CDA Certification?
As we’ve said, a Child Development Associate Credential is the most prominent certification for preschool teachers.
The CDA credential revolves around six goals, which, per the CDA website, are “To establish and maintain a safe, healthy learning environment; to advance physical and intellectual competence; to support social and emotional development and to provide positive guidance; to establish positive and productive relationships with families; to ensure a well-run, purposeful program responsive to participant needs; and to maintain a commitment to professionalism.” This sounds reasonable, right?
So what does obtaining a CDA certification comprise? Before applying, aspiring CDA credential holders must complete four things. First, they must show proof of a high school diploma, GED, or upperclassperson status in high school. Additionally, they must complete 120 hours in an early childhood education environment. They must also record 480 hours of preschool teaching. Finally, aspiring credential holders must complete the family questionnaires and portfolio on the CDA website. After finishing these four prerequisites, aspiring certification holders can apply for the CDA certification.
After applying, aspiring CDA holders must complete two steps before earning the CDA certification. First, they must schedule a verification visit with a specialist who’s certified by the CDA board. In this visit, early childhood education teachers must demonstrate their command over CDA theories and educational principles.
Second, they must pass the CDA exam. This exam will ask test-takers to demonstrate their expertise in the principle theories that govern early childhood education.
And voila! Once you finish each of these steps, you become a certified CDA holder. Like most professional certifications, there is an expiration date on your credential. Every three years, you must renew your certification. To do so, you must re-apply and enter your reviewer’s email address, your verifier’s email address, CPR documents, and a payment of the $125 renewal fee.
It takes several steps to obtain a CDA credential. While these steps might prove exhausting, it is a testament to the integrity of the certification. Once you obtain a CDA, it is clear that you’re dedicated to your field and to your improvement as a preschool teacher.
A CDA credential can help you excel in your professional life, whether you work at private or public schools. And it can help you become one of the heroic teachers that you and hundreds of your peers admire.