An early childhood development teacher helps to educate, guide, and support children who are under the age of eight. To become an early childhood development teacher, you will usually need at least an associate's degree in early childhood education or development. If you want to work as a lead teacher in preschool or teach kindergarten through the third grade, however, you will likely need a bachelor's degree instead. The classes you will take in either case will generally include those in early childhood education, childhood growth and development, observation and assessment, and educational psychology. You will usually need hands-on training with children as well, and many jurisdictions may require you to obtain a teaching license.
Usually, a minimum of an associate's degree is required if you want to become an early childhood development teacher, though the requirements may depend on the jurisdiction in which you will work and the employer who hires you. Earning a bachelor's degree instead may help you to be a more competitive job candidate, and it might also open the doors for more job opportunities. For example, with an associate's degree in early childhood education or development, you can land a teaching job with a preschool. With a bachelor's degree, however, you can work as the head teacher in a preschool classroom or even have the opportunity to teach kindergarten or another elementary school grade.
The classes you will take as you work to become an early childhood development teacher will usually depend on the degree you seek as well as the school you choose. Early childhood education and development programs are often similar in terms of content, but if you choose to earn an early childhood education degree, you will likely take courses in such subjects as the education of the young child; observation, assessment, and screening; family involvement; education psychology; and education technology. You may also take courses in principles of education, growth and development of the young child, social learning, and development of an early childhood education program.
If you choose to pursue an early childhood development degree, the courses you take will likely include those in early childhood development and growth, community and family, curriculum for the young child, and teaching practices. You may also study the development of children with special needs, education philosophy, and diversity. Often, these programs also cover such subjects as observation and assessment; language and literacy; childhood health, safety, and nutrition; biology of childhood and community health; and youth and crime.
You will most likely need training to become an early childhood development teacher. In many cases, early childhood development and education programs include a component of hands-on training that allows you to gain experience working with children under the age of eight. In many cases, you will face evaluation of your hands-on training, just as your instructors will evaluate your performance on classwork and homework. Additionally, you may need special training if you hope to work with children who have special needs.
Depending on where you plan to work, you may also need licensing to become an early childhood development teacher. The criteria for licensing varies, but you will typically have to provide proof that you have a suitable amount of education and training. You will likely have to pass a teacher licensing exam as well.