California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education in California

May also be called: Head Start Teachers; Childhood Development Teachers; Nursery School Teachers; Pre-Kindergarten Teachers; Early Childhood Teachers; Lead Teachers; and Head Teachers

What Would I Do?

Preschool Teachers instruct children up to five years of age through activities designed to promote social, physical, and intellectual growth. Preschool Teachers encourage children’s curiosity and imagination by providing them with opportunities to learn through play activities that they can question, investigate, experiment with, and observe. Teachers use children’s play, like rhyming games and storytelling, to further language and vocabulary development. They also teach social skills by doing activities such as having the children work together to build a neighborhood in a sandbox. Preschool Teachers introduce scientific and mathematical concepts when showing children how to balance and count blocks when building a bridge or how to mix colors when painting. Small-group lessons, one-on-one instruction, and learning through creative activities such as art, dance, and music are used to teach preschool children.

Preschool Teachers help children adjust naturally and comfortably to the school setting and adapt to group interaction or activities. They strive to be aware of each child's mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Teachers often consult with other teachers, parents, child care workers, administrators, and child development specialists to determine a child’s needs and potential. They should be mature, patient, understanding, articulate, and have energy and physical stamina. Skills in music, art, drama, and storytelling also are important.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Identify children showing signs of emotional, developmental, or health-related problems, and discuss them with supervisors, parents or guardians, and child development specialists.Active Listening
Organize and lead activities designed to promote physical, mental and social development, such as games, arts and crafts, music, storytelling, and field trips.Instructing
Meet with parents and guardians to discuss their children's progress and needs, determine their priorities for their children, and suggest ways that they can promote learning and development.Monitoring
Adapt teaching methods and instructional materials to meet students' varying needs and interests.Oral Expression
Read books to entire classes or to small groups.Reading Comprehension
Attend to children's basic needs by feeding them, dressing them, and changing their diapers.Customer and Personal Service
Teach basic skills such as color, shape, number and letter recognition, personal hygiene, and social skills.Active Learning
Establish and enforce rules for behavior, and procedures for maintaining order.Speaking
Provide a variety of materials and resources for children to explore, manipulate and use, both in learning activities and in imaginative play.Learning Strategies
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Preschools may be located in converted houses or churches, new or remodeled buildings in business districts, or public or private schools. Most offer indoor and outdoor settings to promote play and learning.

Preschool Teachers must anticipate and prevent problems, deal with disruptive children, provide fair but firm discipline, and be enthusiastic and constantly alert. They often work flexible schedules that can be either full or part time. Those working in public schools may work 4 to 6 hours a day for the traditional 10-month school year, although some districts maintain year-round programs. Child care centers are usually open year round for extended hours to accommodate working parents.

Preschool Teachers may belong to the California Association for the Education of Young Children or the California Teachers Association.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Preschool Teacher will appeal to you if you enjoy activities that involve assisting others and promoting learning and personal development. This occupation satisfies those with social interests. Social occupations involve teaching, offering advice, helping, and being of service to people.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2021 for Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education in California was $37,159 annually, or $17.87 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Most employers offer vacation plans, health insurance, and sometimes educational benefits to keep current with teaching requirements and methods.

What is the Job Outlook?

Job prospects are expected to be favorable for Preschool Teachers. Job openings will result from the need to replace the large number of Teachers who are expected to retire or leave teaching for other reasons. Shortages of qualified Teachers will likely continue, resulting in competition among some localities.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education are expected to increase by 10.1 percent, or 6,400 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Total Job
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Preschool Teachers who work in public or private schools and other State-funded programs are required to have a Child Development Teacher Permit and one of the following options:

  • Twenty-four semester units in ECE or CD, 16 units in general education, and a minimum of 525 hours within four years of working in a child care center.
  • Associate of Arts degree or higher in ECE or CD or related field with three units supervised field experience in an ECE or CD setting.

Child care centers are regulated by the California Department of Social Services. Teachers who work in these centers must be at least 18 years of age and meet one of the following requirements:

  • Completion of 12 postsecondary semester units in ECE or CD from an accredited college and six months of work experience in a licensed child care center or similar program.
  • Possess a current and valid Child Development Assistant Permit.
  • Completion of at least six postsecondary semester units of specified ECE or CD classes; however, a Teacher hired with six units must complete at least two additional units each semester until the full requirement of 12 postsecondary semester units is met.

All Preschool Teachers are required to obtain an electronic fingerprint (LiveScan) and criminal background clearance prior to their employment.

Teachers with Child Development Assistant or Associate Permits often advance to become Preschool Teachers after they obtain the appropriate Child Development Permit requirements.

Early Career Planning

Teachers applying for permits must have units from English, humanities, social sciences, and math or science in order to apply for a Child Development Permit.

Work Study Programs

California offers Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) in child development-related occupations. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

To continue to teach in the public and private schools of California, Preschool Teachers are required to renew their Child Development Permits. These permits are valid for five years and are renewable for successive five-year periods upon completion of 105 hours of professional growth. Additionally, they must work with a professional growth advisor, usually a center director or master teacher, to define goals and choose activities for renewal or for acquiring a higher-level permit. The permit may be renewed on-line and requires an application fee.

Licensing and Certification

Preschool Teachers are often required to hold a Child and Infant CPR certificate as well as a California Pediatric First Aid certificate. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Child Care and Support Services Management, Early Childhood Education and Teaching, Kindergarten/Preschool Education and Teaching.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Child Day Care Services61.2%
Elementary and Secondary Schools16.4%
Religious Organizations13.1%
Civic and Social Organizations2.4%
Local Government2.0%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Preschool Teachers should apply directly to child development facilities. They can also receive job information from college placement offices and child care consultants. They should also network with other Preschool Teachers and search for jobs that are listed in newspapers and trade publications.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education.

  • Schools-Preschool and Kindergarten
  • Schools-Public
  • Child Care
  • Child Care Consultants
  • Day Care Centers and Nurseries
  • Nursery Schools

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Preschool Teachers can work their way up from Assistant Teacher, to Teacher, to Lead Teacher (who may be responsible for the instruction of several classes) and finally to director of the center. Preschool Teachers with a bachelor’s degree are frequently qualified to teach kindergarten through Grade 3 as well. Teaching at these higher grades often results in higher pay.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education with links to more information.

Childcare WorkersGuide
Dietetic TechniciansGuide
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special EducationGuide
Health EducatorsProfile
Personal Care AidesGuide
Social and Human Service AssistantsGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification25-2011
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education25-2011.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)SAE
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Child Care and Support Services Management 190708
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Child Development Administration and Management130580