If you want to begin a career in education, you can become a certified teacher with just an associate degree. Your choice of grade levels will be limited to preschool and prekindergarten. A four-year degree is required to teach kindergarten through grade 12. However, teaching preschool will allow you to get valuable experience and help you decide if you want to earn a bachelor's degree.
Begin the application process a few months before the school year starts. Processing of paperwork can take awhile, and you want to avoid delays, if possible.
Contact your state's Department of Education or visit their website. Some states require early childhood teachers to have a license; others require teachers to be certified with a CDA (child development associate) credential. Get a complete list of guidelines, including information about assessment exams you may have to take.
Submit your college transcript to the state department. It will be evaluated for compliance with educational requirements. A certificate will be mailed to you. It will list grade areas in which you are eligible to teach, as well as the time period the certification is valid and date(s) of renewal.