The requirements for becoming a preschool teacher vary greatly from state to state. Some states require only an associate's degree or the completion of some early childhood education classes. Other states have more stringent requirements. Pennsylvania is one such state -- it requires its prospective preschool teachers to obtain the same certification as any other level of K-12 teacher, including meeting testing requirements and receiving proper recommendations.
All prospective teachers in Pennsylvania must complete a state-approved teacher certification program. Practically every type of teacher must earn the same type of certificate, whether she wishes to teach special education, chemistry, social studies or art. Early childhood educators are among those who much earn this certificate, which is referred to as an Instructional Certificate.
Different schools offer different types of programs -- for example, not every school offers the Early Childhood program that prospective preschool teachers need. Dozens of colleges and universities throughout the state offer this program, though, and they range from major, more expensive universities like Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh to smaller, more affordable colleges like Slippery Rock, Grove City and Clarion University.
Prospective teachers must meet the testing requirements set forth by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education. For preschool teachers, this includes the Early Childhood Education Praxis exam, a 120-question multiple-choice exam that tests your knowledge regarding language and cognitive development, curriculum theory, professional responsibilities and other requirements regarding the education of children ages 3 through 8.
The Pennsylvania State Board of Education issues two levels of teaching certification. The initial certification, Level I, is obtained after completing the requisite teacher preparation program, passing the Praxis exam and passing background checks. This certificate is valid for six school years of service as an educator, during which time the owner must complete the requirements to obtain a Level II certificate. This certificate requires the completion of 24 semester hours of graduate education. Level I certificates are non-renewable, so new teachers must complete their continuing education hours before they can advance to Level II.
Those wishing to become preschool teachers in Pennsylvania after being trained out of state may need to complete special requirements to obtain a Pennsylvania teaching certificate. Any and all teachers with out-of-state training must complete the Praxis exam with an approved score. In addition, while Pennsylvania honors an interstate agreement regarding teaching certificate reciprocity, not all teachers are included. Out-of-state teachers that completed an alternative certificate, for example, may not qualify for a Pennsylvania certificate because they did not complete a state-approved teacher preparation program.