How to Become a Preschool Teacher in District Of Columbia

An ECE District of Columbia Degree & Career Guide

Your Early Childhood Teacher Requirements and Career Guide

The District of Columbia, D.C., is also known as the capital of the nation. Most people call it Washington, D.C. and it is where many national museums and other important historical landmarks exist. Sadly, the nation's capital is below average in its public education when compared to other states around the country. In fact, it is ranked by some organizations at 45th out of the 50 states. Despite these factors, the District of Columbia has made early childhood education a top priority. If you’re looking to become and early childhood educator in D.C., you’re in the right place.

Four Steps to Becoming a Certified ECE Teacher in the District of Columbia

Step 1. Teaching Degree and Teacher Preparation Program

Successfully completing a teacher preparation program, specifically in early childhood education, is a requirement by the (OSSE) Office of the State Superintendent of Education. These programs are good for Pre-K through grade 3. An approved and accredited degree program will meet all the requirements for gaining licensure and this includes classroom subject and hours requirements, as well as opportunities to get obtain hands-on teaching experience in a classroom.

The District of Columbia requires a minimum of a four-year bachelor's degree. If it is anything other than an education degree, you’ll also need to complete a teacher preparation program in order to be licensed. Most state-approved teacher preparation programs finish by granting you a degree. This can be a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree. A master’s degree can take the form of a Master of Education, Master of Arts in Teaching, or a Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning (M.Ed., M.A.T., or M.A.T.L.). These masters programs are available to those who already have an undergraduate degree. Your degree from any college must be from an accredited institution in order to be accepted as a formal ECE degree.

This all means that the teacher programs can be selected for both undergraduate and graduate varieties. It is possible to qualify to teach before completing all the requirements. Those who meet the criteria that make them eligible for alternative routes would fit into this category. They may be provided the ability or opportunity to teach while attending their preparation program. Washington DC currently has five alternative career programs in early childhood education.

Step 2. Passing the Required Examinations

Washington DC requires all Preschool teachers to take and pass certain academic skill exams. These are the nationally accepted standard examinations for teaching certification, the PRAXIS I and PRAXIS II. The PRAXIS I, also known as the PRAXIS CASE (Core Academic Skills for Educators), has 3 sections: reading, writing, and mathematics. This first test will prove you have baseline knowledge that will allow you to teach a range of subjects and requires passing scores in each section: Reading = 156; Writing = 162; Mathematics = 150. The PRAXIS II exam includes specific content knowledge in early childhood and requires a score of at least 165. There is also an exam for early principles of learning and teaching which requires a score of at least 159.

You will need to make arrangements to take the exams at an approved ETS Center. All PRAXIS exams are administered through the ETS. You can go to their website to schedule exams and for practice and study material.

Step 3. Apply for Teachers Licenses

As soon as you have completed all of the requirements you will be able to apply to get your initial license as an early childhood teacher in D.C. If you went through a traditional program, then you would simply apply for your licensure, Regular 2. If you went through an alternative program, then you would get your Regular 1, which will give you two years to qualify for the next level of licensure. That particular license is not renewable.

Once you get your Regular 2 license you will need to renew it every 4 years. To do so, you will need to have completed 6 semester hours of professional development. You may also choose to do 90 contact hours or complete a combination of the two. Any of those choices will allow you to renew your license.

Step 4. Other Teaching Requirements

The District's Head Start program works with specific agencies and assists them in carrying out activities that are designed to positively impact low-income children from the time they are born to the time they enter school. Teachers wanting to work in one of these Head Start agencies will be required to have at least an associate's degree but many of the positions require a minimum of a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited University or College.

The DEL which is the Division of Early Learning leaders and coordinates activities in D.C., so that children in the District of Columbia from birth to pre-kindergarten are able to access quality programs that support early childhood development. It is the DEL’s responsibility to license all qualified centers in Washington DC. The District has very good quality Pre-K education in its public schools, as well as through several community-based organizations and public charter school systems.

Grants and scholarships may be made available to these types of community programs for this purpose. Anyone wanting to be a preschool teacher in one of these centers will be required to have at least one of the following:

  • An associate's degree in early childhood education or development.
  • An associate or bachelor's degree with a minimum of 15 credit hours in early childhood education or development. This also requires working as a teacher assistant, which will mean working under the supervision of a licensed and experienced teacher in one of the centers or an equivalent experience.
  • Completed a minimum of 48 credit hours, including 15 hours in early childhood education. This also requires two years of supervised work experience in a licensed center.
  • A CDA credential (Child Development Associate).
  • 3 years of supervised work experience along with the completion of a Child Care Certification course.

What It Takes to Get Your Teacher Certification in The District of Columbia

To teach within the district will require a minimum of a 4-year bachelor's degree. Although the typical route would be to get that degree in early childhood education, it is possible to apply for a teaching certificate in D.C. even if your degree was in another area of study. However, that will require you to enroll in a hands-on teacher education and preparation program in addition to your degree.

There are essentially three different licenses you can go for in DC. The first, called 'Regular 1' is meant for those who are going through a state board-approved teacher preparation program while they are employed at a local public school. This type of credential is good for two years and cannot be renewed. The next license, called 'Regular 2', is what you would apply for after successfully completing the approved teacher preparation and education program. This license is good for 4 years and can be renewed every 4 years. You may apply for a Regular 2 license without first obtaining a Regular 1 license if you have met a few other requirements, which you can find listed in the DC Municipal regulations. The third license you might consider is called 'Transitional' and is good for one year. This is for someone who is teaching content related to their specific degree major.

Someone coming from another state to the district to teach and who holds a currently valid license can apply for 'reciprocity', which would allow them to obtain a teaching license if they meet specific requirements. There are also other alternative routes to gain licensure and these can be done through DC Teaching Fellows and Teach for America organizations. When applying for any of these you'll need to make sure that you have all the required material and official transcripts. You'll also need to be able to provide your test scores and you will have to submit to a criminal history check.

Frequently Asked Questions About Certification and Licensing

  • Question: Is it necessary to already have a license before applying to teach in the District?
  • Answer: It is not necessary to have your license to apply but it is necessary that you meet all the qualifications to be a licensed teacher. The OSSE which is the Office of the State Superintendent of Education is the department that will award teacher licenses.


  • Question: Is it possible to work as a substitute teacher in early childhood education if I am not licensed?
  • Answer: The district requires all teachers to be licensed and a substitute teaching license is required through the State Superintendent of Education Office.

    Does Washington DC Have Early Childhood Degree Programs?

    Yes, there are several ECE degree programs in Washington, D.C. Here are some of the options available:

    • George Washington University

      This is a large and well-respected Institution with over 20,000 students. You can earn a master's degree in early childhood special education or in elementary education. They also have some doctoral degree options. This school has three campuses in the metropolitan area.

      Degrees Offered:

      • School Counseling and Guidance Services; MS., Dr., & Post-Grad Certificate
      • Curriculum and Instruction, MS. & Dr.
      • Education, Other; MS.
      • Education/Teaching of Individuals in Early Childhood Special Education Programs; MS.
      • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injuries; Post-Grad Certificate
      • Elementary Education and Teaching; MS.
      • Reading Teacher Education; Post-Grad Certificate
      • Special Education and Teaching; MS., Dr., & Post-Grad Certificate

      Accreditation By: General Accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Education Program is NCATE accredited

    • Howard University

      This is a private school and was originally founded for African-American students. Here you can get a bachelor's degree in elementary education. They also offer a master's degree in early childhood education and in elementary education. This University pays special attention to providing cultural and social experiences to its students.

      Degrees Offered:

      • School Counseling and Guidance Services; MS. & Post-Grad Certificate
      • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; MS.
      • Educational Leadership and Administration; MS., Dr., & Post-Grad Certificate
      • Educational, Instructional, and Curriculum Supervision; MS.
      • Elementary Education and Teaching; BS. & MS.
      • Physical Education Teaching and Coaching; BS.
      • Reading Teacher Education; MS. & Post-Grad Certificate
      • Special Education and Teaching; MS. & Post-Grad Certificate

      Accreditation By: General Accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Education Program is CAEP accredited

    • Catholic University of America

      This University is run by the Catholic church and it provides a quality bachelor's degree program in early childhood education. Because it is part of the Catholic Church it does provide an atmosphere that teaches about Catholicism while giving a top-notch education to its students.

      Degrees Offered:

      • Curriculum and Instruction; MS.
      • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; BS. & MS.
      • Education, General; BS & Post-Grad Certificate
      • Elementary Education and Teaching; BS.
      • Special Education and Teaching; AS. & MS.

      Accreditation By: General Accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Education Program is NCATE accredited



    These are just a few of several opportunities for earning the necessary credentials to become a preschool teacher in the District of Columbia. There are also other accredited universities or colleges that will offer degree programs suitable for this career path. There are also other avenues that you can pursue as well as teaching within the public-school system.

    What Are Career Growth Projections and Salaries for Preschool Teachers in Washington, D.C.?

    All over the country, including in Washington, D.C., the field of preschool is a growing career. As more studies show that those who enter these programs do far better than children who do not, it is becoming part of the standard public-school system in every state. These programs better prepare children for all forms of learning, from kindergarten through high school. The District of Columbia is seeing a substantially larger growth rate than is found in most other states.

    Between now and the year 2022 it is expected that DC will have up to a 33% higher growth rate than the national average. Overall, the salaries for preschool teachers are higher than they are in other states. Most teachers earn over $30,000 a year and many earn over $40,000 a year. Currently, the District of Columbia has the fifth highest level of employment of any major city in the country.

    Washington, D.C. is also substantially increasing the funding available for public schools to help improve the education being provided to its students. In recent years it has seen close to a 10% increase in its overall budget. This means an influx of over 55 million dollars in additional funding, which is believed to be having a positive impact on student outcomes. Head Start programs have also received almost 14 million dollars in grants, as the district continues to work on improving its public-school system from Pre-K onward.

    Occupations/Salaries
    OccupationEntry-LevelMid-CareerLate-Career
    Preschool Teacher$33,000$41,000$62,000
    ECE Special Education Teacher$55,400$60,900$79,100
    Elementary School Principle$78,900$83,000$127,000
    Postsecondary Professor$70,400$99,000$135,700

    Videos To Help You Find The Right Career Choices

    • A Day in the Life - Preschool Teacher

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOuvns_664c

    • Early Childhood Educators

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNy7wzPo6C8

    • Early Childhood Education Program

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCpObBmLZjQ

    • Part 1 - High-Quality Kindergarten Today - Background

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XriN7Ks6j84

    • Teach Special Education

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XsaK3pWyII

    • What makes a good teacher great? | Azul Terronez | TEDxSantoDomingo

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrU6YJle6Q4

    Professional Organizations Available for Teachers

    The WTU has existed for over 40 years and currently has over 5,000 members. They help to keep the standards of the teaching profession high and they strive to strengthen schools. This organization also gives legal services to its members and they have other benefits as well. The NEA resides in Washington DC and it seeks to constantly improve public education. It also has the country's biggest professional employee organization and currently has three million members.

    Becoming a preschool teacher is not only a career choice with long-term stability but is also one which you can take great pride in. Reaching children at the earliest age provides the best opportunity to create and instill in them a love of learning as well as helping them understand how to learn. This sets them up to succeed in their school life and beyond.

    Get The Steps to Become a Teacher Start You Career Path Today

    If you have a passion for working with young children and want to become an educator, check out the steps necessary to advance your teaching career.

    View Steps