Teaching Careers Updated November 13, 2019

Head Start Teacher – Education, Job, and Salary Information

By Robbie Bruens October 4, 2012

Head Start is a federally funded program that provides early childhood education, healthcare, and nutrition services to impoverished youth. Becoming a Head Start teacher gives you a chance to make a difference in the lives of children ages three to five who need an abundance of guidance and care.

Launched over 50 years ago, Head Start has provided support for over a million children each year. Contributing programs offer a variety of service models, depending on the needs of the local community. Many Head Start programs are based in centers, childcare institutions, and schools. Others are a part of home-based services with routine visits to children in their home.

Motivated, passionate Head Start teachers improve the learning outcomes, living standards, and later academic and professional success of their students. If you want to make a difference in the lives of young children, you will want to consider becoming a part of the Head Start community.

At-a-glance: Head Start teachers

Head Start teacher job description

Head Start teachers are preschool teachers with an extra responsibility: coordinating with other Head Start workers to provide wraparound benefits to underprivileged kids. Head Start teachers focus on educating the whole child, while Head Start provides health services, such as immunizations, dental and medical care, mental health services, and nutritional assistance. Head Start teachers can expect to work closely with the parents of their students, because parental involvement is a key component of the program.

A Head Start teacher’s typical day is eventful and busy — managing, educating, and inspiring a large group of young children for six to eight hours straight with little time for breaks. This work is challenging, which is why Head Start teachers work in teams. A Head Start teaching team consists of a lead teacher, teacher assistant(s), and teacher aide(s).

Who makes a good Head Start teacher?

Someone who is:

  • Empathetic and caring
  • Patient and kind
  • Good at planning and organizing
  • Creative and flexible
  • Enthusiastic about learning
  • Passionate yet pragmatic
  • Able to have a sense of humor yet remain respectful of differences
  • Willing to take risks for the sake of the children
  • Qualified with the proper credentials and degrees
  • Excellent at time management

Head Start teachers in-depth

Because of the intense nature of the Head Start program, co-teaching is an important factor in this preschool environment. The teaching team usually consists of a lead teacher, teacher assistant(s), and teacher aide(s).

Head Start lead teachers

Lead teachers are in charge of preschool classrooms. They plan each day so children have the opportunity to express themselves, develop basic social skills, and learn the rudiments of elementary subjects.

Typical duties

  • Develop individualized curricula that work with each child to ensure no one falls behind
  • Deliver lessons and perform activities
  • Coach and co-teach with assistants, aides, and classroom volunteers
  • Meet with parents to report on their child’s performance, progress reports, and sometimes help non-English-speaking parents
  • Monitor and report developmental concerns: behavioral, educational, and developmental progress
  • Lead staff meetings and keep staff updated on policy and regulation changes
  • Respond to emergency situations, such as first aid and conflict management

Education qualifications

The Head Start lead teacher needs at least a bachelor’s degree and, in some states, a master’s degree. Experience is highly regarded within Head Start. Most pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the field of education will receive experience through a cooperating teaching requirement.

There are no licensing regulations to work in a preschool. However, consideration for employment is greatly increased with a teaching license. Information on specific licensing needs can be obtained through your state’s Department of Education website. A professional certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards can also improve employment opportunities.

Salary range

Annual salaries for lead teachers within Head Start can vary based on state, qualifications, and experience. According to neuvoo.com, Head Start lead teachers’ average salary is $30,775, roughly $15.78 an hour. Entry positions tend to start at around $20,470 with experienced lead teachers earning $52,296.

ZipRecruiter.com states that average pay by state varies from $23,994 ($11.54 per hour) to $33,659 ($16.18 per hour.)

Compensation is sometimes calculated per hour for the 10-month position.

Here is a snapshot of average salaries for Head Start lead teachers:

  • Indeed.com: $29,716 annually
  • Glassdoor.com: $18.00 per hour
  • ZipRecruiter.com: $30,764 annually

Head Start teacher assistants

Managing a classroom of very young children is hard work. Teacher assistants provide backup for the lead teacher, helping with tasks throughout activities and lessons.

Typical duties

  • Help with the development of individualized curriculum
  • Deliver and aid in lessons and activities
  • Co-teach with lead teacher, aides, and classroom volunteers
  • Respond to emergency situations, such as first aid and conflict management

Education qualifications

A teacher assistant within the Head Start program needs at least an associate’s degree, with a bachelor’s degree being preferred in most cases. Skills testing for working with special needs students and experience greatly increase employment consideration.

A Child Development Associate credential or a state-awarded certificate that meets or exceeds the CDA credential can be obtained with a CDA assessment, documentation of training, and experience in the field of early childhood care and education.

Many teacher assistants work within a Head Start program to gain experience or continue degree opportunities to advance their career in education.

Salary range

Annual salaries for teacher assistants within Head Start can vary based on state, qualifications, and experience. According to neuvoo.com, Head Start teacher assistants’ average salary is $23,546, roughly $12.08 an hour. Entry positions tend to start at around $18,525 with experienced teacher assistants making $39,429.

Compensation is sometimes calculated per hour for the 10-month position.

Here is a snapshot of average salaries for Head Start teacher assitants:

  • Payscale.com: $24,570 annually
  • Glassdoor.com: $12.00 per hour
  • ZipRecruiter.com: $27,350 annually

Head Start teacher aides

Teacher aides support teacher assistants and lead teachers in a Head Start classroom. Support is the main goal of the teacher aides, so one must be able to follow oral and written instructions, as well as physically lift small children.

Typical duties

  • Assess and prepare for the implementation of lessons and activities
  • Co-teach with lead teacher, assistants, and classroom volunteers
  • Respond to emergency situations, such as first aid and conflict management

Education qualifications

An entry-level teacher aide within the Head Start program needs at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Skills testing for working with special needs students and experience greatly increases employment opportunities.

Salary range

Annual salaries for teacher aides within Head Start can vary based on state, qualifications, and experience. According to neuvoo.com, Head Start teacher aides’ average salary is $25,279, roughly $12.96 an hour. Entry positions tend to start at around $16,645.

Compensation is sometimes calculated per hour for the 10-month position.

Here is a snapshot of average salaries for Head Start teacher aides:

  • Payscale.com: $10.95 per hour
  • Glassdoor.com: $8.79 per hour
  • ZipRecruiter.com: $24,375 annually

Employment projections

Early childhood education is important for short- and long-term educational and social development. The number of preschool-aged children is projected to increase. Demand for Head Start program teachers, assistants, and aides will grow as well.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for Head Start employment opportunities is expected to grow 7% through 2028.

Professional development for Head Start teachers

Teaching children and educating future leaders can be a rewarding experience in and of itself. You can work as a Head Start teacher aide or assistant (or even lead teacher in some cases) as you work to obtain degrees and/or credentials that will further develop your career as an educator. If you are in school or earning your teaching credential (or child development associate certification), try finding a job as a Head Start teacher aide or assistant. It will give you invaluable experience and will be beneficial when seeking future jobs in the education system.

Benefits of continuing education

Although you may be able to build a career in education without a master’s degree, Head Start lead teachers with a master’s degree have a much better chance at earning a higher salary or another job in education with more generous compensation and benefits. If you’re working to become a Head Start lead teacher (or if you already are one), you should seriously consider master’s programs in education to further develop your professional skills.

What kinds of programs can help Head Start teachers?

Concordia University-Portland offers online graduate degree programs that help Head Start teachers improve their skills and understanding of best practices in teaching and childcare and prepare them for broader range of job opportunities in the education system:

Consider enrolling in a program based on the area of education you are most passionate about. Or you can take a look at the menu of related jobs to see what’s required for the job in education you want to pursue.

Best of the Web

The Web makes it easy for us to stay connected to prominent Head Start associations and educational communities. Here is a list of our favorite websites and Twitter and Instagram handles, in no particular order.

Professional Associations

Resources to follow on Twitter and Instagram

Learn More: Click to view related resources.

You may also like to read

Request FREE Info About Our 100% Online MEd and EdD Programs

123

Request FREE Info About Our 100% Online MEd and EdD Programs

123

Request FREE Info About Our 100% Online MEd and EdD Programs

123
Yes! By submitting this form I ask to receive email, texts and calls about degree programs on behalf of Concordia University-Portland, and agree automated technology may be used to dial the number(s) I provided. I understand this consent is not required to enroll.
Tags: