How Much Do Head Start Teachers Get Paid?

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Head Start teachers work with kids age 3 to 5 to develop early learning skills.
Head Start teachers work with kids age 3 to 5 to develop early learning skills. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

A child first experiences formal education at the preschool level in the Head Start program, where teachers guide them during one of the most important phases of their lives. These early childhood educators provide lessons for children, demonstrate model behavior, and keep them safe and clean during the learning process. They are also commonly responsible for working with assistants and parents as well as documenting and assessing each student's progress. A number of factors influence the salaries that Head Start teachers are paid.

Average Salaries

In July of 2003, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) estimated that Head Start had 50,000 teachers working for an average salary of $21,000 a year. Assistant teachers in the program only earned $14,162 a year. In comparison with other early childhood teacher wages, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that preschool teachers overall made an annual mean wage of $29,200 in 2010, with those in the bottom 10th percentile earning less than $17,200 a year, while teachers in the top 10th percentile made over $46,830 a year.

Salaries Around the U.S.

A June of 2011 report by Salary Expert reveals that Head Start teacher salaries were noticeably influenced by their location due to cost of living and demand. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the average salary was $24,888 a year, and in Houston, Texas, teachers earned $26,863 a year on average. Higher-paying areas were Chicago, Illinois at $31,596 annually and Los Angeles, California at $33,231 a year. However, the highest-paying city in the report was New York, New York, where Head Start teachers made $39,673 a year on average.

Salaries by Credentials

Based on the 2003 NIEER report, the least-trained Head Start teachers, those with only the CDA (Child Development Associate) credential earned $19,004 a year on average, but teachers with an associates degree earned $21,049 on average. With a bachelor's degree the average salary was $25,090 a year. The highest-paid were teachers with a graduate education, whose salaries averaged $31,061 a year.

Current and Future Qualifications

Head Start now requires all teachers to posses an associate's, bachelor's, or graduate degree in early childhood education as well as be certified as a Child Development Associate. However, by September 30, 2013, at least half of all Head Start teachers will be required to posses a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Those who have college education in other fields of study can become Head Start teachers as long as they have a certain amount of experience working with children ages 3 to 5.

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