Academic Requirements: Iowa

Early Childhood Preparation Policy


The state should require early childhood teacher candidates to meet appropriate academic requirements. Starting in 2020, this goal is now graded.

Meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2020). Academic Requirements: Iowa results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Iowa's policies

Academic Requirements: Iowa's birth to grade 3 and PreK-3 candidates are required to have a bachelor's degree and have completed a preparation program in early childhood education.

Iowa's PreK-K candidates are required to hold an elementary or special education early childhood license and to complete 18 hours of coursework that includes "child development and learning, building family and community relationships, assessment in early childhood, developmentally effective approaches, content knowledge, and collaboration and professionalism."


Recommendations for Iowa

Due to Iowa's strong policies in this area, no recommendations are provided.

State response to our analysis

Iowa recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Updated: February 2020

How we graded

The factors considered in determining the states' rating for the goal:

  1. The state should require all early childhood education teachers to hold a bachelor's degree.
  2. The state should require all early childhood education teachers to have an early childhood specialization or demonstrate competence in early childhood education
Academic Requirements:
The state should require all early childhood education teachers to hold a bachelor's degree, and have an early childhood specialization or demonstrate competence in early childhood education.

Academic Requirements
The total goal score is earned based on the following:
  • One-half Credit:
    The state will earn one-half of a point if it requires
    all early childhood education teachers to hold a bachelor's degree.
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if requires all early childhood education teachers to have an early childhood specialization.
  • One-quarter credit: States that do not require an early childhood specialization but have other requirements for demonstrating competence in early childhood education can earn one-quarter of a point.

Research rationale

The available research finds mixed results on whether having at least a bachelor's degree makes preschool teachers more effective.[1] However, these conflicting results may be more indicative of the fact that current training programs that certify teachers to teach preschool (and often cover a wide span of elementary grades as well) pay too little attention to the requirements for teaching preschool. Despite the inconclusive research, the National Academies of Sciences, the National Institute for Early Education Research, and a number of other organizations support requiring at least a bachelor's degree for preschool teachers for several reasons.[2] These reasons include that teaching preschool should be considered a career as important and complex as teaching K-12 classes, and so this role is deserving of the same educational requirements; this degree requirement would create greater consistency between the preschool and K-12 workforces; and preschool teachers would benefit from a foundation in liberal arts coursework that gives them a firm grounding in a range of content that they will teach, much like what elementary teachers need.

However, to make a training program meaningful, it needs to be narrowly targeted to the early childhood grades. As the grade span of a teaching certification broadens, training programs are less likely to provide the specific emergent literacy and oral language skills that preschool teachers need. [3] To support this focus and to make training for teachers more meaningful, the state should require that preschool teachers have a specialization in early childhood (rather than, for example, a bachelor's degree in K-6 teaching), or can demonstrate that they have the knowledge needed to teach early childhood.

[1] For example, research in support of requiring at least a bachelor's degree concluded that "the education levels of preschool teachers and specialized training in early childhood education predict teaching quality and children's learning and development." See: Barnett, W.S. (2003). Better teachers, better preschools: Student achievement linked to teacher qualifications. Preschool Policy Matters, 2, 1-12; In contrast, a 2007 review of seven preschool studies found contradictory relationships between teachers' level of education and child outcomes. See: Early, D. M., Maxwell, K. L., Burchinal, M., Alva, S., Bender, R. H., Bryant, D., ... & Zill, N. (2007). Teachers' education, classroom quality, and young children's academic skills: Results from seven studies of preschool programs. Child Development, 78(2), 558-580. Other research has found moderate differences in the instructional content of teacher preparation programs at different degree levels. See: Buettner, C. K., Hur, E. H., Jeon, L., & Andrews, D. W. (2016). What are we teaching the teachers? Child development curricula in U.S. higher education. Child & Youth Care Forum, 45(1), 155-175; Maxwell, K. L., Lim, C-I., & Early, D. M. (2006). Early childhood teacher preparation programs in the United States: National report. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute. Retrieved from; Bornfreund, L. A. (2011). Getting in sync: Revamping licensing and preparation for teachers in pre-k, kindergarten, and the early grades. Washington, DC: The New America Foundation. Retrieved from; Whitebook, M., & Austin, L. J. E. (2015). Early childhood higher education: Taking stock across the states. Berkeley, CA: Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, Institute of Research on Labor and Employment, University of California. Retrieved from
[2] Institute of Medicine, National Research Council. (2015). Transforming the workforce for children birth through age 8: A unifying foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from; Barnett, W. S., Carolan, M. E., Squires, J. H., Clarke Brown, K., & Horowitz, M. (2015). The state of preschool 2015: State preschool yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.
[3] Putman, H., Moorer, A., & Walsh, K. (2016). Some assembly required: Piecing together the preparation preschool teachers need. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from: