Head Start programs provide important educational and developmental support to preschool-age children across the country. At-risk children are instructed using research-based best practices and also engaged in activities that encourage healthy social and emotional development. Since the Head Start Association seeks to provide children with a safe and meaningful experience, teachers and paraprofessionals must meet a number of requirements.

Education Requirements for Teachers

Head Start teachers are required to have a bachelor's or an advanced degree in early childhood education or a major relating to early childhood education. They are also required to have prior experience teaching preschool-age kids. In addition to meeting degree requirements, Head Start teachers need to prove that they are able to perform the functions of a competent teacher. This proof usually comes in the form of professional references from past or current supervisors. Head Start teachers must be able to develop quality lesson plans, assess student progress, support children's social and emotional development, and establish a safe and healthy learning environment.

Education Requirements for Paraprofessionals

Teaching assistants in Head Start classrooms must have at least a child development associate credential. Those pursuing a CDA may also be eligible as long as they complete all required courses within two years of employment. It's preferred that Head Start paraprofessionals be enrolled in a program that will lead to an associate or bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a related field. Paraprofessionals in Head Start should also have experience with preschool-age children.

Background Check

Teachers and paraprofessionals in Head Start classrooms must undergo a criminal background check as required by state, tribal or federal law. Most states require that all public school districts conduct criminal background checks on both certified and noncertified employees. Some states require potential employees to submit fingerprints, which are forwarded to the state police and the FBI for verification, as part of the background check. Head Start agencies are required to comply with the laws established by their state for criminal records checks.

CPR/First Aid

Head Start teachers and paraprofessionals are also required to have current training in pediatric CPR and first aid, including rescue breathing and choking. Training by the American Red Cross or American Heart Association, or through a training program offered by local hospitals or EMS authorities, is preferred.