Public Elementary School Teacher: Education and Career Profile

Research what it takes to become a public elementary school teacher. Learn about the average salary, as well as the education and licensure requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Elementary Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Public elementary school teachers are employed by schools that are funded by taxpayer dollars. They teach the basics of reading, math, science, social studies and other subjects. The following chart gives an overview of a career in teaching at the elementary-school level.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Elementary education
Licensure Required in all states; certification voluntary, but common
Key Responsibilities Teaching one or more subjects, grading tests, motivating students, keeping parents informed
Job Growth (2012-22) 12% (for kindergarten and elementary school teachers)*
Average Salary (2014) $56,830 (for elementary school teachers except for special education teachers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Will I Do As a Public Elementary School Teacher?

As a teacher, you'll provide instruction in language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, art or music. You'll develop creative approaches to teach students various skills, such as reading, arithmetic and critical thinking. You may be a generalist who covers all of the major subject areas, or you may be a specialist who teaches only one subject, such as science or music.

You'll be responsible for grading tests and disciplining students, while simultaneously motivating them to succeed. You'll meet with parents and keep them up-to-date with their child's progress. Additionally, you might be required to perform some administrative duties, such as entering grades into computer databases.

What Should I Study?

According to the BLS, at a minimum, you'll need a bachelor's degree in order to teach in a public school. Typically, either a bachelor's degree in elementary education or a degree in a subject that is traditionally taught at the elementary-school level is sufficient.

A master's degree in elementary education could help you meet licensure requirements if you hold a bachelor's degree in a field other than education. Both undergraduate and graduate programs teach you skills in classroom management, curriculum development and child development. You could also gain hands-on experience by completing a teaching practicum.

What Credentials Should I Seek?

All public schools require teachers to be licensed to teach in their state. To earn your teaching credentials, you'll likely have to take a basic skills exam. If you have a bachelor's degree in a non-education field, you should consider alternative licensure programs that allow you to start teaching with a provisional license or become licensed after taking just one or two semesters of education courses.

You can demonstrate your teaching ability to potential school employers by obtaining additional voluntary certification. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offers certification for 16 subjects, including a generalist early childhood certification ( These voluntary certifications are valid for ten years and are nationally recognized.

What Is the Occupational Outlook For This Career?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average yearly salary for all elementary school teachers except special education teachers, as of May 2014, was $56,830 ( Most of these teachers worked for public schools associated with local governments, and their 2014 average salary was sightly higher at $57,990. Of all states, New York and Alaska paid the highest salaries, an average of over $71,000 per year in 2014. Employment growth of 12% is expected for all elementary school teachers between 2012 and 2022.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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