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Careers in Elementary Education

Explore the career requirements for elementary educators. Get the facts about coursework and licensure requirements, job duties, and salary to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Does a Elementary Teacher Do?

As an elementary teacher, you will provide a foundation in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies, as well as technology, for young learners. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know before entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Elementary education
Licensure/Certification Required for all public school teachers
Key Responsibilities Lesson development, classroom management, communication with parents, instruction and assessment
Job Outlook (2018-2028)* 3%
Median Salary (2018)* $58,230

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Credentials are Necessary for Careers in Elementary Education?

Obtaining a bachelor's degree from an approved teacher education program and earning a license is required to work in elementary education in public school systems. If you would like to work in a private school, licensing may not be required, but you must still acquire a degree. In instances where applicants don't meet licensing requirements, there may be alternative programs that allow them to teach with provisional licenses, while taking any additional educational courses necessary to qualify for licensure.

What Courses Might I Study?

You must find a teacher education program that is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council. Such programs can adequately prepare you for becoming licensed after graduation. Teacher education programs are made up of many subjects, including science, literature, mathematics and art. Your professional education also includes courses in classroom discipline and management, educational psychology, elementary school language arts, and educational media and technology.

What Job Responsibilities Might I Have?

When you become an elementary classroom teacher, you might specialize in an area such as art or physical education, or you can teach several subjects. Generally, you'll have the task of developing lesson plans, assigning reports and homework, and guiding students as they learn basic concepts in reading, English and mathematics.

Some of your other responsibilities include establishing behavior guidelines, arranging conferences with students and parents, and grading students based on their progress. Many elementary education teachers are now using technology to instruct their students, so you may find it necessary to utilize computers, along with books and films, as teaching aids.

How Would I Acquire a Teaching License?

Regardless of the state you live in, you must obtain a license if you'd like to teach elementary school students. Although all states may have different laws regarding licensure, each state requires that you obtain an undergraduate degree and complete an accredited teacher training program. An internship or supervised teaching experience is also required.

Once these requirements are met, you must complete the licensing examination administered by your state board of education. You'll have to demonstrate knowledge of your subject matter and teaching skills. License renewal is usually dependent upon participation in continuing education programs.

How Much Money Can I Expect to Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that elementary educators who worked in elementary schools earned median annual wages of $58,230 in 2018 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also notes that elementary school teachers in general earned average salaries of $62,200 in 2018. Some elementary educators were able to increase their compensation by obtaining advanced degrees in education, teaching summer school classes or becoming mentors.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Several of the skills such as how to elicit thinking and classroom management are required to teach all grades, so many teachers change levels with additional education and certification. Librarians and counselors can work schools but may require different training and education. Career and technical educators instruct individuals other than children in vocational subjects, such as auto repair and cooking.