Elementary School Teacher: Career, Outlook and Education Info

Explore the career requirements for elementary school teachers. Get the facts about education and licensing requirements, typical job duties, job growth predictions and annual mean salaries to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Elementary Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Elementary School Teacher?

Elementary school teachers lay the foundation for future learning by teaching the basics of such subjects as reading, math, science and social studies. This involves developing lesson plans, observing the skills and abilities of students and grading assignments to monitor progress. Elementary school teachers will help students learn to communicate with those around them and work with individuals to help them overcome learning challenges. These professionals must also communicate with the parents of their students about progress and any behavior issues. Teachers are responsible for teaching acceptable behavior through classroom rules and monitoring students outside of the class, like at recess. The following chart gives an overview of the career.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Elementary education
Key Responsibilities Teaching basic concepts, developing lesson plans, evaluating students, communicating with parents
Licensure Required for public schools
Job Growth (2014-24) 6% (as fast as average)*
Average Salary (May 2015) $57,730*

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

What Duties Might I Have as an Elementary School Teacher?

Your primary goal as an elementary school teacher would be introducing young students to basic concepts in science, math, social studies and language. You might use games, art, music, rhymes and other props to make learning fun and to encourage memorization. You'll also develop lesson plans and evaluate students' performance. Being the leader of a classroom includes maintaining order, tracking student attendance and recording grades.

Additionally, you'll communicate with parents and school administrators regarding the progress of students. You may need to flag abnormal behavior and watch for signs of developmental issues, problems at home or abuse. Generally, you'll instruct a class consisting of a single grade level on multiple subjects.

What Can I Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for elementary school teachers was forecast to grow by 6% from 2014 through 2024, which is an average rate (www.bls.gov). Job prospects were projected to be better in urban and rural areas due to shortages of qualified teachers there.

The BLS reported that the mean annual salary for elementary school teachers was $57,730 as of May 2015. The top paying states for elementary school teachers were Connecticut, Alaska, New York and California.

What Should I Study in College?

While each state has its own licensure requirements, most require a bachelor's degree, supervised teaching experience and passage of a competency test. Bachelor's programs in elementary education typically cover teaching methods, education philosophies, child development, psychology, math, science, literature and the arts. In some states, you may need to complete a 1-year professional development program to gain supervised teaching experience after earning your degree. Additionally, pursuing a master's degree in elementary education could help you meet continuing education requirements, which might be part of your state's licensure program.

How Do I Become Licensed?

All states require elementary school teachers to become licensed if they plan to work in public schools; however, you should check with your state's board of education for specific requirements. If you don't have a background in elementary education but do have a bachelor's degree in another area, some states will allow you to complete an alternative program to become a licensed teacher. Also, if you choose to teach in a high-need area, you may be able to teach while completing licensure requirements.

You also might choose to pursue voluntary national certification. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has several certifications for elementary school teachers.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several other professionals in education that require a bachelor's degree, including middle school teachers, career and technical education teachers and special education teachers. Middle school teachers perform many of the same duties as elementary school teachers, but typically work with students in the 6th to 8th grades. Career and technical education teachers teach and train students in vocational and technical fields, such as healthcare or auto repair, to prepare students for a future career in the subject. Special education teachers work with students of varying ages with an array of learning, emotional, physical or mental disabilities. They will often need to adapt lessons to help teach their students basic skills.

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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