How to Become an Elementary School Teacher in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become an elementary school teacher. Learn about job duties, education requirements, student-teaching and licensing requirements to find out if this is the 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 teach everything from basic social skills to reading, writing, and the natural sciences. They design and execute lesson plans, monitor student progress, prepare standardized tests and enforce rules. They must also evaluate their student's abilities and weaknesses to help them overcome any learning struggles. The most common career path to become a teacher is completing a bachelor's degree program in education that includes a period of student-teaching. The following chart provides additional information.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Education, elementary education
Key Responsibilities Plan and teach lessons, grade papers and tests, make sure students follow rules, communicate with parents
Licensure Required to teach in public schools
Job Growth (2014-24) 6%*
Median Salary (May 2015) $54,890*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research Career Duties and Education

Elementary school teachers instruct students in kindergarten through eighth grade. They prepare and present lessons, manage classroom behavior, and evaluate student progress. Teachers work with students and their parents to help them meet academic expectations. Teachers at elementary schools generally need to hold a bachelor's degree and complete an approved teacher training program.

Step 2: Complete a Degree

A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement needed to become a teacher, according to the College Board. Students may pursue degrees in education through many colleges, universities, or even distance-education programs.

Degree programs in elementary education focus on teaching the primary grades, kindergarten through eighth grade. Coursework includes child development, psychology, philosophy of education, curriculum development, classroom management, and teaching methods. Students are advised to choose programs accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council. These programs usually ensure that state licensing requirements will be met.

Step 3: Complete a Residency Program

Most degree programs typically require students to perform a student-teaching experience. Completion of such an experience is also usually a requirement for state licensing. Aspiring teachers will gain hands-on experience working in an actual classroom alongside an experienced teacher.

Step 4: Obtain a License

Upon completion of an accredited elementary education program, individuals are eligible for state licensing. Licensing requirements vary by state, and alternate means of licensing are becoming more common. However, general requirements include earning a bachelor's degree, completing an approved teacher training program, obtaining supervised practice teaching, and passing a competency exam.

Step 5: Secure Employment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) expects jobs to grow for elementary school teachers at a rate of 6% from 2014-2024. Teachers may find the best prospects in urban, rural, or other less-desirable areas. For public schools, elementary school teachers need to apply with individual school districts. For private schools, teachers may need to apply to each individual school.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related roles include teaching at the high and middle school levels, which involve many of the same responsibilities. For these positions, you'll need a bachelor's degree. Middle school teachers often prepare their students for high school, while high school teachers gear their pupils up for college and/or entering the job market.

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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