How Can I Become an Elementary Educator?

Research what it takes to become an elementary educator. Learn about the education requirements, responsibilities, job outlook and salary to find out 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 Educator?

Elementary educators usually teach children in pre-school or kindergarten through the fifth grade. They may specialize in one subject, manage all subjects for an entire classroom, or teach multi-grade levels. The goal of an elementary educator is to prepare students for future schooling by using multiple teaching strategies to implement a curriculum.

If you pursue a career as an elementary educator, your job duties will include teaching to entire classes or small groups of students, preparing students for tests, and managing the classroom environment to keep students productive. You will likely also have responsibilities outside of the classroom, or when students aren't present. These could include grading assignments, communicating with parents or other school faculty, or planning future lessons. The table below lists the general requirements for a career as an elementary educator.

Degree RequiredBachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Elementary education
LicensureRequired in all states to teach in public schools, specific criteria may vary
Key ResponsibilitiesDeveloping and teaching elementary class lessons;
Managing classroom behavior;
Monitoring student progress;
Conducting parent-teacher conferences;
Supervising other school-related activities
Job Growth (2014-2024)6% for elementary school teachers*
Median Salary (2015) $54,890 for elementary educators, except special education*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Will I Need to Become an Elementary Educator?

If you're interested in becoming an elementary educator, you should enroll in a 4-year bachelor's degree program in teacher education. After graduation, you'll need to become licensed. Both the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council accredit teacher education programs, and enrolling in an accredited program can make it easier to qualify for a license. Every state requires its public school teachers to be properly licensed according to the specific regulations of that state.

How Do I Obtain a Teaching License?

In most cases, private elementary school teachers do not need to be licensed; however, if you want to work as an elementary educator in a public school, you'll need to gain licensure from your state's education board. The licensure examinations test your teaching ability, as well as fundamental writing and reading skills.

State licensure requirements vary, but in all states, you must have completed a bachelor's-level teacher training program and a supervised teaching experience. Those who do not meet licensing requirements may be able to teach with a provisional license while they work toward completion of all requirements. To renew your teaching license, you'll be required to take continuing education classes, and some states may require that you earn a master's degree.

What Will I Study?

You'll study applied science, mathematics, classroom technology, child growth and development, reading fundamentals, language arts, childhood and early adolescent development, elementary curriculum and instruction, classroom management and school safety. You'll also complete an internship or supervised teaching session, where you'll work in a real classroom to build your practical teaching skills.

What Job Responsibilities Will I Have?

Your duties as an elementary educator will include developing lesson plans, creating assignments, enforcing discipline within the classroom, testing students' abilities and skill levels, and evaluating their overall progress. You may make use of lectures, films, computers and hands-on demonstrations to help your students learn.

Other responsibilities may include directing classroom activities, reading books to your pupils, preparing report cards, chaperoning field trips and supervising study halls. You'll also conduct conferences with your students' parents to discuss their academic performances.

What Salary Could I Expect to Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, as of 2015, teachers who worked in elementary schools earned a median annual salary of $54,890, with the exception of those who worked in special education fields. Job growth for this occupation from 2014-2024 is reported as 6%, according to the BLS. A large number of elementary educators belonged to unions, especially the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, although changes in education policy may reduce the power of these unions.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other types of teaching are worth considering as well, including special education, high school, or early childhood education. Special education teachers work with students who have any of a wide range of disabilities or delays. In schools, these professionals often adapt the standard curriculum to meet the learning needs of the special education student, and they incorporate basic life lessons as well. High school teachers work with older students, teaching content appropriate for grades nine through twelve, as well as focusing on career and college preparation. Like elementary school teachers, these other types of teachers also need at least a bachelor's degree and a license for public school positions.

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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