What Are the Requirements to Be an Elementary School Teacher?

As an elementary school teacher, you'll aid children with their social, mental, physical and emotional development. To teach in public elementary schools, you'll need a bachelor's degree and state licensure. Read on for more details about the qualifications for elementary school teachers, and review the job outlook and salary potential. Schools offering Elementary Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Program Should I Study to Become an Elementary School Teacher?

You'll likely want to pursue a bachelor's degree in elementary education. Available online and on campus, these programs combine teaching methods and childhood development theories with subject-specific courses. You'll study elementary teaching techniques, curriculum planning, education basics, management skills, growth assessment techniques, creative arts and literacy.

You'll build your knowledge of different student backgrounds and diverse student populations. You'll look at special topics in urban schools, family studies, community involvement in education, childhood development, children's literature and counseling.

Since an elementary school teacher is usually responsible for one class, you'll be expected to have a rounded knowledge of all subjects, including math, science, English, geography and history. Depending on the school, art, music and reading may be taught independently from other subjects.

Degree Programs Elementary education
Common Courses Curriculum planning, childhood development, family studies, creative arts, literacy
Licensure Required for public schools jobs; process for earning it varies according to state's board of education requirements
Certification Voluntary; NBPTS for generalist/early childhood certification
Salary and Outlook $54,890 (median salary for elementary school teachers as of 2015); 6% job growth between 2014-24

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Credentials Do I Need?

If you want to work in a public school, you'll need state-awarded teaching credentials, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Some colleges provide information on state licensing. However, for current requirements, go to your state's board of education. Some states may approve you for initial certification while you're working to meet additional educational requirements. This is typically done in situations of teacher shortages.

Licenses can also vary state to state. Some states refer to teaching credentials as certifications, while others call them licenses. Some states also provide licensing by grade levels; this way you can obtain a license specific to elementary education. The board will assess your teaching skills through exams and classroom observation.

What About National Certification?

You can seek the generalist/early childhood certification for teachers offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). This voluntary certification is awarded to teachers who meet the NBPTS' standards for teaching young children.

The National Board Certification process assesses your knowledge of multiple school subjects, physical education, childhood development and the usage of play in the classroom (www.nbpts.org). Similar to state licensing, you'll be required to submit a portfolio of your teaching experience, which can include videos of you teaching in a classroom and printed materials of student work.

What Is the Career Outlook?

The BLS states that elementary school teaching positions are expected to grow by 6% between 2014-2024. Depending on the state and locality, more positions may be available. Urban and low-income schools may have better job prospects. In 2015, elementary school teachers had a median salary of $54,890 (www.bls.gov).

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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