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Elementary Education Teacher Career

How To Become an Elementary Education Teacher

High school teachers play an important role in shaping young minds as they prepare for the next big step on their path as students. When you teach high school you have the opportunity to work with older students in a specialty of your choosing, supporting their educational pursuits as they start to think about college and make plans for the future. Whether your area of interest is mathematics, science, English, history, or the creative arts, the passion you have for your specialization and for teaching will lend itself to shaping the next generation of architects, biochemists, novelists, and more.

Learn About Different Grade Levels for Elementary Teachers

Discover which grade-level you want to teach by learning more about what students learn in different elementary classes.

A teacher is leading a class of elementary school children. There are various posters on the wall, and drawings on the chalkboard. Students are putting up their hands to answer a question.

What Is an Elementary School Teacher?

An elementary school teacher can teach classes ranging from kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade. They instruct their young students in core subjects like math and reading. They also help them develop critical social and behavioral skills for success in middle school and beyond.

To work as an elementary teacher, you may need only a bachelor’s degree. However, many ELED educators hold a master’s degree so they can be more effective in their roles, earn higher wages, and even progress into administrative positions at the school or district level.

What Does an Elementary School Teacher Do?

The main role of an elementary school teacher is to teach young students the critical foundational skills they need to succeed in their lives and future education. Elementary school teachers teach critical skills like:

  • Reading. Knowing how to read is a critical core skill for young students to develop. Elementary school teachers play a vital role in helping students learn to read and expand their literacy skills.
  • Spelling. Elementary aged children learn how to spell which boosts their vocabulary and prepares them for the rest of their lives. An elementary teacher may administer regular spelling tests to encourage improvement in this area.
  • Writing. It’s important for young students to learn how to communicate through writing. Elementary school teachers help their students become better writers by giving them assignments ranging from short stories to essays. Younger students may start by simply writing or copying down sentences, while older students may begin to practice creative and persuasive writing.
  • Math. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are important skills that elementary school teachers teach their students. Young students may increase their knowledge through regular math tests and homework.
  • Science. Elementary school teachers give their students a basic foundational knowledge of what science is and why it’s important. Young students may learn about the weather, the seasons, the earth, and the basic scientific method.

What is Student Teaching?

Student teaching is an integral part of earning your ELED degree and becoming an elementary school teacher. Essentially an unpaid internship, you’ll work at a nearby school under the supervision of a master teacher from the school and a supervisor from your university.

Typically, you’ll start by shadowing your assigned teacher in their classroom for a week, and then take on more responsibility over the course of three to five months. Eventually, you’ll assume most or all of the teaching duties, including lesson planning, actual teaching, assessment, grading, and class management.

This program not only gives you firsthand experience as to what it will be like to be an elementary school teacher, but it also proves that you’ve gained all of the skills and know-how needed to complete your degree and meet your licensure requirements.

How Do I Become an Elementary School Teacher?

Your first step towards a new career as an elementary school teacher is admission to a teaching education degree program. All schools require at least a bachelor’s degree in elementary education (ELED), and this elementary degree will prepare you to educate and care for a diverse group of young learners.

In addition to discovering how to run your own classroom as a school teacher, capture the attention of students, and create a safe and fun place for learning, your ELED degree will typically cover:

  • Educational foundations
  • Psychology and development
  • Community of care
  • Inclusive classrooms
  • Children's literature
  • Mathematics
  • Social studies
  • Science
  • Visual and performing arts

Most elementary education programs also prepare you for elementary school teacher licensure, which is necessary to work as a K–5 teacher. Each state has its own licensure requirements, but often include:

  • Completion of a bachelor’s degree program.
  • Submission of transcripts.
  • Completion and clearance of a background check.
  • Passing of state-mandated entrance exams and skills tests.

An exam many states have adopted is the Praxis, which measures the academic skills and subject-specific knowledge needed for teaching elementary school. Again, depending on your program, your elementary education degree should prepare you to take and pass this exam.

Best Degrees for Elementary School Teachers

Elementary Education – B.A.

An online teacher certification program for aspiring elementary...

An online teacher certification program for...

An online teacher certification program for aspiring elementary teachers.

Leads to teacher licensure. Specific grade levels will vary depending on teaching certification in your state.

  • Time: 60% of grads earned this degree within 36 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,770 per 6-month term.

Candidates for this program often include:

  • Aspiring elementary school teachers who currently lack a teaching license
  • Substitute teachers
  • Career-changers
  • School paraprofessionals
  • Others who feel the call to teach

This elementary education degree program includes courses in the foundations of teacher education, instructional planning and presentation, assessment, and classroom management. Core teacher education courses focus on diversity, disciplinary literacy, elementary education methods, and pedagogy. It requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time demonstration teaching. This online teaching degree program helps you to be eligible for teaching certification in any of the 50 states.

Teaching, Elementary Education – M.A.

An online master's of arts in education degree and teacher...

An online master's of arts in education degree...

An online master's of arts in education degree and teacher certification program for aspiring elementary school teachers who already have a bachelor's degree in a non-teaching field.

Leads to a teaching license. Specific grade levels will vary depending on teaching certification in your state.

  • Time: 67% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,935 per 6-month term.

Candidates for this master's of arts in education degree program often include:

  • Aspiring elementary teachers who currently hold a bachelor's degree but lack a teaching license
  • Substitute teachers
  • Career-changers
  • School paraprofessionals
  • Others who feel the call to teach

This online teacher's degree includes courses in the foundations of teaching, mathematics content, instructional planning and presentation, elementary education methods, and effective teaching practices. It requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time demonstration teaching.

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What Skills Does an Elementary School Teacher Need?

An elementary school teacher has the unique challenge of not only teaching a number of different subjects, but also managing a classroom of young children. As such, here are the skills an elementary school teacher needs to succeed:

  • A breadth of knowledge. Since elementary school teachers teach many subjects, they must possess a knowledge of everything from math and science to reading and writing. 
  • Patience. If you’re an elementary school teacher, remaining calm is critical. Helping young students with varying personalities and levels of social and intellectual development can be a challenge that requires a lot of patience. 
  • Adaptability. Elementary school teachers quickly learn that not every lesson goes exactly according to plan. Students may struggle with certain concepts and extra time and attention may need to be spent. Making changes and adapting as circumstances evolve is important.

How Much Does an Elementary Teacher Make?


The median annual salary for elementary school teachers is $60,660. This will vary based on where you live, your education level, and the grade level you teach. Elementary education teachers can anticipate that they will see salary levels increase the more experience and education they have.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


According to the BLS, the job market for elementary school teachers is expected to grow by 7% from 2020 to 2030, which is about as fast as the growth rate for all occupations. In many parts of the country there are teacher shortages, making the need for qualified teachers more important than ever before.

Do I Need a Certification to Be an Elementary School Teacher?


If you plan to teach elementary school, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree and the proper licenses and certifications for your state. Here is more information on teacher licensure and certification. Postsecondary elementary education professors should check with the specific college or university for which they’ll teach to get an idea of the required certifications. 

Interested in Becoming an Elementary School Teacher?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.

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