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Elementary School Teacher Career


What is an Elementary Education 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. 

Whether teaching elementary school, middle grades, or high school, you'll have to first earn a bachelor's degree. A program in education is usually required in order to become a teacher, due to the coursework, student teaching, and licensure requirements that will need to be met. But if you already have a bachelor's degree that's not an education degree, you can still pursue a teaching career!  


What are the Responsibilities of an Elementary School Teacher?

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-age children learn how to spell, which boosts their vocabulary and prepares them for the rest of their lives. An elementary school 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 introduce to their students. Young students may increase their knowledge through regular math tests and homework. 
  • Science. Elementary school teachers provide their students with 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 Education Does an Elementary School Teacher Need?

Elementary School Teacher Experience

There are options to gain work experience in the classroom before earning your education degree. For example, you can utilize internships and substitute teaching programs to get going in a classroom setting. But in order to become a fully licensed teacher, you will have to have an education bachelor's or a master's degree in elementary education that meets your state’s requirements.

Elementary School Teacher Requirements

If you do not have a bachelor's degree, you'll need to find a degree program that leads to teacher licensure. This could mean you pursue an elementary education degree program, a special education degree program, or a secondary or high school-level degree program. All of these unique degrees include important coursework that will prepare you to become a licensed teacher. Licensure requirements vary by state, so you'll want to understand what your state requires. For most states, there is a degree requirement, a student teaching or field experience requirement, and a final test you must pass in order to become licensed. 

If you already have a bachelor's degree in elementary education, there are graduate education programs that can similarly prepare you with the courses and field experience you need to pursue a teaching career. You’ll find graduate education programs in elementary education, special education, or secondary teaching similar to bachelor's programs. The goal of these programs is ultimately to prepare you to teach a particular subject and age range of students. 

You'll need to pursue a degree program that specifically prepares you to be the kind of teacher you want to be. For example, if you want to teach K–6 students, then an elementary education program will likely be required. If you want to teach social studies at a high school, then a degree program that focuses on secondary social studies licensure will be required. These specific programs are crucial to being trained for exactly the classroom experience you want to have. 

Most elementary education programs also prepare you for elementary school teacher licensure, which is necessary to work as a K–6 teacher. Each state has its own licensure requirements, but many include: 

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

Best Degrees for Elementary School Teachers

Elementary Education – B.A.

An online teacher certification program for aspiring elementary teachers....

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: 63% of grads earned this degree within 30 months.
  • Tuition: $3,825 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 40 total courses in this program.

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 requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time student 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 certification...

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: 83% of graduates finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition: $3,975 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 26 total courses in this program.

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 requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time student teaching.

How Much Does an Elementary Teacher Make?


The median annual salary for elementary school teachers is 47,731. 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.


What Skills Does an Elementary School Teacher Need?

The role of an elementary school teacher calls for a wide variety of skills. For example, you will be required to:

  • Have patience. Every child learns differently, has a unique background and home circumstances, and requires varying levels of patience. Having a gentle nature will make your life as an elementary school teacher much easier.
  • Be collaborative with other teachers. If the most important goal for elementary school teachers is student achievement, then teacher collaboration is the journey. Teachers can collaborate on lesson plans, cross-classroom activities, educational events, and more.
  • Easily explain new concepts. Life is all about perspective, and a successful teacher can sense the best way to explain new concepts to different students. Each student may require a unique explanation at certain times.
  • Engage students in learning. Gamification, relatable material, and technology are all ways to effectively engage students. Engagement can also look much simpler, like making eye contact with students.
  • Manage the classroom. While managing a classroom full of elementary school students can sound intimidating, there are proven classroom management tactics all teachers can use. Establishing classroom rules immediately and enforcing them consistently is a great place to start.
  • Adapt lessons. It’s important to adapt your teaching strategies and lessons to students' needs. Making changes to provided lessons can allow students equal access to curriculum, as well as give them the opportunity to process and demonstrate what has been taught.
  • Work with diverse backgrounds. There is always going to be diversity in a classroom, even if students appear to have a lot in common with their peers. An elementary school teacher must be dynamic and empathetic with regard to diversities.
  • Communicate and interact with parents, teachers, and students. A teacher must be comfortable with communicating with children, colleagues, and caregivers alike.
  • Have a problem-solving attitude. A teacher is the person that children and parents turn to for answers regarding education. While a teacher might not always have the answers, it’s their job to enable problem-solving.
  • Serve as a role model. Teachers’ roles in the classroom are just as important as those of parents at home. Teachers spend a significant amount of time (around five to seven hours a day; five days a week) with students and thus have a large influence on children.
  • Supervise activities. A teacher is responsible for the well-being of an average of 20 students in a classroom. Supervision also extends beyond the classroom into the cafeteria, hallways, field trips, recess, and interactions before and after school.

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