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First-Grade Teacher Career Guide

How to Become a First-Grade Teacher

First-grade teachers are responsible for the educational and social development of students from a young age. Perhaps more important than the math, science, and art concepts, a first-grade teacher fosters an uplifting, non-judgmental environment in the classroom. If you’re a quality organizer and a better listener, becoming a first-grade teacher might be the right educational move for you.

In allowing first-grade students room to learn, grow, and socialize, first-grade teachers serve as educators, protectors, and role models inside and outside of the classroom. They encourage creativity daily and create a learning environment where students are free to express opinions, communicate with each other, and learn from mistakes.

Anyone with a passion for early education and a desire to encourage learning will find that becoming a first-grade teacher is a truly rewarding career choice.

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 a First-Grade Teacher?

Responsible for the academic and social formation of first-grade students, first-grade teachers provide education on a variety of subjects. They familiarize students with basic concepts, while teaching first-graders to think for themselves, ask questions, and embrace their unique personalities.

What Does a First-Grade Teacher Do?

Depending on the time of the year, the responsibilities of a first-grade teacher may vary widely, from curriculum creation to parent-teacher conferences. The exact duties of a first-grade teacher can include:

  • Lesson planning to outline concepts they will teach to students during future classes.
  • Materials management to ensure that all worksheets, textbooks, personal whiteboards, technology, and school-provided writing utensils are functional and ready for the day’s lessons.
  • Enforcing classroom rules to foster a safe, productive learning environment for all students and staff.
  • Implementing technology applications at appropriate intervals, to introduce first-grade students to devices and online resources that can assist in the learning process;
  • Activity organization that encourages out-of-the-box thinking in a comfortable, accepting environment that students can embrace.
  • Student counseling to help all students overcome life’s challenges.
  • Record-keeping to accurately track all student attendance records, grades, behavioral notes, and class schedules.

These and other responsibilities make the daily schedule of a first-grade teacher a busy one. A majority of the responsibilities that a first-grade teacher maintains will directly contribute to the short- and long-term education of current students.

What Is Taught in First Grade?

  • Math concepts such as measurements, currency, identifying different distances, and telling time.
  • Science concepts such as life and organisms, different habitats, the water cycle, climatic changes around the world, and basic health.
  • History concepts such as worldwide holidays, popular American figures, and time zones.
  • Art concepts such as shapes, patterns, watercolors, and other art forms that are easy to produce.
  • Social studies concepts such as fundamental geography, basic rights, and identifying locations on a map.

Where Do First-Grade Teachers Work?

The location where a first-grade teacher works is largely dependent on the nature of the school itself. These settings include:

  • Public or private schools, where first-grade teachers work onsite at the school itself, in individual classrooms.
  • Religious schools, where first-grade teachers are typically responsible for teaching both an academic and a theological curriculum.
  • Charter academies, where first-grade teachers can work extended hours, and even live, on or near the school’s campus.
  • Special-education schools, where first-grade teachers will often personalize lesson plans according to the materials students can comprehend.
  • Private tutorships, where teachers will often travel to a student’s home or a third-party location, and provide education from a tailored curriculum.

During months when school is in session, first-grade teachers will spend a majority of their work-time at the school itself. When summer months arrive and students are not in school, teachers turn their attention to building or optimizing curriculums, refreshing classroom settings, and restocking any educational resources. If a teacher prefers to work remotely during the summer months, they are often free to do so.

What Education Does a First-Grade Teacher Need?

At a minimum, a first-grade teacher will need a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Each state will have specific requirements for elementary school teachers, but a bachelor’s degree will absolutely be required in order to teach. You will need to find a program that prepares you for licensure in your state. An elementary education degree will help you be prepared for the specific subjects you will teach in the classroom, as well as critical education strategies for effective teaching.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a different field, a master’s degree in elementary education can help you gain the credentials you need for licensure in your state. It’s important to understand the specific requirements in your state including background checks, certification examinations, and student teaching hour requirements.

Best Degree for First Grade 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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Pretty teacher talking to the young pupils in classroom at the elementary school

What Skills Does a First-Grade Teacher Need?

First-grade teachers regularly put to use a defined skill set, to help them develop lesson plans, connect with students, and create a safe classroom environment. These skills include:

  • Innovative thinking: The ability to creatively generate curriculums that will resonate with students, hold interest, and provide the necessary education.
  • Organization: The ability to organize classrooms to optimize learning.
  • Technological proficiency: The ability to appropriately integrate technology into the classroom, in a way that benefits student education.
  • Instruction: The ability to help students benefit from individual and shared learning environments.
  • Interpersonal communication skills: The ability to correspond well with both students, parents, and fellow school staff members.
  • Time management: The ability to balance classroom, student, and lesson plan priorities.

These and other skills form the foundation for a successful first-grade teacher.

How Much Does a First-Grade Teacher Make?


The exact income of a first-grade teacher varies based on factors that include their years of experience, employer, employer location, and tenure status.

The salary of a first-grade teacher averages $47,500 per year, with a range of roughly $30,812 to $83,049.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


The job outlook for elementary school teachers is expected to see 4% growth by 2029, which is an expansion rate roughly the same as all other occupations. Amid a nationwide teacher shortage, the demand for educated teachers with a passion for helping their students learn is only going to increase.

This growth in elementary school teacher employment is closely related to an anticipated increase in total student enrollment. As the total number of enrolled students increases, the need for elementary school teachers will experience a parallel rise.

Does A First Grade Teacher Need Certification?


First-grade teachers require licensure in the state where they are teaching. State-specific licensure requirements vary by location, so individuals interested in becoming a first-grade teacher should reference requirements in their region.

Interested in Becoming a First Grade Teacher?

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

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