Overview of Programs
Online education programs for prospective teachers can be found at many public and private four-year institutions and in multiple formats. Both undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available in elementary teacher education. Students may be able to complete all the coursework online with the exception of student teaching requirements. Some schools may offer a hybrid program instead, which combines distance-learning courses with campus-based instruction.
Individuals desiring to work as an elementary school teacher must have a bachelor's degree. However, some master's programs are designed to give a pathway to teacher certification to individuals who have an unrelated undergraduate education and/or are seeking a career change. In addition, graduate-level teacher programs may be designed for experienced educators who are seeking to advance their credentials. Examples of common online programs for this field include:
- Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (K-8)
- Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education Interdisciplinary Studies
- Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (Early Childhood concentration)
- Master of Arts in Teaching: Elementary Education
- Master of Arts in Education: Elementary Education
Students applying to an online bachelor's program in elementary education must have a high school diploma or GED and may need to take certain placement tests to obtain admission. Students seeking admittance to a master's program in this field must have a bachelor's degree and may need to have undergraduate credits in certain subjects. If a graduate program is designed for experienced teachers desiring advancement, an existing teaching license is typically required.
Online or hybrid elementary teacher programs mirror the requirements of on-campus programs. Bachelor's degree programs, which typically take around four years to complete, include general education coursework that may be transferred in from a community college or other school. Master's programs, which often require around two years of full-time study, usually include a core set of courses devoted to education and then a specialization in elementary teaching. Course topics that are typical in an online elementary teacher program include:
- Educational psychology
- Foundations of education
- Teaching mathematics
- Teaching the sciences
- Elementary reading and literacy
- Curriculum development
- Children's literature
- Educational assessments
- Instructional methods
Even in degree programs that offer totally online courses, distance learners who are seeking licensure must complete student teaching experiences in an approved school in their area. These sessions usually occur in the final year of study. Some colleges and universities also require their online students to attend on-campus residencies at certain points in their programs.
Online education degree programs use tools like e-mail, forums or message boards, instant messengers, and specially designed educational software that allows students to access their classes from anywhere. Online classes may have something akin to a traditional class format, with regular assignment and test due dates and periodic class assignments that require students to interact and work together, either in small groups or as an entire class.
Graduates who desire to teach in public schools in any state must be licensed. Specific requirements vary based on location, but generally individuals must have a bachelor's degree in addition to completing an accredited teacher education program with student teaching. They must pass a teacher certification exam and, in some cases, additional assessments focused on particular content areas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In summary, becoming an elementary school teacher online involves a combination of bachelor's or master's degree program, onsite student teaching, and licensure for public school teachers.