Elementary School Teachers: Job Requirements, Duties and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an elementary school teacher. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Elementary school teachers instruct children from grades 1-8. All teachers must hold both a bachelor's degree and a state teaching license or certification to work in public schools. Teacher education programs, internships or training may also be required. Some elementary teachers also earn a master's degree.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in elementary education
Other Requirements License or certification, and internship or training may be necessary
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 12%
Median Salary (2013)* $53,590 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Elementary School Teacher Job Requirements

Since a bachelor's degree is a requirement for state teaching licenses, all aspiring public school teachers must graduate from a 4-year program before submitting an application for a license. Students hoping to work as elementary teachers need to look for schools that offer programs in elementary education. Most schools conferring education degrees require students to complete a supervised student teaching experience prior to graduation.

The definition of elementary differs from state to state. For example, a state may define elementary as K-8 (kindergarten through to grade eight) while another state may define it as K-6. Students should consider the grade level they want to teach and state certification guidelines when choosing a degree program.


Observations of elementary school classrooms supplement many classes in an elementary education degree program. Students also take courses in which they create sample lesson plans and give mock lessons to their classmates. Additional courses may include educational psychology and elementary school science.

Teacher Practicum

Most states require aspiring elementary school teachers to have teaching experience, so elementary teacher preparatory programs typically include this in their curriculum. Sometimes referred to as internships, these opportunities allow aspiring elementary school teachers to prepare reading assignments, grade papers and work with kids.

License Requirements

Teaching in a public school requires a state license. State boards have varying licensure requirements; however, most require a bachelor's degree in elementary education. Aspiring elementary school teachers may also need to successfully complete skills tests in subjects like reading and writing. Applicants should consult their respective state boards for more specific requirements.

Elementary School Teacher Duties

Most elementary school teachers are in charge of a single classroom of students who are all in the same grade. Accordingly, elementary school teachers typically instruct students in a variety of subjects, from language arts to social studies. While they still deliver formal lessons, elementary school teachers often use games, crafts and other entertaining activities to help students learn material.

Required Skills

Elementary school teachers are often required to know how to encourage and communicate well with young children in order to help them develop in their earliest academic years. Since school children learn intellectually and behaviorally at their own pace, a high level of patience is needed for the job. Teachers may be required to communicate with parents on a regular basis. This may include phoning parents about specific issues or giving progress updates through report cards.

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects a large number of elementary school teachers to retire in the years 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Therefore, the BLS anticipates employment of kindergarten and elementary school teachers to grow 12% between 2012 and 2022. Aspiring teachers willing to relocate to high-need rural or urban areas will have the best job prospects.

Salary Information

As of May 2013, median annual earnings of kindergarten and elementary school teachers were $53,590 as reported by the BLS. The highest-earning ten percent earned salaries exceeding $83,600. Since most school districts use a salary ladder, the salary of an elementary school teacher tends to increase each year. School districts may pay teachers who have earned credits beyond a bachelor's degree, such as completing a 1-year professional development program or a master's degree, higher salaries.

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