Careers in Elementary Education: Job Options and Requirements

Elementary education requires significant formal education. Learn about the degree, job options and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

A career in elementary education isn't limited to a teacher of grades 1-6. You might be interested in special education or administration at the elementary school level. Each carries separate responsibilities as well as separate skills, requirements and talents.

Essential Information

A teacher has many responsibilities, including educating, evaluating and assisting their students to learn what is necessary. An elementary teacher also wears the hat of a reading teacher in that these grade levels are the ones when most children focus on learning how to read. An elementary education administrator is the one who keeps the school running smoothly. An individual will need at least one year of teaching experience to be an elementary or special education teacher. An elementary education administrator must have at least 5 years experience. A state teaching licensure is also necessary for all the careers mentioned above. This job may appeal to those with a lot of patience who love children.

Career Special Education Teacher Elementary School Teacher Elementary Education Administrator
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Master's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% 6% 6%
Median Salary (2015)* $55,810 $54,890 $90,410
Certification/Licensure Many programs require state teacher certification Most programs require state teacher certification Many programs require state teacher certification

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

In most cases, a student who chooses to be an elementary school teacher or a special education teacher must earn a bachelor's degree and state teacher certification. To become an elementary education administrator, an individual must hold a bachelor's degree, state teacher certification and have at least 5 years of experience. Completing a college internship program is mandatory for those who want a graduate degree.

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers work with students who have varying disabilities, such as cognitive, physical and emotional. Teachers must tailor their lesson plans to fit both the physical and emotional needs of their students. Teachers also guide and monitor students' development and keep detailed reports of their students' progress. Individuals who work with infants and toddlers may visit their students' homes in order to teach students and provide training to parents. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, projects 6% job growth for special education preschool, kindergarten, and elementary educators between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for special education kindergarten and elementary school teachers was $55,810 in May 2015.

Education and Licensing Requirements

According to the BLS, special education teachers need at least a bachelor's degree. Special education degree programs could instruct them how to work with families and how to stay appraised of laws and emerging technologies in education. Teachers must also have a license in order to teach in public schools. Licensing requirements include a bachelor's degree, completion of a teacher preparation program and adequate scores on exams. Some states require a master's degree.

Elementary Teacher

Elementary teachers focus on basic school subjects such as science, English, math and history. Elementary teachers can have an important impact on a child's developmental years in which they are discovering and exploring the world and forming patterns that can affect their futures. Teachers may either work alone or in teams, specializing in a single subject or in a variety of basic subjects. The BLS projects a 6% job growth for elementary school teachers between 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary for kindergarten and elementary school teachers was reported by the BLS to be $54,890 in 2015.

Education Requirements

Some teachers complete a bachelor's degree program in elementary education, while others may complete a bachelor's degree program in the subject they plan to teach, followed by a teacher preparation program. Depending on the school, students may not be able to enroll in a teaching program until their sophomore or junior years. Like special education teachers, elementary teachers must be licensed in their state in order to work in public schools.

Elementary Education Administrator

In elementary schools, administrators are known as principals, school leaders who oversee curriculum plans, prepare budgets and create education goals and standards. Administrators could also be involved with public relations and meet with other administrators, parents and teachers to discuss state education standards and student performance. Principals could also establish after-school programs for students from single-parent families. Elementary, middle, and high school principal positions are expected to grow by 6% between 2014 and 2024. Additionally, elementary and secondary school education administrators earned a median annual salary of $90,410 in May, 2015.

Education and Licensing Requirements

According to the BLS, most elementary administrators have master's degrees. However, a bachelor's degree could be enough to secure a position as a principal at a private school or as an administrator at a preschool or childcare center. Many administrators begin as teachers and then move into administrative positions after completing an advanced degree program. In most states, administrators must be licensed. To qualify for licensure, applicants typically need a master's degree, professional experience and passing scores on a licensing exam.

The occupations of elementary school teacher, special education teacher and elementary school administrator are all projected to increase at a rate that matches the average growth rate for all occupations nationally. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to secure a position in any of these occupations, with the possibility of a master's degree for special education teacher and administrator, along with 5 years of experience for the latter. Most positions require state licensure or certification.

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