Elementary Curriculum Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Oct 14, 2019

Those who are interested in an elementary curriculum degree can enroll in a variety of programs, including bachelor's and master's degree programs as well as graduate certificate programs.

Essential Information

The elementary curriculum bachelor's degree and graduate certificate programs are comprised of basic education topics such as curriculum development, classroom management, and childhood development. The master's program includes the same basic education coursework but is more focused on researching methods to enrich the education process. While bachelor's degree programs are designed for students with no college experience and only a high school education, graduate certificate and master's programs are intended for students who already hold a bachelor's degree. A number of master's programs are specifically designed for licensed teachers seeking career advancement and additional credentials in curriculum development. Many programs will include a student teaching internship.

Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

The bachelor's degree in elementary education is designed for students who plan to pursue elementary teacher licensure. This interdisciplinary program includes coursework in foundations of education and instruction and childhood development. Prospective teachers study educational psychology, curriculum development, teaching methods, and classroom management. Additionally, the instructional technology portion of the coursework trains students on the use of technology as a teaching tool and also includes an examination of computers and software used in classrooms.

Toward the end of their degrees, students are placed in an elementary school where they work with a teacher mentor, participate in classroom instruction, and move into the role of an elementary teacher. Coursework prepares students to teach reading, math, language arts instruction, and a number of other subjects. Common courses include:

  • Reading assessment
  • American education system
  • Classroom procedures
  • Behavior and cognition
  • ESL (English as a Second Language)

Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education

One way to earn a teacher licensure is to complete a post-bachelor's elementary education certificate program. This program prepares students to be effective leaders and mentors in elementary schools. The curriculum explores teaching theories and the ethical, legal, and social sides of American education. Theories of the emotional, physical, and social development of young learners and the needs of diverse student populations may be explored in adolescent development courses. Other areas of focus include student motivation, classroom-based research, and professionalism. To be admitted into the graduate certificate program, students are required to provide letters of recommendation, a personal statement essay, and writing samples. Other requirements include passing the Praxis I exam and also documented experience working with elementary-age children. The K-8 curriculum includes coursework in teaching, math, science, social studies, music, and art. Other topics in the certificate program include:

  • Literacy
  • Discipline
  • Learning processes
  • Literature
  • Classroom diversity

Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction in Elementary Education

The Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction in Elementary Education program explores teaching theories and principles and trains students to develop curriculum plans in many areas including mathematics, social studies, and science. The curriculum is research-intensive. It requires students to collect and analyze data and then apply their research findings to the improvement of elementary classroom curriculum plans.

Students complete research projects, field studies and a student teaching experience towards the end of the program. Requirements for enrolling in the master's program include a written personal statement, 100 hours of experience working with elementary-age children, letters of reference, and passing scores on the Praxis I and II exams. Coursework prepares students to evaluate the academic needs of elementary school students, including assessment of reading, writing, and comprehension skills. Common course topics may include:

  • Teaching multiple subject areas
  • Applied research
  • Instructional methods
  • Creative expression
  • Differentiated reading instruction

Popular Career Options

While the certificate program is designed to prepare students for licensure as elementary school teachers, graduates find employment opportunities in other areas of education, as well. Possible job options for graduates include working as a tutor, an early childhood development planner, or a community program coordinator. Graduates go on to careers in education in a variety of settings, including public and private schools, departments of education, and more. Popular career options for graduates include working as an elementary school teacher, curriculum developer, or writer.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), elementary school teachers held nearly 1.4 million jobs in the U.S. in 2018 ( The BLS also reported that the number of jobs in this profession would grow by 3%, about as fast as the average for all occupations, between the years 2018 and 2028. The median annual salary of an elementary school teacher as of May 2018 was $58,230.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Graduates are eligible to sit for Praxis exams, the standard in certification for early-childhood, elementary and secondary teachers in the U.S. Graduates can also opt for voluntary teacher certification offered through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), which offers certification in 25 subjects. Because requirements vary by state, students should refer to their state's department of education for specific licensing requirements. Graduates who are interested in a career in research or teaching at the college level can enroll in a doctoral (Ph.D.) program. Degree options include a Ph.D. in Education or Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education.

A Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction in Elementary Education, or graduate certificate in elementary education are three common forms of education students can pursue in order to find work in elementary education and earn a teaching license. Certification is also available, as are doctoral degrees.

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