Elementary Teacher Education Requirements
Elementary teachers help teach young students in a variety of subjects, including reading, math, and science. Those wishing to become an elementary school teacher typically need to earn an elementary education bachelor's degree, complete a student teaching program, and earn state licensure. Below, we discuss each of these requirements in greater detail.
What Are Elementary Education Degree Options?
Students wondering how to get a degree in elementary education should know: you can typically pursue a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Elementary Education or a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Elementary Education. Most colleges use the elementary education definition of grades K through 6 or grades K through 8 and prepare students for certifications in these grade levels. Students can become elementary teachers through online programs, but on-campus programs are more common, due to the hands-on nature of the field.
Although a bachelor's degree in elementary education is the traditional way to become an elementary school teacher, states typically offer alternative routes to teacher licensure or certification for those who are interested in teaching but do not have a background in education. These individuals usually still need a bachelor's degree and may be required to take some education courses and/or fulfill an intern program where they teach under the supervision of an experienced teacher.
What Are Elementary Education Degree Requirements?
Elementary education degree programs typically require students to participate in a variety of hands-on learning experiences in a real classroom. These programs also usually include the student teaching experience required for licensure; students are in a classroom for around 15 weeks observing and teaching under the supervision of an experienced teacher. These programs commonly include coursework in topics like:
- Child development
- Classroom management
- Teaching methods
- Instructional planning
Elementary teacher college requirements may also include processes like fingerprinting and/or submitting to a background check prior to student teaching or other clinical experiences. These processes are typically in compliance with the school district where one completes student teaching; the idea is to make sure students are safe.
How to Become an Elementary School Teacher
After earning an elementary teacher degree and completing a student teaching program, those wishing to become public school teachers must obtain a state license to teach. In general, licensure or certification requires students to pass a background check, have a bachelor's degree, complete a student teaching experience and pass a certification exam. These certification exams vary by state. For example, becoming an elementary teacher in Washington requires a different elementary education and skills exam than becoming an elementary teacher in New York.
Once graduates have met their state's requirements and have secured a position as a teacher, some states require teachers to complete professional development hours to maintain their licensure or certification. Some states may also require teachers to pursue a master's degree. Some master's degree programs that are available include a Master of Arts (MA), a Master of Science (MS), and a Master of Education (MEd) in Elementary Education. Some of these programs are also available in online formats.