|Program Levels||Bachelor's or master's degree|
|Field(s) of Study||Elementary education|
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Online Availability||Online programs are available but in-person student teaching is required for licensure|
|Program Length||4-5 years|
|Licensure/Certification||State licensure required to teach at public schools; private school requirements vary|
|Mean Annual Salary (2015)||$54,550|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Individuals wanting to become kindergarten teachers can prepare by earning a bachelor's or master's degree in education with a concentration on elementary education. Many courses are offered through distance learning programs, but licensure requires in-person student teaching experience. Online students can generally take classes as their own schedules permit and communicate with other students and instructors through message boards and email.
In addition to completing general education requirements, students working on degrees in education study child development, classroom management and teaching theory. Since teachers at the kindergarten level are generalists, they are trained to teach all subjects, including reading, math, social studies and science.
All states require that teachers be licensed, sometimes referred to as certified. Licensing requires earning at least a bachelor's degree, completing an accredited teacher education program and logging a set number of hours as a student teacher.
Bachelor's Degrees in Elementary Education
These bachelor's degree programs are not specific to the kindergarten level, but instead cover kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) or primary school (K-6). Training specifically for kindergarten needs is accomplished through student teaching. Private schools with religious affiliations advocate theories and teaching methods specific to their institutions.
A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Education may be obtained mostly through online means. However, in order to meet standard state licensing requirements, the degree program must be followed by supervised classroom teaching experiences. Programs may be completed in four years or even less time, provided the core subject requirements (English, math, natural and social science) are fulfilled through transfer credits or competency testing.
Teaching content is delivered via webinars requiring high-speed Internet. Digital recorders, scanners and word processing software are commonly used to complete assignments.
Common Courses for Bachelor's Degrees
In preparation for a multiple subject teaching credential, a well-rounded liberal arts education in English, history, math and natural science is offered and supplemented with coursework in education. Students acquire the skills necessary to effectively manage classrooms and engage students. The common courses are:
- Foundation of Education: An historical survey of education is presented in this introductory course. The philosophy of education is explored in light of current legal and ethical concerns.
- Educational Theory: Understanding the various ways in which students learn aids educators in developing strategies to maximize learning outcomes. Teachers create lesson plans to engage diverse learners. Educators develop their own personal teaching philosophies through this theory-based course.
- Conduct Disorders: Methods of identifying and managing students with disciplinary and emotional problems and those with learning disabilities are explored. Future educators learn to accommodate diverse student needs in structured learning environments.
Master's Degrees in Elementary Education
Some states require licensed teachers to obtain master's degrees in education within a certain number of years after they begin teaching. Graduate study may also be pursued to increase earnings or for professional development. Online Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.) degree programs are available, but they too require classroom teaching components or demonstrated experience.
Online programs help licensed educators pursue advanced master's degrees in a year or two while continuing to work in their field. A fully online, degree-only option is available for those with current teaching credentials. For post-baccalaureate students pursuing teaching licensure, online coursework is supplemented with a supervised teaching practicum.
Common Courses for Master's Degrees
Core coursework provides a solid foundation in teaching theory and practice. The student may then take specialized courses in instructing age-appropriate subjects before applying his or her skills in a classroom practicum. Here are some courses needed:
- Teaching with Computers: Technological advances have created new learning opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities. The ways in which interactive educational software and the Internet enhance classroom activities are reviewed.
- Curriculum Development: Learning theories and teaching methodologies are reviewed. Educators develop portfolios of lesson plans and student assessments based on their personal teaching philosophies.
- Supervised Kindergarten Teaching: Teacher preparation requires field experience. During the teaching practicum, students are paired with licensed teachers for on-the-job learning in kindergarten classrooms. Students are coached and evaluated by their supervisory teachers.
Career and Continuing Education Information
Primary education degrees prepare students to become teachers and childcare specialists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten teachers earned a mean wage of $54,550 in 2015.
Teachers may have to complete continuing education courses to maintain their licenses, and some states call for teachers to earn a master's degree within a certain number of years after initial licensing. Doctoral programs are available for teachers interested in pursuing advanced research or careers as professors of education, principals, or other school administrators. Online programs are offered; however, they may also have on-site colloquia requirements.