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Teacher - Elementary School: Summary of Educational Requirements

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

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With few exceptions, it's probable that no one can have a more positive influence on young people than their elementary school teachers. The road to entering this profession typically involves an undergraduate degree and state licensure.

Essential Information

Elementary school teachers mentor and instruct children in grades 1-8. Most states require elementary school teachers to have a bachelor's degree, and all states require elementary school teachers who teach in public schools to be licensed. Teachers may choose to pursue voluntary certification.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Licensure and Certification State license is required to teach in public schools; voluntary certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (except special education teachers)
Average Salary (2015)* $57,730 (except special education teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Educational Requirements

Academic requirements for elementary school teachers can vary by state and type of teaching institution. However, all states require public school teachers to be licensed, and most require at least a bachelor's degree. Aspiring elementary school teachers usually pursue general teaching degrees.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council accredit education programs for students who wish to become teachers. Graduating from an accredited program isn't required but can make obtaining licensure easier. Most bachelor's degree programs take four years to complete and require participation in student-teaching internships. Common courses in elementary school teaching degree programs may include:

  • Elementary mathematics
  • Elementary science
  • Elementary social studies
  • Children's literature
  • Teaching principles
  • Educational psychology
  • Diversity in the classroom
  • Student assessment

Additionally, some states have programs that partner universities and elementary schools, known as professional development schools. These one-year programs place new graduates under the supervision of experienced teachers and allow them to practice the teaching skills learned in their undergraduate programs.

Licensing Information

While licensure requirements may vary from state to state, aspiring public school teachers usually need to complete a bachelor's program, a supervised teaching experience and an assessment exam. Continuing education courses are usually a mandatory part of the license renewal process. Private schools don't always require licensure. Aspiring elementary school teachers should consult with their state boards of education for specific requirements.

Voluntary Certification

Though obtaining professional certification isn't usually required, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) offers voluntary national certification in several different categories, like English, music and math. To earn certification, applicants must have bachelor's degrees, three years of teaching experience and licensure. They must then pass assessment tests and submit portfolios that demonstrate their teaching abilities.

Certification is valid for a period of ten years and may be renewed by meeting continuing education requirements. Obtaining an NBPTS credential can also make it easier to gain licensure in other states.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

Elementary school teachers, except for those teaching special education classes, were predicted to see a 6 percent increase in jobs from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Expanding student populations are the primary reasons for job growth. The BLS noted in May 2015 that elementary school teachers earned, on average, $57,730 annually.

In addition to holding at least a bachelor's degree, all states have their own licensing requirements for elementary school teachers, if they wish to teach in the public schools. Certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in subject areas is usually voluntary, but can make it easier to obtain licensure in other states and is renewable. Job growth for the occupation of elementary school teacher is expected to be average in comparison to other fields in 2014-2024.

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