A bachelor's degree in elementary education is the most common path to teaching kindergarten through fifth grade, offering courses in topics such as classroom management, teaching various subjects, psychology and educational assessment. Master's degree programs allow teachers to develop their skills in a specialty role, such as teaching English as a second language, or to prepare to become administrators. In addition to an undergraduate degree from an accredited education program, many master's degree programs also require applicants to be state certified teachers with several years of work experience.
Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education
Bachelor's degree programs in elementary education are designed to prepare individuals for teaching careers at public and private elementary and middle schools. Applicants typically are required to submit high school transcripts, letters of recommendation, standardized test scores and an admissions essay. Degree candidates are taught theories and practices of elementary education, along with skills needed to utilize the technological tools of today's classrooms. Nearly all bachelor's degree programs in elementary education feature a teaching internship, where the prospective teacher gains actual teaching experience under direct supervision. The curriculum of a bachelor's degree program in elementary education is fairly wide-ranging, with sample core courses including:
- Math for teachers
- Educational assessment
- Children's literature
- Managing the classroom
- Methods of teaching science
Master's Degree in Elementary Education
Master's degree programs in elementary education have varied areas of focus. Some are designed for teachers who want to increase their competency in a concentration, such as teaching special needs children. Other programs are designed for working teachers who want to pursue an administrative role in a public school system. There are also graduate certificate programs that could lead to a master's degree for those teachers who want to re-certify or teach a new subject. For admission, prospective students may need to have a minimum undergraduate grade point average, and they must submit standardized test scores and letters of recommendation. Nearly all master's degree programs in elementary education require students to complete a graduate thesis or research project, in addition to finishing core courses that may include:
- Students in urban communities
- Literacy and literature
- Principles of educational technology
- Introduction to world music
- Early childhood mathematics
- Child psychology
All states require elementary school teachers to be licensed to teach in the public school system. The licensing process usually consists of a competency exam administered by the state education board. Some public school systems require teachers to pursue a master's degree in education within a set amount of time after they begin teaching.
For those who want to continue their education, there are doctoral degree programs in elementary education. These advanced degree programs are designed for individuals who want to teach elementary education theory at the university level or conduct original elementary education research. Doctoral degree programs are also available for those who want to pursue senior management positions in elementary education.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were about 1.4 million elementary education teachers (excluding special education teachers) employed at elementary schools as of 2015 (www.bls.gov.) The BLS predicted that elementary school teaching jobs would increase by 6% between 2014 and 2024. The median yearly salary for elementary education teachers was $54,890 in May 2015.
Individuals who want to become elementary school teachers can get the education they need by completing a bachelor's degree program in elementary education. Experienced teachers who want to advance to leadership positions or specialize their careers can enroll in a master's degree program.