Elementary school teachers are responsible for the educational development of students from kindergarten through either the sixth or eighth grade, depending on the program. Courses cover teaching methods, with special emphasis on reading and math, as well as child development and classroom management. Bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees are available. Most graduate degree programs in elementary education offer courses to help teachers improve their skills in teaching and curriculum development. Some programs focus on the development of administrative and leadership skills. Hands-on training is required.
Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education
Elementary education programs emphasize the pedagogical methods involved in instructing young boys and girls in a wide range of academic subjects. In addition to classroom instruction, a teaching internship, in which the student gains experience by teaching actual classes, is nearly always a component of a bachelor's degree in elementary education. For admission to a bachelor's degree program in elementary education, students need to submit their high school transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation and an admissions essay. Other specific admissions requirements, such as a minimum grade point average, vary between institutions.
A bachelor's degree in elementary education is offered as both a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree. The Bachelor of Science degree program has a foreign language requirement and the Bachelor of Arts program does not. Sample core curriculum course titles are included below:
- Effective teaching skills
- Issues in literacy
- Multicultural education
- Using technology in education
- Math for teachers
Master's Degree in Elementary Education
A master's degree program in elementary education is designed to teach students the skills necessary for analyzing, evaluating and applying the pedagogical principles behind the elementary education curriculum. A graduate-level program in elementary education can serve to increase the effectiveness of the teacher in catering to the educational and emotional needs of the student. It can also increase employment opportunities for those teachers interested in pursuing an executive or management role in elementary education. Master's degree programs in elementary education require the applicant to have successfully completed an undergraduate degree program in education or a related field. Standardized test scores, such as the GRE, are also generally required.
Similar to the bachelor's degree programs, master's degree programs in elementary education are offered in both the Master of Arts and the Master of Science format. Sample core curriculum course titles include:
- Psychology of learning
- Theories of human development
- Advanced research in education
- Teaching language arts to children
- Curriculum theories of elementary education
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), there will be a 6% increase in elementary education employment opportunities between 2014 and 2024. The median salary for elementary education teachers was $54,890 as of May 2015, as reported by the BLS. Texas and California are the two states that have the highest concentration of elementary education teachers (BLS).
All states require elementary education teachers to be licensed. The certification standards differ by state. Usually, this licensing involves a competency exam administered by the state educational board. The exam tests the applicant's skill level in basic subjects, such as reading and writing. Some states require teachers to get a master's degree in education within a certain amount of time after they begin teaching.
It is possible to get a doctorate degree in elementary education. However, this degree is not designed for those who want to teach elementary school students. Rather, the doctorate degree program in elementary education is designed for those who want to pursue a career as a college professor, who instructs future teachers or as a senior administrator within the elementary education school system.
For those wishing to work within the elementary school system, there are bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees available. A bachelor's degree will prepare students for teaching, while master's degrees prepare students for leadership and curriculum development, and doctorate degrees are for those who want to go into administrative positions.