Elementary school teachers need a minimum of a bachelor's degree as well as state licensure to be able to teach. Some states may even require a master's degree. The following information goes over the steps you must take to become an elementary school teacher in a public school in the United States, as well as the job outlook for the profession.
Elementary school teachers lead classrooms of children ages 5-12 years old. They usually teach multiple subjects to their students, although some do specialize in one subject, such as music or physical education. These teachers typically earn a bachelor's degree in elementary education, although they may need a master's degree as well in some states. They also have to become certified or licensed, which involves completing a student teaching period during their degree program and passing teaching exams.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree in elementary education; master's degree in some states|
|Other Requirements||State licensure and/or certification|
|Projected Job Growth||6% from 2014-2024*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$54,890 annually*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Elementary School Teacher Career Information
Elementary school teachers instruct students in public and private schools, religious organizations' schools and various other arenas. Elementary school teachers usually stay with the same kids all day, teaching them language arts, math, social studies and many other subjects. Sometimes, multiple teachers divide subjects between themselves and alternate between groups of children. In this case, the teachers can focus on their preferred subjects, but the students still get complete instruction.
In other cases, an elementary school teacher may teach only one subject to several classes. These subjects could include art, physical education, science, music and reading. Still other teachers may instruct pupils of different ages and ability levels, all in the same classroom.
According to May 2015 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. states with the highest employment level of elementary school teachers (except special education) included Texas, California, New York, Florida and Illinois. Salary for elementary school teachers largely depends upon years of experience. According to PayScale.com, the median for elementary school teachers with between zero and five years of experience was $36,884 in January 2016. Those with five to 10 years of experience earned a median salary of $42,039. Elementary school teachers with 10 to 20 years of experience earned a median wage of $49,082. Those with more than 20 years of experience earned a median wage of $55,754.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, elementary school teachers (except special education) held more than 1.38 million jobs in 2015. Employment is projected to increase by 6% by 2024. Also, many job openings will be spurred by the retirement of present-day teachers, as noted by the BLS. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, average age of all teachers was 42.4 in 2011-2012. Public schools, however, need funding from the government in order to hire more teachers which, according to the BLS, may require local or state legislation.
At one time, a bachelor's degree was all you'd need to become an elementary school teacher in America. Today, a master's degree is required in some states. In addition, you may be required to qualify in a subject area besides elementary education. All states require elementary educators to have completed a student teaching period and be licensed or certified.