How to Become an Elementary School Teacher
Teaching elementary students is often a desired career option for individuals interested in building foundational knowledge of subjects taught in elementary school like math, reading and science in the classroom. You may be wondering how to become an elementary school teacher. Getting started in this career requires earning the right teaching degree and, in many cases, securing state-based certification or licensure. Learn more about the elementary school teaching career:
|Educational Requirements||Bachelor's degree in elementary education is preferred|
|Certification/licensure requirements||Required in public schools; might not be required in private schools|
|Testing Requirements||States have individual requirements|
|Job Skills||Communication, physical stamina and resourcefulness|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$58,230 (for all elementary school teachers, except special education)|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)*||7% (for all elementary school teachers, except special education)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Earning an Elementary Education Teaching Degree
Public and private schools in all states require their teachers to possess a minimum of a bachelor's degree, preferably in elementary education. In some cases, educator candidates could be required to major in a specific subject area or at least have taken related education major classes. Depending on the state, educators might need to earn a master's degree to teach in public schools.
Prospective teachers who possess bachelor's degrees in areas outside of elementary education might need to complete a teacher education program to earn full certification. In these programs, educator candidates learn about child development and gain valuable teaching methods.
Elementary Education Major Requirements
In order to meet elementary education major requirements at the bachelor's degree level, future educators typically take courses that cover subjects taught in elementary school and also learn effective teaching techniques and strategies.
Prerequisites for Elementary Education
In most four-year bachelor's degree programs for elementary education, students take prerequisite courses as a part of their teacher degree plan. Prerequisites for elementary education might include:
- College algebra
- Introduction to humanities
- U.S. history and/or world history
- Introduction to communication
Elementary Education Major Classes
The final step of a teacher degree plan typically involves students taking specific college courses to become a teacher. The following is a sample of what courses to take to become a teacher:
- English, math, science and social studies elementary teaching methods
- Early childhood development
- Instructional planning
- Instruction for English as a Second Language (ESL) students
- Teaching exceptional children
- Psychology for educators
- Classroom management
- Educational assessment
- Strategies for diversity and inclusion
What Test Do Teachers Have to Take to Earn Certification?
In addition to completing the appropriate classes for a teaching degree, future educators might have to take a certification or licensure test in the state they plan to teach. These tests are often required for educators looking to teach in public schools. Private schools generally don't require certification.
Each state sets its own standards for certification or licensure exam requirements. Some states work with National Evaluation Series (NES) to provide their certification or licensure exams, while others develop their own tests that may also be administered by outside companies or agencies. For instance, in order to become an elementary school teacher in California, you might be required to pass California Educator Credentialing Assessments like the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET): Multiple Subjects exam, CSET: Writing Skills exam or Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA).
After earning certification and the appropriate degree, educators generally meet every requirement needed to begin their career as an elementary school teacher.