Elementary School Teachers: Job Requirements, Duties and Career Info

Aug 08, 2019

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

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Elementary teachers are required to have at least a bachelor's degree. Each state is different and some will require a master's degree in addition to a license or certificate. In college, students will be expected to study subject and grade level material, child psychology, and educational statistics. An employer may require additional workshops for training in topics like classroom management and state standards.

Essential Information

Depending on the district or state, elementary school teachers instruct children from kindergarten up to 8th grade. All teachers must hold both a bachelor's degree and a state teaching license or certification to work in public schools. Teacher education programs, internships, or training may also be required. Some elementary teachers also earn a master's degree.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in elementary education
Other Requirements License or certification, and internship or training may be necessary
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)* 7%
Median Salary (2018)* $57,980 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Elementary School Teacher Requirements

Since a bachelor's degree is a requirement for state teaching licenses, all aspiring public school teachers must graduate from a 4-year program before submitting an application for a license. Students hoping to work as elementary teachers need to look for college programs in elementary education. Most schools conferring education degrees require students to complete a supervised student teaching experience prior to graduation.

The definition of 'elementary' differs from state to state. For example, a state may define elementary as K-8 (kindergarten through grade eight) while another state may define it as K-6. Students should consider the grade level they want to teach and state certification guidelines when choosing a degree program.

The basic track for how to become an elementary school teacher can be outlined in three steps:

  • College coursework and completion of a bachelor's (or master's) degree
  • Teacher practicum
  • State licensing or certification

Coursework

Elementary education coursework may include educational psychology and elementary school subject-specific courses (science, social studies, mathematics) as well as in-depth courses on teaching literacy at the elementary level. Students take courses in which they create sample lesson plans and give mock lessons to their classmates. Observations of elementary school classrooms supplement many classes in an elementary education degree program.

Teacher Practicum

Most states require aspiring elementary school teachers to have teaching experience, so elementary teacher preparatory programs typically include this in their curriculum. Often referred to as student teaching or internships, these opportunities allow aspiring elementary school teachers to take on classroom teaching duties under the supervision of an experienced teacher. Student teachers gain experience preparing and delivering lessons, grading student work, and managing a classroom.

License Requirements

Teaching in a public school requires a state license. State boards have varying licensure requirements; however, most require a bachelor's degree in elementary education. Aspiring elementary school teachers may also need to complete skills tests in subjects like reading and writing. Applicants should consult their respective state board of education for more specific requirements.

Elementary School Teacher Job Description

Most elementary school teachers are in charge of a single classroom of students who are all in the same grade. Accordingly, elementary school teachers typically instruct students in a variety of subjects, including language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science. While they still deliver formal lessons, elementary school teachers often use games, crafts and other entertaining activities to help students learn the material.

Required Skills and Teaching Qualifications

Elementary school teachers must be able to encourage and communicate well with young children in order to help them develop in their earliest academic years. Since school children learn intellectually and behaviorally at their own pace, a high level of patience is needed for the job. Teachers also must be able to effectively communicate with parents on a regular basis. This may include phoning parents about specific issues or giving progress updates through report cards.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), student enrollment will increase in the years 2016-2026. Therefore, the BLS anticipates employment of kindergarten and elementary school teachers to grow 7% between 2016 and 2026. Aspiring teachers willing to relocate to high-need rural or urban areas will have the best job prospects.

Salary Information

As of May 2018, median annual earnings of kindergarten and elementary school teachers were $57,980, according to the BLS. The highest-earning ten percent earned salaries exceeding $95,270. Since most school districts use a salary ladder, the salary of an elementary school teacher tends to increase each year. School districts may pay higher salaries to teachers who have earned credits beyond a bachelor's degree, such as completing a 1-year professional development program or a master's degree.

Someone interested in becoming an elementary teacher will need to invest in their education by getting a bachelor's degree to start, then obtaining state certification. Job opportunities in the field are growing at an average rate, and many teachers can expect annual raises.

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