Students looking to become first grade teachers may either attain an early childhood or elementary education degree when picking their course of study. In these 4-year degree programs, students take courses in child development, classroom management and teaching theory. They learn methods of teaching the subjects offered in a first grade classroom, such as reading and arithmetic.
Prerequisites for a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or elementary education include a high school diploma or an equivalent. In order to obtain a degree, students must also complete supervised student teaching requirements in classrooms. Further state certification may also be required.
Bachelor's Degree Programs in Early Childhood Education
These programs focus on the skills needed to teach children in preschool through third grade. Students learn about child development, teaching methods, and education theories. They typically include a student teaching experience, which is required for certification. The curriculum covers classroom management, curriculum design, and instructional methods. Courses might include:
- Introduction to early childhood education
- Early childhood education teaching methods
- Developmentally appropriate science and math
- Reading and language for early childhood education
- Evaluation and assessment of young children
Bachelor's Degree Programs in Elementary Education
These programs focus on teaching students in kindergarten through the eighth grade. Prospective teachers study educational foundations, child development, instructional technology, and teaching practices in various subject areas. The curriculum combines classroom work with observations and student teaching. Topics of study include:
- Teaching elementary math
- Teaching elementary science
- Teaching elementary language and reading
- Child psychology
- Testing and measurements
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicts employment for all elementary school teachers, except special education, to grow at a rate of 6% during the decade from 2014-2024. Job opportunities are often more abundant in urban or rural school districts. Elementary school teachers earned median salaries of $57,730 annually in 2015.
Certification, Licensing and Continuing Education
All states require that first grade teachers in public schools be licensed. Licensing requirements include earning a bachelor's degree, completing teacher training and passing a basic skills competency exam. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offers voluntary certification programs. First grade teachers may pursue certification in general education for early childhood or in one of 15 different subject areas. Continuing education is necessary to maintain licensing and certification.
Students earning a bachelor's degree in order to become a first grade teacher can choose from a focus on early childhood education or elementary education. Both programs teach subjects in learning theory, classroom management and child development and generally meet the state criteria for becoming a licensed teacher.