How to Become an Elementary School Teacher

Learn how to become an elementary school teacher. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in the elementary education field. View article »

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  • 0:38 Career Requirements
  • 1:52 Undergraduate Education
  • 2:50 Licensing Requirements
  • 3:31 Graduate Education
  • 3:57 Career Advancement
  • 4:34 Job & Salary Outlook

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an Elementary School Teacher?

Elementary school teachers instruct students in multiple subjects, such as reading, writing, English, science, math and social studies. These educators generally teach kindergarten through fifth grade. In some schools, however, they may teach other grade levels, such as pre-kindergarten and sixth grade. They plan lessons, deliver instruction, assess students on an on-going basis, and evaluate student progress compared to state standards. Working with children on a daily basis can be frustrating but watching their academic progress can be quite rewarding.

When employed by public schools, these professionals are required to have a bachelor's degree and a certificate or license issued by the state where they work. Private school teachers may not need a license, though they'll likely still need a degree. This bachelor's degree can't be in just anything though. If you want to be an elementary school teacher, you should get your degree in education, or specifically elementary education. The following table contains essential requirements for public school teachers:

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Education; Elementary Education
Experience Entry level but most employers prefer some experience
Licensure/Certification Must pass state certification exams geared towards elementary education; most states require the PRAXIS
Key Skills Nurturing nature; patience; creativity; compassion; understanding of educational software, Microsoft Office, graphics programs, spreadsheet software; instructional skills; classroom management; and organization skills
Salary $57,730 (Annual mean salary)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONET Online.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Teacher Education, Multiple Levels
  • Teaching, Adults
  • Teaching, Elementary
  • Teaching, High School
  • Teaching, Junior High
  • Teaching, Kindergarten and Preschool
  • Teaching, Waldorf and Steiner Education
  • Teaching, Young Children

Steps to Become an Elementary Teacher

Now that you know what it takes to become an elementary school teacher, you probably want to know what steps to complete to become one, right?

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education

In all states, elementary school teachers who teach in public schools must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in elementary education and might be required to have majored in a specific content area, such as English or math. They must also complete a teacher education program, which provides instruction on how to interact with students with a wide range of abilities and educational needs. Aspiring teachers who have a bachelor's degree in a field other than education can enroll in graduate education programs or complete alternative certification programs to gain the training they need.

Success Tip:

  • Complete student teaching. Education programs typically require students to complete a supervised field experience during the last semester of the program; however, since such field experience is a requirement for licensure in many states, students should be sure to participate in one even - if it is not a degree requirement.

Step 2: Pass a Licensing Exam

Licensure, which is required by all states to teach in a public institution, is earned by passing a national examination that measures teachers' content knowledge and basic skills knowledge. Though requirements differ by state, all states require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree. Many also require individuals to fulfill specific curriculum requirements and complete a student teaching experience.

Success Tip:

  • Become a substitute teacher. Once you become licensed, you will be eligible to work as a substitute teacher. Substitute teaching can provide valuable experience with a variety of grade levels, subjects, and student populations.

Step 3: Earn a Master's Degree

Future elementary school teachers might be required to earn a master's degree if they want to work in certain states. There is usually a period of time after completing certification when teachers are expected to complete this requirement. The focus of many master's degree programs is to develop teachers who have a deeper understanding of their content knowledge. These programs also seek to prepare teachers to become experts in pedagogy.

Step 4: Participate in Ongoing Professional Development and Advance your Career Simultaneously

To maintain their teaching licenses, elementary school teachers are commonly required to take continuing education or professional development courses on a regular basis. Continuing education courses are focused on improving teachers' abilities to facilitate student achievement using research-based methods, and this advanced experience and education may also aid in advancing the teacher's career. The minimum number of professional development hours needed for license renewal varies by state.

Success Tip:

  • Join professional organizations. Professional organizations offer benefits such as educational materials, books, and collaborative opportunities.

Elementary school teachers make an average of $57,730 per year and must have a bachelor's degree, preferably in elementary education, and a teaching license or certification, especially if they plan to teach in a public school.

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