Students desiring to teach at the elementary level usually earn bachelor's or master's degrees in education, although some certificate programs are available for those who already have degrees and are seeking career changes. Like on-campus programs, online elementary education degree programs focus on the unique instructional and learning methods used with young children, as well as the knowledge needed to teach multiple subjects like math and language arts. Online programs can be completed entirely online or as a blended format. Students will be required to complete internships or student teaching.
Programs may offer fully online or hybrid coursework, but in either case internships or other student teaching experiences are commonly required to fulfill training standards for state licensure. Some graduate degree programs, which require students to have already earned a bachelor's degree, may also expect applicants to have initial teaching certification. While all states require elementary teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree, some expect students to earn a master's degree once they initially get certified.
Program and School Options
Excluding any required student teaching and on-campus visits, students in elementary education programs can complete their online coursework when it's convenient for them as long as they meet due dates. Virtual classrooms allow students to interact with professors or peers and also provide a home base for course materials or news. Lectures, videos, assignments and other supplemental learning tools are available in these online spaces.
The following schools offer graduate programs in this field and details about them can help give insight into what to expect from distance learning.
Grand Valley State University
This Allendale, Michigan-based school offers a hybrid Master of Education in Instruction and Curriculum with an Elementary Education emphasis. The program provides two tracks: one for students who need initial teaching certification and another for certified students seeking an elementary teaching endorsement. Both options require a practicum and completion of either a thesis or master's project.
Online coursework in this program includes the following:
- Educational policy
- Curriculum development
- K-12 assessment models
- K-8 math, science and social studies
- Developmental literacy
California University of Pennsylvania
California University of Pennsylvania offers a master's degree in early childhood education, which prepares students to teach pre-kindergarten on through fourth grade. Applicants to these programs must have at least a bachelor's degree and initial state certification in early childhood, elementary education or special education. Prospective students must also submit work histories detailing their experience working with children.
The school offers candidates the option to pursue solely a master's degree, solely add-on teacher certification or the degree and certification together. In all cases, coursework is completed totally online and no campus visits are required. Only those students seeking certification must complete an internship.
The two-year master's program includes online classes in the following areas:
- Curriculum and assessment
- Research methods
- Childhood development
- Early childhood science and math
- Special education
- Leadership and management
Many schools, like Grand Valley State University and California University of Pennsylvania, offer elementary education degree programs online. In addition to coursework that is completed fully online, students need to fulfill the internship or student teaching requirement needed for licensure.