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Certification Requirements for Teaching First Grade

Elementary teaching certification is a required credential for first grade teachers. Get some quick facts about the education and training necessary to qualify for teaching first grade.

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First grade teachers have a few alternatives to directly attaining certification in order to teach. A bachelor's degree is the starting block for a first grade teacher, but if it is not in education there are still ways to obtain certification. For those who are just starting university and making a career decision, a bachelor's in education or early childhood education is a good start and considering a master's program may also be a wise decision.

Essential Information

First grade teachers play a critical role in early child development by initiating children into the educational process. All public school teachers are required to be certified. Elementary school teachers have earned a bachelor's degree, and a master's is required by some employers. Teachers also often complete internships and training programs.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Supervised teaching experience often required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%*
Median Salary (2015) $54,890 annually*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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

Certification Requirements

The traditional path to first grade teacher certification in public schools starts with a 4-year degree from a state-approved teacher education program. Often, students are not eligible to apply to a school of education until their second year of college. These education programs include math and linguistics courses designed specifically for elementary teachers, as well as courses such as educational philosophy, teaching methodology and technology for classrooms. Most programs incorporate practical classroom experience and feedback from experienced teachers.

State Certification

In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, first grade teachers in public schools are required to be state-certified. To apply for certification, also known as licensure, aspiring teachers first demonstrate that they've completed the course requirements and hours of supervised teaching practice that their state requires. They are tested on their own basic skills in reading and writing as well as their knowledge of first grade teaching methods and pedagogy.

Alternative Certification

As a result of teacher shortages, all states now provide alternative methods of obtaining certification. For aspiring first grade teachers who have 4-year degrees but lack college training in education, these programs might provide opportunities to teach in rural and urban schools.

In some states, teachers can take education courses while they begin working in elementary classrooms under the supervision of a teacher with a provisional license. In other states, college graduates complete education requirements in accelerated programs lasting one or two semesters. They are then eligible to go through the regular process of state certification.

Teaching in Private Schools

Private schools are not legally required to hire state-certified teachers. However, they tend to seek experienced teachers who have majored in early childhood education. Employers in private schools often look for teachers with advanced professional certification.

Advanced Certification

Exceptional levels of teaching competency can be recognized through voluntary national certification programs, such as that offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Teachers who are granted such certification might receive higher pay and opportunities for subsidized continuing education.

Beyond a bachelor's degree of some kind, all first grade teachers are required to earn their teaching certification if they want to work in public schools. Private schools may not require the certification but they do look for some kind of advanced professional certification when they want to hire new teachers.

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