What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming an Elementary School Teacher?

If you enjoy the fun and challenging nature of working with young children, a career as an elementary school teacher might be right for you. These professionals work in public and private schools, where they teach young children one or multiple subject areas. Successful elementary school teachers must be good communicators with plenty of patients, creativity and resourcefulness. They must also earn a college degree.

A Teacher’s Education

What do you study to land a job as an educator? Education, of course. Specifically, you will want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from an accredited program. Your curriculum will likely cover subjects like teacher education, instructional technology, classroom management, language and literacy, diversity in learning, child psychology and child development. Because elementary school teachers are often responsible for teaching a wide range of subjects, you may need to take coursework in a blend of subject matter studies, like social studies, elementary mathematics and science. Besides learning in a college classroom, you will have opportunities to gain hands-on experience through fieldwork in schools, particularly through a student-teaching assignment. By the time you graduate, you should understand how to teach young students information in various subjects.

In some states, major in elementary education alone is not enough. You will also need to take extensive coursework in a content area, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Often, this means double-majoring in both elementary education and a subject like science, math, history or English. You will have to complete both the requirements for your education major and your content area major.

Teaching Licenses and Certifications

No matter what state you intend to work in, you will need to attain a teaching license if you plan to work in a public school. A license is typically not a requirement for elementary school teachers at private schools, but having one won’t hurt your employment prospects. You will also need to earn certification in teaching early childhood grades, typically beginning with first grade and ending with either sixth or eighth grade, the BLS reported. To earn the appropriate license and certification in your state, you may need to pass teaching tests and possibly subject area tests as well as holding a bachelor’s degree and having student teaching experience.

Elementary school teachers earn a median salary of $53,400 per year, according to the BLS. Often, they also get a two-month summer break plus time off during the winter and spring holidays. As a whole, teacher is one of the top 10 highest paying careers in education.

The occupation is seeing average growth, with the BLS predicting a 12 percent increase in job opportunities for elementary school teachers over just 10 years. Factors like the summer break and the rewarding nature of working with young children led U.S. News & World Report to rank elementary school teacher 3rd among the Best Social Services Jobs and 39th on its 100 Best Jobs list.

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