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What is Elementary Education?
Elementary education instructors will provide planning, education and structure to a classroom setting, evaluating their students and providing direction and growth as well as support during important developmental years. Elementary school teachers are responsible for monitoring the progress of their students and providing feedback to parents regarding the student's strengths and weaknesses. Elementary education instructors work in public or private schools and provide a comprehensive education through structured classes.
How Do I Become an Elementary Education Teacher?
To become an elementary education teacher, you will need to follow a few discrete steps. Much like other licensed professionals, you must invest in your education and hone your craft before having the opportunity to apply for licensure in your state of residence. Below, you will find a series of steps to help you better navigate the process to becoming an elementary education teacher.
Step 1 – Research Accredited Colleges
The initial step in your journey to starting a career as an elementary school teacher is to dutifully perform research on accredited colleges and universities. Ultimately, schools must fit your professional objectives and personal priorities more so than landing on a ‘TOP 10’ list of any media publication angling to sell magazine subscriptions or internet ads for credit cards. To determine what your priorities and goals may be, invest the time to read our book “The Complete Guide to the College Admissions Process” today. In addition to the resources found on this page, you can also utilize our proprietary matching portal if you find that method easier to get the desired results.
Step 2 – Applications
After narrowing down the list of accredited colleges and universities offering great Elementary Education degree programs, you will need to take the time to apply to schools. On your college application, make sure to illuminate relevant work experience related to teaching, working with children, classroom management, or leadership positions on your college application. Spending time explaining your uniqueness will help you stand out in a crowded application pool and help propel you forward into your first year of school with real-work experience in your hip pocket.
Step 3 – Attending College
After gaining admissions to the colleges of your choice, you will next be required to begin school orientation, meet with your academic advisor, register for classes, and begin coursework in elementary education. Ask questions, remain curious, and stay focused during this period of time as you will look back at this period of time and remember the great relationships, challenging work, and good times in college. After completing your required coursework, you will need to spend time student teaching and shadowing an experienced teacher in a real-world classroom setting to meld the academic knowledge with pragmatic life experiences.
Step 4 – Graduation, Examination, Certification, & Employment
Upon graduating from an accredited college or university with a degree in elementary education, you will be required by your state of residence to clear all background checks, tests, fingerprinting, certifications, and licensing requirements. Once all state-based tests and requirements are met, you can apply for jobs in a school district or private school organization that fits your unique pedagogy preference and teaching style. After gaining work experience, you may elect to continue your education and earn additional professional certifications or degrees in the field to continue to grow and upskill. You will be required to maintain your teaching license perpetually as prescribed by your state.
Degrees in Elementary Education
It is important to know there are a number of degrees and certificates to choose from in elementary education. With so many choices to choose from, how do you know which education degree program is best for you? You will need to first establish a list of priorities for your career objectives and educational goals then read our Complete Guide to the College Admissions Process followed by our book that reveals the insider tips to beating the odds to get into your top school. Equipped with information, tools, and knowledge to make a great decision for you, the journey to an elementary education degree will be in sight and within reach.
Online Certificate in Elementary Education
Online certificates in elementary education are almost exclusively offered as master’s degree certificates. These online certificate programs provide skills and knowledge to trained, licensed teachers to help them expand career opportunities and upskill in particular areas of emphasis. It is important to note, graduate certificate programs require students to meet all lower-level course requirements prior to acceptance into a certificate program.
Online Bachelor Degree in Elementary Education
Bachelor’s degrees Elementary Education offered online are 4-year programs that goes deeper and wider than an associate’s degree. Students in a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) program in Elementary Education will have the opportunity to learn a variety of core education curriculum plus a variety of liberal arts classes such as human biology, speech communication, English composition, history, math, and physics. Core curriculum in elementary education will often include courses such as portfolio management, learning theory, principles of education, educational philosophy, classroom management, educational philosophy, childhood psychology, a capstone course, and student teaching in a real-world setting to best prepare teachers for their new vocation.
Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education
Online master’s degrees in elementary education is designed to be a 1-2 year program predicated upon completion of all lower-level class requirements. Master’s degree programs in elementary education equip professionals for leadership positions and career enhancement in the education field. In addition to a capstone course, the master’s degree track offers most students with the ability to select an area of specialty that may include: counseling, early childhood education, educational leadership, teacher leadership, special education, secondary education, reading and language arts, international education, digital literacy, or leadership.
Doctorate Degree in Early Childhood Education
The online doctorate degree tracks in elementary education are 2-4 year programs depending on the number of classes taken at a given time and the course requirements of the college after meeting all lower-level course requirements. Many accredited colleges and universities allow students to elect an area of specialization such as educational leadership, curriculum & instruction, early childhood education, counseling, or special education. Doctoral program prepare students for advanced research opportunities in the private or public sector along with teaching opportunities in higher education institutions.
An elementary education degree is designed to educate potential teachers the methods, theories and practices involved in teaching kindergarten through sixth grade. The normal degree pursued is a bachelor's, which allows the graduate to become a teacher. Higher levels degrees can be obtained to pursue administrative positions. With additional coursework elementary education majors can also be qualified to teach special classes, such as English as a second language or accelerated learning. Most programs will also assist in providing practical experience through internships and other means. Coursework will focus on basic education skills, child development, and instruction.
Some classes may include:
- Human Relations
- Language Arts Instruction
- Technology for Teaching and Learning
- School and Society
- Learning, Cognition and Assessment
Benefits of Earning an Elementary Education Degree Online
Accredited colleges and universities across the country are adding courses at a rapid pace to keep up with demand from students and employers of all types. In fact, the online learning modality is the single fastest growing segment within higher education for a number of reasons. The benefits of earning a degree or certificate in elementary education online include the following factors:
- Cost – Direct and indirect costs of an online or distance learning degree tend to be less than classroom-based degree programs. The three primary reasons for this difference in cost include the fact that: a) online learning provides students with the flexibility and access to continue working while earning a degree saving significant dollars in lost wages; b) students enrolled in an online degree program are not required to live on-campus saving significant dollars in room and board costs; c) online students enrolled in a regionally or nationally accredited program still can qualify for financial aid. The combination of all these factors make online learning an attractive proposition for an array of students, professionals, and working adults.
- Accreditation – Distance learning and online programs that have earned a regional or national accreditation will be essential to your future. It is important to understand that accreditation is only granted to schools by independent, third-party organizations that have extensively vetted a school’s processes, procedures, and curriculum to ensure quality standards are met by program.
- Flexibility – Students enrolled in an online degree program can join class when convenient and not be constrained by the traditional trappings of the physical requirements of an on-site class. Flexibility is a big win for students and working professional’s intent on growing professionally and upskilling.
- Access – The ability to hop online at any time does not restrict students to being in a specific location at a given time. With fewer restrictions, students have a broader range of degree options to choose from depending on passion, intent, and career trajectory.
- Speed – Online degree programs in elementary education can be self-paced, thereby allowing students to spend time learning when they see fit on their way towards degree completion. With many schools starting online classes every 6-8 weeks, distance learning students are no longer bound by traditional school year schedules.
- Curriculum – The quality of online programs has come a long way in the last decade. With a published syllabus and quality curricular design, students are provided key milestones and check-points to ensure comprehension and engagement. Online programs in elementary education will also have a capstone course, thesis, cumulative exam, dissertation, final project, student teaching, and/or portfolio project at varying levels of degree programs.
Top Ranked Elementary Education Degree Programs
The NCTQ has ranked the following schools by quality of programming for elementary education in the United States of over 2,500 programs. The list of schools landing in the 98th percentile or higher include the following:
- Dallas Baptist University – 99th percentile
- University of Alaska-Fairbanks – 99th percentile
- Louisiana Tech University – 99th percentile
- Texas A&M University – 99th percentile
- Taylor University – 99th percentile
- University of Arkansas – 99th percentile
- CUNY – Hunter College – 99th percentile
- University of Houston – 99th percentile
- Arizona State University – 99th percentile
- Purdue University – 99th percentile
- University of Mississippi – 99th percentile
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln – 99th percentile
- University of Wyoming – 98th percentile
- Bethel University – 98th percentile
- Louisiana State University A&M – 98th percentile
- Marshall University – 98th percentile
- University of Iowa – 98th percentile
- University of Maryland-College Park – 98th percentile
- Colorado Christian University – 98th percentile
- Winthrop University – 98th percentile
- University of Dayton – 98th percentile
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
Employment Opportunities and Requirements
Individuals pursuing a career in elementary education at public institutions require licensure. Special forms of licensure may obtained by graduates to immediately begin teaching, though eventually will have to earn standard licensure to continue. National certification is also available and demonstrates a higher level of competency in instruction than a license and can allow for the transfer of a license from one state to another. Elementary education requires individuals to work well with children, be patient, have excellent communication skills, and be organized in order to properly execute planned curriculum.
Teachers who take on the additional coursework to qualify for specialty instruction tend to have a higher rate of pay than teachers who do not. Classes requiring such specialty instruction, including ESL classes, accelerated learning classes, and courses for learning disabled children, are on the rise and as such the demand for qualified teachers is similarly increasing. Teacher's who specialize in working with disabled children may require more extensive study than others, as well as the ability to create a study plan for individual students.
Some skills necessary for a successful elementary education teach are:
- Critical Thinking
Teachers, especially elementary school teachers, are typically under more scrutiny than other professions due to their daily interaction with children. The importance of quality instruction during elementary school years is pivotal to their development, and it cannot be stressed enough how much patience, care, and understanding is required to work with children. An aspiring teacher who finds he or she is unable to work with young children should consider a different career rather than adversely affect the lives of developing youths.
Job Growth, Salary and Related Fields
Job growth for elementary school teachers is expected to increase over the next decade in order to alleviate increasing student to teacher ratios and overall increases in enrollment. Growth will vary by region due to population distribution with urban centers and larger cities typically having higher employment opportunities. The average salary for an elementary teacher is $55,490 per year. The average starting salary for an elementary school teacher with a bachelor's degree is approximately $34,000 per year.
Additional Resources for Elementary Teachers
- American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
- National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
- National Assn. for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
- Association for Experiential Education (AEE)
- National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
- National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE)
- Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, & Dance (AAHPERD)
- ENC Online Resources for Math and Science Education
- National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)
- Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC)
- National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)
- Organization of American Historians (OAH)
Those interested in elementary education may also want to look into social work, early childhood education, or educational administration. For more information about a career in teaching, check out The Single Most Comprehensive Guide to a Teaching Career post on our blog.