If you are interested in becoming an elementary school teacher, you are not alone. The elementary education field gives motivated teachers a chance to connect on a personal level with countless students, and, with that, the opportunity to lead children into the rest of their lives. And elementary education professionals make a good living; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), elementary education professionals earn a median annual salary of $53,090 per year.
The field of elementary education is varied; its professionals have the ability to customize a degree and career thanks to the broad selection of specializations and courses found in most programs, some of which we’ll review below.
Courses vary from program-to-program, but students of elementary education can expect to take general education requirements that are expected of most students, as well as a set number of upper division credits that pertain specifically to elementary education. Upper division courses may include the following: foundations in childhood education, special education, and the methodology behind math, language arts and science. Typically, students are also expected to participate in student teaching, a semester or quarter long program that provides the student-teacher with a real classroom experience under the supervision of a mentor.
Specializations allow future elementary school teachers to focus on a specific area of education, and may include early childhood education or special education, depending on the courses offered at your school or any of your own relevant skills. Teachers may also specialize in a number of subjects including math, science, English, technology, art, music and home economics, to name a few. Using your specialization is a great way to connect with students and to demonstrate your passion for a specific subject. Having a specialization may also make you more marketable to a potential employer.
The career options available to you upon graduation will depend on the degree level you’ve acquired. Generally, degree level also dictate salary, job outlook and work environment. The following four sections will detail what each degree offers.
To become an elementary school teacher, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree; however, there are many schools that offer an associate degree in elementary education, which will help prepare students for a bachelor’s degree program. Associate degree programs will likely require a variety of math, English and science courses, with a focus on childhood development.
Often, associate degree programs are offered at a lower cost and through local area community colleges, making it easier for some students to access the prerequisites they need to transition to a bachelor’s degree program when they’re ready.
A bachelor’s degree generally takes four years to complete, but may vary on a program-to-program basis. Students may also have the option to add a minor or two to their studies, offering the ability to acquire a specialization pertinent to elementary education; specialities may include Teaching English to Foreign Students, Special Education or Urban Education. Teachers with a bachelor’s degree have the option to become licensed to teach in the public school system. Some private schools, on the other hand, don’t require the same licensing, so it’s important to check when applying for a position.
A student who advances to a master’s program will likely spend two years taking courses that relate to their specific interests within the field of elementary education. Specializations are one way for a student to round-out their education while preparing for a specific career after college. Specializations vary from program to program; at Goucher College, for example, specializations include: Athletic Program Leadership and Administration, School Mediation, and At-risk and Diverse Learners, among many others.
One career option that is available to professionals with a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education is elementary school principal, a career that will earn you an average median salary of $87,760, according to the BLS.
A master’s degree, unlike the bachelor’s, opens up doors to managerial and administrative positions, making it a great degree option for individuals who wish to take on a leadership role as opposed to teaching.
Educators who receive an Ed.D. in elementary education are eligible to teach at the university level upon graduation. Research based courses and in-depth study of educational issues are the hallmark of what a student can expect upon entering such a program. Ed.D. grads have the opportunity to enact change in the field of education, and may become known as an expert in their field of study, like Achieving the Dream’s president and CEO, William Trueheart, Ed.D. Many Ed.D. students have gone on to write books, hold lectures and publish empirical research.
Ideal Candidates for Elementary Education Degree
Aspiring elementary education professionals should have a strong desire to work with elementary-aged students, as well as the patience, enthusiasm and ethics to go along with that desire. Great communication skills are necessary, as elementary school teachers must speak with parents and other teachers on a regular basis. The ability to self-motivate is important, too, since teachers often grade coursework outside of regular school hours. Finally, organization skills are an asset to the elementary education professional, who must develop and implement lesson plans, as well as hold conferences, plan school-wide events and maintain order in their student’s portfolios.
Elementary Education graduates and new professionals will be challenged by the ever-changing education landscape. With new standards and student and teacher requirements, there is no room for boredom in the field.
The need for qualified and reputable elementary teachers is always present in America. According to the BLS, the growth rate for elementary teachers is 12%, average for all occupations.
In addition to researching degree programs, it may be wise to use professional organizations, online teaching communities and free online courses that will help advance your skill set and jumpstart your career.