Elementary school teachers prepare students in grades K-6 for future schooling by teaching them basic subjects, like reading, writing, social studies, math, science, and the arts. Elementary education colleges equip future teachers with both the teaching skills and content knowledge needed to become certified elementary school teachers. If you enjoy working with children and would like to help them achieve important education milestones, consider pursuing an elementary education degree. Read on to discover what elementary education programs entail and whether becoming an elementary teacher is right for you.
Types of Elementary Education Programs
Elementary education degrees are offered at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, education specialist, and doctoral level. The four-year bachelor’s degree in elementary education is typically the traditional route to becoming a teacher. Kindergarten and elementary teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or license. Some states require candidates to major in a content area, such as math or science, in addition to elementary education.
The prerequisite for undergraduate degrees are usually a high school diploma or GED, minimum required GPA, and competitive SAT/ACT scores. The admissions requirements for graduate programs may include a bachelor’s degree, elementary teaching certification, competitive GRE scores, and strong letters of recommendation.
Associate’s degree programs in elementary education last about two years and prepare students to transfer to four-year schools to obtain a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. There are also two types of one and two-year master’s degree programs in elementary education: master’s degree programs for people who already hold bachelor’s degrees in another area and want to become certified elementary school teachers, and master’s degrees for current elementary teachers who want to develop higher levels of competence and expertise. Graduate programs in elementary education typically prepare students for leadership roles in educational administration and curriculum development, as well as positions teaching at the university level.
Curriculum at Elementary Education Colleges
Elementary teachers are required to have a broad academic base in math, the language arts, social studies, and science, as well as a strong foundation in the fine arts and physical education. In addition to acquiring in-depth content area knowledge, elementary education students also receive a solid foundation in theories and research informing current elementary instructional methods, assessment tools, and curriculum. Courses that elementary education students might be required to take include the following:
- Research in education
- Explorations in diversity
- Assessment & evaluation of literacy
- Foundations of special education
- Survey of early childhood education
- Mathematics for elementary educators
- Introduction to biology
- Literature, arts, & the humanities
In addition to completing coursework focusing on basic subject matter expertise and teacher education, students in elementary education schools are required to participate in a supervised student teaching practicum. Many elementary education colleges offer degrees almost entirely online, but online students are still required to participate in student teaching experiences under the guidance of a mentor teacher. All 50 states require teachers at public schools to pass a state licensing exam after earning their degree.
Career Opportunities for Graduates of Elementary Education Programs
The majority of elementary education graduates go on to become teachers for grades K-6. Their responsibilities include planning and teaching lessons, delivering and giving assignments, preparing students for standardized tests, assessing students’ abilities, and communicating with parents and faculty on each student’s progress.
Elementary school teachers may teach the entire class at one time or work with small groups divided by individual ability. Experienced teachers can advance to become mentors or lead teachers. With additional education or experience, elementary school teachers could also become school librarians, school counselors, instructional coordinators, assistant principals or principals.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of elementary school teachers was $53,400 in 2012. The employment of elementary school teachers is expected to grow 17% from 2010 to 2020. Growth is anticipated due to a projected decline in student–teacher ratios and an increase in enrollment. However, employment will depend on local and state budgets and is expected to be best in the West and South.
As an elementary educator, you will have the opportunity to explore a variety of content areas and inspire intellectual curiosity among young students. If you are eager to introduce children to the pleasures of reading, writing, math, science, and other core subjects, start working towards your elementary education degree now.