Elementary School Teachers
Degrees and Education
- A bachelor’s degree in elementary education is needed. Some states also require an area of specialty particularly for teachers certified to teach higher grades.
- In some states a master’s degree is necessary for early childhood education.
- Most states also require a student teaching period usually a semester.
- Those with a bachelor’s degree in another field who want to become teachers should find out their state’s requirements for taking an alternative path to certification. This option typically includes accelerated coursework in education theory and child psychology.
What you study:
All elementary school teachers must follow a curriculum that includes:
- Elementary education
- Education history and theory
- Children’s literature
- Child psychology
- Adolescent psychology
Future teachers who specialize may also have an area of concentration such as math science or English:
- History for Elementary School Teachers
- Methods in Elementary Mathematics
- Life Sciences for Elementary School Teachers
- Methods in Elementary Science
All teachers should also expect to spend at least a semester and possibly a year in student teaching depending on state requirements.
Overviews what elementary school teachers do during their day. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As an elementary school teacher you play a number of roles throughout the day. You’ll arrive well before your students to give yourself time to go over your lesson plans. The material is as familiar to you as your own lessons in elementary school but the ways you impart that information change to meet the needs of your class. When your students file in half an hour later you’re there at the door to greet them; if they’re quite young you’ll help them stow their school gear in their cubbyholes or desks.
After taking attendance and leading kids in the Pledge of Allegiance you might start with an English or history lesson something designed to interest sleepy morning classes without taxing them. For young children games and projects meant to teach through activities could fill the morning hours; older kids and pre-teens might work on grammar or arithmetic classwork you handed out at the beginning of class.
If you teach upper elementary school grades you may specialize your lesson plans and team-teach with others. You may teach math and science to one class in the morning and move to another class for afternoon lessons in your specialty. In other schools you may move from class to class more frequently or your students may do the moving as you teach one or two lesson plans throughout the day.
Younger kids will need a mid-morning break and a mid-afternoon nap during which you can review the rest of the day’s lessons or gently enforce quiet time. Both lower and higher grade levels will eat lunch and you’re on hand to supervise. Many schools rotate teachers on lunch duty to ensure that you occasionally have time to yourself in the teachers’ lounge. You’ll also be on hand during recess during which you may need to break up the occasional argument or soothe a tearful child. Your afternoon goes much like your morning.
When the day is done for your students yours still has a few hours of work. Grading tests and homework devising tomorrow’s lesson plans and preparing for student-teacher conferences mean you’re working at least two or three hours beyond the school day.
Certifications and Licensing
Public schools require teacher certification in every state; many states also require certification for private school teachers. Certification involves taking a lengthy test and may also include coursework specific to elementary education. Many states also require ongoing education for teachers. These professional development classes may be subject-oriented or pertain to education in general.
Full-time versus part-time:
Almost all elementary school teachers work full-time although some teachers who specialize in an elective field such as band choir or art may spend less time in the classroom. School hours are rigid; a teacher must be there when the students are. However the hours during which teachers work on lesson plans and grade papers are flexible. Few schools have summer classes so most teachers enjoy time off from June to August.
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook ? Prospective elementary school teachers will get a general overview of what the career entails as well as projected demand for the profession. It’s a good summary of basic information about salaries positions available and education required.
- U.S. Department of Education ? Teachers must keep up with education legislation and this site is the ideal place to find such news as it’s written. The site is also an excellent source of information on securing financial aid and finding an accredited school. For elementary education students who are preparing for their student teaching semester the site has a wealth of classroom resources.
- National Education Association ? The NEA is one of the largest professional organizations in the country with over 3 million members. The association’s site provides classroom resources organizational tools and discussion forums with advice for new teachers. For prospective teachers who want a more rounded view of the profession the Issues and Action section gives an inside look at the challenges facing educators.
- National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education ? This organization’s site helps elementary education students find a school that suits their needs and gives them an in-depth look at what an accredited program entails. For anyone who dreams of opening a private school or taking a role in school administration this view of the accreditation process is highly educational.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children ? Current and future elementary school teachers can find support classroom resources and a thriving community at this site. The Professional Development section includes information on continuing education to help those considering a career change transition into teaching. Visit the Newsroom section to learn about issues facing preschool and elementary school teachers.
Salaries by City
See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.
|State||City / Region||Typical Salary||Salary Range||Job Count||% of All Jobs|
|AL||Anniston – Oxford||$47060||440||1.00%|
|AL||Auburn – Opelika||$50560||610||1.25%|
|AL||Birmingham – Hoover||$50720||4700||0.97%|
|AL||Florence – Muscle Shoals||$48410||790||1.51%|