Associate degree in elementary education

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Why get an associate degree in elementary education?

An associate’s degree in elementary education is a great introduction to the education field. This 2-year program will familiarize you with what education encompasses to prepare you for an entry-level career. To teach as a lead teacher at an elementary school you will need to continue your education and earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and obtain your state’s licensure. However, any quality associate degree in education allows access to employment options as a preschool teacher, teaching assistant, or childcare worker.

What do I need to apply?

To be considered for an associate’s program you will need a high school diploma or equivalent, and a valid ID. Some schools may require standardized test scores or prerequisite courses. Applications are typically filled out online, and students can expect to hear back within a few days. If you are admitted, some schools will require placement exams for mathematics and English. This ensures that you are placed in the appropriate courses.

Common coursework

As a full-time student, an associate’s degree will take approximately 2 years to complete. You will need to pass general education courses like math, science, and social/behavioral science. Coursework in this program will give you the knowledge and skills needed for entry level employment in the education field.

Introduction to child development

A child development course will introduce you to the developmental domains, the scientists who paved the way, and the research that shaped the way we look at teaching, parenting, and understanding children from conception to adulthood.

Child, family and community

This course will prepare students to collaborate on a child’s future with parents, families, and the community. A child’s success is increased when the people in the child’s life communicate and work together.

Elementary art

Motor skills, social development, risk-taking, and innovation can all be strengthened and fostered through artistic expression. This course will teach you about developmentally appropriate art projects and artistic milestones in young children.

Learning theories

Understanding the cognitive processes can help you gain insight on how learning in elementary school takes place. You will be introduced to theories of learning such as behaviorism, constructivism, humanism, and connectivism.

Curriculum develoment

This course teaches you the concepts and procedures of curriculum development. It examines the problems and issues in curriculum development, as well as best practice procedures, appropriate lessons, and developmentally attainable goals.

Assessment and evaluation

This course teaches you the concepts and procedures of curriculum development. It examines the problems and issues in curriculum development, as well as best practice procedures, appropriate lessons, and developmentally attainable goals.

Career options

Preschool teacher

Children learn essential academic and life skills as a preschooler. A preschool teacher helps children prepare for kindergarten. The teacher is responsible for creating developmentally appropriate lessons which can be taught to the children as a group or individually. The teacher must also be able to communicate with parents about their child’s developmental progress or needs. Preschool teachers need to have a minimum of an associate’s degree in child development in order to be considered for the position, but typically a bachelor’s degree is preferred.

The average salary in 2021 for a preschool teacher is $32,926.

Childcare worker

A childcare worker can work in a daycare center or as a private at-home care provider such as a nanny. Childcare workers are in charge of watching children before and/or after school. They enforce routines, oversee play, and facilitate a playful environment where children can grow and learn. As a nanny you might be asked to prepare meals, help with homework, or assist with light housework. This will depend on the family you work for and the hours you work.

The 2021 average annual salary for a childcare worker is $31,289.

Teaching assistant

To be a teaching assistant at a public school, you first need to earn an associate’s degree. Teaching assistants work with licensed teachers to help prepare work for lessons, gather materials, give additional instruction, and classroom management.

The average annual salary for teacher assistants was $23,188 in 2021.

Additional certifications

If you are interested in additional knowledge outside of your program then a certificate program is a great way to advance your knowledge. These programs give students deeper insight to the different parts of education. Depending on your career aspirations and interests, a certification may qualify you for employment or give you an edge over other applicants.

Montessori certification

If you are looking for a teaching certification that allows you to work with children from birth to high school, a Montessori certification might interest you. Montessori programs have been around since the early 1900s, and are known for their child-led classrooms. This child-centered approach to education encourages independence, creativity, and freedom of movement.

Reggio Emilia certification

Another early education philosophy and approach is Reggio Emelia. It was founded in Italy and is based on a self-guided curriculum. Students construct their own learning plans.  They collaborate and learn with others, and are encouraged to determine their own social lives. This certification will give students who are interested in this approach additional information on its historical roots, principles, and values. 

Infant and toddler certification

This certificate is focused on training students who want to work at a preschool or in an early years environment as infant and toddler teachers. Coursework will cover infants and toddlers with special needs, psychology, introduction to early childhood education, the development of infants and toddlers, and teaching practices for this age group.

How much can this degree cost?

The cost of an in-state two-year associate’s degree program is roughly $3,770 a year at a public institution. This covers the cost of tuition and fees. This does not cover the cost of books which can add about $1,200 per year.

Financial aid

Many students struggle with paying for their higher education programs, but there are financial aid options available to students who qualify. For example, many students apply for scholarships, grants, work-study programs, or loans. This helps ease the financial burden of school, so students can focus on learning rather than finances.

One of the most popular ways students pay for school is through Federal Student Aid. This is a need-based government assistance program that uses a student’s financial background to determine how much aid they qualify for. A free application is filled out on their website and students often hear back within a few weeks.

Continuing education

If you have finished your associate program in elementary education and you have a thirst for additional knowledge then there are several options that this associate program qualifies you for. Often, students decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a related field because the content learned in this program provides the foundational knowledge required to apply.

Bachelor’s degree in special education

A bachelor’s degree in special education paired with your state’s licensure requirements can qualify you to teach special education at the elementary, middle, or high school level. Coursework will cover historical views of special education, evidence-based research, best teaching practices, and an in-depth look into low and high incidence disabilities. This prepares you to work with children, adolescents, and adults with developmental, physical, or cognitive disabilities.

Bachelor’s degree in secondary education

Earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to work as a teacher in secondary education. 

This undergraduate degree, a single-subject credential program, and your state’s additional licensure requirements will qualify you to teach at the secondary level. Coursework will likely include child and adolescent development, theory and instruction in curriculum, methods of teaching, and classroom assessment.

Bachelor’s degree in elementary education

A bachelor’s degree in elementary education takes all your knowledge from your associate program and funnels it to your undergraduate coursework. You will build on the knowledge, skills, and tools you gained in your associate’s degree to develop new skills necessary for teaching in the public school sector. You will learn more about the developmental domains, teaching practices, and theories that have shaped elementary education. You will also be required to complete a multi-subject credential program that qualifies you to teach children at the elementary school level.

U.S. Department of Education

The U.S Department of Education promotes student achievement by providing users with resourceful information regarding financial aid, data, research, and press releases for up to date information.

Reggio Emilia Approach

On this site you will find more information about this approach, its educational philosophy, and how they teach children in an early years environment. You can discover networking opportunities, schools near you, and in-depth knowledge about their history, values, and preschools.

National Education Association

This association advocates for change in the education system, promotes professional excellence, provides resources for academic success, and informs teachers of their rights in the workplace.

North American Montessori Center

This center offers professional distance programs to people who are interested in pursuing a career as a Montessori teacher.