Bachelor’s in elementary education
Teachers are influential and important members of a community. We all remember our favorite childhood teachers, who often have a special place in our hearts. These teachers created a safe, stimulating, and fun learning environment for the children they taught. A degree in elementary education is a great way to start your own journey to become a licensed elementary school teacher.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 1.5 million teaching jobs in kindergarten and elementary schools in the United States. Employment is also projected to grow by 4% between 2019 to 2029. The best undergraduate degree in elementary education, can give you the flexibility to decide on which age group you would like to teach. While some teachers prefer teaching younger age groups, others may prefer educating older children in preparation for middle school.
What do I need to apply?
Before applying to an accredited program there are a few things you need to make sure you have. First, transcripts from high school or community college will be required to ensure you have a minimum of a 2.5 or higher GPA. Some students earn an associate degree in a relevant field like an associate degree in elementary education.
Also, because you will eventually be working with children, some programs may also require a criminal background check upon application. If you are applying from high school directly then you need academic letters of recommendation, a personal statement, transcripts, and test scores such as the SAT or ACT.
More programs are being offered online, which gives those who like the flexibility of online learning more opportunities to learn from home. Online or hybrid classes give you the freedom to study from home without attending lectures in person. This is great if you live far away from campus, or have a busy life.
Before applying to an online education program, make sure the program is accredited so your units will transfer to a master’s program, are applicable for a certificate and credential program, or be accepted by a future employer.
What grade should I teach?
With an elementary education degree, you are on the path to become an elementary school teacher. After you have graduated and attained a license, you can decide which grade level you would like to teach. It is important to know what age group you are most comfortable with before you apply and accept a job. Some teachers enjoy helping young learners with daily tasks, while others prefer the independence of older children.
Kindergarten teachers will be responsible for teaching phonetics, number recognition, writing activities, and creative projects. In addition to academic responsibilities, teachers help with social skills, personal hygiene, and integrating children into the public school system.
Children in the lower grades lay the foundation for the knowledge they will continue to build on over the remainder of their academic lives. You will teach reading comprehension, fluency skills, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. By third grade, students will be writing book reports, have legible handwriting, and demonstrate organized thinking.
If you are not interested in teaching young learners, you have the option to teach older students more advanced academic content in preparation for middle school. Students in the upper grades are more independent and ready to learn more complex subject matter, including geometry, algebra, science, and history. They will also broaden their vocabulary, do book reports, and learn about health sciences.
Salaries for elementary school teachers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary in 2020 for kindergarten and elementary school teachers was $60,660.
How to become a licensed teacher
After you graduate from the elementary education program, you will need to complete a few more steps before you can head into the classroom. You need to pass a state-approved teacher certification program (which can be taken at the same time as your bachelor’s program), an assessment exam, complete a criminal background check, and submit a state teaching licensing application.
Teacher preparation program
Either during your undergraduate program or afterward, you need to complete a teaching preparation program. This means the qualifications you hold will allow you to teach in a public school. Each state has its own agency which oversees the education and qualifications of public teachers. Student teaching is usually a required component of a teacher education program. The number of student teaching hours needed will vary depending on the state. You may participate in student teaching, co-teaching, or as an intern to gain hands-on experience.
Before you enroll and/or after the completion of your undergraduate coursework and certification program, you are required to take assessment exams as part of the licensing procedure. Most states will require the Praxis series which measures academic skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and other general subjects. It also measures subject-specific knowledge required to start teaching.
Criminal background check
Following the completion of your bachelor’s program and certification program, you are required to take an assessment exam as part of the licensing procedure. Most states will require the Praxis series which measures academic skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and other general subjects. It also measures subject-specific knowledge required to start teaching.
During your 4-year elementary education program, you will learn about child and adolescent development, curriculum development, assessment procedures, and more. At an accredited university, you will also get hands-on knowledge and practice through your student teaching program. This helps you to take what you have learned in your program and apply it to the classroom environment.
An elementary educator teaches all subjects, which means that your studies should include general education classes such as, mathematics, humanities and English literature. The assessment exam, like the Praxis, will test you on your general education knowledge.
Courses in child and adolescent development will teach you about the developmental domains and how they advance over time. This will give you an understanding of your student’s abilities, development, and behavior. You will likely have to take several courses in human development as part of your elementary education program.
Depending on your university, you may need to take more than one class on nurturing a multicultural classroom. These classes could incorporate multicultural literature, ethnic studies, or learning about different races and cultures. This helps you understand your student’s background, cultural norms, and the importance of inclusion in your classroom.
Curriculum and assessment
This course will teach you how curriculum development facilitates student learning. Designing developmentally appropriate lessons, examining assessments, and determining objectives will ensure your students are getting the most from their education.
Fieldwork is an integral part of any education program. It helps you integrate theoretical ideas from your studies and apply it to the practical world. It is important to get professional practice in a practical setting before graduation to solidify the knowledge you have acquired in the classroom. The amount of fieldwork needed to fulfill the graduation requirement depends on the program and university.
Elective classes are chosen by you as part of your bachelor’s program. Most universities will provide a set list of acceptable courses for you to choose from. For example, depending on your interests, you could take a course in deaf studies, special education, or art education. Before selecting an elective make sure it is an acceptable course for your bachelor’s program.
A selected concentration in education is a specific area of emphasis within the umbrella of education. This is a way for you to customize your college experience based on your interest, academic ambition, or career objective.
Educational leadership can be an invaluable part of your program because it helps increase educational efficacy, sharpen your leadership skills, and enhance classroom management techniques.
This concentration can be useful for teachers who want to pursue a career as an ESL or dual language teacher. After completing the coursework you will understand how to address the needs of an English language learner in the classroom. You will participate in fieldwork which gives you exposure to bilingual learners.
This concentration will prepare you to teach students with special needs in the elementary classroom. Learning to work with and understand diverse learners will aid your journey as a teacher whether you’re looking to be a special education teacher or not.
Cost of a bachelor’s program
The cost of a bachelor’s program can vary depending on the location of the university or college. A 4-year in-state program costs somewhere around $9,400 annually for tuition and fees, depending on the state.
If you are looking to travel across state lines for your bachelor’s program, it will cost about $23,890 annually for tuition and fees. Online options are always available as well. An online bachelor’s degree generally ranges from $38,500 to $60,600. Just be sure that before you apply, the university you choose is accredited.
If you’ve just completed your bachelor’s degree in education and want to advance your academic journey, then there are options for you to achieve that. A master’s program will give you advanced knowledge in your field. It will also make you a more competitive applicant for careers or Ph.D. programs.
Master’s degree in special education
A master’s in special education is designed to further prepare graduates in their work of supporting children and adults with disabilities, or who are at risk for learning and behavioral difficulties. You will increase your knowledge and skills in helping children with behavioral, literacy, and learning disabilities to increase the future prospects of these students, in and out of the classroom.
Master’s in education (M.Ed)
A master’s in education will enhance your understanding of education as you build on previous concepts and skills from your undergraduate program. It focuses on education beyond the classroom and into the education system itself incorporating relevant policies and procedures. After completing the program you will be able to critically evaluate the practice of education. It will prepare you for employment in supervisory and administrative roles.
Master’s in teaching (MAT)
An MAT program focuses on earning a master’s degree and teaching license. In this master’s program, you will gain practical experience by working directly with students as a student teacher. This helps you apply what you are learning in your coursework to real-world experience. You will study educational theory, implementation, and stylistic approaches.
Graduate school scholarships and grants are available through organizations, companies, states, or the federal government. These are either need-based or merit-based, and applications for most can easily be done online.
Federal aid, like FASFA, is available to graduate students based on their financial information. There are also scholarships or grants available to students pursuing a degree in education. These scholarships vary by state, and all have different requirements to be eligible for candidacy. For example, the American Council of the Blind offers a scholarship for students pursuing an education degree who are legally blind.
The importance of accredited education programs
An accredited educational program means that it has been vetted by an accrediting agency. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation ensures a university has met their standard of educational excellence. This set of standards ensures that the program you choose will equip you with the essential knowledge and skills required to make you classroom ready. Since licensure is required in all states, it is best to complete a bachelor’s program from an accredited university.
This is a great resource if you are not sure which university programs are accredited or not. They provide you with a simple, user friendly guide to accredited post-secondary programs in the United States.
The national education association works in every state to advance justice and excellence in public education. They have over 3 million members who help shape government policies and work with communities, parents, and students to ensure high quality education is provided to every student.