Elementary education degrees and programs


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HomeElementary education overview

Elementary education degree

Working in an elementary school could be a perfect career for someone who wants to have a positive influence on young minds and lives. Yet, a degree in elementary education offers more career opportunities than simply teaching. This degree can give you access to a career in research, administration, and curriculum design. It may lead you to work on policies and procedures to promote equal access to education, or to a job where you oversee the operations of a school community.

A degree in elementary education can be the starting point to many exciting careers that can be determined by your own imagination, interests, and academic goals. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2018 there were 3.5 million full-time and part-time teachers which was 18 percent higher than in 1999. As the population grows, so does the need for more educated, passionate, and skilled teachers.

Online vs. on campus

As COVID-19 digs its heels in, education programs have had to adapt their curriculums to better fit online education. This keeps students safe from potential contact with the virus, yet lets them stay on track with their academic plans. Universities now offer many programs with online or hybrid classes. This is a viable alternative for students who need, or want, to stay at home because of COVID-19, or who have work or family commitments that prevent them from attending an on-campus program.


Earning your degree from an accredited school will ensure you get the employment or academic advancement you deserve. Outside agencies, like the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, evaluate a school’s program to confirm that it has met a standard of excellence set by the agency. Getting a degree from an accredited university means you are eligible for academic advancement, credential or certificate programs, and future employment. If you’re not sure if your program is accredited, check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education website.

Financial aid

The cost of higher education can be daunting, but there are financial aid opportunities available to those who qualify that can decrease your out-of-pocket costs. FASFA is a federal grant agency which offers financial assistance based on financial status and needs. There are also scholarships and loans which may be available if you need additional assistance.

Associate’s in elementary education

An associate’s degree in elementary education provides foundational knowledge in child development and teaching which prepares you for entry level positions working with young children. To become a licensed elementary school teacher, you will need to continue your education and complete a bachelor’s degree and credential program.

What do I need to apply?

When applying to a 2-year community college, you will need transcripts from your high school or equivalent, with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Some schools may require general education courses like mathematics, English, and social science. Applications are submitted online, and the admissions department will typically get back to you in 24 to 48 hours.

What will I learn?

Child development

This is an introductory course that teaches students about developmental domains, which are cognitive, social, emotional, linguistic, and physical. You will be introduced to the theories and theorists who have shaped our understanding of a child’s development from conception to young adulthood.


Biology is the study of living organisms, including how different organisms grow and thrive in specific environments. You will look at the cell structure of plants, animals, and humans which will help you understand heredity and genetics.

Multicultural classroom

Understanding the importance of how to teach in a multicultural classroom is imperative in the creation of a successful learning environment. You will learn about culturally and linguistically responsive assessment techniques, and the historical and sociological foundations of education.

Child, family, and community

This course helps you understand how socioeconomic status, community input, and family dynamics can influence a child’s behavior and development. It will also give you the skills to build strong future collaborations with parents and the larger community.

Certificate opportunities

Infant and toddler certificate

This certificate prepares you to work with children ages 0 to 3. You will learn to identify developmental milestones, health and safety procedures, and promote cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development in infants and toddlers.

Associate teacher certificate

This will prepare you to work as an associate teacher in a public or private school alongside a licensed teacher. You will learn about developmentally appropriate lessons and goals, observation techniques, and age appropriate curricula.

What’s the cost?

According to a 2020 report, Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid, depending on the state the cost of a 2-year associate’s degree is between $1,430-$8,600 per year.

Career options

A teaching assistant helps the lead teacher with lesson preparation, classroom and behavior management, and provides additional instructions if necessary. They are an essential part of a classroom as they provide essential support to the teacher and help to the students.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for teaching assistants in 2019 was $27,290.

A childcare worker is in charge of facilitating a safe environment for children to play and grow. They can work in childcare centers or at the homes of their employers taking care of a child’s basic needs, like feeding and bathing. If you’re working as a nanny then you may also be asked to help with homework or basic house cleaning.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average salary for childcare workers was $24,320 in 2019.

A preschool teacher prepares students, 3-6 years of age, for kindergarten. They create a safe and stimulating learning environment for children to develop in. Science, mathematics, language, reading, music, and movement are all important topics that need to be covered in lessons to ensure children are getting a well-rounded education.


In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that preschool teachers make an average annual salary of $30,520.

Bachelor’s in elementary education

A degree in elementary education, which is sometimes called a multiple subject program, prepares you to work as an kindergarten or elementary school teacher at a public school. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there are over 1.5 million kindergarten and elementary school teaching jobs in the United States. Teaching can be a promising and rewarding career opportunity, and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education can provide you with the academic credentials for a job in the education sector, or be a step towards further study.

What do I need to apply?

Before being considered for admission to an accredited program, you need to have transcripts from your high school or 2-year university program, with a minimum of a 2.5-3.5 GPA. If you are applying directly from high school, you will also need a personal statement, academic letters of recommendation, and test scores. Some programs may also require a criminal background check.

What will I learn?

This program will teach you about human development, assessment procedures, curriculum development, and more. The coursework, field practice, and credential program will prepare you to work as an elementary school teacher.

General education

As an elementary teacher you will be responsible for teaching students history, mathematics, and English literature, therefore your own proficiency in these subjects should be high. The assessment exam needed for licensure will test you on your general education knowledge.

Child development

This is a human development course that follows the developmental domains from conception to young adulthood. You will look at how thinking and behavior is influenced by cognitive, behavioral, social, emotional, and linguistic development. You will likely take several human development courses which will increase your understanding of a child’s development.

Multicultural studies

An elementary program may require the completion of several courses that fall under the multicultural umbrella. These courses could be about multicultural literature, race and ethnicity, or cross-cultural education.

Curriculum and assessment

This course will educate you on how to develop a curriculum that is age appropriate and facilitates student learning. You will also learn assessment techniques and how to determine learning objectives.

Fieldwork component

This part of the program binds together the classroom knowledge you have attained in your coursework to real-world experience. It will solidify the content learned in your classes, and you can experience how it is applied to a childcare center or elementary school program.


A concentration is centralized knowledge of a specific area in education. These are additional courses to prepare you for career opportunities, or to advance your knowledge about a specific aspect of education. For example, if you are interested in becoming an ESL teacher, then a concentration in bilingual studies would teach you additional content which would be applicable to your career goals

Educational technology

Educational technology prepares you to use technology as an educational asset to your classroom. You will learn how and why educational technology is important, and how it can aid the learning outcomes of your students.


The coursework in this concentration will help you understand the needs of students whose first language is not English. It is useful for teachers who want to pursue a career as an ESL or dual language teacher.


This concentration teaches you multiple problem-solving techniques, common student errors, and how to integrate in-depth mathematical content for elementary aged students. It focuses on foundational knowledge, as well as complex content for advanced learners.

How do I become licensed?

A bachelor’s degree, credential program, assessment exam, and criminal background check is needed to be considered for licensure. Each state has their own licensing process, and an agency that oversees the education and qualifications of public school teachers.

Credential program

A multi-subject credential program can be taken simultaneously or following your bachelor’s program, depending on your preference. A teaching credential means you have learned the content needed to qualify for a teaching position at a public school. Student teaching is a major component of a credential program, and the hours needed to fulfill your state’s requirement will depend on the state.

Assessment exam

After you complete your bachelor’s degree and credential program you will need to pass an assessment exam to be considered for licensure. The name of the exam and the questions can vary, but most states use the Praxis Series. This measures your general knowledge in subjects like reading, writing, mathematics, and social science. The assessment exam shows that you have the required knowledge to teach.

Criminal background check

Most states require a criminal background check before you can be considered for licensure. This will confirm your identity and check your past activities.

What grade should I teach?

After your teaching license, the next step is to decide what grade you’d like to teach. As an elementary school teacher, you can choose to work with younger children or older children, which is a decision you should make based on your preference, patience level, and interests.


Working with younger children offers a more playful learning environment. For many children, this will be their first school experience. Containing their excitement, nerves, and energy levels as they learn appropriate classroom behavior will take lots of patience and a strong skill base from you. You will teach number recognition, social skills, letter sounds, personal hygiene, and creative projects.

Grades 1-3

Teachers of children in the lower grades lay the foundational knowledge that children continue to build on and use for the rest of their lives. You are responsible for teaching basic mathematics, reading comprehension, and fluency. Third graders will be able to write book reports and sharpen their handwriting.

Grades 4-6

If you prefer to teach more independent and advanced academic learners then perhaps grades 4-6 will suit you better. These teachers prepare children for middle school with complex subject matter like algebra, science, geometry, health sciences, and history.

Salaries for kindergarten and elementary school teachers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average salary for kindergarten and elementary school teachers was $59,420 in 2019.

Master’s in elementary education

Although a master’s degree in elementary education is not an academic requirement to be employed as a teacher, it is a great way to advance your education, increase the possibility for higher wages, and further your professional network.

What do I need to apply?

To be considered for a master’s program, you will need to complete a bachelor’s program in a related field with a minimum of a 2.5 to 3.5 GPA, depending on the program. You will also need academic references, standardized test scores, letter of intent and, if applicable, proof of relevant experience.

What will I learn?

A master’s program continues to add to the knowledge you acquired in your undergraduate program, and expands the skills and qualities needed to be an effective educator

Curriculum development

This course will teach you how to create a curricula that takes into account developmental approaches, evaluation, design, planning, and improvement. You will learn how to incorporate evidence-based practices with social, psychological, and economic factors in curricula development.

Elementary education methods

Consisting of several different courses, this program covers the instructional methods and styles that you can utilize to best educate young learners. You will learn the methodology behind teaching mathematics, social studies, science, and literature.

Theories of learning and development

Educational psychology focuses on the learner and the learning process itself. It helps you understand how cultural differences, personality, and language can influence learning outcomes. It also provides knowledge about learning theories and current research on teaching.

Multicultural classroom

Generally, universities insist that students take a course or 2 that cover race and ethnicity, multicultural classrooms, diversity, and cross-cultural studies. This prepares you to work with diverse students by better understanding their culture, parenting styles, languages and beliefs, to better prepare and implement lessons to fit their needs.

Student teaching

This is an important part of any education program because it provides prospective teachers with real-world classroom experience. The hours and locations of this portion of your master’s program is set by the faculty of your institution.


Selecting a concentration in your elementary education program can provide you with additional knowledge about a specific area or subgroup, which can be used for future employment or academic advancement.

Leadership in education

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.

Curriculum and instruction

The coursework in this concentration will teach you how evidence-based research, educational advancements, and constructive curriculum increase student achievement inside and outside the classroom.

Supporting language learners

A concentration in bilingual education is designed to educate those who are interested in teaching in bilingual education programs at the elementary school level. You will learn techniques to support linguistically diverse students.


A concentration in bilingual education is designed to educate those who are interested in teaching in bilingual education programs at the elementary school level. You will learn techniques to support linguistically diverse students.

Certificate opportunities

English as a second language (ESL)

This certificate will help you work with non-native English speaking students. You will learn techniques and skills to help them improve their understanding, reading, comprehension, and speaking in English.

Early childhood education

A graduate certificate in early childhood education will help those who wish to educate children in their early years. You will learn developmentally appropriate assessment techniques, intervention practices, and curriculum design.

Autism spectrum disorder

An autism spectrum disorder graduate certificate will focus on learning about autism, how to help and assist children with autism, and how to implement support strategies to increase their academic success.

What’s the cost?

The average annual cost of tuition only for a 2-year master’s degree program ranges from $3,412-$17,128. The large variation in cost estimations shows the variation according to public and private institutions and in-state compared to out-of-state student attendance.

Career options

After completing your multi-subject credential program, assessment exam, and additional requirements you will be qualified to teach at an elementary school. If

you have a single-subject credential certificate then you may be eligible for employment at a middle school or high school. All teachers are responsible for teaching students basic subject matter to prepare them for academic advancement.


TeacherAverage salary in 2019
Elementary school18%
Middle school15%
High school 4%
Figure from Bureau of Labor Statistics

Instructional coordinators oversee curricula and teaching standards to ensure academic standards are being met. They also analyze student data, suggest educational materials, and develop educational procedures.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an instructional coordinator makes an average salary of $66,290 annually.

Elementary, middle, and high school principals oversee all learning objectives, daily operations, hire teachers, and manage the budget. They make sure all daily operations run smoothly and ensure the educational program they have implemented prompts student learning.


In 2019 the average salary for a school principal was $96,400 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Doctorate in elementary education (Ph.D.)

A doctorate program in elementary education will prepare you for career advancement in higher education settings and research institutions. This program will have an emphasis on educational theory, interdisciplinary approaches to curriculum development, and diversity and social influences on education.

What do I need to apply?

To be considered for a Ph.D. program, you typically need transcripts, a personal statement, writing samples, test scores and a resume or CV. Your transcripts should show a minimum of a 3.5 to 4.0 GPA to be considered for the program. A personal statement should explain to the admissions committee your reasons for pursuing this advanced educational level and what you can bring to the program.


Your doctorate program can take anywhere between 3 to 8 years depending on the university and your dissertation. You will learn about research methods, behavioral sciences, partake in seminar coursework, and conduct dissertation research. The coursework will depend on the university and the program you have selected.

How much does it cost?

The cost of a doctorate program can vary dramatically, from $20,000 to $79,000, based on the number of years the student takes to complete the program, online or on-campus options, and faculty demands to assist with research and teaching.

Career options

The top executive of a school district is called a superintendent. They are responsible for implementing the school board’s requests, making day-to-day decisions about educational programs, and spending.


According to PayScale, the average salary for a school superintendent is $122,849.

Post-secondary teachers, or college professors, teach at the university level. Considered as experts, these teachers provide courses based on their specific field to adult learners. They may also conduct research or publish scholarly articles and books.


In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average salary for post-secondary teachers was $79,540.

A chief learning officer is in charge of employee training and development. They influence leadership management, improve learning and development, and work with human resources to ensure employee needs are being met.


According to PayScale, the average salary for a chief learning officer is $154,080

National Education Association (NEA)

The National Education Association provides information for teachers regarding fair pay, benefits, inclusive workplaces, and access to a resource library. They also advocate for policies that create inclusive schools, programs, and advocate for families and communities.

The School Superintendents Association

The School Superintendents Association promotes equal access to education for all students, network leaders to work together, and advocate for children’s causes and educational needs. They provide information about policy, advocacy, children’s programs, and publications.

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)

NASBA acts like a forum for the 55 State Boards of Accountancy in the US, which administer the Uniform CPA Examination. In partnership with AICPA, NASBA facilitates CPA examination for professionals oversees.

U.S. Department of Education 

This government website provides information on financial aid, student loans, laws, and guidance. They also provide data about education-related research for users to learn current information about policies and procedures related to education.

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