The Path to an Elementary School Teacher Career

Educators are faced with a vast and diverse job market. There are positions in research and policymaking as well as traditional classroom posts. For those who want to be in the field teaching and working directly with students, they can choose between primary, secondary and university level posts. Elementary teaching jobs are particularly important because professionals work with children who are in their most formative years.


Becoming an Elementary School Instructor

Primary educators work with kids from pre-kindergarten to the fifth grade. Though the age group spans just a few short years, teachers must be both strong and versatile to provide excellent instruction to this group. Children grow quickly at this stage in their lives and each grade has a unique set of challenges and learning obstacles. Unlike upper level educators, primary school teachers do not need to specialize in a specific subject or topic.

General Requirements

The most basic requirements for being a primary instructor vary between states, regions and districts. However, it is pretty standard for educators to need at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year institution. Some positions or schools may prefer a master’s degree or higher. Instead of majoring in a specific subject, many primary education professionals acquire degrees in child development and early educational practices.

For public schools, elementary school teachers must have a state license or certificate. National licensing organizations can certify educators for instruction in any state. Though, teaching applicants should check a prospective employer’s hiring policies before assuming their license will be valid at the institution. Private schools may not require a state or national license. Candidates should have student teaching experience and many schools offer entry-level teaching posts.

Common Skills and Abilities

Becoming a successful primary school teacher involves more than an education. Educators need certain skills and natural abilities in order to be effective teachers and communicators. Here are some common characteristics and talents of the best primary school teachers:

  • Persistence and Patience: Especially with young and energetic students, the classroom can get unruly. In elementary schools, students are can be napping quietly one minute and having a tantrum in the next. Educators need a surplus of patience and persistence to maintain classroom control and a positive attitude.
  • Public Speaking: Speaking in front of a room is essential for teachers. When working with younger students, teachers will need to tailor their language and remain cognizant of their audience’s engagement.
  • Communication: Effective communication is perhaps one of the most important keys to success for elementary teaching careers. Children do not have the context to understand idioms or overly complex concepts and educators must learn breakdown ideas in relatable ways.
  • Empathy: In this age group, students are going through an immense amount of personal and academic growth. As they begin to understand their environment in a deeper way, students need guidance as they cope with the normal social, domestic and academic challenges of growing up.
  • Creativity: Adults are often surprised at what children say and think. Without decades of life experience, children have a unique vision of the world and how things work. Their teachers must be able to accommodate their perspectives and engage them in ingenuitive ways.
  • Working Well with Children: It is obvious, but should still be stated: Elementary educators must greatly enjoy working with children. If would-be teachers work better with older students, they should take this into account during their undergraduate studies.

Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education

A typical bachelor’s degree in elementary education will take about four years of study. Though this is standard for most programs, students may complete their undergraduate coursework in 3 years or even 5 years. Some institutions ask future teachers to pick a specialization like history, chemistry or English. Student teaching is a fairly standard element for most bachelor’s degree in teaching programs.

Sample Coursework

Undergraduate degrees in education will usually cover teaching methods, classroom fundamentals and early developmental psychology. For those scholars with a concentration, they will be expected to complete a minimum number of units in their niche.

  • Managing a Classroom: Novice educators will study how to cope with and reduce disruptive behaviors while remaining a positive classroom role model. These lessons should give teachers confidence on the job.
  • Fieldwork: The fieldwork component is usually addressed with student teaching. Scholars typically complete about 6 months of training under the supervision of an experienced teaching mentor.
  • Teaching for Diversity: It is important for educators to note the demands of diversity. Social, economic and cultural backgrounds impact a student’s ability to learn and his or her dedication to academia. Quality teachers know how to navigate these differences.

Master’s Degree in Elementary Education

Depending on the state and institution, educators may be required to have a master’s degree in elementary education in order to be eligible for licensing or job candidacy. Aspiring primary teachers with a non-education related degree can earn a master’s degree from alternative elementary teaching programs. This specific type of certification focuses on research and increased elementary classroom experience.

Sample Coursework

Master’s degree program coursework will delve into the minute details of educational policy, research and procedures. Some students will have the opportunity to complete a thesis and examine an important issue more closely. Most master’s degree programs include the following pillars:

  • Syllabus Planning: Developing a curriculum for any classroom requires a sense of pace, difficulty and effective teaching tools. As such, coursework will focus on developing the skills necessary to create a realistic syllabus.
  • Learning Tools: With advances in technology, the teaching field is being to incorporate more and more electronic devices and services into the average classroom. Young teachers must learn how to use the technology effectively when teaching and during more administrative tasks.
  • Educational Cognition: This young age group has special developmental and cognition demands. Educators need to identify and meet these needs.

Job Requirements

The exact job requirements for primary school teachers will very between institutions and states. In general, educators can expect to need at least a bachelor’s degree and student teaching experience. More prestigious schools may also demand a few years of job experience from educational professionals.


Some states or regions offer a range of opportunities for new education degree holders. However, other states and districts require three to five years of experience for teachers of all levels. Job candidates should check with school systems to understand what to highlight on their resumes. Regardless, experienced and inexperienced teachers can find work in the field.


National and/or state licensing is generally mandatory for public elementary school teachers. Private schools may have a slightly varied licensing and certification policy. Additionally, teachers must usually submit to a background check, fingerprinting and/or a drug test. These policies will vary between institutions and educational regions.

Elementary School Teacher Salary and Employment

At the moment, the elementary education field is expected to rise with the growing population and salary will be competitive. Currently, kindergarten teachers have the best job prospects. To find employment and salary information, teachers should consult with their local department of education and other classifieds. Public, private and charter schools frequently list open positions on these websites and directories.

For those who want to pursue careers in primary education, the job market is looking good and the path to success is very promising. Educators who are considering avenues of advancement can establish their teaching abilities in elementary schools and gain valuable experience while pursing higher education options. Either way, teachers who choose to guide this age group in the classroom often find fulfilling professional lives.

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Elementary Teaching Jobs

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Updated Sep 14 2016 About content Print Topic