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Elementary Education Teacher: Educational Requirements

Elementary education teachers help students in grades 1-6 learn about subjects ranging from mathematics to language arts. These professionals are typically responsible for one class; however some school teachers may work jointly with others to teach the same subjects to different grade levels. For example, in addition to instructing a second grade class in history and writing, an elementary education teacher may also teach social science to students in grades 3-5.

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Bachelor's Degree for an Elementary Education Teacher

Elementary education teachers are generally required to complete bachelor's degrees in elementary education. These programs typically last four years and begin with introductory courses in childhood education, development and psychology. Because students will need to teach a range of classes as elementary education teachers, most programs include courses in mathematics, history, science and language arts. Students also receive training on how to prepare and teach these classes.

In addition to their studies, aspiring elementary education teachers must complete professional experience programs. Sometimes called internships, these programs allow students to teach real elementary school classes under the supervision of licensed professional teachers. Students gain experience with designing curricula and teaching classes.

Licensure

Although not mandatory to teach in private schools, licensure is required for all prospective candidates who wish to teach in public schools. Licensure requirements differ by state, but generally include a bachelor's degree, completion of a student-teacher internship and some teaching experience. Additionally, most states mandate prospective elementary education teachers to demonstrate proficiency in reading and writing.

Some states may require teachers to be on the path to earning master's degrees by a set date. Once licensed, most teachers must participate in state-mandated continuing education programs in order to keep their skills current.

Alternative Licensure

Designed to increase the number of licensed teachers, alternative licensure programs are available for college graduates who have not completed degrees in education or teacher preparation programs. For example, working professionals who are considering career changes may qualify to participate in alternative licensure programs. These programs allow participants to teach under provisional licenses while completing the appropriate education requirements. Other programs may provide 1-2 semesters of condensed learning to help students gain the necessary skills to earn their licenses.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a 17% job growth for all elementary school teachers in the years 2010-2020. Elementary school teachers earned $53,400 as a median annual salary in 2012, according to the BLS.

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