How to Become an Elementary Teacher
Elementary Teacher Careers & Degrees

If you are great with children, are patient and good at explaining things, and interested in a career in education, then you might like to become an elementary teacher.

An elementary teacher helps children to develop literacy and numeracy skills in their early years of schooling.

They also help them to develop emotional and social skills.

Younger children learn through playing, so in the first year or two of school, a teacher will work with the students using methods like storytelling, role playing, and other games.

Older children concentrate more on academic skills, and will spend more time reading and writing.

In the last year or two of elementary school, students will start learning from a wider range of disciplines, such as science and history.

Most elementary school teachers have bright and personable personalities.

They also have excellent interpersonal skills and stay calm even in a crisis.

An elementary school teacher must be able to relate to children without speaking down to them and alienating them.

They need to be admired by their students, and also respected, without becoming unapproachable.

Education Requirements to Become an Elementary Teacher

If you are in high school, you can start preparing to become an elementary teacher.

A good idea is to take jobs where you work closely with children.

For instance, as a babysitter or working at a before and after school care center.

You might also volunteer your time at a sporting organization, or similar, to get some experience with kids.

To become an elementary school teacher in the public system, you will need to complete a bachelor’s teaching degree with a teaching or education major, and also have a license within your state.

To teach at a private school, you will still need a bachelor’s degree in education, but do not have to be licensed.

The education requirements to become an elementary teacher can vary from state to state.

When you’re at college, your degree will need to have a certain component of education courses.

Check with your state authority to make sure your courses are accredited.

In recent years, some states have offered alternative entry ways to teaching for those with a bachelor’s degree in a different field.

You can find out more about accreditation at the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Elementary Teacher Job Description

When you become an elementary teacher, you will teach a class of students between the ages of 6 to 11 years old and you will most likely teach them for one full school year.

As an elementary teacher you must teach across a broad range of subject areas.

Literacy and numeracy are of the utmost importance for this age group.

You may also teach children other subjects like science, geography, history, art, and music.

An elementary teacher plans and runs a wide range of different classes.

They work with students as a group, and also on a one on one basis.

They keep in contact with parents, with written reports on a child’s progress, as well as at other times when required.

When you become an elementary teacher you will have students in your class from a wide range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

You will need to be able to relate well to all kinds of people, and also have strong communication skills.

Some of the tasks you could be responsible for as an elementary teacher include:

  • Developing curriculum
  • Teaching children
  • Supervising the playground
  • Helping children to develop social and emotional skills
  • Writing reports and marking papers
  • Keeping contact with parents
  • Disciplining children when required

Most elementary teachers work ten months of the year.

Most use the summer for professional development, while some simply take a vacation.

Many elementary school teachers work overtime, marking papers or tutoring students who need additional support.

Elementary Teacher Salary and Career Path

Once you are qualified as an elementary teacher you will be able to teach your first class, as long as you have completed your state’s licensing requirements.

With experience, some elementary teachers move on to specialized positions such as librarians, guidance counselors, reading specialists, leading teachers, or educational administrators.

Some become school principals or educational researchers.

Education is a great field to be employed in.

Employment growth is strong, so once you are qualified you should not struggle to find a job.

The median salary for an elementary teacher is $51,000 a year.

The top 10% of earners made $80,000 a year.

Some similar jobs to elementary teaching include:

When you become an elementary teacher, you can look forward to a rewarding career where you can help students achieve their potential.

It’s also a job where professional development is offered, and there are a lot of areas for advancement.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$63,930
$39K
$47K
$63K
$77K
$97K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$50,270
Alaska$75,860
Arizona$45,600
Arkansas$48,800
California$82,560
Colorado$54,670
Connecticut$78,070
Delaware$63,970
District of Columbia$79,390
Florida$55,210
Georgia$58,190
Hawaii$63,360
Idaho$48,880
Illinois$63,280
Indiana$52,570
Iowa$53,950
Kansas$50,650
Kentucky$52,660
Louisiana$48,630
Maine$52,860
Maryland$75,380
Massachusetts$82,450
Michigan$69,050
Minnesota$63,250
Mississippi$44,060
Missouri$50,920
Montana$52,160
Nebraska$60,390
Nevada$56,980
New Hampshire$59,930
New Jersey$71,880
New Mexico$57,330
New York$82,830
North Carolina$48,560
North Dakota$55,630
Ohio$64,090
Oklahoma$45,970
Oregon$69,980
Pennsylvania$69,630
Rhode Island$72,310
South Carolina$53,450
South Dakota$44,110
Tennessee$53,540
Texas$56,280
Utah$60,660
Vermont$63,480
Virginia$69,690
Washington$69,390
West Virginia$45,390
Wisconsin$57,980
Wyoming$58,940
Guam$49,940
Puerto Rico$35,050
Virgin Islands$44,200

The top earning state in the field is New York, where the average salary is $82,830.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New York - $82,830
California - $82,560
Massachusetts - $82,450
District of Columbia - $79,390
Connecticut - $78,070
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education, OCC Code 25-2021, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does an elementary teacher do?

An elementary teacher is a professional who educates kids from kindergarten through fifth grade (at times – sixth grade; some rural and private schools might also include the seventh and eighth grades).

Elementary teachers are not only responsible for managing the resources and materials used to educate the children – the main aim of a teacher is to provide the educational and emotional growth of the children in a classroom setting.

The typical responsibilities of an elementary teacher will differ depending on the grade of the children he or she works with.

A kindergarten teacher teaches very basic reading skills, phonics learning, early mathematics, proper social skills, etc.

A first-grade teacher is responsible for continuing to build confidence in every kid and creating a positive view of the world, and so on.

QuestionHow much do elementary teachers make?

On average, an elementary teacher can make a little more than $58.000 per year in the United States.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the school you work for, the location and so on.

Teachers in New York, California, and Massachusetts, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level elementary teacher can earn around $18 per hour, while a top-level specialist with plenty of experience can make $43 and more per hour.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become an elementary teacher?

You would certainly need a bachelor’s degree in elementary education or in a more specific field (English, math, etc.) in order to become an elementary teacher.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

To improve job perspectives, you can go for a master’s degree (over $30.000).

You must be certified to be able to teach in schools; the cost of teacher certification can vary from state to state, so be prepared to pay anywhere between $40 and $200.

QuestionWhat is the demand for elementary teachers?

Between 2016 and 2026, the elementary school teacher job market is expected to grow by 7.4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is pretty much the same as the national average for all occupations in the United States.

The professionals that possess expertise in ESL or bilingual education and mathematics, will increase their chance of employment.

The industry is mainly concentrated in Texas, New York, and California.

QuestionHow long does it take to become an elementary teacher?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree and 1-2 years to earn a master’s degree.

To become a certified teacher, you would need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, complete an approved teacher education program, pass a background check and knowledge and skills tests.

The initial certificate is valid for 5 years; you would have to complete a certain number of professional development hours every five years to maintain the certification.

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