How to Become an Elementary School Teacher

There’s perhaps no greater influence on a young child’s life than that of an elementary school teacher. Elementary school teachers instruct students in grades 1 to 5 on the basics of math, English, science and history. The work environment consists of public and private school campuses. Elementary school teaching can be a very enjoyable profession becauseĀ  it works with young, energetic and enthusiastic students, and it can also be very rewarding as you observe children writing their first cursive words, understanding multiplication and division and doing well on spelling tests.

Below you’ll get a closer look at the educational requirements, career options beyond the elementary school classroom and other factors to consider (i.e. hours, pay, career outlook) when you pursue a job in elementary education. Just think of it as your basic “how to become an elementary school teacher” tutorial.

Education Requirements

All elementary school teachers are required to have at least a Bachelor Degree in elementary education. This is earned by completing the academic curriculum at an accredited four-year university. In addition to a degree, elementary school teachers are required to have certification (which is issued by the state you’ll be teaching in) or a license to teach. What’s more is that many elementary education programs require students to student teach for a semester to gain real-world teaching experience before they enter the classroom on their own. Student teaching allows soon-to-be teachers to work under the supervision of an already experienced teacher as an apprentice of sorts to learn on the job. That’s something you can’t get from a textbook.

Career Options

We’ve already told you how rewarding the profession an elementary school teacher can be, but for many teaching this role is merely a stepping stone in an academic career. Many professionals begin as elementary school teachers and move on to become guidance counselors, assistant principals – even school principals. We should mention though that while you’re only required to possess a Bachelor’s degree to qualify for elementary teacher status, more advanced degrees are required for higher academic positions such as school administrators or guidance counselors.

What to Consider if you Pursue Elementary Education

While many think the teaching profession is struggling due to the economic recession that’s has led to education funding cuts in many states, the outlook for elementary school teachers is actually promising. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, the job outlook for elementary school teachers is expected to grow at a 17 percent clip by 2020 – that’s about as fast as average, as there is expected to be an additional 281,500 new elementary school teachers in the field in the 10-year span from 2010 to 2020. While employment growth will vary by region, growth factors are tied to decreases in student-teacher ratios as well as legislation in some states that have put greater incentives on early teacher retirement.

According to the BLS, the average elementary school teacher made $51,380 per year in 2010. However, while that’s the median pay range, let it be known that many entry-level teachers are often hired at a starting annual salary of less than $30,000 per year, often making it necessary to seek seasonal employment during the summer vacation.

Lastly, we’ll touch on teacher job hours as well as the fringe benefits that come with the job. Generally speaking, you’ll work the hours that students are in school, give or take some time before and after normal hours to plan lessons, grade papers, etc. And the fringe benefits and vacation time couldn’t be better for teachers. You’ll get a summer vacation – just like the students, a Christmas vacation – just like the students, and a Spring Break – just like the students. Teachers are one of the few professions that get upwards of four months off a year, while still making a comfortable salary.

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