Elementary School Teacher

Teaching in Elementary Schools

elementary school teacherElementary school encompasses a wide range of grade levels. In some regions, it includes kindergarten through eighth grade. In other areas, it goes through the fifth grade, and sixth, seventh and eighth grades are considered middle school. Elementary school teachers interact with students of vastly different age groups, from the early ages of five or six, to the cusp of adolescence at 11 or 12.

Students in elementary schools are all at different phases of development, and their needs vary greatly. However, most elementary school teachers focus on a specific grade level, teaching one class of students who are around the same age. In fact, some states require teachers to be certified to teach a particular grade.

Elementary school teachers usually have one class and they teach their students several different subjects. The curriculum is usually structured around the fundamental subjects of mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, music, art and reading. The exact structure and pedagogy can vary from school to school, but for the most part, elementary school focuses on building the foundation for a well-rounded education overseen by teachers who follow students closely through their development. Elementary school teachers are expected to be very hands-on, creating fun and enthusiastic atmospheres within their classrooms and adapting to meet the needs of their students.

Jobs for Elementary School Teachers

The demand for teachers is growing as schools try to keep up with increasing trends in student enrollment. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2010-2011, employment of teachers is expected to grow by 13 percent between 2008 and 2018. Teaching job opportunities for public elementary school teachers are more abundant than for private elementary school teachers, though the job market for both is looking good. With over 72,000 public elementary schools in the United States, there are almost 35 million elementary school students. On the other hand, there are around 33,700 private schools in the United States with an estimated 5.8 million students, 4.6 million of which are in elementary school.

There are many factors affecting the salary of elementary school teachers (including level of education, certification and even location), but the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) lists the average base salary of all public elementary school teachers as around $49,000, and $34,000 for teachers in private elementary schools.

Becoming an Elementary School Teacher

While the standards for teaching can vary on a state-by-state basis, teachers in elementary schools are required to fulfill basic educational requirements. Elementary School teachers are required to have at least a Bachelor’s degree. It’s very important to find out the teaching requirements for the state where you’re looking to teach. Though a Master’s degree is not required, it does have its benefits, including greater chance for promotions and a potential increase in salary.

Public school teachers must be licensed to teach in their state. Licensure is attained through a teacher education program that is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). Teacher education programs focus on pedagogy, teaching methods, educational technologies and actual classroom experience as a student teacher. You can enroll in a teacher education program after you’ve completed your Bachelor’s degree, but there are also schools that train you to become a teacher as an undergraduate. These schools of education center their courses of study around the philosophy of education, psychology of learning, methodology and technology in the classroom. Elementary school teachers must also pass certain standardized tests to demonstrate efficient knowledge and capabilities.

Where Can I Teach?

Public Elementary Schools

Public schools are federally funded. They are governed by the United States Department of Education on the federal level, their state’s board of education on the state level and locally by their school district. The school district is responsible for deciding which grades elementary school consists of and control the curriculum, the allocation of funds and the hiring of teachers for each school. Public schools are available to every child in that district, so elementary school teachers interact with students from all different backgrounds. Teachers can also teach at magnet and charter schools, which are still public, though they are built upon a specific educational philosophy, and are smaller, more selective and may have additional requirements for their teachers.

Private Elementary Schools

Private schools receive no federal funding and are autonomous of the government. They are funded mostly by tuition and donations, and are governed by the organization that founded them. Many are religiously affiliated, founded by a church or religious group to educate students in a manner concordant with their specific beliefs. Their autonomy allows them to set their own standards for teachers. Most private schools adhere to government regulations regarding teacher qualification to maintain a high educational standard, but it is important to check with the school where you want to work for the specific criteria. Private school teachers must have a Bachelor’s degree at the very least, though they do not have to be licensed or certified, or they might have to be certified by a program designated by the school (for example, some Catholic schools require their teachers be certified by the NAPCIS Teacher Certification Program).

For information on how to conduct your job search, including the elements of your application as well as finding job postings, visit our Find Your Teaching Job page.