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Career Guide
Elementary school teacher

If you're passionate about fostering learning and creativity, inspiring curiosity and making a lasting impact on young lives, you may find a fulfilling career as an elementary school teacher.

If you're passionate about fostering learning and creativity, inspiring curiosity and making a lasting impact on young lives, you may find a fulfilling career as an elementary school teacher.

Career overview

Elementary school teachers play a crucial role in the academic, social and emotional development of children in grades K-8. They are responsible for creating and delivering engaging lesson plans across a broad range of subjects, including English, mathematics, science and social studies. Beyond imparting academic knowledge, these educators also focus on fostering critical thinking, promoting creativity and instilling important life skills such as cooperation, respect and responsibility.

Other duties may include regularly communicating with parents regarding their child's progress, providing students with individualized learning support, preparing students for standardized state tests and managing behavior inside and outside of the classroom. Through their work, elementary school teachers equip students for future academic challenges in middle school and lay the foundational stones for lifelong learning.

About 1.4 million elementary school teachers were employed nationally in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While teaching opportunities are available at private institutions, public elementary schools remain the largest employers of these professionals.

What to expect

Salary range

$51 - 81K

Elementary school teachers within the 25th to 75th percentile earned salaries ranging from $51,260 to $81,480 in 2023, according to BLS nationwide statistics.[1]

Projected growth (2022-2032)

10,000 jobs

There is expected to be little to no job growth for this career in the next decade. Most job openings will be a result of teachers changing careers or exiting the workforce, BLS reports.[1]

Education required

Bachelor's degree

Related job titles

Middle school teacher
High school teacher
College professor
School principal

[1] The salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location, and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level, or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website. The BLS Projected Growth for 2022-2032 is published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data reflects the BLS’ projections of national (not local) conditions. These data points are not specific to University of Phoenix students or graduates.

Challenges

While being an elementary school teacher can be an incredibly fulfilling career, it also has its challenges. Enrollment in public schools has been on the decline since 2020 — the first year of the pandemic — and is expected to continue. This is due to a projected decrease in the school-age population and a shift towards alternative schooling methods like charter schools, private schools and homeschooling. Job growth in public schools is also dependent on state and local government budgets. For this reason, budget deficits could result in layoffs for school faculty and staff.

However, there is some good news. Although class sizes are expected to be reduced, the number of classes should remain steady and result in a need for more teachers in schools where parents and teachers advocate for smaller class sizes. Large class size and insufficient resources are stressors for teachers, but with smaller classes, those challenges could start to resolve themselves.

Advantages

The elementary school teacher career can offer a unique schedule. Many school districts have a traditional 10-month school year with a short winter vacation and a two-month summer break. For teachers in these districts, this schedule allows time for rejuvenation, personal development and family time or travel that can enrich teaching. However, these teachers may also work during the summer, if they’d prefer. With strong job security when achieving tenure where available, teaching can allow for a rare work-life balance and stability, making it an appealing and fulfilling career for those eager to impact the next generation.

What to expect

Salary range

$51 - 81K

$51K    

$81K    

Elementary school teachers within the 25th to 75th percentile earned salaries ranging from $51,260 to $81,480 in 2023, according to BLS nationwide statistics.[1]

Projected growth (2022-2032)

10,000 jobs

There is expected to be little to no job growth for this career in the next decade. Most job openings will be a result of teachers changing careers or exiting the workforce, BLS reports.[1]

Education required

Bachelor's degree

Related job titles

Middle school teacher
High school teacher
College professor
School principal

[1] The salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website. The BLS Projected Growth for 2022-2032 is published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data reflects the BLS’ projections of national (not local) conditions. These data points are not specific to University of Phoenix students or graduates.

About our source

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is an agency of the United States Department of Labor that serves as part of the U.S. Federal Statistical System. Find out more: https://www.bls.gov/bls/about-bls.htm

Career-relevant knowledge and skills

Elementary school teachers may require in-depth knowledge of the following topics in this role: 

  • Philosophy of education
  • Pedagogy
  • Early childhood education
  • Child development
  • Student growth & development

  • Diverse student populations
  • Special education
  • English learner law and policy
  • Diversity in literature

  • Legal & ethical responsibilities
  • Professional practice
  • Teacher education
  • Educator dispositions
  • Special education law
  • Professional standards
  • Professional ethics
  • Professional licensure
  • Hiring process

  • Math content standards
  • Science content standards
  • Health/physical education content standards
  • Arts education
  • Arts culture and history
  • Social studies methods
  • Reading methods
  • Curriculum design
  • Academic achievement

  • Language acquisition elements
  • Language acquisition standards
  • Literary elements
  • Children's literature genres
  • Literacy development
  • Elements of literacy

  • Technology
  • Community partnerships

They may also demonstrate the following skills while performing their day-to-day responsibilities:

  • Lesson planning
  • Curriculum planning
  • Instructional strategies
  • Differentiated instruction
  • Cross-curriculum development
  • Social studies instruction
  • Culturally responsive instruction
  • Arts integration
  • Reading/language arts instruction
  • Developmental reading instruction
  • Integrating literature

  • Classroom management
  • Positive learning environment
  • Strong & positive relationships
  • Student engagement
  • Foster engagement

  • Assessment strategies
  • Assessing & evaluating student learning
  • Adapting assessments
  • Diagnostic reading assessments
  • Reflective teaching practices

  • Student support
  • Differentiated learning
  • Advocacy
Elementary educators work to provide a positive learning environment, employing soft skills

Soft skills

To foster a positive and dynamic learning environment, elementary school teachers should possess a blend of soft skills including strong verbal and written communication, patience, resourcefulness, active listening and time management.

Education and experience

The elementary school teacher career requires specific academic credentials and hands-on experience. Below, we outline the key education and career steps typically involved in navigating the elementary school teacher career path:

A happy bachelor's degree graduate waves to friends

Candidates for elementary school typically must hold a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. States may also require teachers to major in a specific subject, like math. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a different area, you can still qualify for teaching certification by completing a teacher education program.

A teacher works with her pupil on a paper

Most education programs include some form of field work requirement that provide students with the opportunity to obtain real-world experience. You could also gain necessary classroom exposure through substitute teaching or applying for open teaching positions at schools, depending on state requirements.

A teacher assists a young student in using a microscope

In all states, public school teachers must be licensed or certified in the grade level they plan to teach, BLS reports. This usually requires passing both a general teaching certification test and a subject-specific exam.

General licensing requirements may also include:

  • Holding a bachelor's degree with a specified minimum GPA
  • Successfully completing a student teaching program
  • Passing a background check

Requirements for licensure vary by state. Learn more about your state’s requirements. There may be additional qualifications and/or disqualifications applicable in order to work as a teacher with any local, state or federal entity.

Teachers can advance their careers through additional education

Career enhancement

Being a lifelong learner means continually advancing your skills, even after you’ve achieved your career goals. Here are a few ways you can keep leveling up: 

  • Pursue a master’s degree: Depending on the state and district, some teachers are mandated to earn a master's degree after obtaining certification and securing a job. Even where it's not obligatory, holding a master's degree in education or a specialized subject may lead to higher salaries and greater career advancement opportunities. To progress into higher roles, you may consider master’s education degrees in Curriculum and Instruction or Administration and Supervision.
  • Continue professional development and education: To maintain their licensure, elementary school teachers are also usually required to continue their professional development through workshops, seminars or advanced courses. This not only improves your chances for career advancement but ensures that you remain updated on current educational practices.
  • Seek leadership roles: With experience and, in some cases, additional academic credentials, teachers can eventually pursue leadership roles, like grade-level chair, instructional coordinator for education programs or administrative positions such as assistant principal or school principal

Programs

At University of Phoenix, we offer certificate, undergraduate and graduate programs that lead to the elementary school teacher outcome. Our programs allow you to fit your education into your busy schedule, taking one course at a time in five- to six-week intervals. Learn more about which of these programs — focused on teaching you the skills you’ll need in your career — is right for you.

Bachelor of Science in Education/Elementary Education

The Bachelor of Science in Education/Elementary Education is an undergraduate degree program intended to prepare students with no prior teaching experience for initial teacher licensure. The program is designed for students who want to become elementary school teachers and includes a clinical component requiring field experiences and student teaching above and beyond program coursework.[2]

In this program, you’ll learn how to: 

  • Design and implement effective instruction in the elementary classroom to produce a positive impact on student learning
  • Evaluate effective professional practice in elementary education
  • Apply professional ethics to their instructional practices in elementary education
  • Evaluate learning principles to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of diverse elementary student populations
  • Create innovative strategies to incorporate technology in an elementary classroom setting

To earn this degree, you will need to complete 120 credits through general education, core and elective courses, as well as 100 hours of field experience. This program is designed to be four years in length.

[2] The Bachelor of Science in Education/Elementary Education (BSED/E) program is an Arizona-based program for teacher licensure that provides the academic preparation to apply for initial teacher certification in select states. Candidates located in a state that does not provide a direct path to licensure will be required to obtain Arizona certification first, prior to seeking licensure in their home-state as an out-of-state prepared candidate enrolled in a state-approved preparation program. Requirements for licensure vary by state; please check your state's requirements

Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies (CA)

The Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies is an undergraduate degree program intended to prepare students with no prior teaching experience for initial teacher licensure in California. The program is designed for students who want to become multi-subject school teachers. The program includes a clinical component requiring field experiences and student teaching above and beyond program coursework.[3]

In this program, you’ll learn how to: 

  • Design and implement effective instruction in the elementary classroom to produce a positive impact on student learning
  • Evaluate effective professional practice in elementary education
  • Apply professional ethics to their instructional practices in elementary education
  • Evaluate learning principles to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of diverse elementary student populations
  • Create innovative strategies and incorporate technology in an elementary classroom setting

To earn this degree, you will need to complete 121 credits in general, core and upper division courses, as well as 100 hours of field experience. This program is designed to be 49 months in length.

[3] This program, which leads to certification or licensure in California, is only approved to be offered in California. If at any point in the program candidates move to another state, their ability to progress could be impacted or even prohibited. Candidates seeking to continue in a teacher licensure program outside of California would be required to change programs or update to a comparable Arizona-approved program. Requirements for licensure vary by state; please check your state's requirements

Master of Arts in Education/Elementary Teacher Education

The Master of Arts in Education/Elementary Teacher Education is a graduate degree program intended for students with no prior teaching experience for initial teacher licensure. The program is designed for students who want to become elementary school teachers. Candidates for this program have already earned a bachelor's degree. The program includes a clinical component requiring field experiences and student teaching above and beyond program coursework.[4]

In this program, you’ll learn how to:

  • Demonstrate mastery of content and content pedagogical knowledge through the use of discipline-specific practices to advance student learning in the elementary classroom
  • Engage in self-reflection to evaluate and improve professional practice to enhance student learning in elementary education
  • Demonstrate professional dispositions and ethical conduct in their instructional practices and collaboration with learning communities in elementary education
  • Demonstrate a respect for diversity in their evaluation of the diverse needs of learners through continuous data analysis and adjustment of instructional strategies in elementary education
  • Demonstrate effective and innovative practices to improve student learning through applying current research to instructional strategies and integrating technology in elementary education

To earn this degree, you will need to complete 45 credits through the required course of study, as well as 100 hours of field experience. This program is designed to be 22 months in length.

[4] The Master of Arts in Education/Elementary Teacher Education (MAED/TED-E) is an Arizona-based program for teacher licensure that provides the academic preparation to apply for initial teacher certification in select states. Requirements for licensure vary by state; please check your state's requirements. There is also an option to take the version of this program approved in California for teacher certification or licensure.

Graduate Initial Teacher Certificate/Elementary

The Graduate Initial Teacher Certificate/Elementary is a graduate level certificate program intended to prepare students with no prior teaching experience for initial teacher licensure. The certificate program is designed for students who want to become elementary school teachers. Candidates for this certificate program have already earned a bachelor's degree. The certificate program includes a clinical component requiring field experiences and student teaching above and beyond program coursework. [5]

In this program, you’ll learn how to: 

  • Design and implement effective instruction and behavioral plans in the elementary classroom to positively impact student learning
  • Demonstrate professional dispositions and ethical conduct in elementary education
  • Create innovative strategies and incorporate technology in an elementary classroom setting

To earn this certificate, you will need to complete a minimum of 27 credits. This program is designed to be 15 months in length.

[5] The Graduate Initial Teacher Certificate/Elementary Education (CERT/G-ELM) is an Arizona-based program for teacher licensure that provides the academic preparation to apply for initial teacher certification in select states. Requirements for licensure vary by state; please check your state's requirements

How can University of Phoenix support me in pursuing my career goals?

Students and graduates can access our Career Navigator tools, which can help you evaluate career options, track career-relevant skills and discover job postings suited to your needs. From resumé building and interview preparation to networking and mentorship, University of Phoenix offers career services for life to all students and graduates. Dive deeper into our career services, resources and tools to find out how we can help you reach your goals.

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