Elementary education is fundamental to society. Without well-trained elementary teachers, there would be a major gap in the education system, leaving young students and parents at a loss. Luckily, it is a growing field with significant projected job growth.
In this guide, Career Karma will explain what elementary education is all about. From describing jobs and salary averages, opportunities for advancement, and the ins and outs of teacher preparation programs, this guide will give you a clear sense of what to expect from a career in elementary education.
More importantly, this guide will outline the best online bachelor’s degree programs in elementary education. With information about admissions, price, and accreditation, you will have all of the information you need to start a degree program in elementary education.
What is Elementary Education?
Elementary education is the education level between early childhood education (pre-school) and adolescent/secondary education (middle school and high school). Elementary education typically involves educating children between the ages of five- to 11-years-old. In elementary education, educators teach all subject areas to the same group of students. Middle and high school teachers are usually specialized in one or two subject areas and typically teach several different groups of students.
Elementary educators should be able to teach the basics of all core subjects including math, social studies, science, and language. Their main task, though, is to support the cognitive and emotional development of their students.
Elementary educators typically work at elementary school or primary schools, though they may also work at K-8 or even K-12 schools. To be an elementary school teacher, you must have a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education or a related field. You must also be licensed to teach in the state where you are employed as an educator.
Jobs in Elementary Education
As long as there are children to educate, elementary school teachers will be in demand. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, the growth of elementary school teacher jobs is slower than average, projected at 3 percent by 2028. That being said, the BLS also clarifies that job prospects will grow as student enrollment rises. These stats vary greatly from region to region, as some regions have a larger birth rate than others.
The median pay for an elementary school teacher is $59,420. This also varies greatly by region, as many school districts adjust teacher pay according to the cost of living in the area. For example, teachers in the country’s largest public school district, New York City Public Schools, typically have a higher salary than those who work in small rural school districts.
Online Teaching Degrees
Why get an online teaching degree? Firstly, any online degree typically provides students much more flexibility and convenience than an in-person degree. Secondly, online teaching degrees have grown significantly in popularity in recent years. This is partly because recent technological advancements have helped amp up the quality of distance learning and virtual education. It’s also because more and more prospective students are realizing the extensive benefits of an online degree.
Online degrees are typically taken on by working adults who don’t want to compromise their way of life in order to pursue a degree. This usually means that online degree students may work full-time or part-time while earning their degree.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education
To become a primary classroom teacher in elementary education, a bachelor’s degree is a basic prerequisite. A bachelor’s degree usually requires 120 credit hours and students must take both general distribution requirements and major-specific courses. A Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education is aimed specifically at prospective teachers who want to specialize in educating children during this crucial development stage.
Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education Admissions Requirements
Admissions requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education are similar to any other standard bachelor’s program. Schools will require official transcripts from your high school, some may require a minimum GPA, and some may require SAT or ACT scores. You may also need letters of recommendation.
If you are shifting into teaching from another career, you will need to provide your resume and information about past work experience. If you already have informal teaching experience, like at a community center or camp, references from your supervisors at these organizations could give you a leg up in the admissions process.
Overall, admission to an online elementary education degree program will vary from school to school. As always, remember that each program is slightly different. It’s important to carefully familiarize yourself with all admissions requirements for each school.
Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education Curriculum
An online curriculum in teaching will almost always have a field experience component, the teacher practicum unit. Teaching degrees require a certain amount of field experience that typically cannot be done online, although that has changed with the complications COVID-19 has brought to the education world.
A standard curriculum for an elementary education bachelor’s degree includes youth psychology courses, subject area courses, and teaching and instruction courses. Here is a sample of a bachelor’s of science program curriculum in elementary education:
- Child Development, Motivation, and Learning
- Diverse Learners in the Elementary Classroom
- Planning, Curriculum, and Instruction
- Cognitive Development
- Social Studies, K-6 Instruction
- Mathematics, K-6 Instruction
- English/Language Arts, K-6 Instruction
- Science, K-6 Instruction
- Classroom Management
In addition to earning your Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and your teaching certification to teach in your state, you may also consider the possibility of specializing even more. Here are some specializations that some elementary educators may consider taking on:
- ESL (English as a Second Language) or Bilingual Education: Teachers specialize in teaching techniques for students who do not speak English as a first language. This specialization could be especially useful for teachers who live in states with large immigrant populations like Florida, New York, California, Arizona, and Texas.
- Gifted and Talented: This specialization prepares teachers to lead activities and classrooms specifically for students who have been identified as “gifted and talented.” Teachers with this expertise may teach in special programs or at special schools focused on this population of students.
- Special Education: This concentration prepares teachers to educate children with special needs or disabilities. Student teachers learn how to develop IEP’s (Individual Education Plans) for students with learning disabilities who need accommodations.
Most online teaching degree programs will culminate in students pursuing a teacher preparation program for their teaching certification. However, not all bachelor’s degree programs include the certification process. This is an important aspect to pay attention to as you research different bachelor’s degree programs in elementary education. If your degree program doesn’t offer teacher certification baked into it, you can enroll in a teacher certification program directly through your state’s department of education.
Because the US has a decentralized education system, with the Department of Education only overseeing individual state education departments, each state has its own process and set of requirements for granting teacher licenses. That being said, many states have reciprocity agreements. This means that a teacher can use their teaching license in one state, New York, for example, to apply for another state’s teaching license, like New Jersey, for example.
To receive teacher certification, you must provide proof that you have completed or are currently enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program. The main component to the teacher certification is the teacher preparation program, a classroom-based, student-teaching program that gives teachers experience demonstrating their abilities in the classroom.
Most teacher preparation programs include 30 to 40 hours of in-classroom experience. Student teachers also have to pass state-mandated teaching exams to earn the certification.
Financing your Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education
An online teaching degree program is a great option if you are concerned about cost. These programs usually allow students time to continue working during their studies.
A program at a public university will vary in cost depending on if you are an in-state or out-of-state resident. This is true even though the program is online.
Finally, familiarize yourself with the federal grants and financial aid available, including federal government programs like TEACH. The TEACH Program gives up to $4,000 in aid to students who commit to teaching in low-income communities after finishing their studies.
Though it isn’t always as much a part of the college search process as it should be, accreditation is one of the most important factors you should be considering. Accreditation is a program’s stamp of approval from a federally-recognized accrediting body.
The Department of Education oversees many different accrediting bodies, which exist by region, by state, and sometimes by academic discipline. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation is the accrediting body that accredits teacher education programs.
Best Online Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education Programs
Now that you’re caught up on some of the most important factors to keep in mind in your search, let’s dive into a list of the best online bachelor’s degree programs in elementary education.
This Kansas state public university offers an elementary education bachelor’s program with a teacher preparation program. While all classes for the degree are online, students must complete field experience (student-teaching) at an accredited elementary school in their area. The program can be used as a prerequisite to apply for a Teaching License in the state of Kansas and then to any states that the Kansas Department of Education may have reciprocity with.
This Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education prepares students for the teaching licensure process. The program offers concentrations in Childhood Education and Middle School Education, which requires specialization in two core subject areas like math or science.
This South Carolina public university offers a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education which prepares students to be star elementary school educators. All coursework is conducted online. The program also includes a teacher preparation program and certification requirements, including field and clinical experience. They can then pursue licensure in elementary education for the state.
As you can see, online bachelor’s degree programs in elementary education tend to be similar. The main difference is the state, the teacher preparation program, and which state licensure exams and certifications you are eligible to get. For a more streamlined process, educators recommend getting your degree from a school based in a state where you want to teach. If this is difficult or not possible, you can look for programs in a state that has teaching license reciprocity with your state.
An online teaching degree is a great investment if you want to become a teacher in any field. If you already know that teaching kids is where your passion lies, you might as well consider specializing and pursuing a degree in elementary education.
Online bachelor’s degrees in elementary education are currently being offered at many colleges and universities across the country. Though you should read the fine print of every individual program, including its accreditation, remember that most online bachelor’s programs in teaching also include teacher preparation. This is a major consideration since a teacher preparation program will help you fulfill the fieldwork and exam requirements required for state teaching licenses.
Though it’s not always as valued as it should be, educating kids is an extremely important job and a big responsibility. If you are ready to make a difference in kids’ lives through education, an online Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education may be the best step forward for you.