Elementary School Teacher Career Guide

Elementary School Teacher Career Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive resource on elementary school teacher careers! Whether you’re a seasoned educator or just starting out, this article will provide you with all the information you need to navigate the field and progress in your career.

Once you have your degree, the next step is to become licensed or certified in your state. The process for obtaining this credential varies by state, but generally includes a combination of coursework, exams, and interviews. You’ll also need to pass a background check to demonstrate your suitability for working with students.

Once you’re licensed, you can start applying for teaching positions. Depending on your area and the specific needs of your school district, you may be able to find a job in the public or private sector. Some teachers also choose to become specialists in a certain subject or age group, such as early childhood education or special education.

Throughout your career, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest research and best practices in education. This includes staying informed about new teaching materials, programs, and providers. Many school districts also require teachers to complete ongoing professional development courses to maintain their certification.

As an elementary school teacher, your job will be to provide a well-rounded education to students in grades 1 through 5. This includes teaching a variety of subjects, such as language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. You’ll also be responsible for assessing student progress, developing lesson plans, and meeting the individual needs of each child.

If you’re ready to embark on an exciting and rewarding career in education, this article is your one-stop resource. From information on degree programs and certification requirements to tips for effective teaching and career progression, we’ve got you covered every step of the way. So, let’s get started!

Section 1: Overview of the Elementary School Teacher Career

Being an elementary school teacher can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Before embarking on this career path, it is important to understand the requirements and expectations of the profession. This section will provide an overview of what it takes to become an elementary school teacher, including the necessary education, certifications, and experience.

Educational Requirements

To become an elementary school teacher, a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field is typically required. Some states may require additional coursework or exams, such as the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) or the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL). It is important to check with the state’s Department of Education to ensure that all necessary requirements are met.

In addition to a bachelor’s degree, some teachers may choose to pursue a master’s degree in education or a specific subject area. While not always required, having a master’s degree can provide teachers with a competitive edge and may lead to higher salary opportunities.

Certification and Licensure

Obtaining certification and licensure is an important step in becoming an elementary school teacher. The certification process varies by state, but most states require teachers to pass certification exams based on subject knowledge and teaching skills.

Some states also require teachers to complete a certain number of hours of professional development or continuing education courses to maintain their certification. It is important for teachers to stay up-to-date with the latest teaching methods and approaches.

Experience and Background

While prior teaching experience is not always required, it can be helpful for aspiring elementary school teachers to gain experience working with children in a school or childcare setting. This experience can provide valuable insights into the daily demands and challenges of teaching young children.

Teachers should also have a strong background in the subject areas they will be teaching, such as math, science, language arts, and social studies. Some states may have specific requirements for subject area expertise, so it is important to check with the state’s Department of Education for any additional qualifications.

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Job Outlook

The job outlook for elementary school teachers is generally positive, with a projected growth rate of 6% over the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth is primarily driven by increases in student enrollments and the need to replace retiring teachers.

In addition to public elementary schools, there are also opportunities to teach in private schools, charter schools, and alternative education programs. Each setting may have different requirements and expectations, so it is important to research and consider which option is the best fit for you.

The salary for elementary school teachers can vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and level of education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for elementary school teachers was $60,660 in May 2020.

Section 2: Education and Training for Elementary School Teachers

To pursue a career as an elementary school teacher, you must meet certain education and training requirements. This section will outline the steps you need to take to become a licensed elementary school teacher, as well as provide useful information on additional training and certifications that can benefit your career.

Education Requirements

In general, elementary school teachers must have a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field. This degree will provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively teach young students. Some schools may also require a master’s degree for certain specializations or for career progression.

If you’re a graduate student or currently working in another area, you might wonder if there are any options for you to transition into a career in elementary education. Fortunately, there are programs available specifically designed to help individuals with non-education backgrounds become licensed elementary school teachers. These programs often require completing additional coursework and exams to prove your competency in educational concepts and teaching methods.

Obtaining a Teaching License

Once you have completed your education, you must obtain a teaching license to become a fully licensed elementary school teacher. The process and requirements for obtaining a teaching license vary by state, so it’s important to research the specific requirements in your area.

In general, the steps to obtain a teaching license include:

  1. Completing an approved teacher preparation program
  2. Passing specific exams, such as the Praxis or state-specific tests, to demonstrate your knowledge and skills
  3. Completing a background check

In some states, you may also need to complete additional requirements, such as a fingerprinting process or a certain number of supervised teaching hours.

Out-of-State Certification

If you wish to teach in a different state than where you obtained your teaching license, you may need to apply for out-of-state certification. Each state has its own requirements for out-of-state teachers, so be sure to research the specific process for the state you’re interested in. It’s important to note that not all states have reciprocity agreements, and you may be required to take additional exams or meet certain criteria.

Continuing Education and Professional Development

As an elementary school teacher, continuing education and professional development are essential to staying up-to-date with the latest educational practices and providing the best experience for your students. Many districts and schools offer professional development opportunities, such as workshops, conferences, and online courses, that can help you enhance your teaching skills.

Salary and Career Progression

The salary for elementary school teachers can vary depending on factors such as location, years of experience, and level of education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for elementary school teachers was $60,660 in May 2020.

As you progress in your career, you may have the opportunity to take on leadership roles within your school or district, such as becoming a department chair, curriculum specialist, or instructional coach. These positions often come with increased responsibilities and higher salaries.

Section 3: Job Responsibilities and Skills of Elementary School Teachers

Elementary school teachers are responsible for creating a supportive and engaging educational environment for young students in grades 1-5. This rewarding career requires a strong educational background and a passion for teaching.

Job Responsibilities

As an elementary school teacher, you will be responsible for a variety of tasks within the classroom. These tasks include creating lesson plans based on specific educational standards, teaching lessons to a group of students, and providing individualized instruction to meet the needs of each student. You will also be responsible for grading student work and providing feedback, communicating with parents about student progress, and attending meetings with other teachers and administrators to discuss student needs and progress.

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To be an effective elementary school teacher, you will need to have a variety of skills. These skills include strong communication and interpersonal skills to effectively communicate with students, parents, and other teachers, as well as a passion for working with young children. You should also be organized, adaptable, and able to manage your time effectively to juggle multiple responsibilities.

Obtaining the necessary education and certification is essential to become an elementary school teacher. Most states require a bachelor’s degree in education, along with completion of a teacher certification program. Some states may also require a master’s degree, specific coursework, or additional exams. It is important to check the specific requirements for your state or region to ensure you meet all necessary qualifications.

Once you have completed your education and certification requirements, you will need to apply for teaching positions within your area. This may involve submitting applications and resumes to school districts or private schools, attending job fairs, and participating in interviews. It can be helpful to network with other teachers and educators in your area to learn about job opportunities and receive support during your job search.

Section 4: Completing 600 Hours of Student Teaching

Student teaching is a crucial step in obtaining your certification as an elementary school teacher. During this period, you will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with young students while under the guidance of a licensed teacher.

The student teaching requirement is typically completed during the final semester of your teacher preparation program. In most cases, you will be placed in a local elementary school where you will spend a designated amount of time, usually around 600 hours, working with students in various grades.

To begin the student teaching process, you must meet certain requirements. These may include a background check, fingerprinting, and a completed application through your university’s teacher education program. You will also need to provide any necessary documentation, such as transcripts and proof of completion of specific courses or exams.

Once you have met the requirements and have been placed in a school, you will work closely with a licensed teacher who will guide you through the student teaching experience. This mentor teacher will provide feedback and support as you progress in your teaching skills and knowledge.

During student teaching, you will be responsible for planning and delivering lessons, creating instructional materials, managing classroom behavior, and assessing student progress. You will also have the opportunity to observe and participate in meetings with parents, school administrators, and other professionals.

Throughout the student teaching experience, it is important to maintain open communication with your mentor teacher and university supervisors. They will provide guidance and support as you navigate the challenges and rewards of becoming an elementary school teacher.

Upon completing the required hours of student teaching, you will receive a certification of completion from your university. This certification will be an important document as you apply for teaching jobs and pursue your career in education.

It’s worth noting that the specific requirements for student teaching may vary depending on the state or district in which you plan to teach. Be sure to research the requirements for your chosen location, as well as any alternative pathways to certification that may be available.

Frequently asked questions about student teaching:

  • What is the purpose of student teaching?
  • How do I find a placement for student teaching?
  • What is the student teaching experience like?
  • Can I complete my student teaching in a private school?
  • What is the difference between student teaching and a teaching job?


What qualifications do I need to become an elementary school teacher in Washington?

To become an elementary school teacher in Washington, you need to have a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field, as well as a valid teaching certificate. You will also need to pass the required exams, including the Washington Educator Skills Test (WEST-E) and the Elementary Education Content Knowledge test.

How do I obtain a teaching certificate in Washington?

To obtain a teaching certificate in Washington, you will need to complete an approved teacher preparation program and hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. You will also need to pass the required exams and submit an application to the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Are there any alternative routes to becoming a teacher in Washington?

Yes, there are alternative routes to becoming a teacher in Washington. For example, if you have a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than education, you can apply to a residency teacher certification program. This program allows you to teach in a classroom while completing the requirements for certification.

What is the average salary for an elementary school teacher in Washington?

The average salary for an elementary school teacher in Washington is around $68,000 per year. However, this can vary depending on factors such as experience, education level, and location.

Dave Pennells

By Dave Pennells

Dave Pennells, MS, has contributed his expertise as a career consultant and training specialist across various fields for over 15 years. At City University of Seattle, he offers personal career counseling and conducts workshops focused on practical job search techniques, resume creation, and interview skills. With a Master of Science in Counseling, Pennells specializes in career consulting, conducting career assessments, guiding career transitions, and providing outplacement services. Her professional experience spans multiple sectors, including banking, retail, airlines, non-profit organizations, and the aerospace industry. Additionally, since 2001, he has been actively involved with the Career Development Association of Australia.