Is an Elementary Education Degree Right for You?
An online bachelor’s degree in elementary education is a good fit for people who have experience working with young children, such as through camps, nonprofits, or daycare, and want to take a more active role in helping them learn and reach their full potential. The ideal person for a degree in elementary education connects more easily with children in grades K-5 than with pre-teens or teens and prefers to be the one who lays the foundation for a child’s education rather than having to build on another teacher’s foundation. On a practical level, those who pursue degrees in elementary education also set themselves up for better job prospects, as more employment growth is expected among elementary teachers than high school teachers.
Advice for Earning Your Elementary Education Degree Online
Before enrolling in an online elementary education bachelor’s program, verify ahead of time that the program has been approved by your state to lead to teacher licensure. Since a license is required to teach in public schools, you could severely limit your employment prospects if you choose a non-licensure program.
While the majority of content in an elementary education program can be delivered online, one important component — the student teaching requirement — is not. These supervised internships take place at a school in your area, where you learn hands-on skills in teaching students. Working students will need to plan well in advance for these requirements, as they are unpaid and require a significant time commitment. The silver lining is that most teachers point to their student teaching experience as the most helpful part of their college education.
Elementary educators need to be able to teach their students about a wide range of topics, including math and reading, while also understanding how to maintain discipline in the classroom, so course work emphasizes teaching methods in core content areas, classroom management, and how children learn. A few courses you may encounter in such a program include:
- Educational Psychology
- Teaching Exceptional Learners
- Educational Technology
- Diversity in the Classroom
- Children’s Literature
Common Career Paths
Graduates of an elementary education bachelor’s degree program can pursue a number of careers in education, including in teaching and administration. They could qualify for positions as elementary school teachers or special education teachers. Salaries for such positions vary greatly, depending on how much experience you have, the budget of the school district you work for, and the region of the country you live in. Common careers include:
Elementary School Teacher
- Expected Growth: 17%
- Average Annual Salary: $56,130
Elementary school teachers create age-appropriate lesson plans for students in first through fifth grades; teach foundational concepts in math, science, reading, and social studies in their classroom; grade assignments at home; and work with students individually if they are having difficulties with the material. They must also help students prepare for standardized tests and make sure their students are meeting learning goals established by both the state and their local school district.
A minimum of a bachelor’s degree and teacher licensure is required to work in public elementary schools, although private schools may not require licensure, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The above job outlook and salary average was provided by the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 17%
- Average Annual Salary: $53,030
Kindergarten teachers educate students around the age of five or six who are just entering the public school system. At this age, teachers play a major role in building a student’s basic literacy skills and understanding of mathematics, but there is still an emphasis on health, safety, manners, and personal hygiene due to the students’ young age. Teachers may teach students letter recognition and vowel sounds, handwriting skills, numbers, and counting through a wide range of lessons and activities.
Kindergarten teachers must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification (licensure) to teach in public schools, the BLS explained. The job growth projection and salary average provided above are available through the BLS.
Special Education Teacher
- Expected Growth: 17%
- Average Annual Salary: $56,460
Special education teachers educate students who have physical, mental, and learning disabilities, and those with a background in elementary education teach special needs students in elementary grades. This process involves developing individualized education programs (IEPs), in which lessons are adapted to account for students’ special needs. Special education teachers must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, as well as teacher licensure, the BLS explained. The job growth estimate and salary average were provided by the BLS.
Elementary School Principal
- Expected Growth: 10%
- Average Annual Salary: $86,970 (2010 median pay)
Experienced elementary school teachers may eventually decide to pursue careers in administration, and leverage their bachelor’s degree to pursue graduate study in preparation for a position as a principal or assistant principal. Principals are in charge of the everyday operations of elementary schools, including the school budget and financial concerns. They also evaluate teachers and lead strategies to improve test scores and student learning outcomes.
While a bachelor’s degree and teaching experience are the first steps toward a career as a principal, you will also likely need a master’s degree in an area like education leadership or administration, the BLS explained. The most recent employment growth and salary statistics available through the BLS are from 2010.