Guide to Elementary Education Degrees
Are you interested in working with children and enjoy the challenge of helping them achieve their milestones? Can you see yourself in the classroom working on a daily basis? Are you passionate about making a difference in the lives of today’s youth? Elementary teachers are the foundation layers for a child’s education, providing the necessary skills to succeed in all academic areas, including mathematics, reading, writing, and science. Elementary education includes pre-school through sixth or eighth grade, often considered the formative years when a child is learning at a rapid pace. This field is in need of qualified teachers to work in our schools, both in the classroom and at the administrative level.
If you interested in teaching elementary education, you’ll need the right credentials to do so, starting with a degree. You can enter the field with a bachelor’s degree in education, along with the certification that allows you to work in the classroom. A bachelor’s degree program will help you develop entry-level skills to acquire a teaching position, while a master’s degree will enhance your teaching skills and professional development. A master’s degree will also help with employment prospects and allow you to begin your teaching career on a higher pay scale. Now, thanks to advanced technology, you can earn your elementary education degree online. Distance learning is especially helpful for students who require flexibility with their scheduling. You can take classes from your home computer and complete all fieldwork at a school in your area, depending on the program requirements. It’s that easy, and most importantly, effective.
What is Elementary Education?
Elementary education is the first stage of the education process, where the goal is to teach students basic literacy and numeracy. As an educator at this level, you provide students with essential academic skills by focusing on such topics as reading, mathematics, science, geography, and history. Students may also be involved in music courses and physical education in order to receive an active and well-rounded education. Elementary school teachers prepare young students for future schooling and guide them through the learning process.
Work Environment for Elementary School Teachers
Elementary school teachers work in both public and private schools during the school year and usually have summers off. Some teachers may teach classes during the summer or work in a school that operates on a year-round basis, but generally speaking most do not work during the summer. Hours may vary from school to school, but most elementary school teachers work during the hours when students are in school, using their nights and weekends to work on lesson plans and to grade papers.
What Kinds of Degrees are Available for Elementary Education?
Becoming a kindergarten or elementary school teacher requires you to at least have a bachelor’s degree. You also have the option of pursuing a graduate degree if you choose to continue your education.
- Bachelor’s Degree: This is approximately a four-year program designed to prepare students for their role as an elementary school teacher. Students are required to take a set number of basic coursework hours before continuing to courses geared toward the elementary school major. Many programs also require students to minor in one to two other subjects.
- Master’s Degree: A master’s degree program is usually not required in order to teach at the elementary school level; however, some students choose to advance their degree in order to expand their education and focus more closely on the subject they choose. Programs typically take two years to complete.
Students should also keep in mind that on top of obtaining at least a bachelor’s degree, teachers must be certified and licensed by their state in order to work in that state. Certification requirements vary by state.
What Kind of Financial Aid is Available for Elementary Education Students?
For many students, finding financial aid to help pay for college is essential. Earning your degree can be an expensive undertaking, so it is helpful to know what types of aid are available and how to find them.
- Scholarships: This type of aid does not have to be repaid, so applying for several scholarships is a great way to get funding. Scholarships are awarded for many reasons, but typically they are given out based on merit. This can mean an athletic scholarship, a scholarship awarded for high performance in high schools, or sometimes by submitting an essay for a competition. Though this type of aid does not have to be paid back, there may be some requirements for students in order to receive the award: maintaining full-time status as a student, keeping a certain GPA, or others.
- Grants: Grants are usually awarded based on the financial need of a student. The most common federal grant is the Pell Grant. The amount awarded will depend on the financial status of the student, as well as the cost of their education. Schools and other organizations may award grants as well, some even specifically reserved for education students.
- Loans: This type of funding does have to be repaid once the students completes their education, but it is a great way to get financial assistance to cover school expenses without having to pay for everything up front. There are several student loan options, and you can often find loans with low interest rates and repayment terms over 10 or 20 years.
Applying for Financial Aid
When you are ready to apply for financial aid, the first step should be to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application covers your relevant financial information in order to establish the level of financial need for a student. Based on this application, students may receive grants or qualify for loans from the government.
It is also essential that you speak with someone from your school’s financial aid office. They can tell you what types of aid the school offers, as well as help point you in the direction toward finding other funding sources. Internet searches are a great way to pull up scholarship opportunities, and talking to organizations in your community may provide you with other alternative sources. The more you apply for, the better chance of receiving funding.
What is the Average Salary for an Elementary School Teacher?
Salary information depends based on different factors; where you live, the type of school, the level of education, your experience, and other things can influence the type of salary you can expect to earn. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten and elementary school teachers earned a median salary of $55,270 in 2011. Career outlook for elementary school teachers is positive, as the field continues to grow at 17 percent.