How to Become an

Elementary School Teacher

The complete career guide to be an Elementary School Teacher: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $57,730
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 5.8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute

Elementary school teachers provide education to young students in classroom settings. Because the educational requirements for young students is very basic, elementary teachers generally do not have a specialty topic they teach. Instead, they teach all subjects—reading, math, science, and history.

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What is an Elementary School Teacher?

The following job responsibilities are common for elementary school teachers:

  • Create lesson plans and daily schedules for classes of elementary-aged students
  • Teach students the basics of a variety of subjects, typically including math, reading, writing, science, and history
  • Consult with parents and report on student behavior, learning, abilities, and other issues or accomplishments
  • Teach students basic academic and life skills, such as how to work cooperatively with others, how to organize materials, how to listen, and how to study

A Day in the Life

Elementary school teachers generally work with the same class or group of students throughout the day. Because they teach a variety of subjects, most of their work is conducted in the same classroom with the same students, though teachers may escort students to other classes and activities, like physical education, art, music, lunch, and recess. Teachers may also be required to supervise students during non-educational activities like lunch, recess, and field trips.

When not actively teaching a class, elementary school teachers spend their time grading assignments, tutoring students individually, and preparing lesson plans. They may have administrative work to perform as well as part of their job responsibilities, and they may also be required to—or may choose to—engage in continuing education outside of the classroom to stay up to date on new teaching methodologies.

Depending on the grade taught—elementary school teachers can teach students in grades kindergarten up to 6th grade—daily activities may vary greatly. Teachers of younger class levels may do less lecturing and more interactive activities and play, while teachers of older students may do more lecturing and grading. Teachers of older elementary students may also have more flexibility in subject specialization and may teach a single subject to multiple classes rather than multiple subjects to a single class.

Typical Work Schedule

Teachers work daytime hours—Monday through Friday—and have all major holidays off. Though all classroom education activities occur during the day, teachers may need to take work home with them or work into the evening to complete grading and lesson plans. Most teachers get summers off and enjoy breaks in the fall, winter, and spring, though teachers in year-round schools get frequent breaks throughout the year rather than a long summer break.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Preschool Teacher
  • Mid-Career: Elementary School Teacher
  • Late Career: Assistant Principal, Principal, Instructional Coordinator

Typical Employers

Public school teachers work for state or local governments. Private school teachers may be employed by local churches or private educational organizations. Preschool teachers may work for a public or private school, or they may work for a privately-owned daycare facility.

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How To Become an Elementary School Teacher

In some states, it’s possible to teach preschool with only an associate’s degree, and many elementary teachers choose to start their careers as preschool teachers to begin accruing valuable experience. It is also possible to gain relevant experience by working as a substitute teacher.

Kindergarten through 6th grade teachers must earn a bachelor’s degree to qualify for open elementary school teacher positions. Generally, elementary school teachers pursue a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, though part of their education may include specializing in a specific subject. To work in a public school, teachers must earn the appropriate certification or license from the state they want to teach in. Private schools may also require state certification, though they are not required to.

For individuals who earned degrees that weren’t education-specific and didn’t lead to licensure/certification, several institutions offer one-year programs that allow individuals to become certified as an elementary school teacher without requiring pursuit of a second, elementary education degree. Most teachers are required to engage in several hours of student teaching in addition to coursework and licensure testing.

Generally, teachers must engage in ongoing education to keep their licenses. Some teachers who want to move on to higher-level positions use continuing education requirements to pursue a master’s degree that requires educational leadership or administration coursework. These teachers then qualify to work as assistant principals, principals, or instructional coordinators, and they may also serve on the school board later in their careers.

Elementary School Teacher Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Elementary School Teacher salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Elementary School Teacher's can make an average annual salary of $57,730, or --- per hour. On the lower end, they can make $43,900 or --- per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #298 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming an Elementary School Teacher. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Elementary School Teachers

  • 4%   Doctorate
  • 47%   Masters
  • 43.4%   Bachelors
  • 2%   Associates
  • 3.1%   College
  • 0.3%   High School
  • 0.2%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Elementary School Teacher job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 78,300 jobs for a total of 1,436,300 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 5.8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #395 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Elementary School Teachers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Elementary and secondary schools; local 1,169,300 68,700 69%
Elementary and secondary schools; private 148,800 9,100 9%
Elementary and secondary schools; state 9,700 -1,600 -2%

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