Children are full of questions. They want to know who, what, where, when, why and how for just about every topic. You find that type of curiosity among young people inspiring. You’ve even started to wonder whether you could play a role in helping children uncover the answers they crave.
Teaching could be the perfect profession. It allows you to follow your passions and make a difference in the lives of young students. You can even find rewarding career advancement opportunities along the way.
If you want to find out how to become an elementary school teacher, you’ve come to the right place. Learn the basics by taking a look at this step-by-step plan. Class is now in session.
The 4-step guide on how to become an elementary school teacher
While there are a number of paths available to aspiring elementary-level educators, it’s most common to follow the one below.
1. Choose a four-year elementary education program
Most states offer alternative paths to becoming a teacher for individuals who don’t have an education background. That said, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in elementary education is the most straightforward route. Many employers prefer candidates who’ve completed a four-year undergraduate program as well.
We used real-time job analysis software to examine the education requirements for more than 62,000 elementary school teacher job postings.* Of the listings that included a preferred educational level, 86 percent were seeking candidates who have at least a bachelor’s degree.
Before committing to any education program, you should make sure it will help you meet the necessary requirements to become a teacher. You must complete your education and training at an institution that has regional accreditation to eventually obtain your teacher certification. The U.S. Department of Education makes it easy to look into specific programs through a searchable database. It’s also a good idea to find out whether a particular college’s teacher preparation program is approved by your state’s board of education.
Aside from accreditation, there are a number of other things you might consider when comparing elementary education programs. It’s a good idea to look into how successful graduates are after completing the program. But much of your decision will be based on personal preferences. You might evaluate class size, access to clubs and other extracurricular activities, affordability and other factors.
Already have some college credits? When researching education programs, inquire about the possibility of transferring credits. Some institutions make this easier than others.
2. Complete your student teaching
While most undergraduate programs will include student teaching as part of the curriculum, it’s worth singling out. This training gives you real-world experience working with elementary students. Over time, you can develop the skills you’ll rely on when the time comes for you to lead your own classroom.
While observing experienced professionals is an important component of student teaching, you’ll also need to become comfortable running the show. Expect to take on duties like grading homework and tests, creating lesson plans and leading parent-teacher conferences. You’ll also learn how to establish your authority and discipline students in accordance with school guidelines.
Student teaching requirements vary by school. You might devote a semester to this training, or possibly a bit less. Programs also have different expectations regarding the variety of sites included in your training. Some specify students complete it all at one location. Others may place you at multiple sites.
3. Become certified in your state
Obtaining certification, or licensure, in your state is required to teach in public schools. Many private schools also expect your resume to include this credential. While the licensure requirements are a bit different from one state to the next, they nearly always involve passing both an exam and a background check.
Using our home state of Kentucky as an example, teachers must pass the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators Tests in reading, writing and math. They also need to submit appropriate forms and fees, verification of classroom teaching experience, verification of program completion and official transcripts.
4. Secure a job and continue the journey
Once you’ve met all your state’s teaching requirements, you’re ready to secure an entry-level position. You might look for openings directly on nearby school districts’ websites. As in any industry, networking can also be a huge help for job hunters. Consider joining a professional organization to build out your contacts and gain access to resources. Working as a substitute teacher can even be a good way to meet other educators and school administrators and get your foot in the door of a district in which you’d like to work.
And keep in mind that the work isn’t done once you’ve obtained licensure and secured a job. Teachers are subject to continuing education requirements and need to renew their certification periodically. Some states even encourage teachers to obtain a master’s degree.
Further advancing your own education by completing a graduate-level program can also open up some exciting new opportunities. You could go on to become a school principal or even a district superintendent. That said, some teachers find it most rewarding to continue working directly with elementary students. And you still stand to increase your earning potential by obtaining a master’s degree, even if you choose to remain in the classroom.
Kick off your own education
Most elementary school teachers want to make a difference in their students’ lives, whether it’s helping a child make a major breakthrough in math or fostering a young learner’s love for reading. If you have that same type of passion, educating young students could be the perfect career for you. And the plan outlined above is a good introduction in determining how to become an elementary school teacher – no matter which state you call home.
If you’re excited about the prospect of running a classroom, you might want to start thinking about how to proceed. Investing in your own education is an important first step. At Midway University, you can pursue a degree on-campus or online. To learn more about how you can start working toward a career teaching young students, visit our Elementary Education program page.
*Source: Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 62,420 elementary school teacher job openings, Sept. 1, 2018 – Aug. 31, 2019)