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Elementary School Teacher Job Description

Elementary school teachers teach children basic academic, social, and developmental skills. In most places, elementary school includes kindergarten through fifth grade.

In early elementary school, teachers focus on teaching their students concepts rather than facts. They introduce abstract concepts and help their students develop critical thinking skills and problem solving skills. Often times, they use props, games, and other hands on techniques to reinforce conceptual learning.

In later grades, the focus normally shifts. Though the overall focus remains the same, more time is spent teaching students the basics of core academic subjects like history, math, and science.

Unlike middle school and high school teachers who normally only teach a single subject, most elementary school teachers teach all subjects to their students. They typically remain in the same classroom with the same students for an entire year.

In some schools, there is a level of specialty in the subjects that elementary school teachers teach. For example, students may have one teacher for English and social studies, and other teacher for math and science.

There are a few other exceptions to this rule as well. Elementary school physical education, art, and music teachers teach only one subject, and see many different groups of students throughout the day.

Because they work with students at a young age, elementary school teachers are able to make a lasting impression on the lives of their students. If you love learning and want to work in an occupation where you can make a positive impact on the lives of children, then a career as an elementary school teacher could be a good choice for you.

Work Environment and Schedule

Teaching elementary school students can be very rewarding, but it's also very challenging. Not all school districts provide teachers with the equipment and resources that they need to do their jobs well. Teaching tools like computers and up to date text books are not always available, which can be a challenging problem to overcome.

The lack of resources can be frustrating enough when a teacher wants to teach their students well, but it becomes even more frustrating for many teachers because they are evaluated based on the performance -- when they don't have all the tools they need to do their jobs.

Handling disruptive and inattentive students can be a challenge for elementary school teachers as well. It only takes one child to disrupt an entire class, and teachers are limited with their options for disciplining children (especially when they are so young).

Elementary school teachers normally work during normal business hours. They typically get to work an hour or two before class starts, and remain at school until the early evening. Most of their time out of class is normally filled preparing for the day performing administrative duties.

It's common for elementary school teachers to work on evenings and weekends preparing lesson plans, grading papers, and doing other things that they don't have time to do during the day at school.

While working on the evenings can be frustrating sometimes, one of the perks of being an elementary school teacher is that they get between two and three months off in the summer months, and an additional couple of weeks off around the holidays and at spring break.

How to Become an Elementary School Teacher

Elementary school teachers need to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in elementary education. Many teachers also choose to major in a content area like English or science, while enrolling in a teacher preparation program.

In teacher education programs, students learn how to communicate well with children so they can effectively communicate the lessons. The programs also include instruction on how to work with children who have special needs, and normally include student teaching programs where students teach under the supervision of a fully qualified teacher.

All elementary school teachers who work in a public school system need to be licensed. Some private schools also require teachers to be licensed, but not all do.

The licensing requirements vary from state, but most states have some requirements in common. A bachelor's degree (sometimes with a minimum GPA requirement) is always required. All elementary school teachers also need to complete a teacher preparation program, and have supervised teaching experience. Most teachers get the necessary experience in college, where they work as student teachers.

Many states also require elementary school teachers to pass a test that demonstrates command of a particular subject. Even though these teachers commonly teach all classes, states like to see that they are proficient in at least one.

After earning their certification, many teachers choose to earn their master's degree. In some states this is required, but most states do not require elementary school teachers to have a master's. Retaining a license requires teachers to take a professional development each year.

Related Occupations

Employment Outlook

There are currently 1,476,500 elementary school teachers in the United States, with 57,320 new elementary school teacher job openings created each year.

Elementary School Teacher jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Elementary School Teacher Salaries

Salaries by State

Hover over your state to get an idea of what Elementary School Teachers make in your area.

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Overall Salaries

Elementary School Teacher salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most elementary school teachers make between $42,400 - $66,300 per year, or Not Available per hour.

Salary and statistical data provided by the BLS.