Elementary school teachers have the challenging yet rewarding job of teaching young children a wide range of subjects and social skills. They typically are in charge of first- through fifth-graders, but sometimes elementary school teachers teach kindergarten and up to sixth grade, depending on the school system where they work. Requirements for elementary school teachers vary by state and whether the school is public or private; in public schools, elementary school teachers must have a bachelor’s degree and a license or certificate, while private schools may not require teachers to pass a licensing exam.
To become an elementary school teacher, one must:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education
- Gain field experience
- Research certification and licensure requirements where they plan to work
- Obtain certification or licensure
Earning a Degree
All states demand public school elementary teachers to hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Some require teachers to have concentrated on or majored in a specific subject, such as science or English. Course work in elementary education instructs future teachers on how to engage with children of varying abilities and educational needs.
It is important for all aspiring teachers to complete a field education or student teaching program. These programs are supervised and usually happen during the final semester of an education degree program. Even if a program doesn’t require student teaching, most states demand some level of field experience prior to licensure, so all aspiring teachers should complete some level of field education.
Licensure or Certification
Requirements vary by state, in terms of certification or licensure for elementary school teachers. Future teachers should first decide where they want to work after graduation and research that state’s requirements. Certain certifications can be beneficial to teachers, as they open doors to better opportunities and can lead to higher pay. Each state has an education department; becoming familiar with the state government agency where one wants to teach is a smart move.
Teachers obtain licensure by passing an examination — usually the Praxis. This test measures content knowledge and basic skills. Once teachers are certified or licensed, they can become a substitute teacher to gain experience.
Florida teachers can choose between two levels of certification: either a temporary certificate for beginning teachers or a professional certificate for teachers who have met extra competency requirements.
Florida’s course work requirements for future teachers are diverse. Students must complete prerequisite work in more than 40 different subjects. Once this course work is complete, students must complete a teacher preparation course and pass Florida exams.
It’s a rigorous process to take the appropriate steps to earn the right degree and undergo the tests and licensing requirements to become a teacher. But it’s completely worthwhile and rewarding for those who love to teach and work with children.