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Online Elementary Education Degree Programs Resource

An elementary education degree prepares teachers for education jobs with children in kindergarten through the sixth grade. A bachelor’s in elementary education program is designed to prepare elementary school teachers with the theoretical and practical skills needed to provide quality education to children in a classroom setting. The curriculum for an elementary education major provides a practical understanding of child development and psychology balanced with teacher education. Prospective elementary school teachers also learn how to work with parents and other caregivers to provide the academic, social, physical and emotional support needed for child development and growth. An elementary school teacher must be caring, with a genuine passion for educating children.

Top-Ranked Elementary Education Degree Programs

The following schools were ranked by US News as having the best elementary education graduate programs (2016).

1. Michigan State University
2. Teachers College, Columbia University
3. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
4. University of Wisconsin—Madison
5. Vanderbilt University (Peabody)
6. University of Georgia
7. University of Washington
7. Stanford University
9. Indiana University—Bloomington
10. University of Virginia (Curry)

Profiles of Elementary Education Programs

Michigan State University
Michigan State University’s unique five-year elementary education undergraduate program provides students with the education and teaching experience necessary to earn teacher certification in Michigan. The elementary education major prepares students to teach all elementary grades from kindergarten through fifth and to teach an individual subject for six, seventh, and eighth grades. Students will spend the first two years at the university completing general college requirements before applying for admission to the teaching program, which commences in the junior year. After earning their bachelor’s degree, students will spend a fifth year in the classroom during a yearlong internship. Interested applicants to the teaching program must have completed at least 56 credits at MSU and must first pass the math, reading, and writing portions of the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification Professional Readiness Exam, also known as the MTTC Basic Skills Test. Eligibility does not mean automatic admission into the program.

University of Wisconsin–Madison
The highly-ranked elementary education undergraduate program at the University of Wisconsin at Madison places importance on diversity, both in aspiring teachers and their future students and the role that diversity plays in the classroom and in education as a whole. Students generally spend the first two years at the university completing general college requirements before applying for the elementary education program during the second year. To be eligible for the program, students must maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.5 and must have completed at least 40 credits before submitting their application. Students who do not have a 2.5 GPA must successfully pass the Pre-Professional Skills Test. Elementary education majors can focus on one of three concentrations: early childhood English as a second language, middle childhood/early adolescence English as a second language, or middle childhood-early adolescence special education. Across their studies, students will complete field experiences that expose them to culturally diverse student populations. The program culminates in a semester-long student teaching experience. Read about other education degree programs at University of Wisconsin here.

Indiana University—​Bloomington
Indiana University at Bloomington prepares aspiring teachers for careers in elementary education with its four-year bachelor’s degree program in elementary education. Graduates of the program will have the education to qualify for elementary teacher certification in Michigan. In addition to core courses in elementary education, students can also specialize in reading or English as a second language, which can allow for additional license endorsements. Concentrations are also available in fine arts, language arts, math, science, or social studies. The program offers students the opportunity to participate in field experiences prior to the final semester of student teaching. The early field experiences require between three and 10 hours each week. The semester of student teaching is based on placement in local schools that allows students to earn hands-on experience. Indiana University Bloomington School of Education also features the Teaching All Learners elementary education program, which prepares prospective educators to teach both exceptional students and students with special needs.

Elementary Teaching Degree Requirements and Coursework

To start coursework in an elementary education program, you will typically need to complete one to two years of prerequisite courses and gain acceptance into the college of education at your school. To earn your degree you will need to complete the required education courses. Many schools require that students maintain a minimum cumulative GPA to remain enrolled in the program and graduate. Additionally, a teaching internship with a specified number of hours in the classroom is a common requirement for education majors.

Some examples of common classes in the curriculum of an elementary teaching degree program include:

  • Introduction to Elementary Education
  • Child Development and Early Childhood
  • Foundations of Literacy Development
  • Literature for Children
  • Mathematics for Elementary School Teachers
  • Communication in Cross-Cultural Classrooms
  • Art in the Elementary School Classroom
  • Music in the Elementary School Classroom
  • Health and Physical Education in the Elementary Classroom
  • Teaching Elementary Social Studies
  • Teaching Elementary School Science
  • Assessment of Learning
  • Managing an Effective Classroom
  • Teaching Practicum

“There are approximately 1.5 million elementary school teachers in the United States, earning an average annual salary of $54,890.1 Employment of elementary teachers is expected to grow 6% from 2014-2024.1

Advice from Current Elementary Teachers

“Keep in mind that the beginning of the year is tough for all teachers. It can be overwhelming, but this too shall pass. Whatever you do, don’t give up! It will get better and, before you know it, you will be in the groove.” -Diane Hubacz, Texas Third Grade Teacher

“The best advice I could give any new teacher is to be flexible and be willing to roll with the inevitable change. Also, be willing to do what your administrators ask you to do and be willing to think outside the box when they do!” -Heather Mathews, Wisconsin Fourth Grade Teacher

“Be prepared to work a lot! This is a great job to have but there is always something else to be done. Working with kids is an awesome gift and will definitely be the best part of your job.” -Lindsay Noren, Texas Third Grade Teacher

“I’d also recommend getting into the classroom early and often. It’s very different being the teacher than it was being a student. Your heart has to be in teaching. Above all, you have to just love kids… even the challenging ones, because they often need it the most.” -Christi Fultz, Indiana Third Grade Teacher

Elementary Teacher Career Interviews

Top 50 Elementary Teachers on Twitter

See our top elementary teachers on Twitter who share their thoughts, recommended articles, and experiences on teaching.

Top Elementary Teacher Blogs

See our list of top elementary teacher blogs by current teachers who share their experiences and tips for effective teaching in an elementary school classroom.

Top Homeschool Blogs

If you are interested in home education, see our list of our top homeschool blogs by homeschool teachers who share insights on the ups and downs of homeschooling.

Additional Resources

Teaching and Education Programs

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Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How do I find an approved elementary teacher preparation program?

Answer: Each state’s board of education provides a directory of approved programs for certification. It’s important to ensure that the program you are considering is approved by your state’s board of education; if it is not, you might not qualify for certification after graduating.

Question: How do I find out if a teacher preparation program is accredited?

Answer: The US Department of Education provides a list of recognized accrediting bodies, and your school should be able to confirm which accreditations it holds. In particular, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is the national accreditation organization for teacher education programs in the United States. Accreditation by CAEP is held as a marker of quality in educator preparation.

Question: What are the requirements of a elementary degree program?

Answer: To graduate, students typically need to complete the required core classes, a specified number of electives, and pass a teaching practicum. You can check a school’s website for specific credit requirements.

Question:What if I already have a bachelor’s degree in another field?

Answer: Many schools offer degree programs for career switchers who hold a degree in another field. Check your state’s alternative routes to teacher certification for requirements.

Elementary Education Program Student Reviews

Student Review: “I attended the graduate school of George Mason University and earned a teaching license in Elementary Education. As an adult and stay-at-home mom returning to college, I found George Mason to be the perfect place for me. It was affordable, the night classes fit my schedule, and my cohort included students of all ages and backgrounds. I always felt safe on campus at night and it was easy to get around. I didn’t realize the full benefits of my college experience until I graduated and was in the classroom. My license, portfolio, field experience, and internship helped me to get my first job and remain employed ever since. I found that I was well-prepared for this challenging position which enables me to stay inspired and motivate my students. George Mason University was ahead of the times with their emphasis on technology and their language arts program. Participating in a summer space camp with the faculty and colleagues was also a plus! I think GMU is a great place for the nontraditional student as well as an ideal learning environment that I have encouraged my college-bound children to consider.” – Susan D., Elementary Education student at George Mason University
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Student Review: “The School of Education at Southern New Hampshire University is more than just a place to earn a teaching degree. The professors are former administrators and experts in their respective content areas. Simply visiting the campus, you become a part of the family. Teachers that you have never had will know you by name, and stop to ask you how you’re doing. Each program in the School of Education contains the most recent pedagogical theory, ensuring that you’ll be ready for the classroom after graduation. Similarly, the importance of being in a classroom is felt from day one at Southern New Hampshire University. Field experience begins with your very first education course, and many of the courses are held in local schools, allowing you to see the theory in action as you are learning. Choosing to earn my education degree at Southern New Hampshire University was one of the best decisions I have ever made.” -Jessica O., student at Southern New Hampshire University
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References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm