Online and Campus Elementary Education Degree Programs
An elementary education degree prepares teachers for education jobs with children in kindergarten through the sixth (K-6) or eighth (K-8) grade depending on the school. Elementary education degree programs can be found at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and they are designed to prepare elementary school teachers with the theoretical and practical skills needed to provide quality education to children in a classroom setting. Bachelor’s in elementary education degrees are available for people just starting out on their careers who are not yet teachers, while master’s in elementary education degrees are available for licensed teachers who would like to specialize in elementary education and those who want to be teachers but already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject.
The curriculum for an elementary education major provides a practical understanding of child development and psychology balanced with teacher education. Prospective elementary school teachers 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 also be caring, with a genuine passion for educating children. Learn more about how to become an elementary school teacher through our elementary teacher career guide.
Elementary Education Degrees and Certification
Elementary education degrees are most commonly found at the undergraduate level as Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees, though there are plenty of master’s degrees in elementary education and post-graduate certificates that are aimed at those pursuing teacher certification via an alternative route. Elementary education degrees prepare graduates for K-6 teacher certification through exploring education theory and best practices as well as clinical practice in the classroom.
For those planning to teach at the older end of elementary school, some schools offer an interdisciplinary academic major to complement your degree, focusing on subjects such as English language arts/reading, mathematics, or science. Elementary education bachelor’s degrees typically comprise 120 credit hours and can be completed in four years of full-time study, while elementary education master’s degrees typically comprise 30 credits or more and can be completed in one or two years of full-time study, depending on the program.
To teach at the elementary level in the public school system, certification is required, which may be offered as part of your qualifying elementary education degree. You will also need to take the required state board exams (usually including the Praxis exam in elementary education) to become certified to teach at the elementary level.
Top-Ranked Elementary Education Degree Programs
The following schools had the highest-rated elementary education programs according to The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). The NCTQ evaluated and scored over 850 US college undergraduate elementary teacher preparation programs in 2016 and over 275 graduate and alternative elementary teacher preparation programs in 2018. The lists below show schools with programs that scored in the 98th and 99th percentile for each degree level.
Undergraduate Elementary Education
- Arizona State University
- Bethel University
- Colorado Christian University
- CUNY – Hunter College
- Dallas Baptist University
- Louisiana State University A&M
- Louisiana Tech University
- Marshall University
- Purdue University
- Texas A&M University
- Taylor University
- University of Alaska-Fairbanks
- University of Arkansas
- University of Dayton
- University of Houston
- University of Iowa
- University of Maryland-College Park
- University of Mississippi
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- University of Wyoming
- Winthrop University
Graduate and Alternative Elementary Education
- Houston Independent School District (ISD): Effective Teacher Fellowship (ETF) (Alt)
- INSPIRE Texas: Educator Certification by Region 4 (Alt)
- Johns Hopkins University (Trad)
- Lipscomb University (Trad)
- YES Preparatory Public Schools Inc.: Teaching Excellence Program (Alt)
The following schools were ranked by US News & World Report as having the best elementary teacher education programs at the graduate level in its 2019 rankings.
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 Virginia (Curry)
7. Stanford University (tie)
7. University of Georgia (tie)
9. Ohio State University
10. University of Washington (tie)
Best Value Schools with On-Campus Elementary Education Programs
To help you find the best elementary education program for you, we have put together the table below of the best value not-for-profit schools offering those programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. We looked for schools that had a high graduation rate (85% or greater at the undergraduate level) and a low net price (below $20,000 per year for undergraduates). To further help in your comparison, we have included factors such as percentage of faculty with tenure status, degrees offered, and US News & World Report rankings.
|School||Undergrad Degree(s)||Grad Degree(s)||US News Undergrad Teaching Rank1||US News National Rank2||Grad Rate3||% Tenured Faculty4||Net Price3|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||—||MAT Elementary Education||#34 tie||#30 tie||91%||43%||$11,100|
|University of Florida||BAE Elementary Education-Proteach||MEd Elementary Education||NR||#35 tie||88%||52%||$15,283|
|University of Wisconsin-Madison||BSE Elementary Education||Post Baccalaureate Middle Childhood through Early Adolescence Program||#43 tie||#49 tie||87%||49%||$15,910|
|University of Georgia||—||PhD Educational Theory and Practice (Elementary Education)||#34 tie||#46 tie||85%||54%||$15,934|
|University of Michigan-Ann Arbor||BA/BS Elementary Teacher Education||MA Educational Studies/Elementary Teacher Certification||#19||#27 tie||92%||35%||$16,408|
|Stanford University||—||MA Education: STEP Elementary;|
PhD Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education (CTE): Elementary Education
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||BS Elementary Education||EdM Elementary Education Plus Teaching Licensure||#43 tie||#46 tie||85%||51%||$16,638|
|University of Maryland-College Park||BS Elementary Education||MEd with Elementary Teacher Certification (MCERT)||NR||#63 tie||85%||44%||$17,241|
See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.
Best Value Schools with Online Elementary Education Programs
While the majority of elementary education programs require at least some in-person time, there are some schools that offer these programs either partially or fully online. We have put together the table below showing the best value not-for-profit schools offering an online program at the undergraduate and/or graduate level. We looked for schools with an undergraduate graduation rate greater than 65% and a low net price (below $20,000 per year for undergradautes) since these are common indicators of quality and value. We have also included factors such as percentage of faculty with tenure status, degrees offered, and US News & World Report rankings, to help you in your search.
|School||Undergrad Degree(s)||Grad Degree(s)||US News Undergrad Teaching Rank1||US News National Rank2||Grad Rate3||% Tenured Faculty4||Net Price3|
|Florida State University||—||MS Elementary Education||NR||#57 tie||83%||44%||$13,318|
|North Carolina State University at Raleigh||—||MAT Elementary Education||#61 tie||#84 tie||81%||52%||$14,771|
|State University of New York at New Paltz||—||MAT Early Childhood & Childhood Education||#10 tie||NR||76%||32%||$14,882|
|University of North Carolina Wilmington||BA Elementary Education||—||NR||#185 tie||73%||37%||$17,771|
|Appalachian State University||BS Elementary Education||—||#2 tie||NR||72%||39%||$10,491|
|Niagara University||—||MAT Elementary Education||NR||NR||71%||27%||$19,106|
|University of Missouri-Columbia||—||M.Ed. Elementary Education||NR||#139 tie||69%||33%||$17,833|
|Salisbury University||BS Elementary Education||—||NR||NR||68%||35%||$18,163|
|Oregon State University||—||MAT Clinical Elementary Education||#76 tie||#139 tie||67%||37%||$18,625|
See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.
Profiles of Traditional Elementary Education Programs
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.
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 of study 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.
Stanford University offers a teacher education program called STEP (Stanford Teacher Education Program), a 12-month full-time program that has two concentration options: elementary education and secondary education. The STEP program in Elementary Education is a rigorous program that leads to an MA in Education and a preliminary California Subject Teaching Credential. With a small class size of only 20 students, individual attention is given by top faculty. Hands-on teaching experience is coupled with intense instruction in the STEP program, and a minimum of 45 units are required for the master’s degree and teaching credential. Students are taught through observation, planning, and practice, with three field placements in local elementary schools. A Bilingual Authorization in Spanish is offered for Spanish-speaking students. Coursework includes classes such as The Creative Arts in Elementary Classrooms, Development of Scientific Reasoning and Knowledge, Elementary Teaching Seminar, Becoming Literate in School, and Integrating the Garden Into the Elementary Curriculum.
The 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 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.
Profiles of Hybrid and Online Elementary Education Programs
Mississippi State University (MSU) offers an online Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education that can lead to endorsements in the elementary grades plus either early childhood or middle school teaching. All courses in the program, with the exception of student teaching and internships that must be completed in-person, are completed entirely online. Teacher education courses are offered during the fall and spring semesters, while core curriculum courses are offered year-round. Professional education courses required for both the early childhood and middle school concentrations include Individualizing Instruction for Exceptional Children, Early Literacy, and Social Foundations. Distance education students living in other states receive the same tuition rates as Mississippi residents. Prospective students should check with their state board of education for certification and education requirements. Note that Georgia state residents will not be eligible to teach in Georgia with this program.
The online bachelor’s degree in education program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College offers concentrations in Kindergarten to Grade Six/Mild Intervention (special education) and Preschool to Grade Three/Mild Intervention. Admission to the program is selective and requires students to have completed at least 40 credit hours of college coursework with a minimum GPA of 2.75. Students must also complete a pre-admission field experience and present an initial portfolio during a formal interview. Admitted students will follow a focused curriculum designed to prepare them to teach in the concentration of their choice. A clinical capstone experience is included in the degree plan, which culminates with the submission of a final portfolio demonstrating teaching proficiency. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College also offers add-on endorsement programs for current teachers as well as alternative-route-to-licensure programs for those who already hold a bachelor’s degree.
The University of Wisconsin-Superior’s online elementary education major prepares students for teacher certification and elementary school teaching careers in the state of Wisconsin. Students in the program additionally take a minor in a specific area of education, with options including Adaptive Education/Special Education, Early Childhood, and Social Studies Teaching. While the majority of courses are completed online, some courses require in-person student teaching and fieldwork, and a limited number of campus visits are required to fulfill orientation and teaching seminar requirements. Students are eligible to apply to the program after completing at least 40 credit hours of college coursework, including five core general education courses, with an overall GPA of at least 3.0. The elementary teacher education program at the University of Wisconsin-Superior is approved by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Elementary Teaching Degree Requirements and Coursework
To start coursework in an undergraduate 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. Master’s in elementary education programs require a bachelor’s degree, and if the degree was in a subject other than education, you will likely have to complete prerequisite coursework in general education before beginning the specialized courses in elementary education.
Some examples of common classes in the curriculum of an elementary teaching degree program include (ordered from least to most advanced):
- 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 $57,980.1 Employment of elementary teachers is expected to grow 3% from 2018-2028.1“
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
- North Carolina Third Grade Teacher, Amber Polk
- Illinois Fourth Grade Teacher, Kristin Kennedy
- Indiana Third Grade Teacher, Christi Fultz
- Nevada First Grade Teacher, Alicia Lochridge
- See More K-1 Teacher Interviews
- See More Elementary Teacher 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.
If you are interested in home education, see our list of our homeschool blogs by homeschool teachers who share insights on the ups and downs of homeschooling.
- College Navigator: Compare statistics on schools with education degree programs.
- National Council on Teacher Quality: Review evaluations of teacher education quality for 2,500 teacher preparation programs.
- National Education Association: The largest teacher organization provides educational and networking opportunities for its members.
Teaching and Education Programs
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 an 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 an undergraduate degree in another field. Check your state’s alternative routes to teacher certification for requirements.
Question:Are there online master’s in elementary education degrees?
Answer: Yes, there are many schools that offer master’s in elementary education online for students who need more flexibility than a traditional program offers. For the most part, bachelor’s degrees in elementary education require at least some in-person work, as a practicum/internship component is required. Master’s degrees in elementary education, on the other hand, are more abundant and can be a good way for busy students to complete an elementary education degree.
Elementary Education Program Student Reviews
George Mason University
4400 University Dr
Fairfax, VA 22030
Southern New Hampshire University
2500 N River Rd
Manchester, NH 03106
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
Table Notes and References:
1. US News & World Report Best Undergraduate Teaching National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/undergraduate-teaching
2. US News & World Report National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
3. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
4. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/