How to Become an Elementary School Teacher

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Teaching elementary school appeals to those who want to make a difference in very young lives. If you love children and learning and also possess patience, stamina and nerves of steel, this job may be for you.

  • Get a well-rounded education. Take courses in English, math, science, history, sociology and the arts, as well as child psychology or development.

  • Start working with young children as soon as possible by volunteering at your local elementary school or with youth groups in your area. Contact the local United Way, parks and recreation department or school district for details.

  • Expect that most teaching credential programs will require documented evidence of your experience in the classroom (as many as 80 volunteer hours, minimum) even before you begin student teaching, hence the importance of step 2.

  • Major in elementary education if your college or university offers it. If elementary education and teacher certification are not offered, find fifth-year or postgraduate programs you can apply to and learn about their entrance requirements, including prerequisite courses and standardized tests.

  • Make your campus career center or educational placement office your job search headquarters, but if they don't offer job listings in the area where you'd like to teach, contact those districts directly.

  • Keep up-to-date by joining a professional association such as the American Federation of Teachers or the National Education Association.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consider acquiring a specialty geared toward elementary education, such as reading or bilingual education, to give yourself an edge in the job market. Find out what specialties are most in demand where you want to teach.
  • Certification programs for kindergarten, special education and secondary school teaching usually differ considerably from those for elementary education.
  • Underfunding in inner-city and rural schools (where job demand is highest) is no secret. Expect to foot some of the bill for supplies and even classroom snacks for hungry students.

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