The job outlook for elementary education teachers will remain stable for the foreseeable future. Employment opportunities will vary by region due to various factors, including population changes, demographic differences and education budgets. Most states define elementary education as commencing at kindergarten and culminating in fifth grade. The credentials and training required of an elementary school teacher differ from that of middle and high school teachers who focus on subject proficiency compared to early education teachers who teach all subjects to one class.

Scope of Responsibilities

The focus of elementary school teachers is to help young students learn the basic concepts of reading, language, math and science. Exposure to these concepts at the right age helps in the development of cognitive, decoding and number skills. Classroom management is key to thriving in a teacher’s job. The typical elementary school classroom will have anywhere from 15 to 28 students, depending on class size restrictions. It is the teacher’s responsibility to keep the students safe and occupied at all times from the first bell to dismissal time, enforcing school regulations and common sense rules to ensure that students learn to get along with others.

Teachers have to prepare their own lesson plans, schedule group and individual activities and teach the lessons while ensuring that students learn socialization and communication skills with their peers and the adults around them. They observe and evaluate students’ skills, behaviors and other abilities to determine individual progress. Teachers prepare various reports on students’ progress, meeting with parents for discussions as needed. Elementary school teachers are trained to look for any physical, mental and emotional challenges that may impede the child’s ability to learn and thrive in the school environment. Students who need additional support will be referred for specialists’ help, and it is the job of the teacher to initiate the process.

Preparing to be an Elementary School Teacher

In theory, anyone who has completed a four-year degree from an accredited institution can apply for a teaching position in an elementary school. However, the Department of Education and the local school districts have specific credentialing requirements. Those who have completed a bachelor’s in elementary education may already have fulfilled the credentialing requirements as part of the curriculum.

Due to teacher shortages in parts of the country, education policymakers have established alternate pathways to teacher certification for those lacking a bachelor’s degree or who have a bachelor’s degree in a different field. A temporary certificate will be issued, allowing the teacher to work in the local schools while completing the standard requirements. Private schools may establish their own hiring standards.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment for elementary school teachers to expand by seven percent between 2016 and 2026. This growth rate is on par with other sectors. However, the job outlook for elementary school teachers will vary widely across the nation as high-growth states build more schools to accommodate the growing population of young children and areas with lower enrollments may see school closures. Additionally, a significant number of current teachers will reach retirement age while others will opt for a mid-career change, adding to the demand for new teachers every year. There will be many opportunities for elementary education teachers in urban, suburban and rural settings, but one needs to be flexible and open to new adventures to find the most suitable teaching position that may end up being the job of a lifetime.