Elementary Education Degree Programs

Courses, Career Paths and the Best Degrees for Elementary Teachers

Imagine standing in front of a room of animated children who are all waiting eagerly to learn the next big thing. If that sounds exciting, then completing an elementary education degree might be the path for you. Whether choosing a career as a teacher, counselor or administrator, an elementary education program prepares educators to influence the next generation. This guide helps prospective students find the right elementary education degree program, learn about what courses they can expect to take and which careers are possible after they finish their degree.

Top 10 Elementary Education Degree Programs

Rank School Location
1 St Catherine University Saint Paul, MN
2 Saint Mary's College of California Moraga, CA
3 Chaminade University of Honolulu Honolulu, HI
4 Xavier University Cincinnati, OH
5 Endicott College Beverly, MA
6 Converse College Spartanburg, SC
7 The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
8 Loyola University Maryland Baltimore, MD
9 Rosemont College Rosemont, PA
10 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA

Best Elementary Education Degree Programs: 2017 Rankings


  • OUR METHODOLOGY+

    To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria:

    • Accredited at the institutional level
    • Private nonprofit or public school
    • Minimum of 1 bachelor’s or master’s degree in subject area for 4-year schools
    • Minimum of 1 associate degree or certificate program in subject area for 2-year schools

    Schools were then scored on factors such as:

    • Cost & Financial Aid
    • Number and variety of program offerings
    • Student-teacher ratios
    • Graduation rates (4-year schools only)
    • Placement and support services offered
    • Academic/Career counseling services
    • Employment services
    • Loan default rates

    These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or “bang for your buck” of a college or degree program.


Prospective teachers want to graduate from a degree program that can set them up for success. All of the programs listed below are accredited and meet our criteria to be called a top-ranked program. They have been ranked according to factors such as student-teacher ratio, tuition and graduation rate.

Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

  1. St Catherine University
    Location

    Saint Paul, MN

    The education program at St. Catherine University is a great option for prospective students interested in studying elementary education, secondary education or Kindergarten through Grade 12 teaching. This degree program covers the area-specific information needed to begin a career in the field including curriculum development, mathematics, science, psychology and relationship techniques. The school’s College for Adults, which offers career-advancing programs for adult learners, allows students to study elementary education through a flexible delivery format. Student support services at SCU includes disability resources, academic advising and career development.

  2. Saint Mary's College of California
    Location

    Moraga, CA

    Saint Mary’s College of California offers a wide selection of academic programs, including elementary teaching credential programs for multiple subjects and Montessori elementary. Offered through the Kalmanovitz School of Education, these programs give students the opportunity to advance their understanding of the elementary education field through a combined curriculum of theory and hands-on experience in the classroom. The teacher education programs at SMCC lets students choose courses that fit with their busy schedules including classes that are offered later in the day.

  3. Chaminade University of Honolulu
    Location

    Honolulu, HI

    Students interested in enrolling in one of Chaminade University of Honolulu have the opportunity to study elementary education at the bachelor degree level. This program is comprised of a sequence of courses that are taught by experienced professionals in the field. To successfully earn the bachelor’s degree, students must complete a minimum of 120 credit hours. All programs follow certification requirements set forth by the Hawai’I Teacher Standards Board and all licensure programs follow guidelines set by the Hawaii Department of Education, so students can be sure that they are receiving a comprehensive curriculum.

  4. Xavier University
    Location

    Cincinnati, OH

    Prospective students interested in earning advanced credentials in teaching may consider enrolling in the Master of Education in Elementary Education degree program at Xavier University. This program is an ideal fit for students who want to build a stronger foundation in teaching by gaining a better understanding of the latest theories, practices, and approaches to teaching young children. Xavier teaching licensure students boast an extremely high average pass rate on their state exams, which may be attributed to a well-rounded and comprehensive curriculum.

  5. Endicott College
    Location

    Beverly, MA

    For students interested in educating students from grade one through six, the Education major with an elementary teacher licensure concentration may be a great choice for them to pursue their credentials to work in the field. The program was designed to meet the most up-to-date regulations to meet regulations for licensure in the state of Massachusetts, so students can be confident in the information covered throughout the program. Once they complete the program, students may be able to work in various academic settings and roles including teaching.

  6. Converse College
    Location

    Spartanburg, SC

    Making a difference in the life of a child is a noble pursuit: that’s why Converse College offers a bachelor of arts degree in both elementary education and early childhood education. Students will learn the fundamentals of working with children up to sixth grade, and develop the necessary skills to successfully manage a classroom. These programs are made up of traditional in-class curricular requirement, but students will also have the opportunity to extend their learning being the classroom and into clinical experience and student teaching scenarios. Students may be able to fund their academics by applying for a number of financial aid options.

  7. The University of Alabama
    Location

    Tuscaloosa, AL

    Students enrolled at The University of Alabama who express an interest in educating children may wish to consider pursuing a bachelor of science in education with an emphasis in elementary education. Students who complete this program will be eligible to become certified in Elementary (K-6) and Early Childhood (P-3). Students will progress through a curriculum that includes both theoretical and applied study techniques, allowing students to take their learning outside of the classroom and into the real world. Class sizes at UA are often small, so students will be able to construct a productive and familiar academic community within their classrooms.

  8. Loyola University Maryland
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    At Loyola University Maryland, students may choose to become part of the exciting and fulfilling field of elementary education. Along with their undergraduate major, students may also further their specialization by completing one of the education program’s minors, which include special education, urban education, and secondary education. Students interested in extending their studies into a graduate level program may wish to consider Loyola’s combing B.A./B.S and master of arts in teaching program. This will allow students to complete both their bachelor’s degree and their master’s degree in only five years, cutting back on time spent in school and giving students the quickest route into their career.

  9. Rosemont College
    Location

    Rosemont, PA

    Rosemont College’s bachelor of science degree in elementary education prepares students to work with children in grades pre-school to fourth grade, or pre-school to eighth grade for special education classrooms. Students will incorporate 12 credit hours of student teaching into this program, allowing for an applied learning experience that will help them to develop the learning methods that will be necessary for successful management of an elementary or middle school classroom. Students attending Rosemont College may also choose to live on campus in the Rosemont student housing units, all of which are up-to-date and comfortable, affording a productive living space for a college career.

  10. University of Iowa
    Location

    Iowa City, IA

    At the University of Iowa, students are able to study the area-specific information to work as an elementary education professional. This program is designed to cover academic policy, practice and research to equip prospective professionals to effectively educate young students. Upon completion of the undergraduate or post-baccalaureate programs, students may be eligible to become teachers in various K-8 academic settings. All courses are taught by experienced faculty members who are passionate about their field and are able to inform students about a range of teaching approaches.

Similar Teaching Degrees

Aspiring educators have multiple degree options to choose from. Whether they want to have a general knowledge of all subject areas, are drawn to a specialized topic, or want to work on personal life and skills development with students, they can find a program that matches their needs.

Early Childhood Education
Preschool to 3rd grade
Ages: 0-5
READ MORE

Elementary Education
Kindergarten to 8th grade
Ages: 6-12

Secondary Education
6th to 12th grades
Ages: 12-18
READ MORE

Special Education
Preschool through 12th grade special education students
Ages: 0-22
READ MORE

Love of working with children is an important part of considering an elementary education program. Elementary teachers make a difference in children’s lives. Elementary and middle school grades are critical for students to be successful in later grades.

Teruni Lamberg

In-Depth: Elementary Education Degree Options

Students should choose a degree level based on the type of jobs they seek and their goals for advancement. From an associate to a doctorate, each new degree tier opens up a different level of job opportunities. While an associate degree is appropriate for a prospective teacher’s aide, those aiming to become school superintendents should seek out advanced degrees. See what each degree level entails:

Elementary Education Associate Degrees

Type of Schools:
Community colleges, online colleges

Time to Complete:
Two years, full-time

Career Opportunities:
Elementary school aides, teaching assistants

An associate degree should impart graduates with the basic skills required to later get certified in a four-year college and become teachers. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to pursue an associate degree. Once enrolled, they will learn the basic tools needed to work in a primary classroom, such as communication and patience.

Courses for this program cover the fundamental concepts of a broad array of subjects.

INTRODUCTION TO EDUCATION
Topics include purposes of schools and schooling; characteristics of effective schools; diversity and its effects on schools; and social problems affecting schools.

MATHEMATICAL IDEAS I
Introduces mathematical concepts, principles and applications. Designed specifically for elementary educators, it also covers the technology used to teach mathematics.

ASSESSMENT OF YOUNG CHILDREN
Surveys assessment techniques associated with the evaluation of young children. Students in this course will also learn about observation methods and application of assessment data.

CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY
Cultural geography is an examination of the human world from a geographic perspective, presenting culture and the changing Earth in tandem.

Elementary Education Bachelor’s Degrees

Type of Schools:
Four-year colleges and universities, online colleges

Time to Complete:
Four to five years, full-time

Career Opportunities:
Elementary school teachers, preschool/kindergarten teachers, physical education teachers, middle school teachers (with proper certification)

Bachelor’s degrees are intended for students who want to become elementary school teachers. Students are exposed to coursework, student teaching experiences and fieldwork that will help them launch a career upon graduation. Graduates can earn teacher licensure, making them eligible to teach in their state. Students must complete about 120 to 180 credits and will earn skills in education foundations, methods and implementations.

Courses for this degree level offer the basics of education plus additional instruction on student and classroom management techniques.

CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT
Examines the strategies used to manage a positive elementary classroom, such as communication and setting of classroom expectations.

FOUNDATIONS OF EDUCATION
Historical foundations, professionalism, the role of technology, and trends and issues in education are introduced. Students also examine personal reasons for wanting to teach.

CHILD DEVELOPMENT
Learning stages from birth through eighth grade are explored, with the professor explaining how each affects instructional practices.

LEGAL & ETHICAL ISSUES IN EDUCATION
Provides students with the opportunity to look at child protection laws and best practices when working with children.

Students learn about how children think and learn in the content areas. They learn how to plan lessons, assess student thinking and make decisions to implement lessons in a way that get students to think and learn. An effective teacher is someone who can make professional decisions that support students to learn. They know how to motivate students to learn and also to cultivate a classroom environment to support students to learn.

Teruni Lamberg 

Elementary Education Master’s Degrees

Type of Schools:
Four-year colleges and universities, online colleges

Time to Complete:
Two to three years, full-time

Career Opportunities:
Lead teachers, school administrators, curriculum developers, corporate trainers

A master’s degree in elementary education is for students who have already obtained their bachelor’s. A graduate program takes students through a rigorous course intended to provide them with all the skills and experience they need to become an outstanding licensed teacher with opportunities beyond the classroom. To complete this degree, students generally have to take about 35-40 credits.

Master’s degree courses often go more in-depth or delve into specializations.

TEACHING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MATHEMATICS
Students not only learn how to teach schoolchildren mathematics but also increase their own competency in math.

LITERATURE FOR CHILDREN
Students survey children’s books for everything from early learners to adolescents, evaluating their effectiveness in improving early literacy.

SHELTERED ENGLISH INSTRUCTION
Prepares teachers to instruct and involve non-native English speakers in all parts of the curriculum without the use of their native tongue.

DESIGNING INSTRUCTION FOR THE INCLUSIVE CLASSROOM
Students learn how to design a curriculum to meet the needs of students at different ability levels. This course looks at the latest approaches and suggests roles for technology in the classroom.

Elementary Education Doctorate Degrees (PhD, EdD)

Type of Schools:
Four-year colleges and universities, online colleges

Time to Complete:
Three to four years, full-time

Career Opportunities:
University education professors, school superintendents, applied educational researchers

Students pursuing a doctorate in elementary education need to start with a master’s degree and a desire to become the heads of their specialized interests. Most programs require students to undertake some combination of a supervised practicum, dissertation and comprehensive examination.

Coursework for this degree level includes advanced concepts in theory, assessment and instructional design.

PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT AND EVALUATION
This advanced course looks at how to design and implement evaluations of social, educational and community-based programs to measure impact.

SURVEY RESEARCH IN EDUCATION
Students learn how to utilize mail, telephone and interview techniques to approach research problems. Appropriate analysis of data is emphasized.

RESEARCH APPLICATIONS IN EDUCATION
Through the use of a specific case study, this course shows what methods can be used to conduct research and examine findings.

ADVANCED EDUCATIONAL MEASUREMENT AND STATISTICS
Students planning to contribute research findings of their own design can refine their statistical methods in this course.

Before Enrolling: Program Must-Haves Checklist

When choosing an educational degree program, there are many items students should look for. Below are a few of the most important factors:

  • Accreditation
    If a school is accredited, it means it underwent a rigorous process that ensures students will receive an education that meets specified professional and academic standards. Within a school, programmatic accreditation is a further mark of quality, and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation is the primary accreditor to look for in the field of elementary education.
  • Teacher licensure program
    Every bachelor’s degree program should also include a teacher licensure program that students will have to pass upon graduation. Make sure the school you are looking into has such a program that meets the regulations of the state in which you plan to teach.
  • Campus diversity
    Since what works in an upper-class suburban school may not work in a lower-income rural school, aspiring teachers want to be armed with as many approaches as possible. The more diverse the student body and faculty are, the more likely that aspiring teachers will be exposed to different approaches rather than a one-size-fits-all philosophy.
  • Flexibility
    Whether you need to take courses online or on campus, late at night or on weekends, make sure the school offers a flexible schedule you can fit your schedule around. Flexibility can be even more important for students pursuing master’s degrees and doctorates in elementary education, as they may already be working on the field at the time.
  • Good placement options
    Student teaching is an essential component of most programs. Evaluate the strength of the placement options by seeing if there are elementary schools in the degree program’s network that are both nearby and similar to the environment where you hope to teach.

Career Paths for Elementary Education Graduates

People looking to earn a degree in elementary education should be passionate about working with children. Although there are job avenues that do not involve direct instruction, such as curriculum design or administration, most people who graduate with an elementary education degree start in the classroom, at least to begin with. Here are a few common careers elementary education graduates may pursue:

BROWSE CAREER PROFILES

Kindergarten & Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers lay down the foundations for young students and prepare them for future education. Teachers cover all subjects and help students understand Important concepts.

Job Growth (2014-2024)
6%

Median Annual Salary (May 2015)
$54,550

Minimum Education
Bachelor’s degree and state certification

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers usually teach sixth to eighth graders a specific subject, such as science, math or English. However, in some middle schools teachers cover all subjects for one class, building upon the fundamental education that students learned previously.

Job Growth (2014-2024)
6%

Median Annual Salary (May 2015)
$55,860

Minimum Education
Bachelor’s degree and state certification

Teacher Assistants – Elementary School

Teaching aides work under the supervision of lead teachers to give additional instruction and attention to students. They reinforce classroom rules and design educational activities for students at the teacher’s discretion. They can work with students at all grade levels or in preschools and childcare centers.

Job Growth (2014-2024)
6%

Median Annual Salary (May 2015)
$24,900

Minimum Education
Associate degree

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2015)

A Closer Look: Elementary Teacher Employment & Salary by State

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects teaching positions to grow nationally by six percent from 2014 to 2024. Scroll over each state in the graphic below to see local details on employment and median salaries. 

[US map]

Key Skills & Requirements for Elementary Teachers

Working in an elementary school classroom calls for a special set of skills and professional requirements. The following list details specific requirements for professional experience and certifications in teaching, as well as skills that can help aspiring elementary teachers succeed in the classroom.

  • Student teaching experience To get their license or certification, students must gain classroom experience by completing a student teaching assignment or fieldwork under the guidance of a qualified professional. Substitute teaching, volunteer experience—such as participating in Teach for America or teaching in the Peace Corps—and classroom internships taken for course credit can count as student teaching hours.
  • Licensure Each state has its own requirements that prospective teachers must meet to become a licensed teacher. Refer to your state’s requirements to make sure you are on the right track.
  • Professional development Teachers in most states must complete annual professional development classes to remain licensed. Professional development keeps teachers updated on new teaching strategies and curriculum changes.
  • General teaching certification test Some states require educators to pass a general teaching certification test, which demonstrates teachers’ knowledge of the subject(s) they will be teaching. Such tests are to ensure they are qualified to hold professional teaching positions.
  • Communication Teachers not only have daily interactions with their students, but also spend a lot of time with teacher’s assistants, administrators, parents and other teachers. Teachers must have great communication skills to discuss different issues with each group.
  • Patience Working with children can be a challenging task, so it is imperative that people going into education develop a deep-seated patience to help them deal with problems as they arise.

The most important job in being an elementary teacher is to inspire and support students to learn. Each child is different. Therefore, teachers need to be equipped with skills to make professional decisions. Ultimately, it is important that teachers care about their students because they have a profound influence over a students’ lives.

Teruni Lamberg

Additional Resources

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