Elementary Education Degrees

ASO Staff Writers
Updated April 8, 2024
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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.

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Top 10 Elementary Education Degree Programs

Best Elementary Education Degree Programs

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.

St Catherine University
LocationSaint 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.

Saint Mary's College of California
LocationMoraga, 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.

Chaminade University of Honolulu
LocationHonolulu, 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.

Xavier University
LocationCincinnati, 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.

Endicott College
LocationBeverly, 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.

Converse College
LocationSpartanburg, 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.

The University of Alabama
LocationTuscaloosa, 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.

Loyola University Maryland
LocationBaltimore, 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.

Rosemont College
LocationRosemont, 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.

University of Iowa
LocationIowa 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

Elementary Education

  • Kindergarten to 8th grade
  • Ages: 6-12

Secondary Education

Special Education

  • Preschool through 12th grade special education students
  • Ages: 0-22
  • Read More

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 1: 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 in elementary education 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.

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.

Designed 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 Application 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:

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.

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.

Additional Resources

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