How to Become a Kindergarten or Elementary School Teacher
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers need to be able to explain concepts in terms young students can understand.
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers usually must have a bachelor’s degree. In addition, public school teachers must have a state-issued certification or license.
Public kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically need a bachelor's degree in elementary education. Private schools typically have the same requirement. Some states also require public school teachers to major in a content area, such as family and consumer sciences, mathematics, or science, or a related field, such as liberal arts.
Those with a bachelor’s degree in another subject can still become elementary education teachers. They must complete a teacher education program to obtain certification to teach. Requirements vary by state.
In teacher education programs, future teachers learn how to present information to young students and how to work with young students of varying abilities and backgrounds. Programs typically include a student-teaching program, in which they work with a mentor teacher and get experience teaching students in a classroom setting. For information about teacher preparation programs in your state, visit Teach.org.
Some states require teachers to earn a master’s degree after receiving their teaching certification and obtaining a job.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All states require teachers in public schools to be licensed or certified in the specific grade level that they will teach. Those who teach in private schools typically do not need a license. Requirements for certification or licensure vary by state but generally involve the following:
- A bachelor’s degree with a minimum grade point average
- Completion of a student teaching program
- Passing a background check
- Passing a general teaching certification test, as well as a test that demonstrates their knowledge of the subject they will teach.
For information on certification requirements in your state, visit Teach.org.
Teachers are frequently required to complete professional development classes to keep their license or certification. Some states require teachers to complete a master’s degree after receiving their certification and obtaining a job.
All states offer an alternative route to certification or licensure for people who already have a bachelor’s degree but lack the education courses required for certification. Some alternative certification programs allow candidates to begin teaching immediately after graduation, under the supervision of an experienced teacher. These programs cover teaching methods and child development. After they complete the program, candidates are awarded full certification. Other programs require students to take classes in education before they can teach.
Communication skills. Teachers need to discuss students’ needs with parents and administrators. They also need to be able to communicate the subject content to students in a manner in which they will understand.
Patience. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers must respond with patience when students struggle with material. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult.
Physical stamina. Working with kindergarten- and elementary-age students can be tiring. Teachers need to be able to physically, mentally, and emotionally keep up with the students.
Resourcefulness. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers must be able to get students engaged in learning. They also should be prepared to adapt their lessons to meet students’ needs.
Experienced teachers may advance to serve as mentors to new teachers or become lead teachers. In these roles, they help less-experienced teachers to improve their teaching skills.
With additional education or certification, teachers may become school counselors, school librarians, or instructional coordinators. Some become assistant principals or principals, both of which generally require additional schooling in education administration or leadership.