By Kate Halstead
With the importance placed on quality education for America's children, the number and variety of elementary education jobs are increasing each year. That's good news if you're thinking of looking for elementary teacher jobs.
While classroom teachers are the backbone of the system, there's also a large team of other professionals helping to ensure that our children move forward with the skills necessary to succeed in life.
Elementary teacher job opportunities abound for anyone seeking elementary teacher training regardless of their current level of education. If you have life, work or educational experience, or just a passion to work with children, you'll find plenty of elementary education jobs that take advantage of those characteristics.
And with a little know-how, you can enhance your skills through a variety of certification and teaching degree programs and end up with the elementary education job of your dreams.
Jobs with a High School Diploma
It's a common myth that elementary teacher training is necessary to work in an elementary school.
Many people in elementary teacher jobs started out in support or staff positions. From crossing guards, school bus drivers and substitute classroom aides to physical education assistants, secretarial support and nutrition program staff, there are plenty of openings for those wanting to get in on the ground floor of an elementary education job.
Depending on the district, passing a basic skills test is all that is necessary to start a career in elementary education. Most districts encourage employees to pursue their elementary teacher training by offering incentives to enroll in teaching degree and certificate programs.
Jobs with an Associate's Degree
In a majority of school districts, an associate's degree is all that is necessary to step in and start assisting elementary teachers in a variety of ways.
These paraprofessionals can be found throughout the elementary system performing jobs as varied as special needs assistants, library and literacy resource aides, nutrition specialists and physical education and activities directors.
They can also be found working as after school play and tutoring program coordinators, computer technology resource personnel, natural resource and environmental education program leads, and arts and music program assistants. Those with knowledge of special needs or teaching English as a second language (ESL) are in especially high demand among the many elementary teacher job openings.
Get Ahead with a Elementary Teacher Job
If you picture yourself in front of a classroom as an elementary education teacher, a bachelor's degree along with state certification is often all that is required.
While an elementary education degree is certainly a bonus, a bachelor's degree in just about any discipline can open the door to an elementary education job in many districts around the U.S. Some elementary teaching jobs will require a few additional education-based credits, but many will allow you to teach and earn the credits simultaneously.
Private schools often hire elementary education teachers with bachelor's degrees in their subject area and don't require teacher certification. So simply getting a non-education bachelor's degree is all you need to start your teaching career in many instances.
And if your degree is in the field of computer science, music, art, drama, earth or marine science, agronomy, speech and hearing pathology, foreign language or psychology you'll find elementary schools looking for teachers with those skills for district-wide programs as well as classroom teaching positions.
Master Your Potential
With the implementation of an aggressive local, state and national mandate to improve the quality of education, it's becoming more common for districts to tie increased compensation to continuing education. For many, a master's degree has become the gold standard associated with teaching excellence.
If you're entering education from another field, a master's degree in education, nutrition, special education, computer technologies, curriculum development, or counseling and family services can push your resume—and teacher salary—to the top of the stack for many elementary education jobs. The more elementary education you get, the better your chances are of getting a raise or a promotion.
Top Rewards for Education Specialists
Teachers with a master's degree are eligible to become National Board Certified Elementary Education Teachers. Like board-certified doctors and accountants, teachers who achieve National Board Certification meet rigorous standards through intensive study, expert evaluation, self-assessment and peer review.
Doctors in the Classroom
While a doctorate is not required for most elementary teaching jobs, it can be surprising to discover how many people with doctorates in fields such as law, business, science, computer science, agriculture and the arts can be found in elementary school buildings. Most often these people are drawn toward elementary education because of their passion to improve the lives and education of children.
District, state and national-level jobs abound for those with doctorates in one of the many education specialties. From research, curriculum development, special education and learning disability programs, to gifted student and accelerated learning programs, a doctorate focused on a specific area of elementary education can help you land a job shaping thousands of young minds instead of only those in a single classroom. A doctorate is truly the pinnacle of elementary teacher training.