Understand Your Options for Teaching Degrees in Elementary Education

male elementary school teacher assists student with reading assignment
male elementary school teacher assists student with reading assignment

If you are thinking about getting an elementary school teaching degree, you could consider finding top online programs. As more and more accredited institutions offer online degrees, it is becoming a lot easier to find the right online elementary education program for you and your unique circumstances.

Online teaching degrees are offered for all levels of instruction, including bachelor’s, master’s and even doctoral programs. But whether you choose online or traditional education to become an elementary school teacher, your degree requirements and curriculum will be the same and demand the same rigor.

Elementary Teacher Degree Requirements

There are a lot of factors to consider when dealing with young students, which is why there are several educational requirements and regulations for teaching elementary school. All states require elementary school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Most teachers major in elementary education, while some states require them to also specialize in a content area, like social studies or history. Other teachers major in related fields with relevant elementary education coursework and field training in the classroom.

Teachers-to-be usually join their university’s teacher preparation program where they can learn about educational best practices, tailored age-appropriate curriculum and child psychology. These courses allow them to be prepared for teaching children with varying abilities, backgrounds and needs. There are some states that require teachers to earn a master’s degree after earning their teaching certification, so it’s important to check the requirements of the state in which you want to teach.

If you want to specialize and work with a particular group of children, such as gifted children or special needs kids, you’ll need further education to earn an endorsement in your area of specialty.

For now, let’s look at how online elementary teaching degree programs work compared to traditional programs.

Common Online Learning Questions and Answers

Are online education degrees offered entirely online?

No. All bachelor-level elementary education degrees online require some hands-on classroom experience for graduation, so at some point you will need to work on-site as a student teacher at a nearby elementary school as a part of your online degree program.

However, your online college or university will monitor your progress via online faculty advisor as it applies throughout your coursework. Master’s and doctoral degree program requirements vary depending on the program, so ask your school of interest how much in-person work will be required.

Will it take me four years to complete my degree online?

Not necessarily. Unlike traditional on-campus programs, most online degree programs can be completed at your own pace, one class at a time. Of course, many classes have to be taken in a certain order because of prerequisite requirements, but they can be taken as fast or as slowly as your schedule allows.

Classes typically last about five to six weeks each. And, with the flexibility to take multiple classes at once or to take one class at a time, your busy home-life doesn’t have to deter you from getting the education you want.

Some universities offer an elementary education degree online that is structured a bit differently. For example, some university’s online education programs are set up as a cohort learning experience where your online classes are scheduled in step with a full group of students.

In a cohort-based system, you have the opportunity to build classroom relationships with other students and experience more of the college life without the hassle of commuting or relocating. Earning this type of elementary education degree online will take a specified amount of time.

Will earning my online provide me with high quality preparation for teaching?

Yes. In order to become a certified teacher, each state has specific requirements prospective teachers must meet, regardless of the program they complete. All accredited online education degree programs, like their on-campus counterparts, focus on meeting those requirements for certification.

As an online degree student, you will have access to all of the same resources, learning management systems (LMS), professors and high-quality class materials that traditional students have. And you will be directed through a curriculum very similar, if not identical, to the on-campus programs offered at traditional institutions.

However, before beginning any elementary education degree online, make sure to check with your state Department of Education to confirm that your school meets its teacher certification requirements.

Will my studies be the same in traditional and online elementary school teacher programs?

Yes. Regardless of the venue you choose for your studies you will still be required to take similar coursework and meet the same number of credits requirements. In an elementary education teaching degree program your classes will look something like this:

Mathematics for Elementary EducatorsEnglish and English Composition
U.S. HistoryEducational Assessment
PsychologyClassroom Management and Motivation
General Science RequirementsCultural Studies and Diversity
Pedagogy and Instructional PlanningChildren’s Literature
Language Arts InstructionElementary Social Studies
Elementary Reading Methods

You will be required to undergo supervised student teaching and have a performance assessment at the end of your program.

Is admissions criteria the same in online and classroom-based programs?

Pretty much, for a bachelor’s degree. You will be required to have earned your high school diploma or GED and submit sealed, official transcripts from all academic coursework prior to enrolling. Some schools have a GPA minimum requirement, usually 2.5 to be eligible.

Online Elementary Teaching Degrees for Career Changers

More and more people are recognizing the benefits of teaching as a career, and are considering online elementary teaching degrees for a career change.

The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future reported that there could be a widespread teacher shortage in the near future as baby boomers-who currently make up more than half of the teaching force-retire.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, fewer people are choosing to teach right out of college, but more people are choosing to teach as a second career. If you’re thinking about using your work or parenting experience in a teaching career, online education may be just what you need to make your dreams a reality. Online elementary teaching degrees are flexible, affordable, and increasingly popular among both students and employers.

How Online Teaching Degrees Work

Each state has specific requirements for certification as an elementary school teacher. Accredited online elementary teaching degrees prepare you to meet those requirements, just like traditional colleges and universities. The difference is that online education allows you to complete most of the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in education from the comfort of your own home. The primary exception is the student teaching requirement. Your faculty advisor will help you find a placement in a school in your area and monitor your progress to ensure that this aspect of your training is successful.

The rest of your coursework can be completed through a combination of web conferencing, videos, readings, group discussion in forums or email lists, and other technology-enabled teaching tools. You will submit your assignments online and communicate with your professors primarily through email.

Challenges of Online Programs

Completing an online degree requires a higher level of self-motivation and self-discipline than attending traditional classes. You can learn the technology, but you need the self-discipline to organize your time and balance your education with your other responsibilities.

Some people may feel isolated without the social interaction that happens in a physical classroom. Because others in your life don’t see you going to school, they may not realize what a serious commitment you are making. One way to stay motivated is by connecting with your fellow students online. Most online elementary teaching degrees include plenty of opportunities to join in lively discussions through online forums, social media, Skype, IM, and email lists. You may even form enduring friendships with other aspiring teachers in your program.

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