Elementary Education Degree
Note: This page provides overall information on elementary education programs. For more detailed master's degree information, please see our page for Master's Degree in Elementary Education.
Most who choose to study elementary education move into a career of teaching students at the elementary level. Those with a master's or doctorate may even choose to teach at the college or university level - they would most likely teach courses in teacher preparation programs. Elementary education is typically a general education career path in which all subjects will have to be taught to students in grades kindergarten through five or six (depending on district). In elementary education, degrees can be gained at the bachelor's, master's, or doctorate level.
History of the Field
At one point, elementary education encompassed first through eighth grade, which changed to include kindergarten. With the introduction of junior high school, elementary education was lowered to include kindergarten through sixth grade. Those with a degree in elementary education are expected to teach all subjects in grades kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade, depending on the region. Some schools may require elementary school teachers to teach subjects like PE, art, and music as well.
Choosing an Online Bachelor's in Elementary Education
When it comes time to picking a college or university, the decision can be overwhelming. You want to make sure you enroll in a school that offers a reputable online Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education program. To help with the decision, review the following questions with potential schools.
Is the Program Accredited?
First on the list is to find out if the school and program are accredited. Accreditation is similar to quality assurance through a peer review process. In the case of Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education programs, the accreditation will most likely occur via CAEP (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation). More information about accreditation can be found here: ed.gov/accreditation
How Long Has the Program Been Offered?
It is always reassuring to know that a program has proven success year after year. However, do keep in mind that online or distance learning is a relatively new phenomenon. If an online elementary education program has not been around long enough to get fully accredited by an official agency, consider this a clear red flag.
What Technologies Will Be Used to Facilitate Online Learning?
Online programs facilitate the process of teaching and learning through virtual classrooms. The classrooms can be accessed on the web. These online learning platforms provide a unified space for all students to communicate, view multimedia lectures, and submit assignments. Not all online schools use the same program, so it may be a good idea to research and try it out before signing on.
What Resources Will I Have Access To?
A lot of online schools give students access to resources such as research databases and scholarly journals. Resources are important as they aid in the learning process. Over the course of your degree program, you will be required to conduct research on an educational topic. Online resources will help you complete this process. Some schools even give students access to student services such as advising and technology assistance.
What Skills and Topics Are Covered?
Upon request, good programs should be able to provide the curriculum for their online Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education program. Assess the program goals to see how they line up with your career goals. Program outcomes are a set of ideas, skills, and knowledge that graduates will have obtained prior to completion.
Do You Have Job Placement Information for Students Who Recently Graduated from the Program?
Knowing what recent graduates have done with their online Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education is a good way of knowing what you can accomplish with your online degree. When given the opportunity to speak with such individuals, ask how their online Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education helped in their career. Also, be sure to ask for advice regarding online learning.
Is an Online Degree Right for You?
An online Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education offers the opportunity to further one's education from the comfort of their own home. Between work and family, many people do not have the time to commute to and from daily classes. However, online learning may not be right for everyone. Consider the following to decide whether online learning is right for you.
As more bachelor's degree students choose online elementary education programs, it seems one of the biggest appeals is the flexible schedule. Since there are no physical classes to commute to, online degree programs do not require students to change their work or family schedule. Bachelor's students can complete their assignments whenever most convenient.
Good online Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education programs will be comparable in rigor content to traditional ones. You can expect the following:
- Deadlines and accountability markers intended to keep students on track.
- Presentations, reading reflections, quizzes, tests, and research projects.
- Whole class chat rooms or message boards to help students communicate and build contacts.
- Final cumulative test, research paper, project, or portfolio.
Many online students report being able to complete bachelor's degree requirements in a shorter amount of time than they would have been able to via a traditional route. Since online Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education programs offer such a flexible schedule, students are able to compact in more courses in a shorter amount of time. Additionally, online programs are notorious for offering accelerated programs. These accelerated programs tend to be more rigorous in nature.
Opportunity and Accessibility
An online education gives a chance for people to earn a degree who would have otherwise not been able to. With this route, students are able to participate in a bachelor's degree program regardless of geographic location, physical ability, or scheduling restrictions. So, if you are unable to find a program at a college or university close enough to your home and if relocating is not an option, online schooling might be a great option for you. With online education, students are able to take a class from virtually anywhere, as long as they have good internet connection and a reliable computer.
In a lot of cases, students who thrive in an online learning environment are those who can be described as "self-starters". These are students who have the ability to motivate themselves. These people are able to stay on task without much external influence. In other cases, students feel they need physical interaction with peers and professors in order to stay motivated and on task. It is important to assess yourself. What type of learner are you? If you can describe yourself as a self-starter, you might be able to find great success in an online degree program.
Tuition and Costs
Overall, online Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education programs can cost less. Consider the following:
- No costs associated with room and board and relocation.
- Students can maintain a regular work schedule and a source of income.
- Online students may not have to pay out-of-state fees.
- No costs associated with parking passes, gas, car maintenance, and on-campus meals.
Bachelor's Program Course Topics
The Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education prepares students to teach every elementary school subject after attaining licensure. In addition to classroom studies, each student-teacher is required to complete at least one block of teaching practicum; many states have implemented two or three such practicum blocks. While programs do vary between institutions, most programs contain the following:
Psychology is an integral part of the classroom. Whether using reinforcement to create appropriate behaviors or sharing study techniques to make the test a bit more comprehensible, psychology can make a classroom run smoothly when the right techniques are used.
Curriculum and Assessment with Instructional Technology
Technology has become an integral part of a 21st century classroom. This means that you must know how to use technology in an educational manner to further instruction and assess progress. This class will help you learn to do this and much more.
Readers develop in stages and at different rates. If the pieces or building blocks are not in place, then reading and comprehension will not occur. This class is designed to teach the future teacher these stages and how to address each one with students who are learning to become better readers.
More Course Topics for a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education:
- Develop a method of lesson planning
- Learn to objectively assess students' work for established learning objectives
- Develop a familiarity with all of the subjects that are taught at the elementary level
- Learn about the psychology of developing children and youth
- Learn and practice a diverse array of effective teaching principles
- Learn through practicum how best to interact with fellow teachers, administrators and support staff in order to form a collaborative teaching team
- Survey the roles of other school and district stakeholders in order to effectively maintain the classroom and school environments
- Develop skillsets that foster proactive, neutral, and evidence-based relationships with school and classroom stakeholders
- Learn additional conflict resolution and classroom management skills
- Access formal and informal mentorship opportunities throughout coursework and practicum
- Access formal and informal peer and collegial support opportunities throughout coursework and practicum
- Observe classroom procedures and routines while engaged as a helper and later, as a teacher in the practicum classroom
- Survey of child developmental and cognitive milestones as they relate to elementary educational coursework and timelines
- Critically review effective teaching practice for children in the same classroom environment but who are at different developmental levels
- Critically review effective teaching practice for children who are from diverse cultural backgrounds
- Examine the relationship between schools and their community over time, as well as how schools impact greater society
- Consider the concept of the ‘ideal' school through various ideologies
- Learn foundational concepts related to language and literacy as they impact learning and teaching
- Gain practical skills that are key to helping children attain language, reading fluency, and other language arts skills
- Gain practical skills that are critical to helping students learn problem solving, numeracy, operations, and patterning
- Gain practical skills that emphasize movement and healthy living in and outside of the classroom environment
- Creating effective pedagogical groupings of students for instructional purposes
Master's Degree in Elementary Education
Those who wish to continue their higher education may seek a Master's Degree in Elementary Education. The following will help you gain a general understanding of what the degree program may look like.
Most likely, you will need the following items when applying to a Master's Degree in Elementary Education program:
- Full application, undergraduate coursework with required GPA
- Proof of teacher's licensure
- GRE score when necessary
- Statement of purpose along with reference letters
Cost and Financial Aid
Financial aid is available for both online and in-person Master's Degree in Elementary Education programs. Federal student aid through FAFSA is available for those who qualify, but grants and scholarships are also available in many states. Some schools will offer grants and district level loan forgiveness to teachers who agree to work in low income schools for a given length of time. Check with local agencies for specific information in your area.
A Master's Degree in Elementary Education typically allows teachers to advance on the salary scale. Many districts will allow this to be the basis of becoming an administrator if working on a higher degree or other certifications. Educators with a Master's Degree in Elementary Education may also become directors of elementary programs, educational specialists, coordinators, coaches, department heads, and more.
Choosing an Online Master's in Elementary Education Program
An online Master's Degree in Elementary Education is a viable option for busy adult students who work full time. Online degree programs eliminate the time needed to commute to and from class. Online programs offer the following:
- Variety of programs
- Flexible schedule
- Rigorous curriculum
- Faster completion time
- No costs associated with transportation, parking fees, room and board, or relocating
Master's Degree in Elementary Education Course Topics
Pursuing a Master's Degree in Elementary Education allows educators to deepen their theoretical and practical experience in an areas like pedagogy, curriculum, or administration at the elementary school level. The following are some courses that can be found in a master's degree program:
- Foundations of Teaching Practice Integration
- Instructional Planning and Presentation
- Language Arts Instruction and Intervention
- Advanced Methods Courses
Learn more about a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.
Doctorate Degree in Elementary Education
A Doctoral Degree in Elementary Education typically requires a minimum of a master's degree and teaching license. Candidates will be expected to show proof of GRE scores, letters of reference, and official transcripts from all previous graduate work.
An EdD or PhD in Elementary Education can vary in time to complete due to the completion of the dissertation. This means the average doctorate takes about two to four years.
A Doctorate in Elementary Education, or any education based degree, must come from an accredited college or university in order to court toward an educational license. Since advanced degrees also typically lead to pay raises in the educational world, an unaccredited program would not be considered.
Earning a Doctorate in Elementary Education can open doors to new careers as a school board member, program director, master teacher, coordinator, or even a teacher at the postsecondary level. With a higher degree typically comes a higher salary and additional benefits.
Doctorate Program Course Topics
In order to obtain an EdD or PhD in Elementary Education, experienced teachers may apply to become doctoral candidates within an educational path like curriculum and pedagogy, cognition, literacy, assessment, policy, leadership, or special education. Students continue with their research in a practical or clinical setting, depending on the program's criteria, and then upon defense of their dissertation, either return to the classroom or administrative pool, or into professorship with a strong scholarly foundation for their future work. Highly individual, Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs do have some similar foundational elements, like:
- Survey the social and historical eras that have advanced teaching and pedagogy both in North America, Europe, and globally
- Map the schemas of learning, motivation, and cognitive processes at the elementary level
- Critical analysis of current educational policy and decision making processes from a global ideology
- Research educational policy creation, critique and management
- Research social and gender perspectives of the teacher and in the classroom environment with the intent to promote educational and cultural equity and mobility
- Research gender theory and its applications to education by way of classroom equality
- Research correlative factors between education, culture, and technology
- Analyze policy structure and process in general; analyze educational policy specifically
Choosing an Online Doctorate in Elementary Education Program
Gaining a Doctoral degree online can be a viable time saving option for those who choose to do so. While it is unlikely that the entire doctorate can be gained online, those classes that are required are often taught in a long weekend session or a week long on-campus seminar. Online doctoral programs eliminate the stress of commuting to and from campus. Additionally, online degree programs offer the following:
- Variety of programs
- Flexible schedule
- Rigorous curriculum
- Faster completion time
- Increased opportunity and accessibility
- No costs associated with transportation, parking fees, room and board, or relocating
Elementary Education Degree Scholarships
Elementary Education programs are designed for students who want to work in the field of elementary education. As with any degree program, earning an elementary education degree can be quite costly. With that said, it is important to know about the various scholarships and grants available. The following scholarships might be right for you.
Nancy Larson Foundation
The Nancy Larson Foundation sponsors scholarships for college students who plan on becoming elementary school teachers. To apply, you must have declared an elementary education major and must be of junior, senior, or graduate student standing.
Teacher Education Assistance College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program
The TEACH Grant Program offers grants of up to $4,000 a year to students who are in the process of completing or plan to complete classes needed to begin a career in teaching. To apply, applicants must be enrolled in a TEACH grant eligible program. To receive the TEACH Grant, the applicant must meet the basic eligibility requirements for federal student aid programs, complete the FAFSA form, be enrolled in a TEACH-Grant eligible program, meet specific academic achievement requirements, receive Teach Grant counseling, and sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve.
To learn about more scholarships available to Elementary Education majors, visit our Scholarships and Grants page.
What Can I Do with a Degree in Elementary Education?
Below are a few of the more common jobs held by those with a degree in elementary education.
Elementary School Teacher
Being an elementary school teacher means the possibility of teaching children in grades kindergarten through fifth or sixth. Elementary teachers instruct on the various subjects required by each district, state, and school. This job can be in a public or private school setting with salaries highly varied by area and type of school. Click on the link to learn more about becoming an Elementary School Teacher.
Being a professor means working online or in person with students who also wish to teach at some point. A PhD in elementary education can allow you to teach college level classes to those who wish to become licensed teachers in the future. Learn more about a career as a College Professor.
A district coordinator will likely reside in a board office and visit schools to ensure standards of curriculum are being met at each level. A district coordinator would be required to work and interact with district, state, and possibly national level authorities on education.
Specialty Elementary Education Degree Programs
Reading and Literacy
A reading specialist is one that specializes in teaching children how to read. The typical setting for this profession is in a classroom with only one to five children at a time. The specialist is used for interventions that may be necessary to get children back on track with reading if and when the need arises. A reading specialist may work at all grade levels if certification is received. Specialized classes and testing is required for licensure.
Curriculum and Instruction
This profession is often called an instructional coach or curriculum and instructional coordinator. An instructional coach often oversees all or most schools in a district. This person's chief responsibility is to bring evidence based best practices into the school systems while working with teachers and school staff. A curriculum and instructional coach may be required to teach new materials, techniques, and use of technology to educators. A Master's or Doctorate degree is most often required for this type of position, as well as years of experience in the education field.
Best Colleges for Elementary Education
We are happy to release our Teacher.org's Best Colleges for Elementary Education rankings. This list was compiled by scoring several areas including, relative size of the program, graduation rates, default rates, tuition affordability, and online education options availability. More information about each college listed is available by clicking on the web address provided. Over 781 colleges were analyzed and the top 20 were included in our Best Colleges Ranking.
For more information on education degree rankings, see our methodology page: https://www.teacher.org/college-ranking-methodology/.