Becoming a First Grade Teacher: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
The median annual salary for elementary teachers was approximately $54,120 as of May 2014. Read on to see real job postings and learn about expected job prospects for this career path.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of Working as a First Grade Teacher

Teaching first grade can be a rewarding career because you will be helping young children learn and gain valuable life skills. Here are a few of the pros and cons of pursuing this career path.

Pros of Becoming a First Grade Teacher
Opportunity to help children learn*
Good employment growth (expected to be around 12% between 2012 and 2022)*
Good job prospects due to an increasing number of schools*
Summers off*

Cons of Becoming a First Grade Teacher
Requires a lot of patience*
Average pay (median annual salary of about $54,000 per year in 2014)*
Must be certified*
Some positions prefer candidates with a master's degree*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

In general, elementary school teachers are responsible for teaching young students life skills and providing an academic foundation in a variety of subjects. Some teachers specialize in a subject, such as mathematics, science, English or history. A primary responsibility of many teachers is to use different teaching techniques to facilitate students' different learning styles. In some elementary schools, teachers might work in teams, teaching a pair of subjects that complement each other, such as math and science. Some of your daily job duties could include writing lesson plans, grading student work, teaching classes, maintaining student records or talking with parents. You might also work with individual students, administer standardized tests or enforce classroom behavior policies.

Salary Information

According to the BLS, elementary school teachers earned a median annual salary of $54,120 as of May 2014 (www.bls.gov). The highest paid teachers earned $83,000 per year or more, while the lowest paid made $36,000 or less. The highest paying employers for teachers were the local government, education support services, elementary schools, universities and hospitals.

Career Outlook

The BLS reported an expected growth in employment opportunities of 12% for elementary teachers between 2012 and 2022. Job growth in this industry will likely be driven by the establishment of new schools. However, job growth is expected to be faster in some regions; for example, more teachers are expected to be needed in the South and West. Job prospects might be higher for those who have a good grasp of technology and strategies for implementing technology into the classroom. Additionally, employment growth for this profession could depend on governmental budgets. Employers with the highest levels of employment for elementary school teachers were elementary schools, employment services, religious organizations, the local government and other schools/instruction.

Requirements for Becoming a First Grade Teacher

Education

The minimum requirement for most teaching licenses is a bachelor's degree in education, although some states require you to complete a major or minor in another subject as well. Bachelor's degree programs in education usually take around four years to complete. You could take classes in areas like planning and instruction, pedagogy strategies, creative expression, public school systems or drug education. Other areas of study could include professional development, teaching language arts, music in the classroom or social studies education.

Certification

All teachers must be certified, also called licensed, in the state where they teach. State requirements vary but typically include a bachelor's degree, a teacher training program and a student teaching practicum. Many states also require a test in general teaching techniques and possibly a subject area test, even though elementary teachers teach multiple content areas.

Skills

Elementary school teachers must be patient people who are comfortable around kids. They must also be able to explain something many different ways to adapt to the different learning styles encountered in a classroom. Good oral and written communication skills are valuable as well, and the ability to fairly assess students is also beneficial to your success.

Job Postings

If you earn a degree in elementary education, you could be qualified to teach up to the fifth grade level. Employers typically expect job applicants to be licensed to teach in the state in which they are applying. Take a look at the following job postings from April 2012 listed by real employers to get a feel for what it takes to find a job as an elementary school teacher.

  • An elementary teacher is needed to fill an intermediate position for a year in Illinois. You need certification, a bachelor's degree and a background in ESL to get this job.
  • An education staffing firm in Chicago is looking for elementary school teachers (K-8) to be placed at schools around the country. You must have teaching credentials and a working knowledge of computers to be eligible for this position.
  • A kindergarten teacher is needed at an elementary school in Illinois. This employer values a passion for teaching and a love for working with kids. You also need to be certified.

How to Beat the Competition

Employers sometimes value job candidates who are members of professional organizations. Elementary school teachers can join organizations like the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) or the National Education Association (NEA). Aside from boosting your resume, the benefits of joining a professional organization might include loan forgiveness and scholarship opportunities. Another option is to earn a master's degree in education (M.Ed.). This course of study usually takes 2-3 years to complete and could qualify you for advanced administrative positions when combined with teaching experience.

Alternative Careers

Career and Technical Teacher

If you want to work as a teacher but prefer working with older students, you might be interested in becoming a career and technical teacher, who works with middle school or high school students. In this position, you would be responsible for equipping students with technical and career-related skills that would help them find a job. You need a bachelor's degree to be eligible for this career, and you could make about $54,000 per year (the median annual salary for these teachers in 2011, reports the BLS).

Principal

If you'd rather work on the administrative side of an educational institution, consider pursuing a career as a school principal. You need a master's degree to work as a school principle, and some employers might prefer those with a doctorate, but it pays very well. The BLS reports a median annual salary of around $87,000 in 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Early Childhood Administration
      • Undergraduate in Early Childhood
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. - Early Childhood Education
      • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
      • PhD in Education - Early Childhood Education
      • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - General Education
      • EdD - Learning Analytics in Higher Education
    Master's
      • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
      • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • M.Ed. - General Education
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - Early Childhood Education
      • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: ESOL (K-Adult)
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Adolescent Literacy
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Methods & Curriculum
  • Online Programs Available
    4. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Teaching and Learning
  • Campus Locations:
    7. CDI College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Certificate in Early Childhood Education
      • Diploma in Early Childhood Education JEE.13 (Techniques D'ducation L'enfance - JEE.13)
  • Washington, DC

    Howard University

  • Towson, MD

    Towson University

  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
  • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
  • BS in Early Childhood Administration
  • Undergraduate in Early Childhood

Which subject are you interested in?

Northcentral University

  • Ed.D. - Early Childhood Education
  • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
  • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education

What is your highest level of education?

Concordia University Portland

  • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - Early Childhood Education
  • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
  • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

CDI College

  • Certificate in Early Childhood Education
  • Diploma in Early Childhood Education JEE.13 (Techniques D'ducation L'enfance - JEE.13)

What year did you graduate high school?