A Fourth Grade Teacher Career: Pros and Cons
Fourth grade teachers fall into the broader category of elementary school teachers, who plan and implement grade-level appropriate lessons for young students. Read the pros and cons of becoming a fourth grade teacher to see if it's the right career choice for you.
|Pros of Becoming a Fourth Grade Teacher|
|Gain teaching experience as part of degree program*|
|Slightly higher-than-average pay (median salary $54,120 in 2014)|
|Could become tenured after teaching a minimum number of years**|
|Strong job growth (projected 12% from 2012-2022)|
|Typically work only ten months out of the year**|
|Cons of Becoming a Fourth Grade Teacher|
|Certification is required to become a teacher**|
|Could work evenings to meet with parents**|
|Job can be stressful, particularly in over-crowded classrooms**|
|May need to participate in professional development experiences to keep certification active***|
Sources: *Saint Leo University, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***Pennsylvania State Education Association.
Job Description and Salary Info
Teachers are responsible for helping students to meet grade-level learning standards. As a fourth grade teacher, you may help students learn the basics of 2- and 3-digit multiplication as well as how to write several paragraphs on a narrow topic using correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization and grammar. As a teacher, it is important to manage a classroom using effective behavior modification techniques in order to uphold an environment conducive to learning.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2014 that the median annual wage for elementary school teachers, except special education, was close to $55,000. The BLS also expects a 12%, or about average, increase in job openings from 2012-2022 for elementary school teachers.
Career Skills and Requirements
Education and Certification Requirements
To become an elementary school teacher, you'll need a bachelor's degree in elementary education. These degree programs include coursework in educational psychology, teaching methods and classroom management. In addition to completing coursework, you could participate in field experiences and, as a capstone experience, student teaching.
All states require elementary school teachers to gain professional certification, sometimes referred to as licensure. Although requirements vary, a bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for certification in every state. Some states will require you to pass a certification test, while others might require you to have earned a minimum grade point average while in school.
In addition to education, fourth grade teachers should have the following qualities:
- Communication skills
Job Postings from Real Employers
Schools are looking for teachers with strong oral and written communication skills. As a teacher, you usually work under the supervision of a principal. Because students with special needs or learning disabilities could be included in a mainstream classroom, you may need to work on a team to create and implement Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for students with special needs. Below are a few job postings for fourth grade teachers in May 2012:
- A preschool to 12th grade public charter school is Minnesota is looking for a fourth grade teacher to fill a 1-year opening. As a teacher for this school, you will interact as part of a team with other fourth grade and also third grade teachers. A current teaching license issued by the Minnesota Department of Education is required.
- A public school district in Kansas is looking for a fourth grade teacher who will teach students to develop skills that are age appropriate as well as to assist the students in their physical growth.
- An elementary school in Colorado posted an opening notice for a fourth grade teacher who holds a Colorado teaching license. In addition, the prospective teacher should meet the requirements for being a highly qualified teacher as recognized by the No Child Left Behind Act.
How to Stand Out in the Field
Because employers may stipulate in their job postings that they are looking for a teacher who is highly qualified, you might consider pursuing additional certification. For example, certification offered through No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is given to teachers who demonstrate a thorough knowledge of a specific core subject, such as science, language arts or mathematics. Requirements to become a highly qualified teacher include that you have a bachelor's degree and a teaching license that is currently active. Depending on each state's requirements, demonstrating your ability to be a highly qualified teacher could be shown by teaching experience or professional development experiences.
You might also consider becoming a member of a professional organization for teachers. The Association of American Educators (AAE) offers members benefits such as advocacy, professional resources and informational materials. Also, the National Education Association (NEA) is an organization aimed at improving public education. NEA also offers advocacy and professional resources to members.
Other Careers to Consider
If you decide that becoming a fourth grade teacher is not the right career choice for you, you might consider a career that still allows you to work with children in a classroom setting. A teacher assistant works under the classroom teacher's direction to assist in providing instruction as well as helping to maintain classroom management and preparing lessons. As a teacher assistant, you could work the same schedule as a teacher, working only ten months out of the year. Teacher assistants, according to the BLS, earned a median annual wage of about $24,000 in May 2011. The BLS also anticipates a 15% increase in job openings for teacher assistants from 2010-2020.
Middle School Teacher
If you're still interested in being a teacher but you'd like to teach older students, you might consider a career as a middle school teacher. Middle school teachers earned approximately $53,000, as reported by the BLS in May 2011. As a middle school teacher, you will teach sixth to eighth grade students and prepare them for high school. The BLS expects a 17% job growth for middle school teachers from 2010-2020. You could gain job security as a result of becoming tenured within the school district that you work for.