Becoming a Third Grade Teacher: Salary Info & Job Description

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A third grade teacher's median annual salary is around $54,000. Is it worth the education and licensure requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about salary info to find out if becoming a third grade teacher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Third Grade Teacher

While it can be satisfying to help children learn, teaching third graders can be stressful. In some regions it might be difficult to find a position, but tenure policies may give you job security once you're hired. Consider the pros and cons before making a decision.

Pros of Becoming a Third Grade Teacher
Can be personally rewarding*
Good job prospects in the South and West due to increased enrollment *
Above average wages ($53,000 median annual salary)*
Long vacation in summer, regular breaks throughout year*
Job security after obtaining tenure*

Cons of Becoming a Third Grade Teacher
Average job growth (12% between 2012-2022)*
Can be stressful*
Tough economy may mean fewer jobs**
Must be licensed*
May have to earn master's degree*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **National Education Association.

Essential Career Information

Job Description

Third grade is when students are able to handle more complex lessons involving fractions, multiplication, writing essays and character analysis. As their teacher, you must help them take the basic knowledge they have acquired and utilize it to master new concepts. Teachers plan lessons that meet the students' needs and advance them toward fulfilling the curriculum goals. You'll probably teach many different subjects to the same group of children, either as a whole or in small groups, using props and hands-on lessons to reinforce the concepts.

A third grade teacher has many duties in addition to classroom teaching. You will spend lots of time grading papers, writing lesson plans and communicating with parents. You will be in charge of enforcing discipline and teaching the children to follow rules of good behavior. Teachers often monitor the children while they are in the cafeteria or on the school playground. The teacher's day generally spans the hours school is in session, although they may attend meetings and conferences before and after school as well. Most teachers have a 2-month break in the summer and regular breaks during the school year.

Career Prospects and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of kindergarten and elementary school teachers should grow by about 12% from 2012-2022. However, job increases will be greater in areas of high population growth, such as in the West and South. The BLS expected the number of teaching jobs to decline in the Northeast and remain steady in the Midwest. Although many teachers will be reaching retirement age, the BLS says a surplus of educators will still make it difficult to find jobs in many parts of the country. In addition, budgetary shortfalls due to a poor economy may mean hiring freezes and even layoffs in some school districts.

The median annual salary for a kindergarten or elementary school teacher was $54,120 in May 2014, according to the BLS. The majority of teachers made between $43,000 and $68,000, with the lowest-paid ten percent making $36,000 or less and the highest-paid ten percent making $84,000 or more.

What Are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

You will need at least a bachelor's degree to teach in a public school. Most teachers have education degrees, but individuals with degrees in other fields can get into teaching through special training programs. Private schools are not required to hire teachers with college degrees or a state license; however, most prefer teachers with education degrees.

In a teacher's preparation program, you will study educational psychology, learn how to plan lessons and perfect your classroom management skills. Additionally, prospective teachers gain real classroom experience through student teaching.

Although there are some exceptions, to get most teaching jobs, you will need to meet the requirements for a Highly Qualified Teacher under the No Child Left Behind Act. The requirements are holding at least a bachelor's degree, being licensed by the state and demonstrating competence in a core subject area by passing an examination.


In order to teach in a public school, you must hold a license, sometimes called a certificate. The requirements vary by state, but all require a degree, education coursework and practice teaching experience. In most states, teachers must pass a test of general teaching knowledge, and many states require another test in a particular subject. Teachers often must complete annual certification classes to maintain their licenses. Some states require that teachers earn professional certificates and master's degrees after certification.

Useful Skills

In addition to what you learn in school and during your student teaching, you'll need some innate qualities to be a successful third grade teacher. Elementary school teachers must have patience and creativity in order to teach young minds. They need to communication effectively with students, parents, other teachers and administrators.

What Employers Want

While individual schools may be quite different, the educational and certification requirements are generally the same. All job postings call for someone with a college degree and a love for teaching children. Here is a look at job postings from real employers in April 2012:

  • A Catholic school in Wisconsin needed a third grade teacher who held a religious education certificate and a child abuse prevention training certificate. The posting specified that the teacher needed strong verbal and written communication skills and good teamwork ability.
  • In Illinois, a private school was looking for an innovative teacher who could modify lessons to accommodate all types of learners. The employers preferred a candidate with a master's degree.
  • A school district in Kansas was looking for a licensed teacher who had completed requirements as a Highly Qualified Teacher. Experience in working with bilingual students was desired.
  • In Tennessee, a small Christian elementary school needed a teacher who held an undergraduate degree in education. The ability to communicate effectively with parents, students and other teachers was listed as a qualification. The job posting also mentioned the importance of having a passion for working with children.

How to Maximize Your Skills

Earn a Lead Teacher Certificate

Teachers can stand out in a more formal way by earning certification as lead teachers in a particular subject, such as math or science, or in a broader context, like closing the achievement gap in an urban school. Lead teacher certificate programs vary in length, but most take about a year at a college or university school of education. After earning the certificate, you'll share your knowledge with the other teachers at your school, and help to develop lessons and programs.

Gain National Board Certification

Teachers can show they meet high professional standards by earning National Board Certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). The NBPTS says students benefit when taught by nationally certified teachers. Many states and school districts offer supplemental pay to teachers who obtain national certification. In order to become nationally certified, a teacher must have three years experience. You'll need to submit four portfolio entries and pass assessments in your certificate area.

Get Specialized

English as a second language (ESL) and special education teachers are in short supply, so you might find it easier to get a job in a tight market if you are trained to teach these students. You can major in special education or earn a certificate in this field. Some colleges allow you to dual major in special education and elementary education. Many colleges offer certificates in teaching ESL.

Other Careers to Consider

Secondary Teacher

You might be interested in a career as a teacher, but maybe not for third graders. You can teach at any grade level with a bachelor's degree in the appropriate area, such as high school education or early childhood education. Like elementary teachers, middle and high school teachers must also be licensed and participate in a student teaching experience. Unlike elementary teachers, who teach every subject, secondary teachers tend to specialize in one subject. Although the job growth for high school teachers is expected to be slower than normal (7% between 2010-2020), secondary teachers earn a median annual wage of $54,000, as of May 2011 according to the BLS.

Teacher Assistant

If you like working with children, but don't want to earn a 4-year degree or deal with licensing requirements, you could become a teacher assistant or a paraprofessional. Some schools require only a high school diploma, while other jobs mandate at least two years of college. You'll assist the teacher by reinforcing material from lessons, helping with record keeping and with classroom management.

The BLS predicted that employment for teacher assistants would grow by 15% from 2010-2020, about average for all occupations. You'll work the traditional school year, with a long summer break, which could make up for low pay. The BLS reported the median salary for a teacher assistant as nearly $24,000 in May 2011.

Childcare Worker

With a high school diploma or an associate degree, you could get a job as a childcare worker. The requirements vary, depending on state regulations and the employer's preference. You'll provide care for children while their parents are at work or away, feeding and changing them. In some facilities, workers may provide instruction to prepare the children for kindergarten.

The BLS forecasted that employment for childcare workers would increased by 20% from 2010-2020, faster than average for all occupations. The median annual wage for a childcare worker was almost $19,000 in May 2011, the BLS reported.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
      • BS in Early Childhood Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

      • MS - Teaching and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

      • 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
  • Campus Locations:
    4. CDI College

    Program Options

      • Certificate in Early Childhood Education
      • Diploma in Early Childhood Education JEE.13 (Techniques D'ducation L'enfance - JEE.13)
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
  • Towson, MD

    Towson University

  • Washington, DC

    Howard 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

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning

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?

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?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your age?