Primary Education Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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Are you thinking about a career in primary education? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary information to see if a career in primary education is right for you.
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Careers in Primary Education

Individuals interested in primary education careers, also commonly referred to as elementary school education, can find a variety of career options. Some of the primary education careers that you may consider include elementary teacher, special education teacher and elementary principal. Here they are at a glance.

Elementary Teacher Special Education Elementary School Teacher Elementary Principal
Career Overview Elementary teachers give children a foundation in subjects like math and language arts. Special education teachers in elementary school work with children who have special needs. Elementary principals are responsible for administrative duties in a primary school setting.
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree or higher Bachelor's degree or higher Master's degree
Program Length Roughly 3-5 years Roughly 3-5 years Roughly 1-2 years after completion of a bachelor's degree
Certification and Licensing State licensing is required in public schools Certification or licensing is usually required State licensing is required in public schools
Job Outlook (2014-2024) Fast as average growth (6% for all elementary teachers, except special education)* Fast as average growth (6%)* Fast as average growth (6%)*
Mean Salary (2014) $56,830* $57,820* $91,780 (for all elementary and secondary education administrators) *

Elementary Teacher

As an elementary school teacher, you'll typically be in charge of maintaining a classroom and educating your students in a variety of subjects, including math, science, English/language arts, music, art, physical education and more. You'll need to plan lessons, evaluate students' progress, maintain discipline, talk to parents and often supervise children outside of the classroom.

Requirements

In order to become an elementary school teacher, there are numerous steps that you'll typically need to take. For public school positions, you'll need to earn at least a bachelor's degree in elementary education or a related field. In these programs, you can gain hands-on experience through internship and practicum requirements, in addition to taking courses on educational assessment and classroom management. Many jobs also require a certain amount of classroom experience. You can generally acquire this experience through your student teaching requirements, where you might work as a teaching assistant to get the experience you'll need to become a lead teacher. To find work in a public school, you'll also need to acquire a teaching license from the state in which you intend to teach. Most private schools don't require a teaching license.

The following job listings were posted in October of 2012:

  • An expanding company that operates 22 charter schools in the Northeast was hiring primary school teachers for the 2013-2014 school year in Brooklyn, New York, and other areas. Although a bachelor's degree is accepted, a master's would be ideal.
  • An elementary school for the arts located in New York City was seeking a classroom teacher with five years of classroom experience and New York state teaching certification.
  • In Denver, Colorado, a public elementary school was looking for a science teacher with at least a bachelor's degree.

Standing Out

There are a number of measures that you can take to stand out as an elementary school teacher. For example, it may open up a number of job opportunities if you can teach English as a second language (ESL), according to the BLS. Earning your TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification can be a solid way to give your resume a boost. Knowledge of a second language like Spanish could also be attractive to potential employers.

Special Education Teacher

Special education is an area of primary education focusing on educating children with a wide number of special needs, such as children who suffer from dyslexia, physical disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorder. Often, you'll be in charge of developing Individualized Education Programs to address the specific needs of a child. You'll typically meet a great deal with counselors, parents and sometimes medical professionals to monitor a child's progress. You may work with an entire class of children with special needs or assist with children in standard classrooms.

Requirements

Usually, you'll need to study special education specifically to become a teacher in this area. You'll typically be required to hold at least a bachelor's degree in elementary special education or a similar discipline. If you're planning to work with kids on a specific subject, you may earn a bachelor's degree in that subject with a minor in special education. Some schools offer combined elementary education and special education programs. The BLS reports that in most states, you'll need to acquire a special education license in a general category or in a specific special education field.

In October 2012, employers seeking special education teachers posted the following listings:

  • A school in Virginia was looking for a special education teacher to work with kids with autism and other disabilities. Although a bachelor's degree holder would be considered, master's degrees were preferred along with a state teaching license with a special education endorsement.
  • A non-profit organization that runs a number of charter schools in the Northeast was seeking special education teachers in Brooklyn, New York, and in Connecticut with at least a bachelor's degree. Two years of experience in special education was required along with appropriate state certification.
  • A certified special education teacher with at least a bachelor's degree was sought by a primary school in Massachusetts.

Standing Out

Choosing a specialization can often help you stand out from other job applicants in the field of special education. According to the BLS, special education teachers who work with children who have autism or severe or multiple disorders could have better job opportunities. In addition to standard programs in special education, you can also find schools that offer concentrations in severe disabilities. After you earn your degree, you can pursue training opportunities in these areas through professional organizations.

Elementary Principal

As an elementary school principal, you'll typically be required to monitor the staff of a school, including teachers, counselors and librarians. You'll set goals and manage the daily operations of the school to ensure that these goals are being met. In addition to this, you'll usually manage a school's finances and make sure that your school is operating according to federal and state laws and standards.

Requirements

To work as a principal, you'll need to earn a master's degree, according to the BLS. Master's degree programs in educational administration or elementary administration are commonly available, and many can be completed through online study. These programs include principal internships and research opportunities, which might be in the form of a thesis, practicum or portfolio. Many schools also look for principals who have several years of teaching experience. You'll also need to earn a state license in school administration if you plan to work in a public school.

The following schools were seeking principals in October 2012:

  • Five years of experience and a master's degree were required by an Atlanta elementary school hiring a principal who would work with the Regional K-12 Executive Director of Schools.
  • A school in Illinois was looking for a principal with experience with bilingual and English as a Second Language learning programs.
  • A private school company in Las Vegas, Nevada, wanted a principal with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's in administration. The position required three years of administration experience, and the employer preferred a candidate with at least three years of teaching experience.

Standing Out

Some employers look for applicants who have strong knowledge of modern classroom technology. Aspiring principals may want to become familiar with new classroom technology, such as simulations, smart boards and social media. Computer literacy and the ability to effectively use software like Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint can also be useful.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. 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
      • MEd - General Education
      • MAT - Early Childhood Education
      • MAT - Curriculum and Teaching
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Literacy
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
      • Ph.D in Literacy: Literacy
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
    Master's
      • M.Ed. in Elementary Education
      • M.A. in Reading with an Emphasis in Elementary Education
      • M.Ed. in Early Childhood
      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Christian Education
      • BS in Early Childhood
      • B.S. in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices
  • Online Programs Available
    5. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Education - Elementary Education
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Master of Education - Secondary Education
      • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Washington, DC

    Howard University

  • Towson, MD

    Towson University

  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

  • Nashville, TN

    Vanderbilt University

Featured Schools

Northcentral University

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

What is your highest level of education?

Saint John's University

  • Ph.D. in Literacy
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
  • M.Ed. in Elementary Education
  • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Education - Elementary Education
  • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
  • Master of Education - Secondary Education

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Penn Foster High School

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

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