Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors' opinions or evaluations.
For many educators, a teaching career is more than a job––it’s a vocation. This calling represents a sense of purpose and commitment to empowering students during pivotal stages of their lives. An elementary school teacher’s impact reaches far beyond the confines of classrooms, extending into the broader community.
If you feel called to become one of our workforce’s most impactful professionals, an elementary education degree is an excellent stepping stone toward a career in education. This article overviews how to earn a bachelor’s in elementary education, including standard admission requirements, common courses and career opportunities for graduates.
What Is a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education?
A bachelor’s in elementary education is an undergraduate degree that prepares learners to teach children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Elementary education bachelor’s programs typically require 120 credits and take around four years of full-time study to complete. Credits are divided between general education and major-specific coursework.
The curriculum covers child and adolescent psychology and development, instructional methods, diversity in learning, classroom management, instructional technologies, assessment methods, and language and literacy. Elementary education bachelor’s programs also include fieldwork or practicum components, providing students with hands-on practical experience in the classroom under the supervision of experienced mentors.
Most elementary education bachelor’s degrees help students meet the requirements to pursue their initial teaching license; however, specific requirements vary by state, so ensure your prospective program leads to licensure in the state where you plan to practice. This degree can also lay the foundation for a master’s in elementary education, which can broaden your career prospects and increase your earning potential as an educator.
Admission Requirements for a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education
Admission requirements for a bachelor’s in elementary education vary by program. Some standard admission criteria include the following:
- High school diploma, GED® certificate or the equivalent
- High school and postsecondary transcripts demonstrating a minimum GPA
- SAT or ACT scores
Some programs require students to pass a criminal background check or fingerprint clearance.
Common Courses in a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education
Each program sets its own curriculum, so specific course titles and offerings vary. Below is a sampling of common courses you might take in an elementary education bachelor’s program.
Child and Adolescent Development
Courses on child and adolescent development prepare learners to implement evidence-based and research-driven classroom practices. Students survey learning and development theories spanning childhood through adolescence to support diverse learners. They also analyze leading perspectives on social, cognitive, linguistic and physical development.
Foundations in Elementary Education
A foundation in elementary education course overviews the historical, sociological and philosophical foundations of elementary education and the practical application of teaching and learning theories. Learners develop their personal philosophy of education for teaching and working with families. They may also examine instructional design, standards-based lesson planning and teaching strategies to support diverse learners.
Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
Courses on curriculum and assessment for elementary education overview research and philosophical bases for teaching and assessment practices. Learners examine instructional planning and curriculum design based on learning theories, curricular goals, educational requirements and student needs.
In a course on learning technologies, students survey instructional tools and software, learning to integrate educational technology into their teaching practices and lessons to Boost learning outcomes. Learners evaluate the ethical usage of various learning technologies and may discuss considerations such as appropriate use, access to technology and equity.
Bachelor’s in Elementary Education vs. Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education: What’s the Difference?
A bachelor’s in elementary education and a bachelor’s in early childhood education share overlapping objectives and both involve educating young children. However, these degree programs have notable distinctions and prepare learners for different teaching roles. The degrees target different age groups, teaching strategies and curricula.
A bachelor’s in elementary education prepares students to work with children between 5 and 11 years old, equipping them to teach various subjects including reading, writing, literature, mathematics, science and social studies. Typically, an elementary education bachelor’s program develops the instructional methods suitable for this age group, including structured learning environments, individual and group activities, and direct instruction.
Comparatively, a bachelor’s in early childhood education (ECE) prepares learners to teach and work with children from birth to around 8 years of age. The curriculum in an ECE program focuses on the foundational aspects of child development and play-based learning, equipping students to create developmentally appropriate and engaging activities that support children’s social, cognitive, emotional and physical growth.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education?
The below salary data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Elementary School Teacher
Median Annual Salary: $60,490
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in education, elementary education or a related field
Job Overview: Depending on the schooling system, elementary school teachers instruct children between kindergarten and fifth or sixth grade. These educators prepare and deliver lessons in subjects such as reading, writing, math, science and social studies. They also evaluate students’ abilities, strengths and weaknesses.
Elementary teachers must grade students’ work and maintain a safe and supportive learning environment, providing individualized support to help students overcome learning challenges.
Special Education Teacher
Median Annual Salary: $62,390
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Overview: Special education teachers work with students with developmental, learning and physical disabilities. These educators collaborate with parents, caregivers and other professionals to provide comprehensive support and create individualized education plans to address each student’s unique learning needs. Special education teachers use various teaching methods and instructional materials to accommodate their students.
Median Annual Salary: $28,520
Minimum Required Education: High school diploma or equivalent
Job Overview: Childcare workers supervise children in various settings, including daycare centers, after-school programs, preschools and private homes. These professionals provide basic care, including feeding and diapering, to meet children’s needs. They also plan and implement activities to promote cognitive, social and intellectual development.
Childcare workers document children’s progress, behavior and developmental milestones, relaying updates to parents and families.
Training and Development Specialist
Median Annual Salary: $63,080
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Overview: Training and development certified in education create and implement professional development programs for educators, administrators and staff members in educational institutions. These professionals identify training needs, deliver workshops, provide coaching, and develop curricula to Boost the quality of education and the effectiveness of teaching and administrative practices.
Median Annual Salary: $60,490
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in elementary education or a related field
Job Overview: Kindergarten teachers typically teach students between the ages of 5 and 6 during their first year of formal schooling. These professionals create engaging and interactive lessons in fundamental subjects such as reading, math and science. Kindergarten teachers foster creativity with play-based activities and help their students develop skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About a Bachelor's in Elementary Education
Is a bachelor's in elementary education worth it?
A bachelor’s in elementary education is worth it, depending on your career goals. Elementary school teachers need a bachelor’s degree to fulfill teaching certification and licensing requirements. This degree program builds a comprehensive understanding of teaching methodologies, classroom management, curriculum development and assessment methods. Elementary education majors gain hands-on experience through clinical hours and practicums.
What degree is best for an elementary school teacher?
Earning a degree in elementary education from an accredited program equips learners with a solid foundation in the theoretical background, teaching methodologies, curriculum design and planning, child development, assessment practices and subject-specific knowledge required to teach students in primary school.
What is the difference between BA and a BS in elementary education?
Typically, a BA in elementary education incorporates more humanities and social sciences coursework. A BS in elementary education requires students to complete more rigorous mathematics and science coursework. In most cases, either degree can meet state requirements for teaching certification or licensure.