Types of Elementary Certification Programs

Demand for high-quality, talented elementary teachers has never been greater. Specialized teachers in particular are seeing a hiring boom in many states. Though certification procedures vary from state to state, here are some of the programs that are generally seeing the greatest hiring pushes:

  • General Elementary Teacher

    In most states, a general elementary teaching certificate allows new teachers to instruct students from kindergarten through sixth grade. As the name implies, general elementary teachers must be skilled enough to instruct a variety of content areas, including math, social studies, reading, and composition. Those wishing to teach general elementary classes will be required to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree, as well as a state license. Common coursework in elementary teaching programs includes teaching elementary math and classroom management.

  • Special Education

    Elementary special educators work with students with behavioral, emotional, physical, or mental disabilities. The field is growing across the country. However, it isn’t for everybody; this area requires a teacher who can deal with the intricacies of instructing students with a wide variety of disabilities.

    Like general education teachers, special education instructors are required to obtain a bachelor’s degree in their subject area. Many choose to get certified in one particular type of disability (like autism) to help focus their careers. In addition, a Master’s Degree in Special Education is highly preferred, and in some cases required, for teachers looking to teach in self-contained classrooms where they are the head or supervising teacher.

  • Elementary Paraprofessionals

    Paraprofessionals, also known as teacher aides or assistants, work side-by-side with teachers, taking on duties like grading papers, monitoring behavior, and reaching out to parents. Those looking to begin a career in elementary education before they obtain their teaching licenses can find this to be an appealing choice.

    The requirements for paraprofessionals vary by state. Some require no more than a high school diploma or G.E.D. plus a certification. Others require an Associate’s degree or even a Bachelor’s. Interested educators should check with their states, localities, and schools to learn specific requirements.

  • Early Childhood Education

    Early childhood teachers focus on the youngest students, from Pre-Kindergarten through around age 8. There are a wide variety of applications as well, such as hosting Head Start programming in community centers, working with preschoolers in daycare, and, of course, teaching Pre-K through grades 2 or 3.

    The amount of certification needed can vary vastly from one position to the next. For those looking to become assistant teachers in a daycare, most states only require a high school diploma and a certain number of hours in early elementary education, which can easily be obtained from local community colleges. Those looking to head a class usually need a Bachelor’s degree and state certification. Finally, Master’s degrees are required for teachers looking to specialize in special education for early learners.

  • Gifted Education

    Gifted elementary teachers work with elementary students to increase the level and quality of their homework, diversify their education, and to offer additional during and after-school opportunities that a general education classroom may not offer. These instructors typically must receive their initial certification in general elementary education. From there, they can go on to receive their Master’s in gifted education or pursue professional development that would further certify them to teach in a gifted education program.

  • Special Subject Education (Music, Physical Education, Art)

    Becoming an education specialist in either music, physical education (P.E.), or art can be a rewarding path for talented individuals looking to teach their craft to the next generation of learners.  A Bachelor’s degree in Art or Music from most universities typically includes the option to become certified to teach. Many states allow these teachers to receive certification to teach K-12 instead of the elementary K-6, allowing them to widen their ability to teach all age levels. P.E. teachers, on the other hand, will most likely graduate with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. Master’s degree programs are available and highly recommended, particularly for those looking to head art or special programs in larger schools or districts.

  • Reading or Math Specialist

    The elementary reading and math specialist position is relatively new. Like special subject teachers, this certification allows instructors to specialize in a single subject area. These educators may provide additional assistance in instructing math or reading subjects, including assisting struggling students, planning curricula, assisting in test preparation, and developing programming for other teachers.

    Reading and math specialists almost always require a traditional elementary education bachelor’s degree. Many states offer certificate programs or additional education that allow general education teachers to become specialists. However, more often than not, states require these teachers to have Master’s degrees, which allow them to take on administrative or department head positions.

  • Elementary English as a Second Language

    With the population of non-English language speakers in school districts booming, the need for certified elementary english as a second language (ESL) instructors has never been greater. An ESL teacher may work in his or her own classroom with a variety of age groups and level of speakers, or s/he may work side-by-side with general education teachers.

    There are many Bachelor’s degree programs specifically tailored towards potential ESL teachers. However, many states additionally require teachers to have their general elementary certificates and teaching degrees before they can become certified to teach ESL programs.

Choosing the Right Path

Becoming an elementary education professional is a uniquely rewarding and challenging field to enter.  With many states and schools looking for specialists in certain fields, it is easier than ever to adapt a talent or passion into a classroom career.

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