This career is expected to grow 15 to 16 percent—about as fast as average—from 2008 through 2018. This growth will create 345,400 new jobs in elementary and middle school teaching.
Projected enrollments will vary by region. Fast-growing states in the South and West will experience the largest enrollment increases. Enrollments in the Midwest are expected to hold relatively steady, while those in the Northeast are expected to decline.
Salary & Wages
In 2008, elementary and middle school teachers earned an average salary between $47,100 and $51,180. The highest 10 percent earned $75,190 to $80,970.
Teachers can boost their earnings by, among other things, coaching sports or extracurricular activities, getting a master’s degree or national certification, or teaching summer school.
What is an Elementary or Middle School Teacher?
Teachers use classroom presentations or individual instruction to help students learn and apply concepts in subjects such as science, mathematics or English. They plan, evaluate and assign lessons; prepare, administer and grade tests; listen to oral presentations; and maintain classroom discipline. Teachers observe and evaluate a student’s performance and potential and provide additional assistance in areas in which a student needs help.
Teachers also grade papers, prepare report cards, and meet with parents and school staff to discuss a student’s academic progress or personal problems.
Most elementary school teachers instruct one class of children in several subjects. Middle school teachers help students delve more deeply into subjects introduced in elementary school and expose them to more information about the world. Most middle school teachers specialize in a specific subject, such as English, Spanish, mathematics, history or biology.
Education & Degree Path
The traditional route to becoming a public school teacher involves completing a bachelor’s degree from a teacher education program and then obtaining a license. Make sure any online education degree you pursue has been designed and approved to meet the requirements set by your state.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia require public school teachers to be licensed. Those who teach in private schools may be exempt from licensing but earn lower salaries.
Requirements for regular licenses to teach kindergarten through grade 12 vary by state. However, all states require general education teachers to have a bachelor’s degree and to have completed an approved teacher training program with a prescribed number of subject and education credits, as well as supervised practice teaching. Research carefully your state’s additional requirements for licensure.
Entering the Field:
You can pursue the education and other requirements for licensing in your state, or you can pursue employment in a state with higher need for teachers. Many states with teacher shortages offer alternative licensure programs designed to ease teacher shortages.
In extreme circumstances, when schools cannot attract enough qualified teachers to fill positions, states may issue emergency licenses to individuals who do not meet the requirements for a regular license. Emergency licenses let those who hold bachelor’s degrees in areas other than education begin teaching immediately.
Alternative licensure programs designed to ease shortages of teachers of certain subjects, such as mathematics and science, are intended to attract people into teaching from other careers. Check your state’s teacher education licensing board for opportunities to enter teaching with a bachelor’s degree in an area other than education.
You can often begin teaching in private schools without meeting state licensing requirements, but the pay is generally lower and you may be required to obtain a state license after a trial period as a teacher.
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