How to Become an Elementary School Teacher in 2022

Brandi Glass
November 17, 20225 min read
Teacher with students around desk

There are few jobs more rewarding or varied than that of an elementary school teacher. You’ll help children discover how the world works, learn social skills and develop their confidence and creativity. Every day will bring new challenges and new opportunities to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

If you’re contemplating training as a teacher, keep reading. We’ll break down how to become an elementary school teacher along with the skills you’ll need, so you can start the career you’ve been dreaming of.

How to Become an Elementary School Teacher

The path to becoming an elementary school teacher is straightforward, although it will take a few years.

Study a Bachelor’s Degree

Substitute teachers may be able to work without a degree in certain states. However, full-time elementary school teachers in public schools typically need a degree in elementary education. Alternatively, depending on the state, you may be able to study a bachelor’s degree in any topic plus a teacher preparation program.

Make sure to check your state’s requirements in case you need to take specific modules. This is particularly important if you’re considering specializing, e.g. in working with ESL children or children with special needs.

Depending on the state, you may also be required to specialize in an academic subject, e.g. math or music.

Complete Your Internship

Your internship will probably form part of your college degree. As a teacher intern, you’ll work in an elementary school supporting a qualified teacher. You’ll gain valuable hands-on experience of classroom management and lesson planning, as well as an insight into what the day-to-day life of an elementary school teacher is really like.

Take Your State Licensing Exam

Every state has slightly different requirements, but most require you to take a PRAXIS test in order to earn your teaching license. The PRAXIS test covers teaching skills as well as basic knowledge of elementary school subjects such as English, biology and art.

Make sure to double-check your state’s requirements so you know exactly what to sign up for, as well as what to review ahead of the test. Bear in mind that some states also offer provisional and complete state licenses.

You will also need to periodically renew your state license, so confirm how often you need to do that.

Apply for Elementary School Teacher Roles

Once you’ve got your state teaching license, you’re ready to start applying for open positions. If you want to work in a private or charter school, you can probably apply directly to the school itself.

If, however, you want to work in a public elementary school, you will likely need to apply to the local department of education. For example, in New York City, elementary school teachers need to apply online via the New York City Department of Education portal. Only once they’ve been accepted there can they begin applying for roles at specific elementary schools.

What Skills Do Elementary Teachers Need?

Elementary school principals and state education departments alike will expect elementary school teachers to possess certain key skills. You’ll be tested on many of these as part of your state license exam and your bachelor’s degree. However, you should also be ready to demonstrate all these skills during your application and interview, as well as on your resume.

These include:

Knowledge of the curriculum Lesson planning Classroom management Communication skills People skills Decision-making skills Critical thinking skills Time management

You should also be able to handle situations such as:

Diverse students, including students with disabilities, neurodiverse students and students with English as an additional language Student illness Student safeguarding and confidentiality Student poverty Bullying Concerned parents

What Schools Can Elementary Teachers Work In?

As an elementary school teacher, there are many types of schools you can work in. Some have more lenient requirements than others. Here are the main types:

Public Elementary Schools

Working in state elementary schools, you’ll be subject to the most stringent requirements in terms of licensing and certifications. Salaries and benefits are also typically higher in public schools compared to private ones.

Private Elementary Schools

Private elementary schools can choose to hire teachers without state licensing or even without a degree, although you may find many still require it. Although pay tends to be lower on average in these schools, the classroom conditions may be better.

Charter Schools

While private schools are run and funded by private organizations, charter schools are funded by the state but run independently. From an organizational perspective, think of them as a mid-point between private and public schools. Teachers typically have more autonomy than in public schools and are paid slightly better than in private schools.

Depending on the school and the state, you might not need a teaching license to work in a charter school.

Online Elementary Schools

Now that schools have returned to in-person education, online schools are typically private organizations. They may target children with specialized needs or who live in extremely rural locations. Just like in regular private elementary schools, the organization will decide what qualifications and licenses they want their teachers to have.

Other Options

In addition to teaching in schools, qualified elementary school teachers can apply for a variety of alternative roles. These include writing and reviewing textbooks, private tutoring and working as an educational consultant for everything from policymakers to educational technology firms. In most cases, however, you’ll need several years of experience in the classroom before you can work in these fields.

Finetune Your Elementary School Teacher Resume for Better Job Offers

A well-crafted resume will help you impress employers and attract more job offers. As you apply for your first-ever teaching role, it’s particularly important that your resume draws attention to your skill sets.

Your resume needs to be machine-readable, professionally presented and customized to the school in question. It should also highlight what sets you apart from other newly qualified elementary school teachers, whether that’s an interest in working with neurodivergent children or exceptionally creative lesson plans.

Here at Rocket Resume, we have an extensive range of elementary school teacher resume templates that you can use as a starting point. Each one has a professional layout, is machine-readable and can be adapted to your background in minutes.

Our easy-to-use resume builder can also support you in customizing your resume. It will suggest the best structure based on your professional experience, along with recruiter-approved phrasing for key elementary school teacher skills.

Build your resume now and take the first step toward becoming an elementary school teacher.