Best Online Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education Programs

We've ranked the top online certificate in elementary education programs. Compare schools by cost and convenience. Earn your graduate certificate online.

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Published on March 31, 2022 · Updated on April 25, 2022

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An online graduate certificate in elementary education helps bachelor's degree-holders enter a rewarding and in-demand field. Between 2020 and 2030, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 7% job growth for elementary school teachers, which translates to 111,500 new positions nationwide. The BLS also reports that as of May 2020, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $60,660.

Many graduate certificate in elementary education programs require 12-21 credits and take 1-2 years to complete. While costs vary widely, you should expect to pay $5,000-$8,000 in total, or $400-$600 per credit, for your certificate.

Some of the top online schools offer these programs. Read on to learn more about coursework, admission requirements, and career paths.

What Is an Online Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education Program?

While the terms appear similar, a certificate program is a short-term course of study offered at a university, while a professional certification is a credential awarded by a third-party organization. Some online graduate certificate in elementary education programs help students with bachelor's degrees in non-education fields earn teaching licenses. Other programs help licensed teachers improve their employment, growth, and financial prospects.

A certificate is an excellent alternative to a master's degree, teaching similar skills and knowledge while generally requiring less time and money. A graduate certificate in elementary education often provides a quicker, less expensive pathway to teaching licensure than a master's degree.

What Can I Expect From an Online Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education Program?

The students that excel in online graduate certificate in elementary education programs are certain they want to dedicate their careers to teaching. The main purpose of these programs is to provide a quick path to teaching licensure, so students should feel reasonably certain that they want to teach before making the investment.

The most effective teachers are often patient, empathetic, and strong communicators. However, students can develop the skills they need to excel as educators over the course of their graduate certificate programs.

Most graduate certificate in elementary education programs take 1-2 years to complete and require 12-21 credits. Since some students are practicing teachers or working professionals in another field, many programs offer part-time enrollment and asynchronous coursework.

Most programs require core coursework in areas like classroom management, differentiated instruction, educational technology, and data-driven assessment. Furthermore, since most states require student teaching hours for teaching licensure, most graduate education programs require students to complete this experience in local schools under the supervision of a licensed teacher.

Many programs do not include concentrations, as elementary education is already a specialized field that prepares graduates to teach a specific age group.

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Popular Online Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education Program?

Introduction to Elementary Education

Most graduate certificate in elementary education programs begin with a survey course. This course may delve into history, pedagogical theory, and current research in the field.

Education in a Diverse Society

Elementary school teachers must serve students who come from different cultural, social, economic, and linguistic backgrounds. This course teaches future educators the best methods for serving the varying needs of a diverse classroom.

Educational Programs for Young Children

In this course, students delve into various programming models and theories for elementary and early childhood education. Learners also examine current research in the field.

Observation and Assessment in Elementary Education

In this course, students discuss different assessments that can help them create culturally responsive curricula, better serve students with varying needs, and employ best teaching practices in the classroom.

Internship/Practicum

Graduate certificate programs that lead to state licensure must include some type of student teaching experience in the field. Distance learners can often arrange to complete this requirement at a school in their local communities.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education Program?

Admission requirements are often the same for online and on-campus graduate certificate in elementary education programs. Many of these programs serve learners who hold a bachelor's degree in a non-education discipline; however, some programs cater to practicing teachers who want to improve their skills and potential for advancement.

Most programs require letters of recommendation, application essays, and official undergraduate transcripts. Some programs also require prospective students to submit GRE scores, although this requirement is less common for graduate certificates than master's degrees. In rare cases, some programs may require students to complete a phone or Zoom interview with a member of the admissions department.

Requirements can vary widely by school, so check each program's website for exact information.

What Can I Do With an Online Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education Degree?

Career Outlook

Education is a high-need, in-demand field across the nation. Since children always need to learn, and schools always need teachers, a graduate certificate in elementary education represents a strong investment for both the immediate future and the long haul. Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS projects 7% job growth for elementary school teachers and 10% job growth for all education, training, and library positions.

A graduate certificate costs less money and takes less time than a master's degree in elementary education. Over time, master's degree-holders who work in public schools earn more than certificate-holders, as most school districts use salary schedules that pay teachers with advanced degrees higher salaries. Nevertheless, If you don't want to take on significant debt, a certificate is a great alternative to a master's in teaching or education.

See where a graduate certificate in elementary education can take you. Learn more about education careers.

Career Paths

Kindergarten or Elementary School Teacher

These teachers plan lessons for students in grades K-5. They teach children foundational skills they can apply throughout the rest of their education. Public school teachers need a state-issued teaching license, but private school teachers do not.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $60,660

Preschool Teacher

Preschool teachers work with students who have not yet entered kindergarten. They can work in a variety of different settings, including private preschools, childcare centers, and Head Start centers. Preschool teachers who work in state-sponsored schools need teaching licenses.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $31,930

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators create and implement curricula for entire schools or school districts. Occasionally, they observe teachers in classrooms and provide feedback and mentorship. Many of these positions require a master's degree, but you may be able to qualify with a graduate certificate.

Median Annual Salary: $66,970

Preschool Director

These professionals manage staff, handle budgets, and create programming at preschools and childcare centers. A bachelor's degree and relevant experience are usually sufficient qualifications for these positions, but some employers may prefer candidates with the child development associate professional certification.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $49,160

Elementary School Principal

Principals supervise both day-to-day and big pictures operations at elementary schools. These positions often require state licensure, a master's degree, and significant classroom experience, so graduate certificate-holders need to complete additional education to qualify.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $98,490

Elementary Education Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Teaching Careers Special Education Careers Child Development Careers

Continuing Education

Most students who earn a graduate certificate in elementary education almost immediately pursue state teaching licensure, if they are not already licensed. To qualify, they must generally pass 1-2 PRAXIS tests and a criminal background check.

Some graduate certificate in elementary education programs allow students to apply earned credits toward a master's degree at the same school. A master's degree is often a worthwhile investment for public school teachers, as most district salary schedules pay master's degree-holders higher annual salaries.

How Do I Choose an Online Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education Program?

Cost

Costs vary by school and by program, but many online graduate certificates in elementary education cost $5,000-$8,000 annually, or approximately $400-$600 per credit. The true cost of each program also includes textbooks, transportation, and activity fees. Online students can avoid paying some of these additional costs.

Program Format

When choosing between programs, distance learners should determine whether they prefer synchronous or asynchronous learning. Synchronous learning provides structure through live, scheduled online courses, while asynchronous learning provides flexibility by eliminating scheduled sessions. Working professionals and practicing teachers may also prefer to enroll part time.

Location

Even if you take online courses to earn your certificate in elementary education, it can make sense to enroll at a nearby school. Many of these programs include student teaching or fieldwork requirements at elementary schools. It may be easier to arrange placements for these assignments at a nearby college, which may have relationships with local schools.

Accreditation

Accreditation is a third-party review process that evaluates the quality of a school's services and programs. You should only enroll at schools that are accredited. Otherwise, you cannot receive federal financial aid, and employers may not recognize your degree. For elementary education programs, you can also look for specialized programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Student Support

Student services can play a huge role in the quality of any program, especially for online learners. Before enrolling in a program, check to see if it offers services like advising, mentorship opportunities, alumni connections, networking, and internship placements.

Best Accredited Online Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education Programs

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Best Online Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education Programs

  1. Eastern New Mexico University
    Location

    Portales, NM

    Tuition

    $10918

    ENMU's graduate certificate in elementary education program can be completed online and offers students an alternative pathway to earn an initial K-8 teaching license. The 21-credit curriculum covers topics like content area literacy, teaching the multicultural heritage of the Southwest, and trends in science and mathematics education. Graduation requirements also include student teaching.

    The school's career services office provides certificate-seekers with access to Handshake software, cover letter tips, and resume workshops. Other helpful career exploration resources include personality assessments.

    Prospective students should possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and have completed certain prerequisite classes. Certificate-seekers who agree to teach in a school with low-income children can receive a federal TEACH Grant. Certificate credits can be applied towards a master's degree in elementary education or pedagogy and learning at ENMU.

  2. Ball State University
    Location

    Muncie, IN

    Tuition

    $13642

    Ball State's online graduate certificate in early childhood education helps licensed educators improve their career prospects and salary potential. The 15-credit program emphasizes topics like education in a diverse society, observation and assessment in early childhood, and mentoring early childhood professionals. All courses use an asynchronous curriculum.

    In recent years, 92-95% of Ball State graduates experienced a positive career outcome shortly after graduation. The university helps students find professional success by giving them access to tools like personality quizzes, an extensive career guide, and links to the best job websites.

    Before applying, prospective students who reside outside of Indiana should research the state's licensure reciprocity agreements. The program's admission requirements include a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA. In-state students save approximately 30% on tuition at this public institution.

  3. Granite State College
    Location

    Concord, NH

    Tuition

    $12426

    Students seeking an initial K-6 or K-8 teaching license may be interested in GSC's graduate certificate in elementary education program. Both licensure tracks require coursework in special education law, students with disabilities, and strategies for teaching science. Also, more than 90% of elementary education alumni pass the state's teacher licensure exam on the first try.

    Elementary education students can start a career search by accessing GSC's resume-writing software, job boards, and online workshops. Learners can also visit the school's career services website to review workplace values and different career paths.

    Application requirements include a bachelor's degree and passing the PRAXIS I PPST exam. The K-8 track also requires at least 12 undergraduate credits in one of four content areas. Certificate-seekers may qualify for the Early Childhood Tuition Assistance Grant.

Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Certificate in Elementary Education Programs

Is a graduate certificate in elementary education worth it? true

It depends. A graduate certificate in elementary education costs less and takes less time than a master's in education and can lead to the same outcome of teaching licensure. Nevertheless, master's degree-holders who work in public schools will ultimately earn higher salaries than certificate-holders with the same level of experience.

When deciding between a master's degree and a certificate, determine your threshold for debt, your short-term and long-term costs, and the return on investment.

What can you do with a graduate certificate in elementary education? true

Most graduates with certificates in elementary education become elementary school teachers. If they want to work in public schools, they must earn a state-issued teaching license before they can qualify for jobs. Generally, you should not earn a graduate certificate in elementary education unless you want to become an elementary school teacher.

Some practicing teachers earn graduate certificates in elementary education to improve their craft. A graduate certificate may also eventually help you earn a job as an instructional coordinator or principal, although these jobs often require a master's degree.

Is an elementary education graduate certificate program hard? true

It depends on the program. However, many schools design these certificate programs as part-time options to fit around the busy schedules of working professionals and practicing teachers. If you are interested in the subject and dedicate appropriate time to studying, you should be able to cope with the rigor of the coursework.

Before enrolling in any program, make sure to research the curriculum so that you have a good idea of what coursework to expect.

How long does it take to get a graduate certificate in elementary education?

Completion times vary, but most programs take 1-2 years from start to finish. Many students choose to enroll part time in these certificate programs so that they can continue to earn an income while working full time. For example, practicing elementary school teachers must enroll part time, since they must teach courses during the day.

Delivery methods can also affect completion times. Synchronous learning usually offers additional structure and more defined timelines, while asynchronous and self-paced learning can result in more varied completion times.

What's the highest paying job you can get with a graduate certificate in elementary education?

According to the BLS, kindergarten and elementary school teachers earned a median annual wage of $60,660 as of May 2020. The top 10% of earners in the field made a median annual salary of more than $100,480.

Keep in mind that salary potential for public school teachers depends heavily on location, years of experience, and level of education. Most school districts maintain a salary schedule that highlights the exact amount of money you will make based on these factors.

Image Source: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc, Getty Images

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