Master’s in Elementary Education Program Guide

October 28, 2020

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for kindergarten and elementary school teachers is $56,900, and positions in the field are projected to grow 7% by 2026. These statistics are hard evidence that an elementary education master's can lead to solid career options, particularly since related professions also show encouraging growth. For example, employment options for special education workers should grow by 8% before 2026. Thus, based on current pay rates and future opportunities, an elementary education master's degree holds significant promise.

One interesting reason to pursue a master's in elementary education relates to technology: Teachers today can educate students through virtual means through organizations like the Keystone School, an option that expands career paths for educators. Furthermore, education majors and graduates may qualify for financial assistance with tuition and loan payments. Specifically, students may apply for Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants to help with tuition, and graduates can enroll in the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. These benefits, given the student loan crisis, offer advantages other disciplines lack.

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Should I Get a Master's in Elementary Education?

Since any career in this field requires interaction with young people, candidates for an elementary education master's should love working with children. Elementary school teachers spend hours in classrooms with children. Beyond these face-to-face interactions, teachers must spend additional time building lesson plans, grading assignments, and preparing classrooms.

Coursework for these degrees helps students develop skills relevant to educational professions and jobs outside of the classroom. For example, coursework in curriculum development is common for students completing their master's degree in elementary education. Such classes prepare future teachers to develop lesson plans, a skill they might also need if they find employment as educational consultants. Classes for an elementary education master's degree also prepare candidates to communicate in ways that promote productive, cooperative environments, with a focus on problem-solving tactics that encourage good behavior. Such skills would be a welcome addition to many other career paths.

Many elementary education master's programs require student teaching or practicum experience, which provides networking opportunities to students. Through these course requirements, candidates build professional relationships that may lead to recommendation letters or job offers from the schools or organizations where fieldwork was completed.

Online programs provide flexibility for individuals with family and professional commitments. However, on-campus programs may supply stronger networking possibilities from personal interactions with faculty and fellow students.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Elementary Education?

An elementary education master's may lead to licenses that allow graduates to teach elementary children; however, graduates may find employment in settings outside the classroom. For instance, daycares may hire candidates with a master's since this degree demonstrates the ability to work with young children and provides evidence of the graduate's abilities to manage a classroom.

Other occupations may include jobs with curriculum developers or consulting organizations that work with children, and graduates might even start their own after-school facilities for young children. Thus, a master's in elementary education prepares students for in-class employment, classroom-related occupations, and self-employment options.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Since elementary students often learn several subjects in one classroom, teachers should maintain a working knowledge of multiple fields. These educators should also have patience and strong communication skills, and should be skilled lesson planners who are able to adapt lessons as needed.

Median Annual Salary: $56,900*

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators advise schools about textbook selection and convey teaching strategies to faculty through workshops, trainings, and conferences. These employees may also examine student assessments and survey classrooms to determine the effectiveness of the current curriculum.

Median Annual Salary: $63,750*

Training and Development Managers

Training and development managers observe employees to determine the effectiveness of an organization's current operations. Should a particular strategy be unsuccessful, these employees provide alternatives to streamline efficiency. These tactics may include budget alterations, but commonly involve choosing appropriate training methods and assessing the success of those methods.

Median Annual Salary: $108,250*

Postsecondary Teachers

While many positions require applicants to hold a doctorate, some institutions only require a master's degree. These teachers build lesson plans, grade assignments, and offer assistance to students regarding class selections and student teaching opportunities.

Median Annual Salary: $76,000*

Childcare Workers

Childcare facilities may divide attendants into classrooms. The similarities between childcare settings and elementary schools indicate that elementary education students learn child development and classroom management concepts that can help with childcare positions. Childcare workers create daily schedules to help children learn and grow, and may assist older children with problems related to homework.

Median Annual Salary: $22,290*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Choose a Master's in Elementary Education Program

Considerations when choosing a college include curriculum and specialization details. For an elementary education master's, for instance, one school may offer a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concentration, while another delivers a literacy-grounded curriculum. A candidate more interested in teaching children to read may choose the literacy track.

A student's location and scheduling needs may determine whether they choose a program that requires a practicum, internship, final project, or thesis. A student who works full time, for example, may decide that writing a thesis requires too much time and instead choose a program with a final project. Teaching shortage areas might also sway school choice, since living in these locations increases the chances of securing a job post-graduation.

Students who want to finish their degrees quickly can choose accelerated programs. Degree candidates who need more time to graduate should avoid accelerated options and cohort programs where students progress through coursework as a group. Students may enroll part or full time as their schedules permit, though departments may charge part-time students higher tuition.

Degree candidates must also decide between online and on-campus programs. Students with work and family responsibilities can choose online programs for flexibility, though on-campus students may make develop stronger networks from the face-to-face interactions.

Programmatic Accreditation for Master's in Elementary Education Programs

Accreditation means a school holds the approval of an agency with the authority to review academic institutions, a detail which matters for two reasons: First, many forms of financial aid are restricted to students attending accredited schools; second, future employers may not accept degrees from unaccredited schools.

Schools may be regionally or nationally accredited. While students may assume national accreditation holds more value, regional accreditation is actually more prestigious, and it allows credits to transfer more easily between institutions. Programmatic accreditation, which comes from career-specific agencies, shows that an individual program has been reviewed and earned agency approval.

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation accredits educational programs, so students may look for this label when considering an elementary education master's program. Other agencies for education programmatic accreditation include the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

Master's in Elementary Education Program Admissions

Because of application fees, applying to too many colleges can be a financial burden for prospective students. On the other hand, if you don't apply to enough schools, you may not get in. For this reason, candidates should apply to institutions from three categories. First, apply to schools where the admission standards pair well with your accomplishments. Second, apply to "safety schools" that meet your needs but that may maintain lower admission requirements. Third, apply to some "reach schools" you dream of attending, but that may have more stringent admission requirements. Drawing from each category during application season will help you get into a quality school.

Students should make sure institutions offer their desired programs. Other school considerations include cost, student-to-faculty ratio, and location. Students must also choose between online and on-campus programs, which sometimes have different admission requirements. Some school websites, for instance, supply different application links for distance learners, and the admission experience for online students may prove more interactive than on-campus admission.


This requirement supplies proof that candidates have experience with higher education. For this particular master's, students may need a bachelor's in elementary education to verify foundational knowledge of the the field. Certain schools require applicants to hold a current teaching license. Licensure demonstrates a student's familiarity with the field academically and professionally. GPA standards demonstrate a school's commitment to strong academic performance. For a master's in elementary education, institutions commonly require a 3.0, though departments may indicate that this standard applies only to a candidate's most recent or major-specific coursework, rather than all prior classes.

Admission Materials

This form provides an overview of information for schools to consider and may take less than an hour to complete. Depending on admission materials, however, the application process may take several weeks. Transcripts are institutionally-verified evidence of educational accomplishments. For each application, students should request a copy of their transcripts from all previous schools. While some universities may provide transcripts for free, many institutions charge a fee. These letters, testaments to the applicant's work ethic and academic rigor, typically come from professors or administrators. Degree-seekers should supply the number of letters that application materials mandate and give letter writers at least two weeks to complete the task. Common tests for master's admission include the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Miller Analogies Test (MAT). With these assessments, schools can compare candidates to determine their potential. Often, schools list no required score, but usually require test scores from the last five years. Application fees act as compensation for colleges and universities to sort through the thousands of applications received every year. Some schools may not charge a fee, and students often pay less than $100 per application.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

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

What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Elementary Education Program?

Students entering elementary education master's programs can explore different concentrations. These focuses lead to a curriculum that prepares candidates for specific careers. Given the diversity of options, students should browse emphasis areas to find the perfect choice for their career.

Concentrations Offered for a Master's Degree in Elementary Education
Concentration Description Careers
Curriculum and Instruction Curriculum and instruction play a role in all teaching positions, and this focus provides an in-depth exploration of the topics. These programs explore new theories and technologies that improve learning in classrooms. With this information, teachers can create engaging and effective lessons for young students. Students with this focus can work as teachers, childcare workers, and instructional coordinators.
Special Education Special education teachers must understand different learning disorders in order to assist children with various needs. The curriculum for special education programs can include diagnostic information to recognize students with special needs, strategies for teaching students with different needs, and methods for discussing children's situations with families. Graduates may become special education teachers or consultants for special education providers.
Educational Leadership This concentration prepares students for leadership positions by exploring topics like legal concerns, community involvement, and management. Students also learn how to best supervise other workers, ideas applicable to careers as principals and administrators. Candidates can become teachers, administrators, and principals. However, students may need additional certifications or licenses for higher positions.
STEM Education STEM education candidates can expect coursework grounded in analytical fields. Graduates from this track develop teaching strategies that engage and interest children for better student involvement. Graduates may become teachers in STEM fields.
Gifted and Talented These programs include many general concepts of education with a specific focus on curriculum designed for gifted children. Students in this concentration prepare to teach gifted and talented students in classrooms. Graduates may also provide after-school programs for advanced learners.

Courses in a Master's in Elementary Education Program

The curriculum for an elementary education master's degree varies based on school and concentration. For example, coursework for educational leadership may involve more ideas to build leadership skills than a program tailored to STEM education. Students should consult program catalogs to ensure their chosen program confers a degree that fits their academic and professional interests. Regardless of concentration, there are general topics that arise in any elementary education master's program.

Curriculum Development

These classes cover current theories and research in curriculum development. Departments may also cover legal concerns in education for these courses. This class prepares students for positions as teachers and instructional coordinators.

Educational Research

This course trains students in research methods, how to analyze sources, and how to present findings. Skills developed in this class prepare candidates for positions as training and development managers who observe current company structures and research better options.

Foundations of Literacy

This course covers teaching strategies and developmental periods for children in order to prepare candidates to teach elementary students to read. Students encounter topics like phonics and curriculum development, skills they may use as elementary school reading teachers or reading tutors at after-school programs.

Student Teaching

Many education programs require a student teaching component where candidates gain field experience. For a master's in elementary education, this experience often comes from local elementary schools under the supervision of current teachers. Through these courses, students prepare for positions as teachers and childcare workers.

Philosophy of Teaching

These courses may examine the meaning of education, explanations of classroom and school policies, and ethical dilemmas. Students explore the history of education, studying noted philosophers and pedagogical philosophies, and use these concepts to analyze current educational matters. Philosophy of teaching courses provide groundwork that students can use in careers as administrators, principals, or teachers.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Elementary Education?

Master's degrees typically require 30-36 credits to complete, and students usually take 15-18 credits each year to graduate in two years. However, some early education master's programs require more than 40 credits. For these programs, degree candidates must enroll in over 20 credits per year or spend more than two years in school.

The number of courses students must take per semester also varies based on the number of offered semesters during the school year. While more traditional schools deliver fall, spring, and summer courses, online programs sometimes offer five or more enrollment sessions during the year. With these additional semesters, students can take fewer courses at a time or enroll in the same number of credits every semester to graduate more quickly.

Students can also take extra classes every semester, though schools may charge additional tuition for course overloads. Students who need additional time to finish a degree may enroll in fewer courses per semester, but this part-time status may lead to higher tuition and fewer financial aid options.

How Much Is a Master's in Elementary Education?

Tuition rates vary by institution. To gauge tuition costs, though, students can rely on certain guidelines. For instance, students often pay higher tuition at private institutions than students at public schools, and resident students may experience cheaper rates than nonresidents. While there are exceptions to these rules, in general, in-state students at public colleges and universities can expect lower tuition.

For a master's in elementary education, schools charge tuition per hour or period. Per-hour costs range from $394 to $535. Three-credit courses at these rates cost between $1,182 and $1,605. Tuition per period includes all courses taken within a designated time. For instance, students may pay more than $8,000 for a six-month period or $16,040 per year while earning a master's degree in elementary education.

Additional costs include fees for technology, housing, and health, as well as commuting expenses like parking permits and gasoline. Students must also consider textbook costs. Given that students enroll in multiple classes per semester, and some classes may require more than one book, textbooks could easily cost more than $500 per semester. Students should evaluate their financial aid options to assist with these expenses.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Elementary Education Prepares For

Teaching License

Many education programs lead to a teaching license, but students may need to do more than complete program coursework to earn that license. For instance, states may require candidates to complete Praxis tests while they pursue licensure. Student can check with their schools to see what additional steps they must take to become a licensed teacher.

English as a Second Language (ESL) Certification

This certification demonstrates educators can teach students who are not native English speakers. Given how culturally diverse schools can be, this accomplishment makes a candidate more qualified for the modern classroom. Additionally, online teaching options are available specifically for teaching ESL. Steps to earn this license may vary by state.

Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential

Workers at elementary schools and daycare facilities who earn the CDA credential verify their abilities to tend to children of various ages, depending on work setting. To qualify, candidates must complete 120 training hours and 480 fieldwork hours; candidates must also take the CDA exam.

Music Teachers National Association Certification

This certification is for those who teach music in public settings and private training sessions. The teacher profile process of this certification includes an application, fee, and successful completion of five projects.

Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) Credential

This credential applies specifically to health educators and demonstrates evidence of field knowledge. To gain the CHES credential, applicants submit transcripts, and if the exam coordinator decides that 25 credits on those transcripts relate to the commission's standards, the candidate can take CHES examination. The commission also offers a master's-level version of this credential.

Resources for Elementary Education Graduate Students


This resource provides information for teaching licensure for all states and Washington D.C. Students who want to teach can compare program requirements and personal accomplishments to these guidelines to determine what further steps they must complete to obtain licensure.

K5 Learning

This site includes a blog with tips for teaching elementary concepts. Students can use this information for lesson planning and other curriculum-related assignments. Additional curriculum assistance from the site includes printable worksheets and flashcards.

National Geographic Teaching Resources

This site also provides information that can help with curriculum-related assignments. Specifically, students can find ideas for activities and lesson plans, and the company's blog offers insights about National Geographic program itineraries.

Teacher Vision

Through this site, students can browse lesson plans or discover strategies for managing poor classroom behavior and interacting with parents.

Teaching History

Students interested in teaching history can use this resource to find valuable teaching materials. Tips offered include how to make academic information understandable to classrooms and how to employ maps for classroom exploration.

Professional Organizations in Elementary Education

Teachers benefit from their involvement with professional organizations. Many groups host events and gatherings for members. By attending these gatherings, teachers can stay up to date about educational topics, policies, and legislation, while building their professional network. Additionally, teachers often need to complete continuing education hours to maintain their licenses, and these organizations can provide opportunities to fulfill that requirement. Other advantages include access to career assistance through online tips and job listings.

National Association for the Education of Young Children

This source of accreditation allows members to participate in a public policy forum and furnishes access to periodicals and books with useful information for educators, including Teaching Young Children. The group also holds a yearly conference.

National Association for Child Development

This organization provides valuable information for students interested in teaching special needs children. Specifically, the group publishes journal articles and posts workshops and seminars on topics like autism and Down syndrome. Other benefits from the association include programs for speech development.


Scholastic provides book fairs and brochures to elementary schools, and maintains a blog that offers educators tips for encouraging children to read. Teachers can browse books by grade level and sign up for a newsletter that delivers grade-appropriate guidance. The company's Teacher's Tool Kit also presents information on literacy and possible classroom projects.

K-12 Internet Resource Center

This site links viewers to resources for specific academic fields, like literature and chemistry, and provides insights on new technology in classrooms. Additionally, educators can find information on lesson plans and Common Core.

National Education Association

This association keeps viewers updated on current legislation and policy for education, and provides tips for lesson plans and classroom structure. The group also provides information to teachers about funding opportunities, seminars, and the group's Read Across America program.

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