Elementary education, also called primary education, represents the first stage of standard education in the United States, and consists of class levels ranging from kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), nearly 35.4 million students are enrolled at roughly 67,000 public elementary schools in the United States. Elementary education focuses on the fundamentals of core academic subjects, including English, social studies, mathematics, and science. Students also begin to learn about art, music, drama, and other forms of artistic expression.

College students pursuing a bachelor's in elementary education usually plan to become teachers. Others may pursue careers in educational administration, curriculum and instruction, or special education. Most bachelor's programs include student-teaching courses, which allow students to receive supervised training from experienced educators and hone their presentation skills in real-world classrooms. Online elementary education programs follow the same rigorous curriculum as their on-campus counterparts, including student-teaching requirements. The self-paced schedule of most online elementary education degrees works well for students with part-time jobs, childcare responsibilities, and other obligations that might interfere with classroom-based learning.

Learn more about what you can do with an online bachelor's degree in elementary education and what kind of career opportunities you can expect with this comprehensive guide.


Students who want to earn their early education degree online should make sure their prospective school has accreditation. Learners should specifically look for program accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Read more here..


Students who want to earn an early education degree online must first meet admission requirements. After gaining admission, learners must complete all curriculum requirements and maintain an acceptable GPA. For more specific information, students should contact their prospective institutions. Read more here..


Professionals who hold a bachelor's in elementary education are prepared to work as elementary teachers, special education teachers, and ESL teachers. Read more here..


A bachelor's in elementary education prepares graduates to teach grades K-6. These teachers focus on the fundamentals, such as reading, writing, math, and science. Read more here..


Students must first meet program application requirements. After gaining admission, learners must complete all curriculum requirements while maintaining an acceptable GPA. Students should check with their prospective programs for more precise information.


Online elementary education bachelor's programs provide a comprehensive field overview for aspiring teachers and administrators. Courses typically cover subjects including teaching foundations, learning technology, classroom management, behavioral science, and education laws and ethics. Classroom-based practicum courses allow students to apply the methods and techniques they learned in functional settings. The best online elementary education bachelor's programs also prepare students for their state's licensure requirements. Currently, public school teachers must earn full licensure or certification in all 50 states; specific requirements vary by state, but most include a licensing exam, a background check, and a set number of supervised classroom hours.


Online elementary education bachelor's programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar education. Students can access course lectures and readings, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with their professors from the comfort of their home computers. They can also study remotely using their laptop, tablet, or smartphone. For added convenience, online elementary education students can usually coordinate student-teaching courses at schools near their current residences.


Students who graduate with a bachelor's in elementary education and complete their state's licensure or certification requirements are qualified to teach in most public or private schools. Many online elementary education bachelor's programs allow students to earn specialized degrees in niche areas like special education or educational administration; these specializations may open up further job opportunities for graduates.

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1 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 51%

Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty is the largest Christian college in the world. With over 200 programs online, the schools offers one of the best online elementary education degrees available, and provides students with a variety of online support -- including 24/7 access to online tutors. The online elementary education degree program at Liberty is 120 hours, with an optional five-year licensure route. Liberty's elementary education degree online provides students with the skills and knowledge necessary for becoming successful elementary school educators, and curriculum is designed with an emphasis on Christian education. The elementary education bachelors degree online includes an optional 90-hour practicum to gain real-word experience. Online elementary education degrees prepare students for a rewarding career in the teaching field, and a degree from Liberty University yields highly knowledgeable and marketable educators.

2 Western Governors University Salt Lake City, UT Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 26%

Students will find one of the best online elementary education degree programs at Western Governors University, a private, fully online college in Salt Lake City, Utah. The primary mission of Western Governors University is to provide top quality online education that is easily accessible and affordable. The university was founded in 1995 by 19 U.S. governors who wanted to offer students an alternative route to traditional education programs. The elementary education bachelor's degree online from WGU prepares students to teach kindergarten through eighth grade and was developed by a panel of education experts across the country known as the Education Program Council. The elementary education degree online consists of both professional and core subject areas, such as teacher education foundations and introduction to humanities, respectively. Students are required to practice teaching and develop a professional portfolio that documents skills acquired through the online elementary education degree program.

3 Regis University Denver, CO Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 68%

Regis University is a Jesuit college in Denver, Colorado. Based in Roman Catholic tradition, the school's Jesuit education emphasizes culturally-sensitive leaders that value justice and community service. The elementary education degree online at Regis University reflects these values. The online BA in elementary education is 120 credit hours and includes state licensure for elementary education. The school also offers a BA in elementary education with dual licensure in elementary and special education, which is 132 credit hours. The online elementary education degree provides students with the skills necessary to link theory to practice while also ensuring a flexible learning environment designed to optimize student success. Regis University offers one of the best online elementary education degree programs and provides students the opportunity to interact with fellow learners globally. Like many online elementary education degrees, Regis's provides the core foundation for effective teaching, yet it takes the program a step further by instilling community-oriented Jesuit values in its students.

4 The Baptist College of Florida Graceville, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

The Baptist College of Florida is located in Graceville, Florida, and has a rich and diverse history. One of the first students to attend the university when it opened in 1943 was a Seminole Indian and descendant of Chief Osceola. The Christian university has expanded over the years to include the best online elementary education degree in the area. An elementary education bachelors degree online at BCF prepares students to teach kindergarten through sixth grade and emphasizes knowledge, skill development, and spiritual growth. The elementary education degree online is 127 hours and includes core education courses as well as biblical foundation courses. An online elementary education degree consists of individual and interactive assignments, including online discussion forums that allow for the diversity of ideas. Online elementary education degrees prepare students to become quality educators with a broad knowledge in classroom management and child psychology, literacy development, and curriculum planning.

5 Appalachian State University Boone, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

Located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian State University enrolls about 18,000 undergraduate and graduate students in on-campus, hybrid, and fully online programs. Appalachian's bachelor of science in elementary education is ideal for both pre-service and in-service teachers. Students earning the elementary education degree online complete 128 credit hours that combine coursework and field experience to prepare students to become effective teachers.

Elementary education students must earn a concentration in social studies. Students can complete the program on a full- or part-time basis. Applicants must have at least 30 transferable credit hours, but students must earn at least 73 credit hours through Appalachian. Most full-time students complete the program in two and a half years, and part-time students typically require three and a half years.

6 East Carolina University Greenville, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 61%

One of the best online elementary education degree programs can be found at ECU, located in Greenville, North Carolina. ECU offers a competitive elementary education degree online. The bachelor's degree prepares students to teach kindergarten through sixth grade and offers program concentrations such as reading or math. ECU's college of education provides technical support to students pursuing an online elementary degree, and the Instructional Technology Center guarantees a response within 24 hours. The school provides training to college educators to ensure that online students receive the best distance learning instruction available, and it strives to shape successful leaders with multicultural awareness and skills in innovation. More than 28,000 students attend ECU, and the student-to-teacher ratio is 18:1. With completely online coursework and an emphasis on student support, ECU provides one of the best online elementary education degrees available.

7 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 45%

One of the best online elementary education degree programs for assistant teachers can be found at the USM. The school was founded in 1910 and has since provided students with a quality education with an emphasis on innovative research and community involvement. Located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USM offers an elementary education bachelors degree online uniquely designed for assistant teachers. The Teacher Assistant Program allows assistant teachers to pursue their bachelor's degree in education while continuing to work in the classroom. The online elementary education degree prepares students to work in a kindergarten through fifth grade setting. To be a candidate for the elementary education degree online, students must have 44 hours of coursework completed prior to admittance. Assistant teachers who have earned their online elementary education degrees often go on to teach, but other career avenues are available as well, such as curriculum specialist and reading interventionist.

8 Fort Hays State University Hays, KS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 37%

FHSU is located in Hays, Kansas, and has a student population of roughly 14,000 with over 6,000 online students. Its highly competitive online elementary degree program prepares students to teach kindergarten through sixth grade. The university provides extensive support to eLearners including a brief survey to help students determine if distance learning is right for them. The online elementary education bachelor's degree at Fort Hays emphasizes the connection between theory and experience, and provides students with the knowledge necessary to utilize skills in education environments. An elementary education degree online fits within students' busy schedules and provides flexibility in learning that is not possible in traditional face-to-face settings. At FHSU, students will find one of the best online elementary education degree programs available. The program prepares students for licensure in Kansas, which can often be transferred to the student's state of residence.

9 LeTourneau University Longview, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

Located in Longview, Texas, LeTourneau is a private Christian college that offers one of the best online elementary education degrees available to distance learners, as well as East Texas residents whose schedules demand alternatives to traditional face-to-face education. LeTourneau's elementary education bachelors degree online prepares students to be educational generalists in either kindergarten through fourth grade or fourth through eighth grade. Students pursuing an online elementary education degree at LeTourneau will be well prepared to pursue teacher licensure, as 100% of LeTourneau graduates of the online elementary education degree program passed the state certification exam. LeTourneau's Christ-centered curriculum sets its program apart from other online elementary education degrees. The format of the elementary education degree online emphasises the importance of work and home balance when pursuing an education, and four global admissions counselors are available to assist students.

10 University of South Carolina-Columbia Columbia, SC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

Founded in 1801, UofSC is one of the largest public university systems in the state. In addition to on-campus programs, the university offers a growing number of online degrees, including a bachelor of arts in elementary education. The curriculum for the online elementary education degree emphasizes issues and trends in teaching, schools in communities, curriculum in elementary schools, and subject-specific instruction.

Applicants must have earned at least 45 hours with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Prospective students should contact an admissions representative to ensure their prerequisite courses will transfer. UofSC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

11 University of North Carolina Wilmington Wilmington, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 72%

Located in Wilmington on the eastern shores of North Carolina, UNCW offers one the best online elementary education degrees. UNCW's distance education program includes an online elementary education degree with an emphasis on teaching kindergarten through sixth grade. Students will gain skills in both core areas of study as well as specialized areas, including reading, math, and social studies. UNCW was ranked 6th Best Public University in the South by U.S. News and World Report. The school's elementary education degree online embodies its values, and students are provided with an education that promotes excellence and integrity. The elementary education bachelors degree online is formatted to meet the needs of distance learners. The flexibility of online elementary education degrees allows students to excel while juggling busy schedules. UNCW's Office of e-Learning assists students in all their technological needs.

12 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

Based in Flagstaff, NAU enrolls more 30,000 students. The university's online programs allow distance learners to complete coursework at their convenience. The bachelor of science in elementary education program leads to teacher certification in the state of Arizona and provides students with the skills and foundational knowledge required to be successful teachers in K–8 classrooms.

Students gain hands-on experience during a 135-hour practicum. Students earning NAU's early elementary education degree online complete at least 120 units, including 66 units of major courses and 12 units of concentration coursework. Students work with a departmental academic advisor to customize a program that meets their academic goals.

13 University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls, IA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 65%

UNI students can earn an elementary education bachelor’s degree online. The program is ideal for students with personal and professional commitments. Students complete the first two years of coursework at Des Moines Area Community College before transferring to UNI. The elementary education program is primarily online, but the program does require some on-campus instruction.

Students complete UNI's elementary education program with a cohort of peers. Courses cover subjects including methods of teaching early literacy, educational technology and design, middle-level instruction, and classroom management. Full-time students who enroll in summer semesters can earn the degree in two and a half years. UNI is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

14 University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 50%

UIS enrolls more than 2,000 undergraduate students. The university's small class sizes create opportunities for individualized instruction. As one of the most respected online colleges for elementary education, UIS offers a primarily online bachelor of arts in elementary education. With the exception of a few mandatory weekend campus conferences throughout the program, students complete coursework off campus, at their convenience.

The program includes coursework in child development, educational psychology, technology for teaching, and managing diverse classrooms. Applicants must have at least 30 documented hours of service learning with school-aged children in an educational setting. Applicants must complete health and safety training and reporter training through the Department of Child and Family Services.

15 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 63%

Based in Manhattan, K-State offers an elementary education online degree that prepares pre-service teachers to become effective educators and caring decision-makers. The fully online bachelor of science in elementary education covers topics including arts for elementary schools, core teaching skills, dual language methods, teaching literacy, and literature for children. Graduates are eligible for K–6 teaching licensure and may be certified to teach English as a second language.

Applicants must have earned at least 44 college credits with a 2.0 GPA. Concentration options include English as a second language and social science. Students must complete at least 81 or the 125 required credits through K-State.

16 Mississippi State University Mississippi State, MS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 60%

A public university based in Starkville, MSU offers flexible online programs. Of the more than 21,000 students enrolled at MSU, more than 3,000 are earning education degrees. MSU students can earn an elementary teaching degree online, taking courses remotely and completing field experience hours in their hometown.

MSU's online bachelor of science in elementary education has the same requirements as the on-campus program. Students complete teaching internships in local classrooms during their junior and senior years. The curriculum includes coursework in teaching areas such as English, mathematics, and social and natural sciences. The program requires at least 123 credit hours.

17 Hobe Sound Bible College Hobe Sound, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 61%

Just north of West Palm Beach, HSBC is located in Hobe Sound, Florida. The school's educational philosophy is Bible-centered, holistic, and service-oriented. The online elementary education degree offered by Hobe Sound is a flexible program that promotes learner independence while simultaneously facilitating discussion forums where diverse approaches to problem solving and group support can flourish. The elementary education bachelor's degree online is 129 credit hours and is divided into biblical education, general education, professional education, and elementary education. Hobe Sound Bible College emphasizes the necessity of self-discovery for effective ministry, and the online elementary education degree promotes self-reflection and faith exploration within the context of a virtual learning environment.

18 New Mexico State University-Main Campus Las Cruces, NM Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 45%

NMSU enrolls more than 15,000 students at its Las Cruces campus and online. The university offers a fully accredited online elementary education program that equips students to teach in public and private educational settings. The bachelor of science in elementary education program prepares students to obtain licensure and certification in New Mexico. The curriculum provides students with skills in areas such as early childhood education, bilingual education, special education, and secondary education.

Students complete 132 credit hours, including 48 upper-division hours. Applicants to the teacher education program must have completed general education coursework; the program comprises courses at the 300 level and above. Applicants must submit a portfolio of completed college work. NMSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

19 Wilmington University New Castle, DE Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 33%

WilmU enrolls more than 18,000 students and offers classes in various sessions and formats; the university offers courses in 15-week semesters, 7-week sessions, and weekend modules. Students can complete programs in on-campus, hybrid, and fully online formats. WilmU students can earn a non-licensure elementary education degree online. The bachelor of science in education studies with a concentration in elementary education prepares students to obtain certification.

The program emphasizes technology and teaches students how to use digital portfolio tools. Required courses include instructional technology, leadership and collaboration, learner development and literacy, and instructional strategies in elementary education. The 120-credit program requires no clinical courses; the program does not lead directly to certification or licensure.

20 Midway University Midway, KY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 65%

Midway is a private, Christian institution in Kentucky. The university enrolls about 1,000 students in associate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs. Midway students benefit from a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Midway offers an online elementary education degree as part of its Teacher Education Program, to which students must be admitted separately.

Applicants to the Teacher Education Program must pass the PRAXIS exam, submit letters of recommendation, and provide proof that they have completed prerequisite requirements. Graduates of the BA in elementary education program meet the state requirements for teaching certification. Prospective online students should ensure the concentration they wish to pursue is available online. Midway is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

21 University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, LA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 43%

Located in northeastern Louisiana, ULM offers one of the best online elementary education degree programs in the southern U.S. The school's elementary education bachelor's degree online is accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and emphasizes the relationship between theory and practice. The elementary education degree online prepares students with critical skills necessary for effective teaching and provides students with knowledge to bridge theory and practice in the classroom setting.

22 St Petersburg College St. Petersburg, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 28%

SPC provides accessible, flexible programs for a diverse student body. SPC has 10 campus locations across Pinellas County in southeast Florida and offers a variety of fully online programs. The college's online campus is the largest of any Florida institution. SPC students can earn an elementary education bachelor’s degree online that meets all requirements for teaching certification.

Students earning the bachelor of science in elementary education gain experience in public school settings. Students have access to free extracurricular professional development experiences. Applicants must have earned at least 60 credits or an associate degree. Students earn at least 60 credits through SPC. To meet state certification guidelines, the program requires a supervised internship.

23 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 51%

Located in Norfolk, Virginia, Old Dominion University is a coastal school with a rich history in public research education. Founded in 1930, Old Dominion values collaboration and data-driven solutions. The university has over 400 research projects and generates $88 million in annual research funding. With its emphasis on research and evidenced-based training, Old Dominion offers one of the best online elementary education degree programs for students in Virginia and Washington. The program takes an interdisciplinary approach. Students pursuing the online elementary education degree will find valuable online resources at Old Dominion's Teacher Education Service and Advising Office webpage. The elementary education bachelor's degree online is designed for students who wish to continue their education in the future, and prepares students to enter a graduate program or pursue teacher licensure.

23 Ottawa University-Kansas City Overland Park, KS Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 45%

In addition to five physical campuses in Arizona, Kansas, and Missouri, Ottawa offers fully online programs with no in-person requirements. Ottawa offers an online bachelor of arts in elementary education program that emphasizes skills in professional education and methods. Students gain field experience through clinical practice courses, during which they complete student teaching and research.

Transfer students can apply up to 80 eligible credit hours toward the degree. Along with a liberal arts general core, students complete licensure-based courses in subjects including world history, physical science, psychology, and college algebra. Online students must reside in Arizona, Kansas, or Missouri. Arizona residents must take two courses on the Arizona State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

25 South Dakota State University Brookings, SD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

With more than 12,000 students, SDSU is the largest higher education institution in the state. The university's 80 undergraduate majors are available at its campus in Brookings, at satellite locations, and online. SDSU's bachelor of science in early childhood education, offered in partnership with Dakota State University, prepares students to teach elementary and middle school in the public school system.

Most students complete the cooperative program within five years. The curriculum includes major coursework and field experience necessary for licensure and certification. After passing the Praxis content exams, graduates are eligible to apply for a South Dakota teaching license. Students earning their elementary education degree online at SDSU complete 141 credits and student teaching internships at the Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education and at a local public school.

Timeline 4-5 years
Program Costs $10,000-$25,000 in annual tuition
Popular Minors and Dual Areas of Study Early Childhood Education, Special Education, Educational Administration, Educational Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction, Art Education, and Music Education
Accreditation Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
Additional Considerations Public school teachers must earn full licensure in all 50 states; some private institutions also list licensure as a prerequisite, but it is not a universal requirement for private schools.

Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Elementary Education Program

Online bachelor's in elementary education programs typically require a high school diploma, but some may also accept a GED with a high school transcript showcasing credits earned. Volunteer experience in education or a related position makes for a stronger application, but bachelor's in elementary programs don't typically require prior teaching experience.

Many programs don't impose minimum GPA requirements, but some may reserve merit scholarships for applicants with higher GPAs. Programs with minimum GPA requirements may vary in their expectations, but generally mandate a minimum GPA of 2.5. Not all programs require SAT or ACT test scores, and those that do may waive their exam score requirements for students with a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Curriculum for an Online Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education

Each early education program offers its own unique curriculum, but most teach foundational topics for quality teaching, such as lesson planning and classroom management. We've provided a sample course selection below that spotlights essential content and skills for all elementary educators.

  • Lesson Planning and Assessments: Students learn how to plan for lessons using curriculum and learning objectives, deep knowledge of their students' learning strengths and gaps, and learning theory. This course also covers different methods of evaluating student success, and how to integrate these methods into teaching.
  • Emerging Literacy: This course explores new teaching literacy, which involves helping new readers grow into proficient readers across different kinds of texts. Course content includes phonological awareness, phonics, word recognition, and print concepts. It usually includes observational and teaching time in a classroom, and may overlap with a teaching practicum.
  • Developing Mathematical Thinking: Coursework covers content review and strategies for teaching fundamental math topics, including number theory, natural and rational numbers, proportions, ratios, and decimals and percentages. Students also learn how to open math units and lessons using critical inquiry, and to help students understand concepts through problem solving.
  • Teaching Emerging Bilinguals: This course teaches historical and modern issues around teaching emerging bilingual students, often called English language learners, plus basic methods for integrating English immersion structures into lessons. Students examine the role of culture, strategies for promoting English learning, and methods for assessing language acquisition progress.
  • Classroom Environment and Management: Students learn how to create supportive and engaging learning environments for collaborative groups and individuals. Methods address one or more of the following: optimal student focus, beneficial interaction with teachers and peers, and intellectual stimulation. Teachers in training also learn the importance of working with students' families and professional colleagues in determining which techniques and arrangements work best for each student.

Skills and Competencies Gained in an Online Bachelor's Program in Elementary Education

Most elementary education programs teach the common teaching skill sets, which may include knowing how and when to use a particular instructional strategy, how to set up and manage a classroom, and how to tailor lessons for students with a variety of learning needs.

  • Selecting Instructional Methods: Students learn how to choose appropriate instructional methods, based on the learning situation and content. Different content disciplines, for example, often require different teaching approaches.
  • Assessing Student Performance: Teachers must assess how students perform on assignments, tests, and quizzes, and determine whether students are ready to progress or if they need further instruction on the same content. Aspiring teachers learn to use student assessment data to guide their lesson planning for both groups and individuals.
  • Classroom Management: Classroom management involves creating a structured learning environment, setting classroom rules and expectations, and monitoring and redirecting students to ensure they stay on task.
  • Knowledge of Curriculum Design: Elementary teachers don't usually design their own curricula, but they should have a solid understanding of how to design and introduce curricula in order to develop effective lesson plans and meet learning objectives.
  • Differentiating Learning: No two learners are exactly alike, which is why teachers must structure lessons to meet their students' diverse learning needs. Teaching strategies depend on students' strengths and gaps. Teachers should also make sure their lessons accommodate students with individualized education plans.

Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's Program in Elementary Education Prepares For

  • Reading Specialist Certification: Reading specialists understand a range of literacy issues and how to use targeted individual and small-group strategies to assist students in reading and writing. A reading specialist certification program may require students to first obtain their master's degree in education.
  • Foreign Language Education Certification: Teachers with foreign language education certification are equipped to teach emerging bilinguals and support students with learning disabilities. In addition to teaching methods, curriculum often covers modern trends and issues impacting this group of learners. Most foreign language certifications qualify teachers to apply their expertise in K-12 classrooms.
  • Special Education Certification: Special education certifications generally qualify teachers to instruct students with moderate disabilities or those with moderate and severe disabilities. Teachers also learn scaffolding and differentiating skills, which they can apply in any classroom. Those with a specialist education certification may choose to teach in either an inclusive or a pull-out classroom.

Accreditation indicates that a school or program meets a predetermined set of standards. Schools may gain either regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation comes from one of six accrediting agencies, while national accreditation comes from an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Regional accreditation is generally considered more prestigious, and credits transfer more easily between regionally accredited institutions. For education programs in particular, students should look for program-specific accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), which recognizes programs that meet third-party professional education standards.

The ED creates educational policy and coordinates federal aid assistance at the national level. It also approves national and regional accrediting agencies to assess the quality of bachelor's in elementary education programs. CHEA, an independent organization overseen by a board of directors, also approves quality and grants accreditation to colleges and universities. Most schools across the U.S. recognize national accreditation offered by both groups, though the ED governs federal student aid. Teachers can find a full list of of accredited schools from both the ED and the CHEA on the agencies' websites.

Job Placement

Professional educators enjoy low unemployment rates, according to a 2014 survey by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW). The survey found that college graduates with an education-related bachelor's degree and no work experience face an unemployment rate of 5.1%, while experienced college graduates with an education bachelor's experience an unemployment rate of 3.7%.

However, a more detailed breakdown reveals that unemployment rates vary by specific education majors. The table below highlights unemployment rates for nine education-oriented bachelor's degree fields, starting with elementary education.

Bachelor's Degree Major Unemployment Rate for College Graduates with Work Experience
Elementary Education 3.4%
General Education 3.9%
Physical and Health Education Teaching 3.5%
Early Childhood Education 5.4%
Secondary Teacher Education 5.4%
Special Needs Education 4.3%
Language and Drama Education 4.2%
Art and Music Education 3.1%
Miscellaneous Education 3.4%

Source: 'From Hard Times to Better Times' by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW)

Of the listed degree fields, elementary education ties 'miscellaneous education' for the second-lowest unemployment rates. Comparatively, the national unemployment rate for all occupations currently sits at 3.9%.

Salary Potential for Bachelor's in Elementary Education Graduates

According to the 2017-18 PayScale College Salary Report, college students who graduate with a bachelor's in elementary education earn a median annual salary of $36,000 after five years on the job, and $49,300 after 10 years. This amounts to a salary increase of 68% after a decade in the workforce. Using PayScale data, the table below weights earning potential for elementary education majors against students who earn bachelor's degrees in other education-related fields.

Earning a Living

According to the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report, college students who graduate with a bachelor's in elementary education earn median annual salaries of $34,700 after five years on the job and $48,900 after 10 years. This amounts to a salary increase of 40.9% after a decade in the workforce. Using PayScale data, the table below weights earning potential for elementary education majors against students who earn bachelor's degrees in other education-related fields of study.

Bachelor's Degree Field Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career
Secondary Education $40,200 $61,400
Health and Physical Education Teaching $35,900 $60,100
English Teacher Education $35,900 $58,000
Education (General) $38,700 $57,800
Music Teacher Education $36,800 $55,600
Special Education $35,000 $51,500
Art Teacher Education $35,300 $51,300
Elementary Education $34,700 $48,900
Early Childhood Education $34,800 $41,900

Source: The 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

Of the degree fields listed above, elementary education graduates ranked fourth-to-last for entry-level salary, and second-to-last for mid-career salary. Earning potential also varies depending on job titles, and other factors like school district size and geographical region. The next table explores career salary growth for four of the most common elementary education career pathways.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Median Annual Salary for Experienced Median Annual Salary for Late-Career
Elementary Teacher $38,739 $43,706 $49,846 $57,411
Special Education Teacher (Preschool, Kindergarten and Elementary $40,845 $44,782 $50,125 $56,094
Elementary School Principal $73,672 $79,056 $82,411 $84,674
English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher $38,348 $39,878 $45,912 $53,224

Source: PayScale

Elementary principals earn the highest salaries of all four careers listed on the table at each benchmark. Elementary teachers enjoy the highest growth in earning potential, which increases by 43.6% after 20 years on the job. Special education and English as a second language (ESL) teachers at the elementary level see a salary increase of 33%-42% over 20 years.

Career and Further Education Opportunities

Students who graduate with a bachelor's in elementary education and fulfill their state's licensure requirements qualify for dozens of teaching jobs, plus select administrative roles normally reserved for candidates with undergraduate degrees. Four common careers for elementary education degree recipients are outlined below.

Kindergarten and Elementary Teachers: Teaching is the most common professional route in elementary education; according to the BLS, more than 1.5 million kindergarten and elementary teachers currently work in the United States. These teachers primarily focus on foundational subjects in their classrooms, and often incorporate art, music, games and other activities into their teaching methods. They meet with students' parents and guardians on a regular basis to discuss behavior and academic progress.

Special Education Teachers: Special education serves students with developmental, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. Most public and private school special education teachers maintain classrooms separate from the rest of the school; this allows students with disabilities to come and go throughout the day. Like primary teachers, special education teachers frequently meet with their students' parents or guardians.

Elementary, Middle and High School Principals: Principals serve as school leaders in K-12 schools, and assume responsibility for overseeing staff, managing school operations, and coordinating curriculum. Ongoing tasks include assessing progress toward academic goals set by both the principal and the state; making sure teachers and students have access to necessary resources, such as furniture and teaching materials; and ensuring that buildings and other services operate safely and efficiently.

Teacher Assistant: Serving as a teacher assistant can establish a path to finding a full-time teaching position. Teacher assistants, sometimes called paraeducators or teacher aides, support teachers in the classroom by working one-on-one with or with small groups of students. Assistants may also help reinforce behavioral rules and classroom expectations, supervise students at lunch or during recess, and help teachers prepare for lessons.

Professional Organizations

Professional education associations provide valuable teaching resources, professional development opportunities, and networking events. Many membership-based organizations offer discounts and scholarship opportunities to students, and some may also provide grant funding to teachers in the classroom.

National Education Association:

The NEA represents and serves public P-12 teachers nationwide, along with college-level instructors and progressors. The organization has earned recognition as the largest employee network in the U.S. In addition to providing free research articles and teaching tools online, the NEA offers members discounts on services and information on local events.

Council for Exceptional Children:

In addition to setting standards for special education programs, the CEC advocates for student-centered policies at the local, state, and federal levels. The organization offers a dedicated career center for special education teachers, plus professional development events and webinars for educators.

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development:

A pioneer of the Whole Child approach, ASCD develops and promotes high-quality curriculum for all children, and a wealth of professional development resources and events for professionals. The organization works with an extensive network of community partners, including those in the arts, policy, and health education spaces.

Financing your elementary education degree can pose a challenge, but undergraduate students can explore diverse funding resources to help pay for college. Whether looking to finance part or all of your bachelor's degree, financial aid options exist for all students -- from federal loans and grants to institutional and private scholarships.


Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but they might also consider plenty of overlooked financing options to reduce their overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) marks the crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown of the process, including answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, plus the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online college programs can provide a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.