What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Elementary Education?

Elementary education represents the first phase of institutionalized learning in the United States. All students who attend public or private school begin their education in elementary school. Most elementary schools serve students from kindergarten, when children are typically 5 or 6 years old, through fifth or sixth grade, when kids are between the ages of 10 and 12. Some elementary schools, depending on the location, may be K-8.

Elementary education focuses on teaching fundamental skills in reading, writing, social studies, mathematics, science, art, music and other core subjects. Each state issues its own elementary education teaching license, and each state varies on the grades that are included in the license — some states’ elementary education licenses may be K-6, while others are K-5 and still others may even be K-4.

Distance learning programs for earning a master’s in elementary education offer the same quality instruction as what you would receive in traditional in-person classes but in a more convenient format. Classes can be completed at your own pace and on a full- or part-time basis depending on your schedule. This is useful for individuals who have other commitments to balance with school, including work and family. Whichever program you ultimately choose, remember to select one that fits with your long-term career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Elementary Education

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POTENTIAL CAREERS FOR THIS CONCENTRATION
Montessori Education Methods Focuses on the Montessori model for schools and typically results in becoming a Montessori school teacher. It focuses on a child-centered approach to education and incorporates research on self-directed activities, collaborative play and hands-on learning. Montessori instructor
Early Education Offers a liberal studies course load in collaboration with successful elementary programs and usually targets specific areas, including child psychology, growth and development, strategies for behavioral management and using technology with children. Early elementary education teacher
Literacy Examine literacy issues and reading/writing instruction. It provides real-world strategies for helping elementary students gain comfort with literacy and oral language. Elementary school teacher, reading program specialist

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Elementary Education

Individual classes within online master’s degree programs in elementary education may differ considerably depending on your chosen area of concentration or established standards at a college or university. However, there are some common courses you can expect to take:

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Foundations of Teaching Students gain an overview of the historical, sociological and philosophical texts that have influenced current educational practice and theory. Topics covered include common issues in education, investigation of trends and opportunities for engagement with new teaching methods.
Elementary Education Methods This methods course is a fundamental part of any online master’s degree in elementary education. The broad-spectrum course covers activities, applicable teaching strategies and effective techniques for classroom management. Tasks and learning strategies for this course are typically put in context based on your individual situation, often through observation.
Instructional Planning and Presentation Learn how to design classes through the understanding of clear objectives and goals, as teachers do in lesson planning. Short- and long-term planning of assignments and activities are discussed along with strategies to support student learning effectively and the research behind those.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s in Elementary Education?

The length of time to complete your online master’s degree in elementary education varies according to your chosen concentration area, your desired license type and circumstances of your application — such as whether you have transfer credits or already are a practicing teacher.

Individual courses typically take between eight and 12 weeks to complete. Some online master’s programs in elementary education are offered in a cohort format, which means students move through the program as a group, taking classes at the same time to try to simulate the on-campus feel from traditional instruction. Other programs may be independent learning-based, meaning you take classes at your own pace — so you could take on a heavier or lighter course load if you choose. Most programs are between 30 and 33 credits and can be completed in about two years.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Elementary Education Prepares For

Many master’s degree programs in elementary education have the licensure component built in to the coursework, so upon graduation, you have both the master’s degree and an elementary education teaching license.

CERTIFICATION DESCRIPTION
Teaching License In order to practice teaching at any grade level within K-12, a teaching license is needed. Licenses are issued at the state level, so each state’s department of education has its own policies and application procedures. Be sure to check with the state you’re planning on teaching in to find out what its requirements are. Also, if you already hold a teaching license in a particular state, it can often transfer to a new state with a simple form and copies of transcripts.
STEM and Technology Integration This type of certificate, which refers to STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) ensures that individuals have the knowledge and skills to interpret and use technology in the classroom to help enhance students’ learning potential. This type of certificate can help enhance your abilities as an elementary educator.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Elementary Education

Accreditation is an important process that many institutions undergo and renew year after year to ensure their programs meet minimum educational standards of quality. It often matters for employment purposes, as many schools, public and private, will want to see that you’ve graduated from an accredited master’s degree program.

Teacher-focused groups such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation help maintain training standards for teachers and provide evidence-based accreditation to ensure quality and support continuous teacher improvement to help strengthen learning outcomes of PreK-12 students.

You can also search for accredited master’s degree programs by program type or institution using the Council for Higher Education Accreditation‘s database.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Elementary Education Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Many elementary school teachers begin their careers at the college level by earning a bachelor’s degree in this subject area. While it’s considered the minimum educational requirement for teaching in the U.S., many school systems require a master’s degree, and those who advance their education with a master’s in elementary education are able to further advance their careers more easily, such as taking on leadership or administrative roles in the future. According to U.S. News and World Report, the current unemployment rate for elementary school teachers sits at 2.7 percent, which is fairly low, meaning that the job outlook is quite favorable.

Expected Salary

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, teachers earn significantly more with a master’s degree, and that number only increases with years of experience. Consider these salary comparisons for bachelor’s vs. master’s degrees for full-time teachers in public elementary and secondary schools from 2015-16.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

The chart below outlines median salary numbers for common career paths for those with a master’s in elementary education.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Opportunities

Those who earn a master’s degree in elementary education can pursue a wide variety of career opportunities. For those ultimately interested in leadership positions, working as an elementary teacher for a set amount of years provides valuable work experience for career advancement.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers Teachers at the kindergarten and elementary level deliver lessons on a variety of subjects, including reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. While most schools have separate art and music teachers, elementary school teachers frequently integrate these elements into their lessons to advance student learning. $56,900 per year 7%
Special Education Teachers At the elementary level, special education teachers help teach students with emotional, behavioral, physical and cognitive disabilities. They also frequently collaborate with classroom teachers to adapt lessons and units for smaller groups and write Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for individual students. $58,980 per year 8%
Instructional Coordinators Directs the creation of material that maintains and enhances a company’s image. $63,750 per year 11%

Professional Organizations

In the field of elementary teaching, making and maintaining professional connections is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for both graduates and current students enrolled in master’s programs to learn more about their chosen career path and take advantage of everything a professional organization has to offer, including job boards, networking opportunities, conferences, classroom resources and lesson plans and online trainings and webinars.

National Council on Teacher Quality: The NCTQ organization helps create policies that improve the quality of classroom education and professional educators’ work environments. Its website features a policy library and information on current NCTQ projects.

National Educational Association: As the largest professional employee organization in the country, the NEA is committed to advancing the cause of public education and provides advocacy resources, classroom management ideas and lesson plan tools to help teachers in their classrooms.

National Association for the Education of Young Children: NAEYC offers accreditation to college programs and early childhood school programs. It also offers a wide range of support for education professionals who teach children from infancy through age 8, typically 2nd grade. Member benefits include discounts on books and other resources, magazine and newsletter subscriptions and information about industry conferences.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Elementary Education

While online degrees are considered to be relatively affordable compared to earning on-campus degrees, many students still need financial aid to help them pay for the cost of classes. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is an excellent first step in this process. After you submit your FAFSA, you’ll be provided with information about loans, grants and scholarships available to you through the federal government. Also, many schools offer their own scholarships based on merit or program interests, so be sure to investigate individual programs to find out what forms of financial aid they offer. Finally, you can also find numerous scholarships in the education field available from nonprofit organizations and private companies.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

TEACH Grant

Award: $4,000

Deadline: October

Eligibility: In exchange for a four-year teaching commitment at a low-income school upon graduation, the TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) grant provides up to $4000 annually to finance the educational pursuits of aspiring teachers.

Teacher.org Inspire Our Future Scholarship

Award: $500

Deadline: April

Eligibility: 3.5 GPA and open to brand-new teachers or experienced educators.

STEM Teacher Graduate Scholarship

Award: $2,500

Deadline: April

Eligibility: For graduate students who plan to teach in a STEM field at a U.S. school in grades K-12 upon graduation.