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Elementary School Teachers

At a Glance

  • Teach grades one through six
  • Work in both private and public schools
  • Work with children, parents, and other teachers
  • Usually have summers off
  • Training usually takes five to six years after high school
  • Public school teachers need a license
  • Often belong to unions
  • Use audio-visual aids, computers, games, and classroom handouts

Career summary

Elementary school teachers work in public and private schools. They instruct children in grades one through six.

#match with 8455, check 3/3/15 lh

Elementary school teachers usually teach one class of about 25 children. Sometimes they teach combined grades or subjects. Younger elementary children study subjects such as:

Older elementary children learn subjects like:

Elementary school teachers usually teach one class of about 25 children. Sometimes they teach combined grades or subjects. Younger elementary children study subjects such as:

Older elementary children learn subjects like:

Elementary school teachers teach social skills to children in all grades.

Teachers use audio-visual aids, computers, and paper handouts to help children learn. Sometimes they show films or videos or take children on field trips. They may teach students one-on-one or in groups. They organize the desks, bulletin boards, and computer stations to assist learning.

Elementary school teachers record student attendance each day. They create daily lesson plans based on school or state requirements.

Teachers assign homework and grade assignments. They keep records of grades on tests and homework. They evaluate each child's performance and write progress reports for parents. They maintain records for school administrators. They also record information about behavior problems and disciplinary actions.

Teachers meet with parents to discuss student progress or problems. Sometimes teachers work with parents or other family members to make sure children complete their work.

Teachers supervise activities on playgrounds and in cafeterias. They develop rules for safety and classroom behavior and make sure children follow them.

Some elementary school teachers teach subjects such as art or music. Art teachers lead art projects, order supplies, and help children develop creative skills. Music teachers lead singing groups and teach music skills. Sometimes they lead bands.

Other teachers teach physical education to help children develop physical coordination. Often, these teachers work at several schools. Many teachers coordinate volunteer groups and oversee special projects in addition to their regular duties.

Teachers meet regularly with other staff members to discuss school issues. They work with parent volunteers in the classroom. Teachers also attend in-service trainings to update their skills.

Related careers

This career is part of the Education and Training cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to elementary school teachers.

Common work activities

Elementary school teachers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, elementary school teachers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Elementary school teachers frequently:

It is important for elementary school teachers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for elementary school teachers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Elementary school teachers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an elementary school teacher, you typically need to:

Education after high school

To teach in a public elementary school, you must have at least a bachelor's degree from an approved teacher education program. Teaching programs include courses in early childhood development, reading and math instruction, and child guidance.

Many states require that teachers have (or be in the process of working on) a master's degree. This usually involves one additional year of coursework after completing a bachelor's degree.

To renew your teaching license, you need to take additional courses in education. Many teachers do this during the summer months.

Private elementary schools may not require that teachers have a bachelor's degree in education.

On-the-job training

Before graduating from a teacher education program, you work as a student teacher. Student teachers work in elementary school classrooms with experienced teachers. In the beginning, you observe the teacher and classroom. Later, you teach on your own.

In your first year as a teacher you may receive additional on-the-job training. This generally takes the form of extra supervision by the principal or another teacher.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Public schools require that teachers have a degree in education and a teaching license. Employers look for teachers who have patience and high standards of personal conduct. They also look for people who enjoy working with children.

Private schools may not require a degree or teaching license. If based on a religion, a school may require that teachers have a background in a particular faith. Other schools may require teachers to have some training in their philosophy of education.

Some employers look for teachers who are bilingual.


Special education courses may be helpful to teachers because many disabled students are included in regular classroom courses. Student teaching is also helpful and is required in many areas. Work as a volunteer or teacher assistant, or in a youth camp, day care center, church nursery, or school. Willingness to relocate improves your chances of finding employment. Working as a substitute teacher or joining a professional association is also helpful.

Experience or training in a specialty such as computer technology or early childhood education may be beneficial. Upon entering a teaching program, get into the classroom as soon, and as often, as possible. Teachers must enjoy the challenges of working with children and be prepared for long hours and relatively low pay.

Costs to workers

Some teachers may be required to join a union and pay quarterly dues. Teachers usually pay for their own continuing education classes.


All public and private school teachers must be certified by the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The certification for a new teacher who is completing or has completed an in-state teacher training program is the residency first issue teacher certificate.

Requirements for a residency first issue certificate for entry-level teachers include:

The first issue certificate is good for five years. Teaching must take place at a state approved public or private school.  To renew the residency certificate, 100 hours of approved continuing education, including 10 hours of STEM related training, must be completed every five years.

School districts may require a background check and fingerprinting for employment, even if the applicant has a certificate granted by the State. Fingerprinting is available at any of the nine regional Educational Service District (ESD) offices. Each ESD may add an additional processing fee.

For more information on certification, contact:

Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (external link)

Professional Education and Certification (external link)
Old Capitol Building
PO Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200

#Checked 3/26/18; changed ce hrs to 100 from 150, rest looks ok, cj. Modified licensing text content based on rewrite done spring 2018. If want to see/use prior content it is stored at W:\IA\Occupations\Pre Aug 2018 Licensing Content for Teachers, 8/22/18 cj. no changes here 1/27/20

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


The average base salary paid to elementary teachers, working about 180 days per year in Washington public schools, is $54,372 per year.

#OSPI base elementary home room teacher 3/14/19

Because teachers usually work a ten-month year, their wages are reported annually.

Elementary school teachers, except special education (SOC 25-2021)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $45,250 $54,020 $65,780 $76,570 $85,030
    Bellingham Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $44,257 $52,668 $63,338 $75,658 $83,142
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $46,615 $55,578 $69,898 $80,804 $91,905
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $26,914 $39,261 $52,055 $64,477 $78,226
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $44,191 $50,441 $62,076 $74,804 $82,549
    Longview Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $44,395 $52,388 $66,552 $77,795 $88,419
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $44,088 $54,542 $67,724 $76,870 $82,358
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $44,856 $52,322 $64,955 $75,008 $80,762
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $49,579 $57,363 $68,571 $79,181 $90,096
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $44,339 $53,363 $67,089 $79,334 $91,556
    Vancouver Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $38,981 $53,249 $70,186 $89,192 $113,007
    Walla Walla Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $45,091 $55,435 $66,980 $75,490 $80,601
    Wenatchee Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $42,719 $51,825 $66,271 $75,868 $81,550
    Yakima Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $42,871 $49,628 $63,467 $74,692 $80,967
United States Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $37,780 $46,120 $58,230 $75,330 $95,270

(1) Wage estimate is not available.

Teachers who have advanced degrees earn the most money. Teachers can earn more money by teaching in the summer.

Teachers who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include health and life insurance, a retirement plan, and sick leave. Some teachers get sabbatical leave.

Over half of all public school teachers belong to unions -- mainly the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. These unions negotiate with employers regarding wages, hours, and conditions of employment.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

In Washington, the outlook depends on state and local funding for education and the growth in student enrollment.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education (SOC 25-2021)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 32,165 16.1% 16.1% 3,473
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 1,145 16.8% 13.4% 125
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 1,889 2.6% 8.6% 144
    Benton and Franklin Counties 1,581 17.7% 15.0% 176
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 1,330 11.4% 11.9% 129
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 2,682 17.5% 15.2% 298
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 2,134 18.6% 14.1% 242
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 1,471 17.7% 14.6% 164
    King County 8,899 18.4% 19.6% 1,009
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 1,785 18.0% 13.8% 201
    Pierce County 3,635 16.9% 15.2% 399
    Snohomish County 2,701 18.5% 12.4% 307
    Spokane County 2,210 7.6% 13.9% 194
United States 1,434,400 3.3% 5.2% 112,400

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand will be good for elementary teachers as the overall student enrollment in elementary schools is expected to increase. However, the growth rate varies by area of the country. States in the South and West--particularly Arizona, Texas, Nevada, and Georgia--will have a large increase in the number of students. However, states in the Midwest are expected to hold steady, and states in the Northeast are projected to have declines.

Another reason that demand is growing is that teacher-student ratios are declining.

Many openings will occur as current teachers retire. Demand for teachers is high in inner city schools because crime is higher and wages are usually lower. Job opportunities will be best for teachers who are willing to relocate or who are bilingual.

Other resources

American Federation of Teachers (external link)
555 New Jersey Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20001
BLS 2018 Career Outlook for teachers (external link)
Education World (external link)
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (external link)
1525 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 700
Arlington, VA 22209
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (external link)
1906 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191
National Education Association (external link)
1201 - 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
National Science Teachers Association (external link)
1840 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201
Student Program Make It Happen - Teach (external link)
(National Education Association resource)
Washington Education Association (external link)
PO Box 9100
Federal Way, WA 98063-9100
Washington Federation of Teachers (external link)
625 Andover Park West, Suite 111
Tukwila, WA 98188


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster