Can You Teach Middle School With An Elementary Degree?

Despite the nationwide teacher shortage hitting middle schools thoroughly, administrations do not extend job offers to elementary school teachers. Why is that, and can you teach middle school with an elementary degree?

A teacher with only an elementary degree cannot teach middle school. Teaching these grades requires different qualifications to teaching primary school: a major in a school subject, middle school experience, and a teaching certificate. Without these, an elementary teacher can’t teach middle school.

Middle school teachers have unique qualifications that prevent elementary teachers from fulfilling their roles. Read on to learn about these requirements and how a primary school teacher can satisfy them.

What Are The Requirements To Teach Middle School?

Middle school teachers require a bachelor’s degree in education or the school subject they aim to teach. Not only that, but they must have completed a teacher preparation program and their state’s teaching exam. They also have a teaching certificate, license, and internship experience as a student teacher.

The ideal degree for a middle school teacher is a secondary education degree, which qualifies them to teach grades 6-12. This degree also allows teachers to specialize in their favorite subject, giving them the knowledge to teach it at a school level.

Furthermore, while they aren’t requirements, a competent middle school teacher also has several soft skills. Middle school demands an ability to organize, plan, and work under pressure.

Although primary teachers may have these talents, the academic workload is far higher for their middle school counterparts. Middle school teachers focus on a single subject rather than a specific class of young students.

Middle school teachers must also be creative and excellent listeners capable of empathizing with a teenager’s unique struggles.

In contrast, elementary education degrees are general degrees. They lack the chance to dual-major, meaning that a primary teacher with this degree doesn’t have academic qualifications in a particular school subject. Instead, they have experience in early childhood development.

To learn more about elementary vs. middle school teachers, check out this video:

How Can You Add To Your Elementary Degree?

All hope isn’t lost for an elementary teacher. Although their degree isn’t ordinarily appropriate for middle school education, they can supplement it with further studies.

An elementary teacher who dual-majored during college might be in luck, depending on their second major. They could teach middle school if they have academic experience in a middle school subject, like math or English. That’s because, as we learned above, middle schools require their teachers to have a tertiary qualification in their preferred subject.

Not only that, but an elementary teacher capable of teaching two middle school subjects will have a good chance of working at a middle school.

Because middle schools are so departmentalized, they face dire shortages of qualified educators for specific core topics. When we combine that with the shift towards STEM-focused middle school curriculums, we can see that administrations might make an exception for an elementary teacher who fulfills this need.

Next, a teacher could take a master’s degree in education, qualifying them to teach middle school, high school, and junior high.

However, master’s degrees demand fierce commitment in terms of time and finances. For many teachers, this decision will be prohibitively expensive. Instead, they can look towards alternative teacher certification.

Most states offer programs allowing university-educated people to shift their career paths toward education. Taking one of these courses can be done through contact classes or online. However, the specific course will vary across states.

An alternative teacher certification course typically consists of a teacher preparation program followed by an internship in a middle school. Drexel University explains that this internship is a crucial part of the course since it allows a prospective teacher to learn from an experienced mentor.

Once a teacher has completed their internship, the state will typically award them a provisional teaching certificate. Afterward, they must pass their state’s teaching exams for middle school.

Last, experience is also a worthwhile factor. Depending on the school systems, elementary and middle schools could have overlapping grades.

A regular elementary education degree qualifies somebody to teach K-6. According to the National Center for Education Studies, some middle schools include fifth and sixth grade. Therefore, a primary teacher could have experience teaching tween students.

The Differences Between Elementary And Middle School

In elementary school, a single teacher will teach their class of students throughout the day. Although this education is essential, the content is less complex than in middle school. Because of that, elementary teachers need to plan less thoroughly and instead diversify in teaching all the core subjects.

Since elementary teachers remain with one class the entire day, they have more opportunities to nurture their pupils.

In contrast, the workload for middle school teachers is often higher. Their classrooms are not self-contained, and they can see over one hundred students daily. They face severe marking and planning for several grades thanks to these high numbers.

To avert some of this stress, some middle schools assign their teachers to teams, with each teacher focusing on a core subject. Doing so lets the teachers cooperate and plan cross-curricular activities.

The children are also different, and not only in age. Middle schoolers are undergoing puberty, making them more emotionally vulnerable and self-conscious than their younger peers. Likewise, they have a stronger desire for freedom and can work more independently.

Discipline, therefore, becomes a more significant challenge for middle school teachers. Nevertheless, they also must function as role models for their teenage students.

Can You Teach Junior High With An Elementary Degree?

Unlike middle school, junior high has no overlapping grades with an elementary education degree. Instead, according to Western Governors University, these schools accommodate students between seventh and ninth grade.

The curriculum of a junior high school is even more academically focused than a middle school. They are also less student-centered, to the point of having students rotate between classrooms instead of teachers. This extra focus on academics stands in contrast to elementary school.

While we have shown that an elementary teacher could teach the lower grades of middle school if they have dual-majored, the same is not valid for junior high. Unless a teacher receives extra training, they cannot teach junior high with only an elementary degree.


An elementary education degree isn’t sufficient to teach middle school. Instead, a teacher must specialize in a core subject at the university level.

Furthermore, middle school teachers must complete a training program and gain internship experience teaching their preferred subject. These different requirements help prepare teachers for the workload and the more rigorous focus of middle school education.


Mr Mustafa

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