How Long Do Elementary School Teachers Go to College?

Becoming an elementary school teacher requires a lot of patience, knowledge of many subjects, and being constantly there for your students. However, people often forget that before entering a classroom, an elementary school teacher has to earn their qualifications. How long does it take to become an elementary school teacher, then?

Elementary school teachers generally go to college for four years to earn their bachelor’s degree. This is overwhelmingly common in countries all over the world. However, some colleges may offer a five-year program to become an elementary school teacher.

If you want to know what degree you need to become an elementary school teacher or why you need a degree at all, then continue reading this article. I’ll also discuss all the requirements you need to pass to be a part of elementary school education.

What Degree Do Elementary School Teachers Need?

Most countries around the world, including the US, agree on this issue: elementary school teachers have to have a bachelor’s degree at least if they want to be able to teach their students. 

Bachelor’s degree is usually enough for a new teacher to learn the crafts of their trade. Since elementary education lasts the first six years of students’ education, future teachers at this level aren’t required to have the specific expertise that higher degrees would bring.

Furthermore, bachelor’s degrees all around the world typically last for about four years. Of course, there are always some exceptions to the “rule,” but the degrees suitable for a future elementary school teacher take either four or five yearsOpens in a new tab. to complete. 

Also, you don’t have to stop at a BA. Many school teachers will actually continue their education and earn a master’s degree (which lasts for one to two years generally). MAs can help elementary school teachers gain some specific knowledge about certain groups of students they’re teaching, like special needs students. 

It’d also be noted here that many private schools don’t actually require you to have a bachelor’s degree. These schools usually have more autonomy than public schools, and each private school will have its own unique rules.

Why Do Elementary School Teachers Need a Degree?

If you’re like me, one of the first memories of our childhood is that of our first teachers. For some, they’re more like nightmares, and for others, they’re reminders of what an important role elementary school teachers have. 

Elementary school teachers need to be trained and taught how and what to teach, how to deal with difficult situations, and many other things. A high school diploma simply won’t be enough. 

Sure, elementary school teachers sometimes look like people who are just knowledgeable about certain things. You don’t need a degree to teach basic math or art, right? Actually, you do. A proper college education is necessary even for a teacher at the elementary education level.

Requirements To Become an Elementary School Teacher

For those who think anybody can be an elementary school teacher, you should know there are numerous steps educators at this level (and every other) need to pass to be allowed to teach grades 1 through 6. 

Here are the general requirements if you want to be an elementary school teacher. These are present in the US, but many other countries have similar basic requirements. 

A Bachelor’s Degree

As I mentioned, you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree to start the process of becoming an elementary school teacher. In the US, all 50 statesOpens in a new tab. require a BA, even for this level. 

Now, a common question is: what college degree do I need for this career? The answer is simple: pretty much any BA degree will do. Of course, a bachelor’s degree in elementary education would be a go-to option if possible because it’ll prepare futures teachers in:

  • Numerous subjects
  • Elementary Level Pedagogy
  • Methodology for Teaching Younger Students
  • Children’s Psychology

However, many elementary school teachers have degrees in similar fields, like sociology or historyOpens in a new tab.

The reason you can have an unrelated BA degree to elementary education is that, in the US, there are many state programsOpens in a new tab. that train people who have another career that isn’t related to teaching. 

A Higher Degree Than a BA (Optional)

Generally speaking, unless you want to specialize in a specific field of elementary education, you don’t have to have a higher degree than a BA, such as a master’s degree. MA degrees are usually required for teachers teaching at high schools because they typically teach one specific subject. 

On the other hand, elementary school teachers are versed in multiple subjects with less specialized knowledge. Therefore, elementary school teachers usually teach:

  • The native language of the country where they’re teaching
  • Science
  • Math
  • Art
  • PE
  • Music
  • Social Studies

Internship in a School

Once you’re out of college, the next step in becoming an elementary school teacher is to gain some “real-life” experience. It’s one thing to read all the theoretical background of elementary education, and it’s quite another to actually use that knowledge to teach and control a classroom.

That’s why the next step is training or an internship period that lasts for a few months, depending on where you live. Through the internship process, you’ll be trained by real teachers and school staff, and you’ll be in charge of some classes later on.

Assessment Process

During and immediately after your internship period in public schools, you’d be assessed to see if you pass all the criteria to become an elementary school teacher. Assessment can come in the form of an exam, but it’s also practical

The most important exam for any future teacher in the US is the PraxisOpens in a new tab., which you need to pass if you want to continue to the next step.  

A Certificate

Lastly, you can’t be an elementary school teacher in a public school if you don’t have a certificateOpens in a new tab. (it’s also called a license). Therefore, this is the last but also the most important step in this process. 

So, after you successfully pass the Praxis exam, you need to apply for a teacher certificate in your state. To get this certificate, you’ll need to have all the requirements from above already finished and passed. 


If you want to become an elementary school teacher, you’ll have to have a bachelor’s degree to teach in a public school, whereas many private schools don’t require any college degree. 

Therefore, elementary school teachers usually spend four or five years in college and a few months after it as trainees before they become licensed school teachers.


Mr Mustafa

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