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Primary Teacher

Education and Training: Education degree and teaching license
Average Salary: Median – $47,100
Job Outlook: Good

Primary teachers, or elementary teachers as they are commonly known in the United States, play an important role in child development by using teaching methods that help children develop their social skills and also help establish the basic framework for subjects like mathematics, sciences, and English, which are important to help them succeed academically.

Unlike middle school or high school teachers, primary teachers need to be involved with each and every child to understand their unique needs and work to help them overcome feelings of fear, loneliness, and other social skills that may affect them later in life. This is done by using various teaching techniques, particularly through hands on learning by games, music, and books.

Teachers may also have to deal with unruly behavior in class and maintain a level of discipline that is conducive to the academic environment of the school.

Education and Training Requirements

Primary teachers or elementary teachers can study bachelor degree programs in education, which are specially designed keeping their future careers in mind. They are given training on teaching subjects like arts and sciences, and are also provided extensive training in teaching methods and psychology to help them understand and deal with student behavior.

Teacher certification and licensure examinations are mandatory in all states. Teacher licensing is not required for private schools. Licenses need to be renewed from time to time by taking additional written examinations that check for basic teaching competency.

Primary teachers can take an additional certification provided by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which increases their chances of getting higher paying jobs.

Getting the Job

After completing education and state licensing requirements, primary teachers can seek employment in local public or private schools, if opportunities are available. Teachers will have to appear for an interview process to get permanent teaching jobs.

Primary teachers typically start out as junior teachers and work in conjunction with an experienced teacher who acts as a mentor, after which they are free to take classes on their own. Some primary teachers can also choose to work in special education schools for children with disabilities. These teachers require specific training and mentoring before they can start teaching.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook, and Career Development

Primary teacher jobs will have a fair growth rate of 13% by 2018. Job opportunities will be created by retiring teachers or new schools in suburban cities. Job prospects will also depend on the state and locality. Rural and poverty struck areas have difficulty in retaining teachers due to the low pay and difficult working conditions but have ample job opportunities and requirements for teachers.

After starting their professional careers, primary teachers can obtain tenure and take on additional responsibilities like curriculum development, teaching children with disabilities, mentoring etc.

A primary teacher will continue to teach at the same level for their entire career.

Working Conditions and Environment

Teaching conditions depend on the school and area a primary teacher is employed in. Occasionally, teachers may be faced with stress and extreme workload when teaching a large class or dealing with unruly students. However, all teachers receive adequate training on handling these situations.

Most primary teachers have a 40 hour week, where they may have additional responsibilities beyond teaching. Public school teachers are required to teach a fixed curriculum and follow protocol that has been set by the school contrary to their private school colleagues, who actively participate in creating the curriculum.

Salary and Benefits

The average median salary for public school primary teachers was $47,100 in 2008 while private school teachers earn less. Teachers with additional certifications can earn more. Some schools may pay additional salary for overtime or taking additional teaching responsibilities.

Teachers enjoy a two month annual vacation when schools are shut and receive benefits like sick leaves when substitute teachers are available.

Where to Go for More Information

American Federation of Teachers
555 New Jersey Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 879-4400

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
1525 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 5000
Arlington, VA 22209

National Education Association
1201 16th St., NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 822-7974

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEducation & Training