Because most everyone has spent time in elementary school, everyone knows something about what you can do with an elementary education degree. For instance, everyone has heard that elementary teachers enjoy a great deal of job security and the pay is okay. But there is so much more about elementary teacher careers that you might not know.

In this post, we’ve gathered everything you should know before starting an elementary education degree program. We answer questions about salary, career requirements, job hazards, and more. So, without further ado, here are twelve things you really need to know before getting an elementary education degree:

1. The pay is moderate.

You aren’t going to get wealthy off an elementary school teacher’s salary, but you’re also doing much better than minimum wage. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, depending on their years of experience, additional certificates, and the state in which they work, elementary school teachers typically make between $31,720 (the bottom 10 percent) and $76,490 (the upper 10 percent) per year. The median annual salary for teachers is a respectable $51,660. As you can see in the graph above, provided by the National Science Foundation, where you work really affects how much you will make as a teacher:

2. You need to be certified or licensed.

In all 50 states, it isn’t enough to have a college degree in elementary education in order to be an elementary school teacher. Every state requires that teachers meet certain requirements to be licensed or certified, although requirements will vary from state to state. Some states will require that would-be teachers pass exams. Either during your elementary education degree program or soon after, you would want to decide which state you want to teach in and then research their certification or licensure requirements.

3. Job growth is moderate.

Floating right around the national job growth average, elementary school teacher jobs are expected to increase by 16.8 percent heading toward 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This increase will be fueled by continued population growth (i.e. more kids being born) and reductions in teacher-to-student ratios.

4. Stress levels are “below average”

A recent U.S News survey places elementary school teachers in the “below average” stress category. But there seems to be some contention around this point. Other surveys have found that 41.5 percent of teachers consider themselves “highly stressed,” while as many as 36 percent of these teachers say the feel the effects of stress most or all of the time. If you’ve talked to a teacher about their routine, you’re likely to agree with the latter survey. Between managing unruly students and often unruly parents, and working longer hours than normal, elementary school teachers would definitely seem to have more reasons to be stressed than your typical office worker.

5. Teachers have below average upward mobility

Also according to the same U.S News survey, teachers were reported as having “below average” upward mobility, or opportunities to work their way up the ladder via their jobs. The arithmetic of the education world supports this idea. Out of your typical elementary school of 30 to 40 teachers, only one or two can move up to be a principal or vice-principal. Even fewer can move up from there to become a district administrator. The truth is, most teachers remain at the teaching level their entire careers. On the positive side, however, to increase their salaries, teachers can earn additional certification and degrees.

6. Above average flexibility

Despite the lack of ability to move up in the world of education, most teachers will also tell you they enjoy the flexibility that comes with teaching. Aside from the hours between 7:30 am and 3:30 pm (depends on your state’s school day), elementary school teachers have a great deal of flexibility in how they accomplish their work. Even during school hours, they are largely in charge of determining how they will teach their students. And the longer teachers teach, the more privileges they acquire, such as more paid sick leave, longer maternity leave, and so on.

7. Dealing with adults is the hardest part

If teachers have earned their elementary education degrees, chances are they’ve learned a thing or two about managing kids. Even with the most rambunctious students, teachers can formulate strategies for controlling and helping them. But then parents and other adults get involved. From tantrums about their “little angel’s” poor test score to misunderstandings about class policy, angry or misinformed parents can throw a wrench into even the most well-prepared teacher’s day. Catfights and politics that are so prevalent among schoolteachers can also be a source of headaches for schoolteachers who would much rather be seeing to the needs of their students.

8. Teaching jobs have above average job security.

For various reasons, including the protection of unions, elementary school teachers enjoy a good deal of job security. In fact, before the recent recession, schoolteaching was regarded as one of the most secure professions in America. Obviously, the upheaval that has occurred in states like Wisconsin and Illinois has shown that teaching careers aren’t as bulletproof as they used to be. Still, they remain far more secure than most other fields. Teachers can often earn tenure in their districts.

9. The schedule is typically family-friendly.

One big draw for would-be teachers, if they are parents or are planning on being parents, is how compatible teachers’ schedules are with raising kids. If children are school-aged, teachers find themselves teaching while their kids are in school and free when their kids get out of school. When kids have vacation days, so do their teacher parents. This is great for family time and avoiding child care expenses.

10. Long hours

Although the U.S. News survey quoted above estimated that elementary school teachers spend fewer hours working per week than their private sector counterparts, multiple surveys disagree. A recent insurance benefits are worth, 13 percent of a typical worker’s compensation is made up of their insurance benefit. For school teachers, however, that number jumps up to 16.1 percent. Having said that, however, many teachers in cash-strapped states have started to see insurance benefits shrinking. Would-be elementary school teachers would do well to consider this in their career decisions.

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