One cannot help but look back on their own lives and think on how things could have been different either if things had gone horribly wrong or if things hadn’t gone exceptionally right. There is definitely one point or person you can think back onto from primary school that impacted you significantly. If you’re interested in a career where you are molding, caring for, and pouring into the lives of the next generation, read on for how you can learn more about studying Primary Education in the U.S.
Caveat: Primary Education as we know it in Turks & Caicos Islands (i.e. grades 1-6) is broken into 2 segments in the U.S. and referred to as elementary education (grades 1-5) and a portion of middle school (grades 6-8). For the purposes of this topic, we will be covering the route to study elementary education in the U.S.
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Jump to:2-Year Degree 4-Year Degree Beyond a 4-Year Degree
You can begin your career in primary education with less than a bachelor’s degree as a teacher assistant. A teacher assistant works under the direction of a licensed teacher to provide extra support and guidance to and for students. Someone is usually pursuing a teaching license while in this position but also has a few college courses under their belt. However, you can also be a substitute teacher or paraprofessional without college credit as long as you have had training and certain qualifications.
Having a 4-year (bachelor’s) degree is usually where you begin a career in primary education. There are many specializations you can have in primary education, usually specific subjects that you are looking to teach. Or, you do a bachelor’s program in general education studies which would allow you to have a broader range of specializations when it comes to teaching. A degree in general education studies can also help you if you want to work in education administration, like being a principal or vice principal. If you don’t know what subject you want to teach but you know you would like to work with specific students, you can also specialize in those areas. You can work with students who have English as a second or other language (ESOL), or students with developmental disabilities or Autism spectrum disorders where they require more attention and services.
With the various options in terms of what you can study in terms of working in a primary education setting, courses will look different depending on what you might want to specialize in. Since this is the case, we’ll break down in bullet points what courses you would generally study in each of the listed bachelor’s degree programs mentioned earlier.
General Education Studies:
- Introduction to the Teaching Profession
- Foundations of Special Education
- Schools and Society
- Child and Adolescent Development
- Measurement Concepts and Assessment of All Students
English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL):
- Learning and Development within the School Context
- Integrating Exceptional Students in the Regular Classroom
- Applying Linguistics to ESOL Teaching and Testing
- Literacy Development in English Language Learners
- Teaching Students with Limited English Proficiency
Communication Sciences and Disorders:
- Introduction to Language Development and Disorders
- Applied Phonetics in Communication Disorders
- Applied Phonetics in Communication Disorders
Through these majors and program concentrations, you can become an elementary school teacher, childcare center director, speech-language pathologist, special education teacher, or case manager for a student with special needs.
To be able to work with students during practicums or internships, students will have to undergo the process of a background check.
Beyond a 4-Year Degree
Having a master’s or doctorate degree will allow you to have an even further concentrated and highly specialized career, but is not necessary if you only want to teach a specific subject at the primary school level. A majority of both a master’s and doctoral program will require you to conduct research, present a thesis or dissertation, and possibly participate in a hands-on experience such as a research project or practicum.
Here are some subjects you can study on a master’s level and what the specialization and coursework would look like:
- Master’s in Educational Leadership with a concentration in K-12 school leadership or curriculum leadership. Courses can include Principles of Educational Administration, Culturally Relevant Leadership, Foundations of Curriculum and Instruction, School Law, School Finance, Teacher Research for Studnet Learning.
- Master’s in Educational Studies or Elementary Education for those wanting to further their teaching career in leadership positions or explore a specific area such as Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM). Courses can include Child Development, Foundations of Measurement, Psychological Foundations of Education, Teacher Leadership for Student Learning, Professional Development for Student Learning, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy for Elementary Student Learning, Managing and Differentiating the Instructional Environment in Elementary Schools, Trends and Issues in Special Education, and teaching specific subjects such as Elementary Math and Social Science.
- Master’s in Exceptional Student Education for those wanting to work with schools and communities to serve special needs students in a more specialized way and individual level. Courses can include Foundations in Educational Research, Management and Motivation of Exceptional and At-Risk Students, Consultation and Collaboration in Special Education, Instructional Approaches for Exceptional Populations, Working with Families: A Pluralistic Perspective, Advanced Theories and Practices in Specific Learning Disabilities.
Here are some programs you can pursue on a doctorate level:
- Ph.D. in Educational Leadership for those wanting to build a career around conducting research and analyzing policies to change educational systems. Courses can include Policy Development, Educational Politics and the Engagement of Communities, Ethics and Educational Leadership, Legal Dimensions of School Administration.
- Ph.D. in Educational Program Development for those wanting to improve educational practice through research. Courses can include Statistical Analysis for Education Research, Advanced Educational Measurement, Cognitive Issues in Instruction, Problems of Practice in Education, Transforming the Curriculum, The Dynamics of Creativty.
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The following are technical routes you can take to achieve a career in primary education:
Jump to:Apprenticeships & Internships Vocational Training
Apprenticeships & Internships
Apprenticeships provide on-the-job training and education while you work. This can look like working or volunteering with little experience but being trained to improve your skills. Not only are you learning the necessary job skills, but also the demands, hours, ways to interact with the public, procedures, and problems that usually arise on the job. This is an all-encompassing experience. Apprenticeship and internship opportunities in primary education can be found through internet searches, networking, or through your school. These may exist at primary/elementary schools and will mostly encompass observing lead teachers and co-teaching as well as delivering some instruction (meaning there is a bit of teaching). These apprenticeship opportunities can last from one year to three years to help you through your teacher certification processes or to prepare you for a lead/full-time teaching role at the school you are stationed at.
If there is a business, organization, or person whose work interests you, ask them for the opportunity to intern or shadow them to learn more about the field and career. This is a great way to show your interest in the field and secure future opportunities to gain experience.
Similar to apprenticeships, vocational training provides hands-on learning experiences, but mostly through coursework. It is primarily schooling with an aspect of hands-on learning to teach the necessary skills and later put them into action in a classroom setting. You can find vocational programs at technical colleges. Technical colleges usually provide vocational training in early childhood education (meaning pre-school) and in the principles of teaching. This programme could cover tasks and responsibilities of a Teachers Assistant, including lesson planning, classroom management techniques, rules, and regulations in a classroom setting.
Try not to decline unpaid opportunities especially if you have no experience. Eventually, you may become a paid worker. Through volunteering, you are gaining valuable hands-on experience that can be recorded on your résumé/CV, and you are building a network that you can lean on once you’ve elevated in your career. Ask different departments on campus about job shadowing, internship, or volunteer opportunities on campus or in the surrounding community.
You can review the Minnesota State CAREERwise website to explore careers similar to primary education in the Education and Training career cluster. Here are more resources to learn more about careers in primary education:
- U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Childcare Workers | Middle School Teachers | High School Teachers | Special Education Teachers | Social Workers | Teacher Assistants | School and Career Counselors and Advisors
- Professional Associations: Association of American Educators | Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) | Elementary Section of National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) | National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) | National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) | National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) | National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) | National Education Association (NEA) | National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for Elementary Science Classroom | The School Superintendents Association | American Association of School Librarians | American Educational Research Association | Association for Middle Level Education | American School Counselor Association | National Association of Elementary School Principals | National Association for Music Education | Society of Health and Physical Educators
Check with your institution of interest to find out more about their admissions application, program requirements, and the best way to map out your future for studying primary education.
Unsure about what Primary Education is? Stay tuned!