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Online Elementary Education Bachelor’s Degrees
By Staff WritersPublished on June 10, 2020
What Are the Goals of a Bachelor’s Program in Elementary Education?
Elementary school teachers educate young learners in foundational areas like reading, mathematics, and writing. A bachelor’s degree in elementary education prepares graduates for careers in education, such as elementary school teacher. Elementary school teachers made a median annual salary of $59,420 in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
During an elementary education degree, undergraduates study research-based teaching methods, assessment strategies, and instructional design. They also complete student-teaching requirements to strengthen their classroom skills. Elementary education jobs require strong communication skills, creativity, and patience, which education majors build during their degree.
An online teaching degree offers flexibility and convenience compared to an on-campus program, appealing to students balancing school with work or personal responsibilities. Earning a teaching degree online typically takes four years for full-time students to complete. Transfer students with prior credits or those who choose a self-paced or accelerated program can complete the degree in less time.
After completing an online bachelor’s in education degree from an accredited program, educators can apply for a teaching license and pursue careers in education.
Top 10 Affordable Online Elementary Education Bachelor’s Degrees for 2020
Online learning offers several benefits. For example, many programs allow all online students to pay in-state tuition rates regardless of where they live. Online learners also save on the housing, transportation, and commuting costs that on-campus students incur.
Online students also benefit from flexibility. Many online teaching degrees use an asynchronous format, meaning students do not need to attend class at set times. Some programs also offer accelerated or self-paced study, allowing students to reach their career goals on their own schedule.
During an online teaching degree, students complete coursework requirements through their program’s learning management system, such as Blackboard or Canvas. They interact with instructors and fellow students on discussion boards and watch recorded or streamed lectures. Some programs include on-campus requirements, while others offer a fully online route to the degree.
In addition to coursework requirements, online elementary education programs incorporate student-teaching requirements to build classroom-ready skills. Online students can typically work with their program to identify a local site to meet these requirements.
An online teaching degree appeals to both current and aspiring educators. For example, educators at private schools can use a bachelor’s degree in elementary education to pursue teaching licensure and higher-paying job opportunities at public schools.
Accreditation for Online Elementary Education Programs
Prospective elementary education students should always check a program’s accreditation status before applying. Accredited schools meet the highest standards for academic excellence, and accreditation benefits students in several ways. For example, an accredited online teaching degree meets the requirements for a teaching license in every state. Additionally, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid.
Schools can receive regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Programs within a school can also receive accreditation, such as social work, business, and education programs. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) grants accreditation to teaching programs, including online programs. CAEP reviews educator preparation curricula, student learning outcomes, and faculty qualifications to grant accreditation.
Our list ranks the most affordable online teaching degrees to help prospective students find a program that fits their budget. Learn more about the best online elementary education programs in our rankings.
Founded in 1931, ULM has over 65,000 alumni who provide a large regional network to help graduates find internships or jobs. Many of those alumni graduated from online programs at ULM, which include an elementary education degree.
Students complete all of the 120 credits required to earn the elementary education degree online. However, students interested in becoming teachers in Louisiana or elsewhere must complete in-person clinical experience as a teacher. ULM does not require students to complete the field experience in Monroe, though students interested in teaching in Louisiana should earn their experience within the Bayou State.
ULM offers accelerated eight-week courses, and most students take two courses per semester. Full-time students complete the program in under four years.
Baptist College of Florida is located just over an hour outside of Tallahassee in Graceville, Florida. Founded on Christian principles, BCF was originally called Baptist Bible Institute and requires all students -- including distance learners -- to complete some biblical/theological foundation courses.
BCF's online elementary education degree requires 124 credits. To fulfill the program's 61 education credits, students must complete an educational internship and a reading practicum. Students must complete these two field experiences in person, as they lead to teaching licensure. Other required coursework includes 12 credits in biblical foundations.
Online courses follow a semester format, and students complete online courses through MyBCF. BCF charges the same per-credit tuition rate for all online programs.
SPC in Florida is a private college that does not offer in-state tuition. However, most SPC students receive financial aid, thanks in large part to the tight-knit alumni network. Some students study on campus in St. Petersburg, Florida, but over 20,000 students enroll at SPC through online courses.
SPC's online elementary education program prepares students to teach at the K-6 level in Florida. Students can earn endorsements in English to Speakers of Other Languages and in reading. All applicants must have at least an associate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 2.5 GPA. As a completion program, the elementary education degree takes about two years to complete.
The online BS in elementary education requires 220 clinical hours in a school setting, plus a 15-week internship in elementary education and reading. Students who plan on becoming professional teachers can also earn licensure after completing the online degree.
Located in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the UAS provides on-campus students with a one-of-a-kind learning experience. While students who study online complete the majority of their degrees online, UAS encourages online students to visit campus. Furthermore, some online degrees require in-person practice, such as the university's online elementary education degree.
The elementary education program primarily serves learners in the Juneau or rural Alaska area. Students complete most coursework online, though UAS requires a nine-month student teaching experience during each student's senior year. The program leads to Alaska licensure for teaching grades K-8.
To become licensed teachers, distance learners must complete a student teaching experience. Before beginning the experience, students must also have a GPA of 3.0 and earn passing scores on the Praxis Core/CASE or CBEST exam.
Fort Hays State University is a leader in accessible public education. Based in Hays, Kansas, FHSU teaches students across the Midwest, many of whom choose to study online.
FHSU's online elementary education degree serves students interested in becoming teachers at the K-6 level. Available online or in a hybrid format, the program requires 127 credits, including in-person internship and methods courses. Distance learners can complete the rest of the program online. While the program meets Kansas' standards for teaching licensure, the program may satisfy other states' requirements.
The program's accelerated courses last eight weeks each. Along with in-state tuition for Kansas students, FHSU also offers scholarships specifically for education students.
Founded in 1890 as a teachers college, VCSU's Valley City, North Dakota campus primarily serves students who live in the area near the Sheyenne River. Nevertheless, many VCSU students study in a hybrid format or entirely online.
The school's online elementary education degree prepares students for initial North Dakota teaching licensure for grades 1-8. Students can complete the entire program online except for a 150-hour field experience and 12 weeks of student teaching. VCSU requires students to complete at least one certificate, endorsement, or minor, with specialization options available in special education, English language learners, and music K-12. Students usually enter the education program during their sophomore year after passing the Praxis Core test.
WGU is an online college based in Salt Lake City, Utah. WGU also offers competency-based education, meaning that students with relevant professional experience can test out of certain requirements. WGU also offers start dates throughout the year and accelerated courses to meet student schedules.
Most of WGU's elementary education degree takes place online, though students that want to become licensed teachers must complete in-person clinical experience. Clinical experience is flexible for student needs, and the degree satisfies prerequisites for licensure in every state. Students transfer in an average of 28 credits, and most students finish the program in under four years.
WGU's in-person requirements for the elementary education degree include 75 hours of in-classroom observation and a 20-week students teaching experience. Students complete the rest of the 40 required credits for the major online.
Created in 1889, Mayville State University now reaches students in rural North Dakota, out-of-state students, and busy working professionals through distance learning.
MSU's online elementary education degree blends distance learning and in-person evening classes. Students must complete evening courses at either the Devils Lake or Williston campuses. MSU makes exceptions for certain students on these in-person requirements, but these students must attend synchronous online versions of the evening classes.
Along with the major in elementary education, students must also select a minor. Minor options include early childhood education, science for the elementary teacher, and special needs education. The online degree leads to licensure, so only students from North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana may apply.
Based in North Carolina's Uwharrie Mountains, Randolph Community College is a two-year public school that is part of the larger North Carolina Community College System. As RCC is a two-year school, students cannot complete a four-year elementary education degree entirely at Randolph Community College. However, students can earn an online bachelor's degree in elementary education from Pfeiffer University while only taking classes through Randolph Community College.
Available primarily online, the elementary education degree includes general education courses from RCC and major courses through Pfeiffer University. Distance learners complete major courses as part of a cohort, and students planning on earning a teaching license must also complete an in-person student teaching experience. Admitted students receive financial aid through RCC, although RCC also works to secure financial aid for students through Pfeiffer.
Wilmington University stresses student flexibility, allowing transfer students to bring in up to 90 previous college credits. Based in Georgetown, Delaware, WilmU also offers an array of online programs, including an elementary education degree.
Available entirely online, the BS in education studies with a concentration in elementary education requires 120 credits. The program does not lead to licensure, and students interested in a teaching license must complete an in-person student teaching experience separately. Notable courses include mathematics for teachers, earth science, and world and regional geography. WilmU delivers all of the program's coursework asynchronously in an accelerated format through Canvas.
Ottawa University is a private, Christian school based in Ottawa, Kansas. OU also operates campuses in Phoenix, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and online. The online campus offers the most flexibility, letting students study asynchronously and eliminating in-person requirements in most programs.
OU's BA in elementary education leads to a teaching license in Arizona or Kansas. To become licensed, students must complete on-site clinical practice, the only in-person requirement for the degree. The rest of the program takes place online, and transfer students can bring in up to 80 previous college credits. The program takes one year to complete for most transfer students.
The elementary education degree is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
Located in Williston, North Dakota WSC is a two-year community college that offers various transferrable two-year degrees. Because WSC only offers two-year degrees, students cannot become teachers solely through WSC. However, WSC offers an online elementary education degree that officially awards a bachelor's from Mayville State University.
The program requires 68 credits in addition to whichever associate degree students choose from WSC. The program delivers coursework synchronously, requiring students to attend online classes at specific times. Courses use an interactive video network to facilitate communication between instructors and students. In addition to major requirements, the elementary education degree also requires a certificate, minor, or second major.
WSC offers a low tuition rate for North Dakota students, and WSC works to help students who secured financial aid for the associate degree do the same for the bachelor's degree.
One of the fastest-growing universities in the region, Wichita State University sits atop a hill and offers views of downtown Wichita, Kansas. WSU owes some of its rapid growth to the expansion of its distance learning presence.
WSU's online elementary education degree with a focus on early childhood unified/elementary education leads to Kansas licensure in both elementary and early childhood education. The program has two routes, one for new students and another for students with an associate degree. Regardless of which option students choose, the program requires an in-person internship at a school. Kansas residents receive a tuition discount.
Admission requires a placement assessment and references. The program accepts transfer credits on a case-by-case basis.
One of the largest research institutions in the region, the University of Southern Mississippi now operates a significant distance learning presence. All of the university's online students gain access to financial aid advising, an online library, and USM's vast alumni network.
USM's online elementary education degree caters to current teacher assistants. Teacher assistants continue to work while earning the degree entirely online. The program leads to K-6 licensure. Learners can also pursue optional endorsements in math K-8, math 9-12, science and social studies in addition to foreign language and English.
All program applicants must be current teacher assistants in Mississippi. Students receive a low in-state tuition rate, and there are various scholarships available specifically for students in the program.
Founded in 1863, Kansas State University is a large public research institution based in Manhattan, Kansas. While the campus has grown significantly over the past 150 years, K-State's distance learning presence has expanded more quickly. As a result, the university now offers over 100 programs entirely online. Online graduates from K-State enjoy a 95% job placement rate. Some degrees -- including K-State's online elementary education degree -- have an even higher placement rate.
Available nationwide, K-State's bachelor's in early education requires 120 credits. A required teaching internship in an elementary school is the program's only in-person requirement. This 12-credit internship satisfies Kansas teaching licensure requirements, and students working toward licensure in another state may need to complete additional courses or exams. All students in the program also select a 15-credit concentration with the help of an academic advisor.
Located in Norfolk, Virginia, Old Dominion University serves over 24,000 students. To supplement its on-campus offerings, ODU has provided programs through distance learning since the 1980s.
Intended for Virginia residents, ODU's online elementary education degree leads to teaching licensure. The program requires 120 credits, though students can transfer up to 90 credits into the program. Applicants must have some previous college credit to earn consideration for admission. Applicants with an associate degree from a Virginia Community College System school are guaranteed admission.
The program requires an in-person student teaching internship. Aside from the internship, students complete every course online and asynchronously.
Campbell University is an inclusive Christian university with roughly 6,800 students. Because of Campbell's roots, all students -- including students pursuing the online BS in elementary education -- must complete a three-credit introduction to Christianity course as part of general education requirements.
Campbell's 124-credit elementary education degree takes place entirely online except for a required 12-credit student teaching course. To specialize their education, students must also pick a secondary concentration in literacy, math, or special education. The program leads to teaching licensure in North Carolina, though distance learners who complete their student teaching in another state may meet that state's requirements for licensure.
Campbell University delivers online coursework asynchronously through Blackboard.
The University of Wisconsin-Superior enrolls 2,600 students, nearly 900 of whom study online. Originally founded as a school for teachers, UW-Superior is a local leader in educating future teachers. As such, the university's online elementary education degree is among its most popular programs.
UW-Superior offers the program as both a BS and BA. The curriculum prepares students to teach grades K-9 in Wisconsin, although the program may also meet licensure requirements for other states. Beginning in fall 2020, the program will also offer online licensure options in special education and early childhood education.
UW-Superior boasts a 14-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, allowing students to interact with their professors with ease.
Based in Bemidji, Minnesota, BSU serves over 5,400 students, many of whom study online.
BSU's online elementary education degree is a three-year degree completion program that students complete part time and in a hybrid format. As such, applicants must earn an associate degree before applying. Students complete most courses online while meeting face-to-face in the Minneapolis area three times each year. The program requires student teaching and leads to teaching licensure in Minnesota.
Applicants must have an associate degree or sufficient transferable credits earned with a 3.0 GPA. Once admitted, students complete 63 credits at BSU.
Regis University is a private, Jesuit school based in Denver, Colorado. While Regis University encourages students to take religious courses, religious courses are not required. Instead, Regis requires liberal arts courses meant to provide students with a holistic education.
Available online or in a hybrid format, the elementary education degree degree at Regis emphasizes student flexibility. Regis encourages students to continue working while earning the degree. The program requires a semester of in-person student teaching. The curriculum requires 120 credits, and accelerated courses last eight weeks. Most full-time students complete this program in four years.
The program leads to licensure in Colorado, and Regis pairs students with over 100 local schools to gain experience. Out-of-state students must complete the in-person student teaching experience in Colorado.
Founded in 1893, Western New Mexico University enrolls over 3,500 students at its campus in Silver City and online. The average class has just 18 students, providing all students -- including distance learners -- with personalized instruction from their professors.
Available as a hybrid program, Western New Mexico University's 120-credit elementary education degree leads to a BS and licensure. Students complete some of the program online, as specific courses -- such as a teaching practicum -- require in-person study. Students must earn a cumulative 2.75 GPA to qualify for the practicum. The practicum places students in Silver City, Cober, Hatch, Lordsburg, or Deming.
The program leads to New Mexico teaching licensure.
A Historically Black College or University located in Fayetteville, North Carolina Central University now offers several programs through distance learning.
NCCU does not offer an official elementary education degree, although the BS in birth-kindergarten teacher education covers many of the same topics. This four-year program takes place entirely online except for a 12-credit directed teaching course taken during each student's final semester. The program requires 120 credits, including 45 credits of early childhood education courses. During the program, students learn to teach a multicultural classroom, and the degree culminates in birth-kindergarten licensure in North Carolina.
Birth-kindergarten teacher education students must have a 2.7 GPA and pass the Praxis Core exam to earn admission. North Carolina residents receive a tuition discount.
Bay Path University is a Longmeadow, Massachusetts school with additional campuses across Massachusetts and online. Created as a women's college, Bay Path only accepts women into all undergraduate programs, including those offered online.
The online elementary education program prepares students to become teachers and leaders for grades 1-6 in Massachusetts. The program culminates in Massachusetts teaching licensure. As such, distance learners must complete an in-person student teaching experience in Massachusetts, the only part of the program not offered online. Students that do not plan on becoming teachers or those studying outside of Massachusetts can complete the non-licensure version of the program that does not require any in-person study.
The accredited curriculum meets teaching licensure standards for most states. Many graduates only need to complete an in-person student teaching experience to meet their state's licensure requirements.
Southwestern College is a private school in Winfield, Kansas founded in the Methodist tradition. SC maintains an 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, and every accepted student receives financial aid. As such, SC's online elementary education degree provides an affordable option to aspiring educators.
Available almost entirely online, the program prepares students for careers as teachers, school counselors, or education consultants. Each course in the program lasts 12 weeks, and the program delivers all coursework asynchronously. The program's student teaching seminar and observation and supervised teaching capstone courses are the only in-person requirements.
Elementary education students must complete 124 credits with a 2.75 overall GPA to graduate. Transfer students may bring up to 94 credits with them when they enroll.
Located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, the University of the Cumberlands is primarily a graduate school, enrolling over 9,000 graduate students. However, the university also operates an undergraduate program, and 850 of the roughly 2,200 undergraduate students choose to study online.
The online elementary education degree at Cumberlands prepares students to become teachers at the K-5 level in Kentucky. The program offers concentrations in English/communications, special education, and social and behavioral studies. All concentrations lead to preK-5 licensure in Kentucky, and the special education concentration also leads to licensure in preK-12 special education.
Applicants without college credit must submit a high school transcript with a 2.0 GPA or a GED. Students with at least 12 transferable credits must have a 2.0 cumulative GPA in all previous college coursework.
For this ranking, we focused on public and private (non-profit) colleges and universities that offer undergraduate elementary education programs online. Because the focus of this list is on affordability, we only considered programs with average* tuition rates of $25,000/year or less.
*For public schools, we calculated the average value of their in-state and out-of-state rates.
After compiling a list of all the colleges that offer elementary education degrees online and meet the above criteria, we then collected data in four categories:
Program Popularity: Out of all the education students, how many choose specifically to major in elementary education? In other words, how successful is the elementary teaching program at attracting undergraduates to their degree over another education-focused option? To find out, we looked at the percentage of all education program graduates in the most recent school year who earned their degree in elementary education.
Overall Strength in Education: How many different education bachelor’s degrees does the school offer? A large number indicates a college that is willing to devote a lot of time, resources, and faculty expertise to training future teachers.
Accreditation: Has the program obtained CAEP (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation) accreditation? Not only did schools earn points for having an accredited program, but they earned more if CAEP has given their elementary education degree “nationally recognized” status.
Affordability: What is the average annual cost of attendance?
After collecting and sorting all the information, we ranked the candidates according to their performance in each area. Finally, we summed up the results and gave each school a final score using a curve so that the top-scoring program earned even 100 points.
Career and Salary Outlook for Elementary Education Graduates
Elementary school teachers work in every county across the country. The BLS reports that over 1.5 million kindergarten and elementary school teachers currently work in the U.S., and the organization projects 53,100 new jobs for these professionals between 2018-2028.
Elementary school teachers earn a median annual salary of over $59,000. Several factors affect teacher salaries, including location, school type, and experience. For example, educators with a master’s degree generally earn higher salaries than those with a bachelor’s degree.
Geography also plays a large role in teacher salaries. Elementary school teachers in California earn over $82,000 per year, on average, while teachers in Arizona earn under $46,000 per year. While salaries often correlate with costs of living, state policies also play a large role in teacher salaries.KINDERGARTEN AND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS
Certifications and Licensure for Elementary Education
Elementary school teachers who work in public schools typically need a state-issued teaching license. Many private and charter schools also require a teaching license for classroom positions. The requirements for a teaching license vary by state, so prospective teachers should research the process and requirements in their state.
In general, a teaching license requires a bachelor’s degree, completion of a teacher preparation program, and passing scores on an educator examination. Teaching candidates must also undergo a background check, which often includes a fingerprint screening.
Educators in New York, for example, must submit an application for an initial teaching certificate. Candidates for the credential must hold a bachelor’s degree, complete a state-approved teacher preparation program, and pass a test. The license remains valid for five years, at which point educators must meet continuing education requirements to renew the license.
During an online elementary education degree, undergraduates take courses that build their teaching skills. By studying instructional design and assessment, majors learn to plan instructional materials that align with curriculum standards and assess student learning. Specialized courses in areas like teaching math and English language arts to elementary students also build classroom-ready skills.
Teacher training programs also include a practicum, or student-teaching experience, to give learners hands-on experience in the field. In addition to elementary education classes, undergraduates complete general education requirements that build critical thinking and analytical skills. Below, we outline several common courses found in online teaching degree programs.
Fostering Engaging Learning Environments
Elementary educators must create engaging and supportive learning environments for students. This class explores approaches to promoting active engagement, self-motivation, and collaborative learning in the classroom. Students review theoretical and practical perspectives on creating an engaging learning environment.
Instructional Design and Assessment
Courses on instructional design and assessment train future teachers to plan instructional materials and conduct assessments. The course covers curriculum standards, information assessment strategies, and differentiated instruction, with a focus on elementary education. Students may complete practicum or field experience requirements to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world settings.
Many elementary education programs include a course in child development, which examines how children grow and develop. The class examines cognitive, social, linguistic, and emotional development, linking child development to the learning process. Education majors also explore the knowledge acquisition process and student motivation. After taking the course, educators can build learning experiences that align with student development.
Mathematics for Elementary Teachers
Classes on mathematics for elementary teachers train students to teach K-5 math skills, including set theory, numeration systems, and integers. Coursework focuses on problem-solving skills and critical thinking in a mathematical framework. Students may also study number theory, rational numbers, proportions, and ratios to build a strong foundation in math education.
Teaching English Language Arts
In this course, elementary education majors learn research-based methods to teach reading and writing skills. Students learn to apply concepts from child development to the instruction process while building strong literacy skills.
College students increasingly rely on financial aid to cover the cost of an undergraduate degree. Students earning an online teaching degree from an accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, such as grants, loans, and work-study assistance. Learners apply for this aid by submitting the FAFSA, which requires information about the student’s financial situation and their college to determine their financial need.
The federal TEACH grant supports educators who agree to teach for four years in a low-income district or in a high-needs field, which includes elementary education in many states. Recipients who do not meet the service requirement must repay the grant as a loan.
In addition to federal programs, students earning an online education degree can apply for private loans, fellowships, and private grants to pay for their degree. Colleges may also offer financial aid, such as scholarships, to online students.
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