Elementary Education graduates receive a bachelor's degree, teacher certification in grades K-9, and an outstanding preparation to enter one of the most important careers ever: teaching young children! Our program prides itself on preparing successful educators in a socially just and equitable manner, and job placement is exceptionally high. 

The elementary education professional sequence is a two-year commitment, typically starting in the fall of the junior year. Coursework and field experiences lead to the capstone experience of student teaching.

  • The first semester explores the cultural nature of learning and development, and how these understandings can be applied to classroom practice. Students learn how society shapes schooling, and, conversely, the ways in which schools assist in shaping society.
  • The second semester consists of instructional methods courses (e.g., how to teach science or social studies) and the first field experience. In this practicum, students are placed in a classroom two days a week to observe and to start creating dynamic lesson plans.
  • In the third semester, students enroll in additional teacher education courses, including a second practicum at a different grade level.
  • The final semester consists of full-time student teaching, one-to-one in a classroom with a cooperating teacher. Students also enroll in a small group seminar, which provides an opportunity to unpack their teaching and learning experiences with peers and field supervisors.

Our graduates become teacher leaders committed to teaching all children effectively and advancing justice through classroom practices, personal interactions, and community engagement. We teach research-based practices that assist teachers throughout their careers in education.

Many of our students want to get involved as soon as they arrive on campus, and we have a variety of ways to do so. Many education-related courses are open to freshmen and sophomores. The School's Buddy Program, in which new students are paired with a junior or senior in the program, helps students find their own small, supportive community on our Big Ten campus. Many students volunteer in local schools and community organizations, including Schools of Hope. We also welcome you to join our active chapter of Aspiring Educators, a pre-professional educators association.

UW–Madison's Elementary Education program trains teachers to recognize, appreciate, and value the wide range of gifts diverse students bring to our increasingly multicultural, globally-connected, and morally complex world.

 “My instructors play a huge role in helping me become the person that I am today. They value who I am as a person and a learner, and through their influences and passion for teaching students of color, I have been inspired to do the same.”

- Mai Ya Her, UW–Madison Elementary Education

See what an elementary education professor and a teacher candidate have to say about the Elementary Education Program at UW–Madison.

Certification Options

The Elementary Education program offers five certification options, giving students many choices as they plan their career paths. All certification options are designed to be completed in four semesters after program admission, and some classes may be taken prior to starting the professional sequence. Students are admitted once a year and begin the four-semester professional sequence in the following fall. Notification of admission takes place in the spring and is effective in the summer.

  • Kindergarten through Ninth Grade - Students completing this core program option will be certified to teach general education at the grade levels of K-9 and will also be eligible to teach in a 4K classroom. 
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) K-12 and Kindergarten through Ninth Grade - A minor in English as a Second Language can be added to the core K-9 program. Students selecting this combination will be certified to teach K-9 and English as a Second Language in grades K-12. Only fluency in English is needed to teach ESL.
  • Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Kindergarten through Ninth Grade - A minor in Early Childhood can also be added to the core K-9 program. Students selecting this combination will be certified to teach K-9 and Early Childhood Education from birth through Grade 3.
  • Kindergarten through Ninth Grade, and Early Childhood Education, and English as a Second Language K-12  - Students may opt to complete both the ECE and ESL minors in combination with K-9 certification. Successful students receive certification in all three areas.
  • Kindergarten through Ninth Grade and Special Education K-12 (Dual Certification) Students interested in both Elementary and Special Education should investigate the new Elementary Education and Special Education degree housed in the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. Upon completion, students are certified in K-9 general education and Special Education in grades K-12.

The Teacher Pledge

The School of Education at UW–Madison currently offers a unique financial opportunity for students in the Elementary Education program called The Teacher Pledge. The school pledges to pay the equivalent of in-state tuition and fees for all teacher education students. In return, Elementary Education students pledge to work at a Wisconsin PreK-9 school for three to four years after graduation.

Madison College Transfer Agreement

Madison College students should also investigate the new transfer agreement between Madison College and UW–Madison. Students meeting the requirements of this agreement are guaranteed admission to UW–Madison's School of Education and to Elementary Education.

How to Get In

Program Admission Overview

Students are admitted to the program once a year, effective in the summer. Selection is made the previous spring and students begin a four-semester professional sequence in the subsequent fall semester.

Entering the School of Education

New and Current UW–Madison Students

New freshmen and transfer students interested in Elementary Education are admitted directly to the School of Education with a “pre-professional” classification. This classification indicates that a student is interested in a program offered by the school, but has not applied and been admitted to the professional program. Students interested in Elementary Education receive the "pre-professional" classification of PRE.

On-campus students wishing to be admitted to the school while working on eligibility requirements and application can apply for admission to the school by completing a Pre-Professional Application. A minimum GPA of 2.5, based on UW–Madison coursework, is required to transfer into the school. This GPA may be modified by the Last 60 Credits rule (detailed below). It is not necessary to be a "pre-professional” student before applying to a professional program.

It is strongly recommended that students interested in a School of Education program meet with an academic advisor in the School of Education Student Services office, 139 Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall. Students may call 608-262-1651 or email soeacademicservices@education.wisc.edu to schedule an appointment with an advisor.

Prospective Transfer Students

Applicants not already enrolled on the UW–Madison campus must be admissible to the university to enroll in a School of Education program. Admission to UW–Madison requires a separate application and admission process. See UW–Madison Office of Admissions and Recruitment for application information. Prospective transfer students are strongly advised to meet with an advisor in the School of Education Student Services office in advance of their application; to schedule, call 608-262-1651 or email soeacademicservices@education.wisc.edu.

Students with a Previous Degree

Prospective students who already hold an undergraduate degree are strongly encouraged to meet with an advisor in the School of Education Student Services office in advance of their application. Consultations with advisors are available in person, via telephone or online; to schedule, call 608-262-1651 or email soeacademicservices@education.wisc.edu.

Applicants who already hold an undergraduate degree are admitted to the School of Education as either an Education Special student or a second degree student, depending on their interests and academic background. Admission as an Education Special student indicates that the student has an interest in pursuing certification in a subject area studied during the initial degree; another degree is not awarded for this "certification only" coursework. Second degree students are seeking a second, unrelated degree from the School of Education, which may, or may not, include teacher certification. Candidates for limited enrollment programs must meet all admission eligibility requirements for the program and must compete with the eligible applicants for program admission. More information is available here.

Application and Admission

Certification to teach Elementary Education requires that a student be admitted into the professional part of the degree program. Admission into the Elementary Education program occurs once a year, effective for summer following selection.

The Elementary Education program faculty selects candidates based on a variety of criteria. In particular they seek individuals who can demonstrate academic competence, multicultural and interpersonal competence, and reflective practices; the program also purposefully cultivates students' capacities in these domains.

Program Admission Eligibility Requirements

Requirements and selection criteria may be modified from one application/admission period to the next. Potential applicants should consult the School of Education's Undergraduate Admissions page for application deadlines and detailed information regarding current eligibility requirements and selection criteria prior to submitting an application.

To be eligible for admission to the professional program, applicants must:

  • submit completed program application form(s), transcripts, and all other related application materials by the application deadline specified on the School of  Education's Undergraduate Admissions page.
  • successfully complete at least 40 transferable college-level credits by the end of the fall semester before application.
  • complete RP & SE 300 Individuals with Disabilities by the end of the summer before beginning the professional sequence if applying to the K-9/Special Education Dual Major option.
  • While GPA is a factor in the selection process, no minimum is required to apply for program admission. If admitted, students must earn the minimum cumulative GPA for UW–Madison coursework established by the program and the School of Education each semester after admission.
Last 60 Credits Rule

For programs requiring a minimum GPA to apply, two grade point averages will be calculated to determine candidates' eligibility to programs. GPAs will be calculated using

  • all transferable college level coursework attempted, and
  • the last 60 credits attempted.

The higher GPA of these two will be used for purposes of determining eligibility. If fewer than 60 credits have been attempted, all credits will be used to calculate the GPA. Graded graduate coursework will also be used in all GPA calculations. ("Attempted" coursework indicates coursework for which a grade has been earned.) More information regarding this rule is available here.

Program Admission Selection Criteria

The Elementary Education program admissions procedures are intended to result in an academically qualified student body that is diverse in terms of both academic strengths and life experiences and has a commitment to providing the best possible education to elementary and middle school students. Having students with diverse life experiences, backgrounds and attitudes is critical if faculty are to prepare students to teach in schools that themselves have diverse enrollments. Faculty will accept only those students judged to have the potential to be successful in the academically challenging Elementary Education Program. In making admissions decisions, no factor will outweigh judgment that a particular applicant's credentials, taken as a whole, represent unacceptably high academic risk.

The Admissions Committee will take the following into consideration when making admissions decisions:

Academic Competence

The Mission Statement of the Elementary Education Area points to the role that our graduates have in creating academically rigorous classrooms that lead to high academic achievement in all students. For elementary and middle schools to promote academic achievement, elementary and middle school teachers must have demonstrated high levels of success in core disciplines throughout their university studies. Therefore, program faculty expect that students admitted to the program will have demonstrated high levels of academic preparation.

Multicultural and Interpersonal Competencies

The Elementary Education program's mission is to prepare teachers who are able to promote academic achievement in all elementary-school and middle-school students. This includes those from diverse races, cultures, language backgrounds, family forms, and sexual orientations, as well as those from diverse economic, gender, and ability groups. The program faculty seek prospective teachers who will demonstrate commitment to this mission. The Admissions Committee will therefore examine the materials from each candidate for evidence of such commitment.

Reflective Competence

To have performed at high academic levels or to have had diverse life experiences is not adequate for admissions purposes unless these are accompanied by evidence that the applicant has been able to reflect on and learn from them. Demonstration of reflective competence is important as it likely contributes to one's interpersonal skills as well as to the qualities such as integrity, social awareness, and cultural sensitiveness that are qualities of a well-rounded human being who will be an excellent elementary or middle school teacher. The ability to reflect on one's life experiences is one factor that will allow the Admissions Committee to look for evidence that our students will be reflective practitioners who evaluate the effects of their assumptions, choices, and actions on others (students, parents, and other professionals in the learning community) and who will actively seek out opportunities to grow professionally.

Criminal Background Investigation

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is required by law to conduct a background check on each applicant for a Wisconsin educator license. This check is intended to determine if the applicant has engaged in any behavior that endangers the health, welfare, safety or education of PK–12 pupils. Local school districts also will conduct criminal background checks routinely on teacher education students prior to the start of in-classroom field work. Admitted applicants to any teacher education program who have a positive background check should confer with the Teacher Education Center, tec@education.wisc.edu, about the potential impact of this result on field placements and licensure.

An individual who is deemed ineligible to participate in field or clinical experiences based on the results of their background check may not be able to complete the requirements for their degree or certification. Students with questions about these processes should contact the Teacher Education Center.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

School of Education Liberal Studies Requirements

All students are required to complete a minimum of 40 credits of Liberal Studies coursework. This requirement provides an opportunity to do some academic exploration beyond the scope of the major. Students take courses in areas of particular interest and also have an opportunity to sample the wide selection of courses offered across the university. Coursework is required in humanities, social studies, science, and cultural and historical studies. Some elective coursework is also needed to reach the required number of credits.

The School of Education’s Liberal Studies Requirements automatically satisfy most of the University General Education Requirements outlined above, including ethnic studies, humanities/literature, social studies, and science. Students pursuing most School of Education degree programs may also complete Communication Part B, Quantitative Reasoning Part A, and Quantitative Reasoning Part B through courses required by their degree program. If a student cannot complete a General Education Requirement within the curriculum of their chosen School of Education program, academic advisors can offer suggestions for courses that meet the requirement and augment the student’s primary area of study.

A basic outline of the liberal studies is included below. Students must consult the detailed version of the requirements for information about course selection and approved course options.

Humanities, 9 credits

All students must complete a minimum of 9 credits to include:

  • Literature
  • Fine Arts
  • Humanities Electives

Social Studies (Social Science)

All students must complete a minimum of 9 credits. Teacher certification programs and Kinesiology have unique requirements in this category.


All students must complete a minimum of 9 credits to include:

  • Biological Science
  • Physical Science
  • Laboratory Science
  • Science Electives

Cultural and Historical Studies

All students must complete three requirements (9 credits) met by separate courses. Any of these courses can also be used to meet the Humanities or Social Studies (Social Sciences) requirements if it has the relevant breadth designation.

  • Ethnic Studies
  • U.S./European History
  • Global Perspectives

Complete Liberal Studies Electives to total 40 Credits.

Program Structure

Students of Elementary Education:

  • Are exposed to a broad range of academic disciplines through liberal studies course work. The university-wide General Education requirements also encourage this breadth of study.
  • Examine schools' relationship to society, the development of children and adolescents, and the processes of learning in their education course work.
  • Study teaching methods and gain experience in schools through supervised field placements during their four-semester professional sequence.
  • Complete elective coursework to reach the minimum of 120 credits required for the degree.

Practicum experiences provide a school-based setting for students to develop their professional and classroom skills. These experiences generally begin a few weeks after the start of the semester and are approximately nine weeks in length. Students will usually spend three half-days at their assigned schools. Concurrent registration in methods courses provide students with an opportunity to learn about, and then apply, teaching techniques in a classroom.

The full-semester student teaching assignment is the capstone experience of the professional sequence. Through it students expand upon the activities, responsibilities and expectations encountered during the practicum experiences. Student teachers will function as regular staff members in their assigned schools and also attend a seminar on campus one afternoon each week. Student teachers are required to follow the school day, school calendar, vacation days and policies of the school where they work.

Program Options - Select One

Elective Coursework

Complete additional courses as necessary to reach the minimum of 120 credits required for the degree.

GPA and Other Graduation Requirements—Required for All Program Options

Graduation Requirements

Students must complete all requirements and also obtain the endorsement of the program faculty to receive certification through UW–Madison. The State of Wisconsin requires that anyone wishing to teach in a public K–12 setting hold a valid teaching license issued through the Department of Public Instruction. In addition to completing a certification program, students must submit a separate application for this license. Requirements below are based on UW–Madison coursework.

  • 2.75 cumulative grade point average. This may be modified by the Last 60 Credits Rule.
  • 2.75 cumulative grade point average across all professional education courses (excluding practicum and student teaching).
  • 2.75 cumulative grade point average in the major.
  • 2.75 cumulative grade point average in the minor, if required.
  • Minimum 120 credits (degree candidates only).
  • Major residency: Degree candidates must complete at least 15 credits of upper-level major coursework (numbered 300–699) in residence on the UW–Madison campus.
  • Senior residency: Degree candidates must complete their last 30 credits in residence on the UW–Madison campus. Student teaching and practicum are considered part of the 30 credits.

Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS)

UW–Madison uses “DARS” to document a student's progress toward the completion of their degree, including any additional majors and certificates. A DARS (Degree Audit Reporting System) report shows all the requirements for completing a degree and, against courses that are planned or completed, shows the requirements that have been met, and those that are unmet. A report can offer suggestions about courses that may be taken to meet specific requirements and can assist in the academic planning and enrollment process. Students can access a DARS report in the Course Search & Enroll app or Student Center via My UW.

DARS also has a "what-if" function. This feature makes it possible to request a DARS report as if pursuing another program, major, or certificate. It is an excellent tool if considering a new or additional area of study. School of Education students in a pre-professional classification such as Pre-Elementary (PRE) or Pre-Kinesiology should request a "what if" DARS report of their professional program of interest.

More information on how to request a DARS report is available on the Office of the Registrar’s website.

DARS is not intended to replace student contact with academic advisors. It creates more time in an advising appointment to discuss course options, research opportunities, graduate school, or issues of personal interest or concern to students.

DARS is used as the document of record for degree program, major, and certificate completion in the School of Education.

Additional Certification Requirements and Applying for a License

In addition to completing UW–Madison's program requirements, students must also complete Wisconsin statutory requirements and certification requirements established by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Many of these requirements are embedded within the program's requirements and require no additional attention. The endorsement of the program coordinator/faculty is also required to receive certification through UW–Madison.

The State of Wisconsin requires that anyone wishing to teach in a public K–12 setting hold a valid teaching license issued through the Department of Public Instruction. In addition to completing a certification program, students must submit a separate application for this license.

Detailed information about certification requirements and applying for a license is available under Certification/Licensure.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

Four-Year Plan

Refer to the available named options for more information on the four-year plans.

Advising and Careers

Elementary Education Advising

Students not yet admitted to Elementary Education meet with their assigned advisor in the School of Education Student Services office (see below). Students are assigned an additional departmental advisor when admitted to the professional component of their degree program.

School of Education Advising

Academic Advising in the School of Education

Dedicated to supporting and promoting student success, academic advisors are here to assist students with the adjustment to college, understanding their degree and career goals, and connecting them to resources. Advisors support prospective and current School of Education students in all programs through:

  • Course selection
  • Mentoring and advocacy for underrepresented and international students
  • Understanding degree requirements and progression
  • Interpreting academic policies
  • Helping students recognize their strengths and suggesting ways to expand their skills
  • Expanding learning through activities such as study abroad, volunteering/work/internship, and by assuming leadership roles

To schedule an appointment: Current students can schedule an appointment online through the Starfish app in MyUW. Appointments can also be made through email at studentservices@education.wisc.edu, by calling 608-262-1651, or in person.

Career Advising in the School of Education

Through individual appointments, events, courses, and online resources, the Career Center provides students and alumni with the tools needed to be successful in their career development.

Career and Internship Advisors are prepared to help students with:

  • Exploration of career and academic pathways
  • Resumes
  • Cover letters
  • Job/Internship search
  • Interview preparation
  • Mock interviews
  • Graduate school search, applications and decisions
  • Negotiating job or internship offers
  • Professional networking
  • Connecting with employers

Students are encouraged to meet with their Career and Internship Advisor early in their college experience to take full advantage of the resources and support available.

To make an appointment: log into Starfish from the MyUW dashboard.

For more information, visit the School of Education Career Center website or reach out at career-center@education.wisc.edu.


Information about faculty, staff, and other contributors to the Department of Curriculum and Instruction can be found on the department's website.


Additional Certification Requirements 

Students interested in certification must, in addition to completing UW–Madison's program requirements, also complete Wisconsin statutory requirements related to teacher education and certification requirements established by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Students must complete all requirements and also obtain the endorsement of the program faculty to receive certification through UW–Madison. For additional certification requirements and information about applying for a license, see the Teacher Education Center.

Applying for a Teaching License

The State of Wisconsin requires that anyone wishing to teach in a public K–12 setting hold a valid teaching license issued through the Department of Public Instruction. In addition to completing a certification program, students must submit a separate application for this license. Students intending to complete a teacher certification program should monitor program requirements carefully. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) periodically implements regulations that affect all certification programs; teacher certification candidates are responsible for having up-to-date information about certification requirements.

Licensing Levels

The following licensing options will be offered at UW–Madison.

  • The core Elementary Education licensing level will be Kindergarten through Grade 9. Early Childhood, and English as a Second Language Kindergarten through Grade 12, can be added to the K-9 option.
  • Special Education will offer licensing at the Early Childhood level, Kindergarten through Grade 12 level, and a program option that licenses in both Early Childhood Special Education and K-12 Special Education. The new Elementary Education and Special Education degree certifies students in both Special Education Kindergarten through Grade 12 and Elementary Education Kindergarten through Grade 9.
  • Secondary Education program areas will license in their subject area Grades 4 through 12, and also in English as a Second Language Kindergarten through Grade 12.
  • World Language Education program areas will license at the Kindergarten through Grade 12 level.
  • Students in special fields such as Art, Music, and Physical Education will be licensed at the Kindergarten through Grade 12 level
  • Health and Library Media Specialist both license at the Kindergarten through Grade 12 level.
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders (Speech-Language Pathology) will license at the K-12 level.

Wisconsin State Licensing

The State of Wisconsin issues an initial teaching license to certified teachers. The current fee is $125. An online license application is available through the Department of Public Instruction. A background check will also be conducted by DPI. Information about fingerprint submission, when necessary, is available through the Department of Public Instruction.

Before applying for a license, DPI requires the electronic submission of “Endorsed Candidate for Licensure" (ECL) data by the certifying officer of the institution where the teacher preparation was completed. For UW–Madison teacher certification students, the endorsement will come from the School of Education, L139 Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall. Once this information has been submitted to DPI, students are notified by email that they may begin the application online.

Before endorsing a student, UW–Madison requires that

  1. all certification requirements are met;
  2. student teaching (following the school district calendar) is completed;
  3. final grades are posted and reviewed;
  4. the degree is posted by the Registrar’s Office (which can take up to four to six weeks after the degree conferral date); and
  5. a recommendation for certification is received from the program faculty.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction may require an additional six to eight weeks for license processing.

Licensing Outside of Wisconsin

To apply for a license in a state other than Wisconsin, first check out the application requirements of that state. The University of Kentucky has a website that provides links to teacher licensing agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Many states have a verification form that needs to be signed by a UW–Madison certification officer. This form verifies that a state-approved licensing program has been completed. These forms should be sent to the School of Education Teacher Education Center at L139 Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall, Madison, WI 53706, or by email (educatorlicensing@education.wisc.edu) to be completed. You must complete your personal information on the form before sending it to the Teacher Education Center. If the form requests information about practicum and student teaching assignments (names of schools, grade levels, dates, etc.), this information must also be completed before sending the form to the Teacher Education Center.

Professional Certification/Licensure Disclosure (NC-SARA)

The United States Department of Education (via 34 CFR Part 668) requires institutions that provide distance education to disclose information for programs leading to professional certification or licensure. The expectation is that institutions will determine whether each applicable academic program meets state professional licensure requirements and provide a general disclosure of such on an official university website.

Professional licensure requirements vary from state-to-state and can change year-to-year; they are established in a variety of state statutes, regulations, rules, and policies; and they center on a range of educational requirements, including degree type, specialized accreditation, total credits, specific courses, and examinations.  

UW-Madison has taken reasonable efforts to determine whether this program satisfies the educational requirements for certification/licensure in states where prospective and enrolled students are located and is disclosing that information as follows.

Disclaimer: This information is based on the most recent annual review of state agency certification/licensure data and is subject to change. All students are strongly encouraged to consult with the individual/office listed in the Contact Information box on this page and with the applicable state agency for specific information.

The requirements of this program meet certification/licensure requirements in the following states:


The requirements of this program do not meet certification/licensure requirements in the following states:

Not applicable

Updated: 1 June 2024

Resources and Scholarships

Information about scholarships, academic and career advising, study abroad opportunities, student diversity services, and other resources for students in the School of Education can be found on the school's Resources page.