Is an Education Degree for You?

An online bachelor’s degree in education is a good fit for people who want to make a difference in the lives of K-12 students by not only helping them master core and non-core subjects, but also motivating them to get excited about learning. Education is a discipline that gels best with people who are flexible enough to work with a wide range of students, including those with diverse cultural backgrounds, language barriers, learning disabilities, those who are behind in class, and those who are ahead. Education majors must not only show proficiency in a particular subject, but also have the capacity to help others understand it and be engaged in it.

Advice for Earning Your Education Degree Online

Before enrolling in an online program, you must first verify that the program has been approved to lead to teacher certification in your state, at least if you plan to pursue work in public schools. State-approved teacher education programs will require you to complete a supervised teaching internship at a school in your area, where you can gain hands-on experience leading a classroom. Since this component of the teacher education program cannot be delivered online, working students must plan ahead for how they will incorporate this non-paid internship course work into their schedule.

Since most teacher education programs require students to choose a specialization, you should also have some idea of the area you want to work in, such as elementary education, or a content area if you plan on teaching middle or high school grades, such as English, math, social studies, or music. Finally, consider enrolling in education programs whose teacher education department is accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

Required Courses

Students enrolled in an online education degree program will take courses in foundations of education, classroom management, models and theories of instruction, and legal and ethical issues in education. Depending on your degree specialty or certification requirements, you’ll have to complete advanced upper-level classes and electives that cater to your teaching path. For example, if you specialize in math education, you will take courses that relate to that content area and teaching in that content area. All online students have to complete student teaching and other field experiences before graduation. Some courses you may take include:

  • Instructional Technology
  • Principles of teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL)
  • Educational Psychology
  • Educating Exceptional Students
  • Teaching in Multicultural Classrooms

Common Career Paths

Graduates of an education degree program typically become teachers, but may also work in other education-related careers. Salaries for these careers can vary a great deal based on your level of experience, the size of the school district you work for, and the region of the country you live in. Popular careers for education majors include (but are not limited to):

Kindergarten or Elementary School Teacher

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $53,030 (kindergarten teachers) / $56,130 (elementary school teachers)

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers provide instruction in several subjects for children in K-5th grades, and they also assign homework, grade assignments, and evaluate the progress of students. These teachers create age-appropriate lesson plans and activities, and are responsible for ensuring their students meet learning goals set by their school district so that the students are prepared for the next grade.

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to be a public school teacher, and students must also be certified, or licensed, to teach in their state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job growth and average salary figures provided above are courtesy of the BLS.

Middle School Teacher

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $56,280

Middle school teachers provide instruction, typically in a single subject area, to students in 6th-8th grades. Through lessons, assignments, and exams, these teachers build on what was taught in elementary grades with progressively more advanced material to lay a foundation for high school. To be a middle school teacher in public schools, you must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and hold teacher certification in your state, the BLS explained. The above job outlook and salary average were provided by the BLS.

High School Teacher

  • Expected Growth: 7%
  • Average Annual Salary: $57,770

High school teachers provide instruction in a single subject area to students in 9th-12th grades. While they plan lessons, assign homework, issue exams, and provide group and one-on-one instruction like teachers in other grades, there is an increased focus on preparing students for the rigors of college or the job market when teaching high school grades. The subject matter taught is also more advanced, with a greater emphasis on critical thinking.

To teach in public high schools, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification in your state, the BLS explained. The above job growth projection and salary figure were taken from the BLS.

Special Education Teacher

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $56,160

Special education teachers provide instruction for children with mental and/or physical disabilities. Depending on the limitations of these disabilities, some special education teachers primarily provide instruction that focuses on basic literacy, life skill development, and remedial level academics. Others create individualized education programs tailored for each student’s learning needs in an effort to mitigate the limitations of disabilities so that special needs students can participate in the same classes as other students.

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to work as a special education teacher in public schools, and you must also meet state licensure requirements, the BLS explained. The above employment growth projection and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Principal

  • Expected Growth: 10%
  • Average Annual Salary: $86,970 (2010 figure)

Principals are education administrators who manage a school’s daily operations and oversee its overall performance. This requires them to establish performance objectives, implement strategies to reach defined goals, hire and evaluate faculty, prepare budgets and reports, and work with faculty, parents, and other administrators to address problems.

While a master’s degree is typically required to become a principal, most principals have extensive teaching experience at the bachelor’s level before pursuing administrative positions like principal or assistant principal. Therefore, a bachelor’s degree in education can help you along your path toward a career in administration. The job outlook and salary figures provided above are available through the BLS.

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